Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bartender! One more Rum & Mac for the road.

Time Magazine Covers from 2004 and 1966
It is closing time here at the Repeating History Bar. We are way past final call, but I'm a regular, and the bartender slipped me one more Rum & Mac for the road. Hey, I'm a big tipper, he takes care of me. I didn't think much of this drink when I started sipping it here, but after pounding down doubles all night, I'm beginning to appreciate the peculiar character of this drink more and more.

Speaking at Donald Rumsfeld's retirement ceremony, Dick Cheney hailed Rumsfeld as "the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had." In Sunday's interview with Bob Schieffer on on CBS News' Face the Nation, Colin Powell declined to agree:
SCHIEFFER: "Let me ask you about the retirement ceremony they had for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The vice president said Secretary Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense in the history of this country, or words to that effect. What is your assessment?

Mr. POWELL: "Well, that's the vice president's judgment. I've known many fine secretaries of defense: Caspar Weinberger comes to mind, and Dick Cheney comes to mind himself. But it's history that will judge the performance of all of us in this troubling time of history, and it is a history that I think will ultimately be written as a result of what happens in Iraq."
Sometimes, a judicious amount of alcohol helps one to see things more clearly. With the copious quantities of R&M's I have ingested here at the RHB, I have developed a GWB-like capacity to peer into the soul of my fellow man and read their innermost thoughts. For the benefit of my loyal reader, a transcript of what Colin Powell was really saying:
Mr. POWELL: "Well, that's the vice president's judgement. As we all know, Rumsfeld had his nose so far up Cheney's fat ass, I am surprised they could pull him out to fire him. I've known many fine secretaries of defense: Caspar Weinberger comes to mind, and Dick Cheney comes to mind himself. I wouldn't put Don ahead of Bill Cohen, Les Aspin or William Perry either. Now that I think about it , he wasn't better than Frank Carlucci or Harold Brown. Of course, Don couldn't carry the jockstrap of James Forrestall, George Marshall, Bob Lovett, Charles Wilson or Thomas Gates. And I'd definitely put Elliot Richardson, Melvin Laird, Neil McElroy and James Schlessinger ahead of Don SecDef-wise. Clark Clifford ... now thats close, but I'd have to give Clifford the edge. McNamara! Thats it! He is a marginally better secretary of defense than McNamara. No doubt. Don was better than Bob. But it's history that will judge the performance of all of us in this troubling time of history, and it is a history that will ultimately be written as a result of what happens in Iraq. I just hope I don't find myself burning in historical hell right next to Rumsfeld for all eternity. "
Bartender, could you freshen this up? Whenever I drink R&M's I feel the need to ramble on a bit about our outgoing Secretary of Defense. You know, I am not the only one that noticed the parallels between Don and good ol' Bob. Richard Galli of the Galli Report scooped DWSUWF by several months with a press release last June - excerpted here :
"I have a Thinkpad now" confident Vietnam warrior assures skeptics - "George Bush informed Donald Rumsfeld yesterday that one of his resignation letters had been discovered under a pile of unread security briefings, and the President had belatedly accepted it...In a statement released shortly after the press conference, Robert McNamara said he will be honored to answer his country’s call to service once again. “I have spent the last 30 years of my life educating the American people about the War in Vietnam without ever being held accountable for it,” McNamara said. “I have the experience and the skill set that the White House desperately needs right now.”
Hey! Is that Robert Scheer from TruthDig at end of the bar? He must be drinking Rum & Macs too - You know he's got the same mind-reading skills as me - look at this column where he's channeling Rumsfeld - gives me the willies just to think about it...
One Last Lie for the Road
"Did I write a secret memo saying that I don’t believe in this thing anymore? You bet! But you can’t let the public in on that and just cut-and-run. Jeez, how would that look for the Rummy Legacy? ... I’m not going down that negative road that finished off old Bob McNamara’s legacy. What a disappointment—this is a guy who could sell us the Vietnam War and then blows it by suddenly getting all squishy about the truth when he’s long retired. Jeez Louise, he was once my role model. No secretary of defense ever sold a losing war better. They think I’ve got a frozen smile, just look at those old pictures of Mac flying into Saigon and giving an upbeat assessment in the midst of carnage. Talk about whistling past the graveyard. And he stayed on the “We’re about to turn the corner” message right to the end when LBJ fired him, just like Georgie Porgie did me. "
Ah yes. The confidential memo. One last unexepected and somewhat astonishing bit of synchronicity between the outgoing SecDefs - 39 years apart, writing hand-wringing memos to their respective commanders in chief, outlining options for a failing war policy, and getting canned shortly thereafter. I pull a crumpled piece of paper out of my pocket, smooth it out on the surface of the bar and wave it in the bartenders face. "Look at this!" I said. "I couldn't believe when I heard about the Rumsfeld memo. I had to see for myself how it compared to McNamara's 'Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson' ... I actually looked up the orginal text of both messages to compare them." The bartender, seemingly unimpressed, topped off my glass and retreated to the other end of the bar, leaving the paper behind. "McNamara was a lot wordier." I mumbled under my breath to no one in particular. "But ... definite similarities... definite... similarities...."
"Subject: Future Actions in Vietnam - May 19, 1967"

"Subject: Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action - Nov 6, 2006"

MCNAMARA: "This memorandum is written at a time when there appears to be no attractive course of action. The probabilities are that Hanoi has decided not to negotiate until the American electorate has been heard in November 1968. Continuation of our present moderate policy, while avoiding a larger war, will not change Hanoi's mind, so is not enough to satisfy the American people; increased force levels and actions against the North are likewise unlikely to change Hanoi's mind, and are likely to get us in even deeper in Southeast Asia and into a serious confrontation, if not war, with China and Russia; and we are not willing to yield. So we must choose among imperfect alternatives."
RUMSFELD: "The situation in Iraq has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Following is a range of options."

MCNAMARA: "The Vietnam war is unpopular in this country. It is becoming increasingly unpopular as it escalates--causing more American casualties, more fear of its growing into a wider war, more privation of the domestic sector, and more distress at the amount of suffering being visited on the non-combatants in Vietnam, South and North. Most Americans do not know how we got where we are, and most, without knowing why, but taking advantage of hindsight, are convinced that somehow we should not have gotten this deeply in. All want the war ended and expect their President to end it. Successfully. Or else."
RUMSFELD: "Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made)."

MCNAMARA: "Publicly, emphasize consistently that the sole US objective in Vietnam has been and is to permit the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future, and declare that we have already either denied or offset the North Vietnamese intervention and that after the September elections in Vietnam we will have achieved success. The necessary steps having been taken to deny the North the ability to take over South Vietnam and an elected government sitting in Saigon, the South will be in position, albeit imperfect, to start the business of producing a full-spectrum government in South Vietnam."
RUMSFELD: "Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist... Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

MCNAMARA [Course A - Not Recommended] : "... neither military defeat nor military victory is in the cards, with or without the large added deployments, and that the price of the large added deployments and the strategy of Course A will be to expand the war dangerously."
RUMSFELD [Below The Line - Not Recommended] : "Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially."

MCNAMARA: "Move the newly elected Saigon government well beyond its National Reconciliation program to a political settlement with the non-Communist members of the NLF--to try to arrange a ceasefire and to reach an accommodation with the large number of South Vietnamese who are under the VC banner; to accept the non-Communist members of the NLF as members of an opposition political party and, if necessary, to accept their individual participation in the national government--in sum, a settlement to transform the members of the VC from military opponents to political opponents."
RUMSFELD: "Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period... Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it."

MCNAMARA [Recommended Course of Action - Course B] : "Limit force increases to no more than 30,000; avoid extending the ground conflict beyond the borders of South Vietnam; and concentrate the bombing on the infiltration routes south of 20 degrees. Unless the military situation worsens dramatically, add no more than 9 battalions to the approved program of 87 battalions....A part of this course would be a termination of bombing in the Red River basin unless military necessity required it, and a concentration of all sorties in North Vietnam on the infiltration routes in the neck of North Vietnam... We recommend Course B because it has the combined advantages of being a lever toward negotiations and toward ending the war on satisfactory terms, of helping our general position with the Soviets, of improving our image in the eyes of international opinion, of reducing the danger of confrontation with China and with the Soviet Union, and of reducing US losses."
RUMSFELD [Recommended Options - Above the Line]: "Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF), to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq....Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other Coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers for the ISF... Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.
GATES: - Recommended Course of Action- TBD
The glass is empty. No one else is here. I steady myself on the bar as I roll off the stool. After the room slows to a manageable shimmer, I make my way to the door and out into the cold night fog. "This is not going to feel good in the morning." I think to myself, adding - "I'm not drinking those anymore."

Hangover Update 12/21/06: 06/11/07 Corrected Typos

I didn't drive in that condition. Still got caught in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

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