Written May 9, 2004
Submitted to my city's daily newspaper, but not published
Your editorial says the "right thing is for Rumsfeld to resign." Perhaps, but it wouldn't be enough to restore US honor and credibility, or to create a legitimate foundation for US leadership of post-war political rebuilding in Iraq.
President Bush, not Secretary Rumsfeld, created the basic circumstances of our current involvement there: The use of force to achieve a short-term goal with little consideration of long-term implications, and in a manner that much of the world judged to be wrong. That's the story of the war itself, not just of the abuses of the prisoners. The individuals responsible for the prison scandal will correctly face consequences, perhaps including the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld. But any such consequences will not change the basic circumstances of our involvement in Iraq, so we should not expect any great reduction in the political resistance to our involvement.
To change the basic circumstances, we must acknowledge that the publicly-stated reasons for the war--clear and immediate threats of chemical, biological, nuclear, or terror attack conducted or supported by Saddam Hussein--have not proven to be true. We must acknowledge that US dominance of post-war political rebuilding, given the weak justification for our presence there at all, is unlikely to lead to a stable and productive resolution. President Bush may have been poorly served by his staff, but he alone made the decisions that created the basic circumstances in Iraq. He alone can now act to make real and lasting improvements.