Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down today, his work at the Defense Department having left the nation and the military in worse shape than before he served.
It's not all his fault, of course (consider also W's incurious mind, Cheney's imperialistic visions), but Rumsfeld played a key and unhelpful role in running U.S. foreign and military policy into the ground.
In the name of historical accuracy, let's review some lowlights of Rumsfeld's public pronouncements on Iraq:
Sept. 19, 2002: Rumsfeld reports to Congress: "[Saddam has] amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including Anthrax, botulism, toxins, and possibly Smallpox. He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons."
Sept. 27, 2002: Rumsfeld confirms the link between Iraq and al Qaeda as "accurate and not debatable."
Feb. 7, 2003: Rumsfeld speculates about the length of the coming war: "It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
Feb. 20, 2003: In a television interview, Rumsfeld predicts a happy response to American troops in Iraq: "There is no question but that [the troops] would be welcomed. (Note: Rumsfeld later denies saying that America would be welcomed. "Never said that. Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else. I may look like somebody else.")
March 30, 2003: Rumsfeld assures the public that the WMD are really there: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
April 11, 2003: Rumsfeld responds to the looting and rioting in Baghdad: "Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! ... Freedom's untidy."
June 6, 2003: Rumsfeld on the rising resistence in Iraq: "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, Gen. Franks and his team are rooting them out. In short, the coalition is making good progress."
We could go on (and on), but you get the idea. Rumsfeld's Iraq record is strewn with mistakes and misjudgments, errors that have cost American and Iraqi lives. It's impossible to review Rumsfeld's record without thinking about what could have been. A more thoughtful man could have served the nation well, but Rumsfeld's arrogance and single-mindedness in Iraq proved disasterous. We will be paying the price for years to come.