Goodness gracious: Rummy is fired!
The first casualty of the pivotal battle of November 7 was none other than Donald Rumsfeld. Talk about a vindication for Andrew Sullivan! To my surprise, military-religious blogger Donald Sensing was not particularly surprised by this move. Frankly, I thought Bush was serious about sticking with Rummy till the bitter end as a sign of his determination to persevere against all adversity. Rumsfeld had some positive attributes, but his usefulness to the war effort ended long ago. After an about face like this, what's next -- negotiations with Osama bin Laden, or telling us there never were any WMDs? The timing of this announcement buys Bush some precious leeway in domestic politics, throwing the Dems some red meat, but on the international level, it accentuates the loss of his government's prestige occasioned by the election results. As I noted with respect to Rumsfeld's responsibility for Abu Ghraib almost two years ago:
[He] has a lot to answer for, in my view. The fact that he is one of the few cabinet officials being kept on into the second term, while others who have performed their jobs perfectly well are leaving, concerns me.
Rumsfeld's replacement will be former CIA chief Bob Gates. He is a competent, low-profile expert in security matters who worked for Bush the Elder. He is ideally suited for the SecDef job at a time when partisan divisions threaten to undermine our nation's ability to project force in defense of its national interests.
UPDATE: Austin Bay downplays the political rationale for booting Rummy, and cites a military officer to the effect that "the resignation is political prep for prosecuting the war even more vociferously." Possibly, but I wouldn't bet on it. They have a 60-day "window of opportunity" to accomplish something significant before Nancy Pelosi and Ron Dellums start issuing subpoenas. There was certainly no way that a renewed major offensive against insurgents would have happened with Rumsfeld still in charge.
Guilty verdict for Saddam
Some say that the murder of three of his defense lawyers taints the conviction, but it's hard to apply U.S. standards in a country that is being torn apart by civil conflict. If the Sunnis who look to Saddam as their champion had only come to reconcile themselves to their loss of privilege in the new democratic regime, those murders probably would not have happened. The point is, he is as guilty of mass murder as any dictator or former dictator ever has been, and as they say, "No justice, no peace." Things being the way the are in Iraq right now, however, the Sunnis will wreak grim revenge if Saddam is indeed executed. Unfortunately, there is just no way of getting around this one: As long as he lives, the Sunnis can hope to regain their former dominant position. This will be a supreme test of the will power of the new Iraqi government. If Iraq is to have any chance at resolving its ethnic tensions some day, Saddam must die.
This is a perfect illustration of the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which appears on our state's flag: Sic Semper Tyrannis! (Thus always to tyrants!)