Okay, so Donald Rumsfeld has a message for American troops stationed in Iraq: Go home and die.
Okay, well, not really, but he got pretty close to it in Wednesday's "town hall"-style meeting at Camp Buehring in Kuwait. Spc. Thomas Wilson had the testicular fortitude to stand up at said meeting and ask, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"
Good question, really. And Rumsfeld's answer, after he hemmed and hawwed and had the question repeated like a contestant in the national spelling bee, came up with a peach of an answer: screw you. "You go to war with the Army you have," he said, "not the Army you might want or wish to have," then went on to explain that "you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can (still) be blown up."
Wow, that's profound and comforting. And not at all negligent of his responsibilities to the soldiers and Marines that, as Secretary of freaking Defense, he is personally sending into battle. How the man can be so blase about the issue of properly arming and protecting his troops is beyond me. Or maybe it's not. I mean, if you think about it, Rummy isn't in any danger. Outside of his occasional Iraqi field trips, in which he tries to raise troop morale by telling them that he needn't bother arming them 'cause they could just die anyway, he splits his time between the Pentagon and the White House. The man's idea of body armor is having the right kind of cup on when he plays squash on Thursday. The thought of actually having someone shoot anything harder than a marshmallow at him is beyond his ken. Which is why when the troops actually wanted his support, it was "you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can still be blown up," but when he needed to save face and look like a team player, "we must prevail" and "we must win."
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will point out the recent discovery that the National Guardsman posing the question in question was actually coached by a reporter. Embedded reporter Edward Lee Pitts, upon hearing that troops and only troops would be allowed to ask questions at the meeting, got together with a couple of guardsmen beforehand to make sure his question was asked. In a further completely boneheaded move, considering that things like this always come out in the end, Pitts failed to mention his own role in the proceedings when he filed his story that evening.
As a journalist (such as I am), I'm kind of pissed at this guy. With all of the recent controversy over the role of embedded reporters in the War on Terra, this Pitts guy certainly isn't making us look any better. The general sentiment from much of the military is that the media is sneaking around, looking for all kinds of underhanded ways to nail them, and as good as Pitts's intentions might have been, that's kind of what he did here.
None of that, however, changes the question that was asked and the answer that was given. It doesn't change the fact that our troops are scrounging in junkyards to ghetto-rig armor for their Humvees, it doesn't change the fact that families are saving their pennies in order to send body armor to their sons and daughters in Iraq, and it doesn't change the fact that, when faced with all of this head-on, Rummy threw up his hands and said, "Wow, that wacky war! What can you do, huh?" Here's a thought, Rummy: you're driving around downtown D.C. when you hit the brakes, fail to stop and slide right into the back end of a van full of special-needs children on their way to the Washington Zoo. When you hit the OnStar button to chew out Keith on the other end, he's unsympathetic. "Listen, Mr. Rumsfeld," he says, "you drive that Cadillac with the brakes you have, not the brakes you might want to have."