The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, March 29, 2003  

Loose Cannon. Loose Screws.

The loose cannon with the loose screws who currently runs the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, was running off all half-cocked again yesterday, apparently threatening, or coming pretty damned close, military action against Iran and Syria. (See, for example, "Rumsfeld Cautions Iran and Syria on Aid to Iraq," by Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times, March 29.)

Rumsfeld accused Syria and Iran today of interfering with the American war effort in Iraq.

He said he [sic] would hold the Syrian government accountable, the first time anyone in the administration has suggested that the confrontation could be broadened to include states that could be aiding the Iraqi forces....

Mr. Rumsfeld's comments, at a Pentagon briefing, seemed to take White House officials by surprise, but more for their timing than their content.

Several senior administration officials said they were pleased that Mr. Rumsfeld had challenged the two countries so directly....

"I don't think you'll hear the president upbraiding Rumsfeld for what he said," one senior administration official said tonight. "He gave public voice to something that has been talked about around here for a week."

Ah, but, and there's always a but:

Mr. Rumsfeld's statements not only took Syria by surprise but seemed to stun some at the Pentagon, who have never seemed to become accustomed to the fact that the defense secretary knows how to make headlines.

"I was surprised," said one senior military official.

So was the White House. "It's fair to say he didn't tell us this was coming," said one official. "Then again, he rarely does."

Notwithstanding today's party line, which the media are only to happy to feed viewers and readers, holding that the swift advance toward and upon Baghdad all along had incorporated a break ranging from one to three weeks, should the war on Iraq continue to fare as poorly as it has so far, mark my words that great Washington tradition -- "Heads will roll!" -- shall reemerge.

If that happens, cocky braggart Rumsfeld's head is sure to be among the first to drop from the blade to the bucket, and deservedly so.

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