WASHINGTON, D.C.—Will Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld never stop? Portrayed in the mainstream press as a crotchety but smart geezer, Rummy has practically set up his own government. It’s almost like a mini-coup in Bush’s Washington.
Just a few days ago Attorney General John Ashcroft was telling people how great the war on
terror was turning out to be. Now comes Rumsfeld, interrupting the AG, with another interpretation of the facts. “Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror,” he wrote in a memo to his top staff obtained and reported by USA Today yesterday. The Secretary of Defense says that fighting al Qaeda has led to “mixed results,” and said “a great many” people in the network are still around. Also, while there has been “reasonable progress” in nailing down Iraq, there is “somewhat slower progress” in Afghanistan.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan voiced his support from Australia: “That’s exactly what a strong and capable Secretary of Defense like Secretary Rumsfeld should be doing.”
While Rumsfeld harbors doubts about progress, Ashcroft believes things are going well. Earlier this month, the attorney general claimed: “America is more secure today than it was two years ago. America is safer today than it was two years ago. America is freer today than at any time in the history of human freedom.”
Ashcroft has also said, “The lives and liberties of Americans are protected by the Patriot Act. With the effective tools provided by Congress in the Patriot Act, we have dismantled terrorist cells in New York, Michigan, Washington State, Oregon, and North Carolina. We have brought criminal charges against 284 individuals. One-hundred and fifty have been convicted or pled guilty, including shoe bomber Richard Reid and American Taliban John Walker Lindh. All told, two-thirds of al Qaeda’s leadership worldwide is either in custody or dead.”
But Rumsfeld continues to challenge the intelligence community. His latest memo wonders if the CIA needs yet another new course correction in the form of a national security “finding.” Such a finding is a document signed by the president that specifically names a place where the U.S. will conduct covert activity.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department said it would be calling up more National Guard and Reserve troops for Iraq duty. Not combat troops, according to General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but people in support capacities that can wind up in the line of fire. The DOD will call up 10,000 troops in the Arkansas and North Carolina guards.
The war remains unpopular with the troops, and press reports are noting that at least some troops on furlough are dodging a return to the front.
Research: Ashley Glacel