It’s no wonder we’re faring so poorly in Iraq. Although Donald Rumsfeld professes to conduct our military efforts there under the managerial concept of precise “metrics,” oddly, he doesn’t seem to know his numbers.
Friday, for instance, Mr. Rumsfeld tried to quash a widely publicized six-count general indictment by saying “Out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round.”
It wasn’t “two or three,” Don. It was six. Six is different from two or three. Six is bigger. In fact, six is three times bigger than two and twice the count of three. For a man running a major military operation based on the marvels of complicated metrics, you should at least understand the fundamentals, Don. Really.
This isn’t the first time Mr. Rumsfeld has publicly betrayed his deplorable knowledge of basic math, either. Soon after he helped accomplish our mission in Iraq military intelligence was estimating “the insurgents’ strength at 50,000.” Yet “in public at least,” reported one major paper, Rumsfeld repeatedly “insist[s] that the attacks are the work of a few remnants of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist party and a handful of Islamic jihadists.”
A “few” and a “handful” versus 50,000. I’m no military analyst, but it seems even to this layman that when facing an enemy force of 50,000 it’s not smart -- definitely not smart -- to conflate that number with a “handful,” no matter how comfortingly propagandistic the intent may be. Doing so is just a dumb con that is bound to catch up with its perpetrator, which it has.
Also on Friday a Defense Department spokesman defended the same-day issuance of “a memorandum to a group of former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticisms made by [six, Don, count ‘em -- six, not two or three] retired generals.” The spokesman denied with all due Rumsfeldian indignation that the memo was “meant to enlist retired officers to speak out on behalf of Mr. Rumsfeld.” No, it was merely a “fact sheet,” one “sent out to provide people with the facts,” said this master of tautology. “We would be doing a disservice to the analysts and the American public if we didn't provide exactly what the facts are,” he clarified with a further touch of linguistic torture.
Let us return the favor and “provide exactly what the facts are” to Mr. Rumsfeld.
Don, your smarmy shtick of downplaying both the Iraq debacle and domestic criticism of it is so staggeringly contrary to reality even customarily obsequious military pros can no longer countenance it in silence. Your credibility is as toasted as your boss’s, and if you possessed even an ounce of that manly forthrightness you love to project you’d admit to your grotesque maladministration of this war and go home.