Rumsfeld Has Doubts About Iraq

New York Daily News – Rumsfeld Has Doubts

For the first time in public, a somber Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld raised the possibility yesterday that the U.S. mission in Iraq could fail.

Rumsfeld said the prison abuse scandal had delivered a “body blow” to the nation-building effort in Iraq that has cost the lives of more than 770 U.S. troops.

“Will it happen right on time? I think so. I hope so. Will it be perfect? No…. Is it possible it won’t work? Yes,” Rumsfeld said.

In the overall war on terror, Rumsfeld said the U.S. is making progress in Afghanistan, but “I look at Iraq and all I can say is, I hope it comes out well, and I believe it will. And we’re going to keep at it.”

***

The normally unflappable Rumsfeld at times appeared defensive and emotional at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s request for an additional $25 billion to fund the Iraq war – a figure he conceded was only a partial payment on what the war will cost next year.

Rumsfeld glumly listened as senators read despairing E-mails from U.S. troops in Iraq and he requested extra time at the end of the hearing to deliver a rambling statement ripping media coverage of the prison abuse scandal.

“I’ve kind of stopped reading the press, frankly,” Rumsfeld said, his voice quavering at times. Instead, Rumsfeld said he was reading a book on Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s bloody drive on Richmond in the last year of the Civil War.

Rumsfeld was answering questions under oath and has a penchant for extreme candor anyway. What he says here is certainly true–the prison scandal has indeed harmed our quest to “win hearts and minds” and the goal of democratizing Iraq was incredibly ambitious to begin with. This is a touchy situation, though, in that the SECDEF expressing his doubts could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, undermining the confidence of the troops and adding to the resolve of our enemies. As I noted yesterday, there are quite a few positive signs emerging in Iraq. We should be careful not to undermine them with domestic politics.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.