Why E.J. Dionne is proud to be an American

Who would like to guess the subject of E.J. Dionne’s column today? Yup, it’s a “truth to power” riff regarding Secretary Rumsfeld’s meeting with our troops in Kuwait. The questions that several of them put to Rumsfeld make Dionne “proud to be an American.” I don’t recall any similar professions of pride when our soldiers liberated Iraq and Afghanistan and retook Fallujah.
As is so often the case, Dionne begins his column with a falsehood. He says that the troops at the session with Rumsfeld “threw away the script.” But the great thing about the meeting (something that makes me proud to be an American) is that there was no script. As far as appears, the only attempt to choreograph the meeting occurred when a Chattanooga reporter manipulated the process to have a question about armored vehicles posed.
Dionne goes on to attack Rumsfeld for not making sure the armed forces were “adequately prepared and equipped before they started the war.” Is it Dionne’s liberalism or his dishonesty that prevents him from recognizing that one cannot know before a war starts how much armor our forces will need, and one cannot wait until there is certainty that they have enough before commencing hostilities? Whether the military presently is doing all it reasonably can to procure what we now know we need is a separate question, and one to which Dionne doesn’t know the answer.
Dionne is equally off-base in his discussion of “stop-loss.” Rumsfeld’s answer on this issue was straightforward and unassailable — stop-loss is well understood by those who volunteer. Unable to dispute this, Dionne returns to his claim that the administration is forced to use stop-loss because it didn’t anticipate how tough the war would be. Dionne presents no evidence that this is the case — it’s altogether possible that Rumsfeld and others expected they might well have to use stop-loss in order to proceed with “the army they had.” In any event, I don’t see how any administration could have known in advance precisely how tough or not tough this military action would be.
As I said yesterday, the questions asked of Rumsfeld were good and important ones. I’m glad they were posed. But Dionne’s attempt to convert them into transcendent political questions amounts to another one of his misguided partisan adventures. It brings to mind John Kerry’s attempts to hold Bush accountable for battlefields mishap and procurement problems. The American voters were not persuaded, and among the least persuaded were our brave soldiers who, by all accounts, voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.

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