Seeking to dismiss their concerns, Hume falsely claimed generals pushing for Rumsfeld's ouster have not been "critical of what's happening now" in Iraq

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Brit Hume asserted that the seven retired generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation are doing so exclusively "based on an old argument" about prewar planning for the invasion of Iraq, and that the generals are not linking their criticism of Rumsfeld to "what's happening now" in Iraq. But contrary to Hume's assertions, several of the generals have criticized what Rumsfeld is "doing now" in Iraq.

On the April 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume asserted that the seven retired generals calling for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation are doing so exclusively "based on an old argument" about prewar planning for the invasion of Iraq, and that the generals are not linking their criticism of Rumsfeld to "what's happening now" in Iraq. In fact, Maj. Gen. John Riggs has blamed Rumsfeld for continuing to provide an insufficient number of troops to effectively fight the war in Iraq today. Similarly, far from focusing only on the initial stages of the war, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold has cited Rumsfeld's "unwilling[ness] to fundamentally change [his] approach" in Iraq as grounds for his replacement, while Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton has stated that the Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review indicates that Rumsfeld "fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces." Other generals have cited another failing that could have direct implications for the current situation in Iraq -- Rumsfeld's "intimidating" and "abusive" management style, which has prevented generals from "feel[ing] comfortable [with] providing Secretary Rumsfeld their honest beliefs."

Asked by host Chris Wallace to comment on the generals' criticism of Rumsfeld, Hume responded that "there doesn't seem to be anything new about it," and that "Rumsfeld is not being attacked ... for the recent conduct of the war in Iraq," but rather for the "decisions that were made ... before we went in [to Iraq] about the size of the force and all that." He later asserted that the generals are "making a new call for resignation based on an old argument" and suggested that they do not have "something intelligent and useful to say about what we're doing now" in Iraq.

But contrary to Hume's assertions, several of the generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation have criticized what Rumsfeld is "doing now" in Iraq:

  • On the April 13 broadcast of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Riggs asserted that the United States still lacks sufficient troops to stabilize Iraq. He stated that Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had "downplayed" the number of troops required for the Iraq mission for "political" reasons, and that "we just grossly underestimated the numbers of soldiers that would be required in the stability phase, which we're still in, in Iraq."
  • In a March 19 New York Times op-ed, Eaton cited the absence of any "call for enlarging the army" in the Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review as evidence that Rumsfeld "fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces." Eaton stated that, as a result of Rumsfeld's restructuring, the Army is "severely undermanned -- cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14."
  • Citing "successive policy failures" by the Bush administration before and during the Iraq war in an article in the April 17 issue of Time magazine, Newbold called for "replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach" in Iraq, adding that although "[t]he troops in the Middle East have performed their duty," the United States needs "people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them."
  • In an April 13 interview with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack appeared to address current problems when he said that Rumsfeld has "micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces [in Iraq] to achieve our strategic objective," adding that "our generals" do not "feel comfortable providing Secretary Rumsfeld their honest beliefs."
  • Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste cited Rumsfeld's "intimidating" and "abusive" management style in calling for the Rumsfeld's resignation in an April 14 interview with NBC Today co-host Katie Couric. Batiste also stated that "[t]here was not a two-way street of respect" between Rumsfeld and top military leaders.

From the April 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Brit, what do you make of the criticism and the critics?

HUME: Well, the only problem I have with the criticism is that there doesn't seem to be anything new about it. Rumsfeld is not being attacked, as far as I can tell, for the recent conduct of the war in Iraq, the recent policies put in place, for what generals [George W.] Casey [Jr.] and [John P.] Abizaid are doing over there now.

This all seems to be about the decisions that were made when we -- before we went in about the size of force and all that. Now, that is a debate that we have had in this country. In fact, I think it's fair to say that we had it, really, almost in the 2004 election. It was there to be argued.

Abu Ghraib prison came and went. Rumsfeld offered to resign over that. His resignation was not accepted. His resignation is not going to be accepted. So, while, I suppose, it's interesting that these generals -- and there are a great many other generals, I'm sure, who do not like Donald Rumsfeld and didn't like him before this war because of the changes he sought to bring about in the Pentagon.

Now, I'm not attributing ill motives to these people. It just seems to me that they're making a new call for resignation based on an old argument.

[...]

HUME: Let's ask this question, Chris. We've had most recently two Rumsfeld critics, [New York Post columnist] Ralph Peters and [Washington Post columnist] David Ignatius, come back from Iraq and they reached the same conclusion, although from a different starting point, which is what's going on over -- they got it right now. Abizaid and Casey have put in place the right plans and policies and people to do the job now going forward.

Let's listen and see if these generals are critical of what's happening now. If they're still angry and upset about what happened three years ago or more, then I think we can dismiss that. If they have something intelligent and useful to say about what we're doing now, then I think we ought to take that very seriously. I don't sense that they do. They seem not to.

From the April 13 broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered:

RIGGS: Well, I think that, you know, the war itself, as far as the combat phase of it, what General [Tommy] Franks and others did, was, you know, highly admirable.

But I think what happened is that we just grossly underestimated the numbers of soldiers that would be required in the stability phase, which we're still in, in Iraq, as well as the impact that it would have on the United States Army and the other services over the long haul. So, I think that where General [Eric] Shinseki, the then-Army Chief of Staff, gave a fairly realistic estimate on the number of troops that would be received, you know, Mr. Wolfowitz and the secretary of Defense downplayed those numbers because of whatever reasons. I assume they were political.

And I think we just grossly underestimated what would be required in order to stabilize Iraq and then be able to bring stability throughout that whole area. And we did it because we just eased into the numbers instead of realistic estimates to begin with.

From Eaton's March 19 New York Times op-ed:

Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the Army finds itself severely undermanned -- cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14.

Only Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff when President Bush was elected, had the courage to challenge the downsizing plans. So Mr. Rumsfeld retaliated by naming General Shinseki's successor more than a year before his scheduled retirement, effectively undercutting his authority. The rest of the senior brass got the message, and nobody has complained since.

Now the Pentagon's new Quadrennial Defense Review shows that Mr. Rumsfeld also fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces. The document, amazingly, does not call for enlarging the Army; rather, it increases only Special Operations forces, by a token 15 percent, maybe 1,500 troops.

From Newbold's article in the April 17 issue of Time:

What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results.

[...]

To be sure, the Bush Administration and senior military officials are not alone in their culpability. Members of Congress--from both parties--defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs [Gen.] Joe Hoar and [Gen.] Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq.

So what is to be done? We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them. It is time to send a signal to our nation, our forces and the world that we are uncompromising on our security but are prepared to rethink how we achieve it. It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly. And that we won't be fooled again.

From the April 13 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

STARR: Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack retired last year, after commanding the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. He's the second combat commander from Iraq calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down.

SWANNACK: I feel that he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there to achieve our strategic objective. I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense.

STARR: Swannack, along with Maj. Gen. John Riggs, both speaking for the first time today, makes six retired generals who have called for resignation. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says generals should speak in private while they are still on active duty.

GEN. PETER PACE (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff): We had then, and have now, every opportunity to speak our minds, and, if we do not, shame on us, because the opportunity is there.

STARR: But generals who want to keep their jobs and get promoted keep quiet. If you don't like the policy, you retire.

SWANNACK: I don't think our generals feel comfortable providing Secretary Rumsfeld their honest beliefs. I think it almost boils down to, "Explain the party line and stay loyal to me," or you might end up as Gen. Shinseki did, at odds with Secretary Rumsfeld.

From the April 14 broadcast of NBC's Today:

COURIC: What do you hope to accomplish, though, General, with this criticism? For example, if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were to resign, what impact do you think that would have on the war effort?

BATISTE: I think the war effort will continue, and I think we're going to be successful in that endeavor. We have no choice. We have to be. But I think it's a question of accountability. Accountability for the war plan that was -- was built to invade Iraq but failed to build the peace. Accountability for what happened in Abu Ghraib. Accountability for a leadership style which is intimidating, abusive. There was not a two-way street of respect.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, FOX Broadcasting Company
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday
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