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Rumsfeld's Bad Things

by C/O Diogenes Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 9:40 AM

umsfeld could have stopped the shambles easily by ordering adoption of normal measures that would have been used by Iraqi authorities - a perfectly legal order by the occupying power. Iraqi police would have shot looters, quite legally

Rumsfeld's Bad Things

By Brian Cloughle

Op-Ed The Daily Times - Pakistan


Rumsfeld could have stopped the shambles easily by ordering adoption of normal measures that would have been used by Iraqi authorities - a perfectly legal order by the occupying power. Iraqi police would have shot looters, quite legally

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defense secretary, is notorious for delivering uncouth insults in his role as the loosest cannon in the erratic regiment of Washington Top Guns, but his recent hysterical outburst about looting and the breakdown of law in Baghdad was remarkable even for him. His loss of control was undignified and vulgar when he berated the media for failing to report the War According to Rumsfeld.


He complained that television scenes showing looting in Baghdad appeared "over and over again", which indeed they did - just as did pictures of Iraqis welcoming American troops. But Rumsfeld hates being unable to control what the media portray. What he wants is non-violent, kiddie-kissing soldiers being welcomed by happy natives. War is Good! War is Liberating! He does not want pictures of mutilated children or frenzied, murderous looting.


Above all he does not want reporting like this, by Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian:

"A [car] pulled up [at Yarmouk hospital] with an entire wounded family and the corpse of a baby girl. Her name was Rawand, and she was nine months old. When her family returned to their home for the first time since the war, yesterday, she crawled over to a small dark oval - a cluster bomblet - which detonated, killing her outright and injuring her mother and two of her boy cousins."


Rumsfeld and Bush support the Geneva Convention, as they told us when television showed pictures of American prisoners. (They ignored the fact that television carried "over and over again" ( to use the Rumsfeld phrase), images of Iraqi prisoners in dire straits ; but let that pass.) What the Convention (Additional Protocol, 1977) says about killing civilians is precise. One of the "grave breaches" is "launching an attack against works or installations containing dangerous forces in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, as defined in Article 57". And Article 85(5) states that "Without prejudice to the application of the Convention and of this Protocol, grave breaches of these instruments shall be regarded as war crimes."


As defined in the Convention, Bush and Blair and their officials have committed war crimes. Not at any stage of hostilities (such as they were, against a practically non-existent military force), was there a tactical requirement to use cluster bombs. Not at any time during their personal exercise of overwhelming might against a puny and inconsequential foe was there military necessity to bomb ordinary houses to rubble.


The attitude of Rumsfeld and his complaisant subordinates to the catastrophic results of their onslaught is inhuman. Nobody dared question the Rumsfeld scream (literally) that "here's a country that's being liberated", even when it was obvious that Baghdad had plunged into anarchy, courtesy of the Rumsfeld plan to have minimum troops and maximum bombing. As any student of war knows well, the fighting troops (not that they had much fighting to do, but, still, they were exhausted by the Rumsfeld PR requirement to get to Baghdad quickly) should have been followed up by twice that number of soldiers to maintain order. Rumsfeld's petulant shrieks of rage are indication enough that he never thought about this. How could he? He has never studied war.


I am minded of George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman books and many others, who as a Lance Corporal in 1945 at the capture of Rangoon was immediately sent to guard a bank. There was nothing in the bank - but all commercial and public buildings should be guarded by occupation forces, and so they were, with severity. If anyone had tried a bit of looting, they would have been shot dead. But in Iraq, US and British soldiers had not been given proper orders and didn't know what to do. They fired over the heads of looters and rioters, which is ridiculous and ineffective.


When a crowd realises that soldiers opposing it will shoot only above their heads, it gains confidence. Looters conclude that occupation troops have been told not to fire at them, and the knowledge makes them bolder. So people redouble their efforts to loot and take vengeance on commercial, religious, political or social enemies, and total chaos results.


Rumsfeld could have stopped the shambles easily by ordering adoption of normal measures that would have been used by Iraqi authorities - a perfectly legal order by the occupying power. Iraqi police would have shot looters, quite legally, under the laws of Iraq, and the relevant provision in international law (Article 43 of the Hague Convention) is that "the authority of the legitimate power having passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all measures to restore and ensure so far as possible public order and safety, while respecting... the laws in force in the country." In other words, shoot looters if the law of the country permits looter shooting. But Rumsfeld and his cringing subordinates could not take such a bad PR decision.


The Washington Post recorded an articulate Baghdad resident's indignation about the feeble American position: "George Bush says on TV, 'we want to give freedom to the Iraqi people.' What freedom? The freedom to steal from houses and hospitals?" But Rumsfeld announced that "where [US troops] see looting, they're stopping it." Reuters reported from the scene and quoted a marine as saying "Hell, it ain't my job to stop them. Goddam Iraqis will steal anything if you let them." Rumsfeld is a liar.


Then Rumsfeld whined that "I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines. And it [sic] talked about chaos, violence, unrest.... I've never seen anything like it." What the man meant was that he did not like factual, truthful news about what was happening. Even US media noted that there was chaos, violence and unrest which anyone but the most brainwashed zombie would admit is hideous and resulted from one thing only: lack of control by the invaders.


The most ludicrous statement by Rumsfeld was that the situation in Iraq "is untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." This is an absurd and bizarre pronouncement, but the worrying thing is that this man represents the United States of America. He is a shrill, hysterical buffoon, but has great influence. Rumsfeld and the other loose cannons are swaggering as conquerors, and we should prepare ourselves for more bad things.


Brian Cloughley is a former military officer who writes on international affairs. His website is

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The Chaos... Diogenes Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 9:43 AM
nessie daveman Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 10:14 AM
Its just like Groucho Pants Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 10:25 AM
At least the fake... daveman Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 10:32 AM
fake daveman daveman Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 10:35 AM

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