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Rumsfeld Must Go | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Rumsfeld Must Go

Amid the Generals Revolt against Rumsfeld; union officials representing 200,000 civilian defense workers calling for his resignation; and scores of Democrats as well as a good number of Republicans demanding his ouster…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's role in a $30 billion Pentagon procurement scandal --"The largest defense procurement scandal in recent decades," according to the Washington Post--nearly slipped through the cracks.

As the Post reports, it seems the Pentagon nearly squandered "$30 billion leasing several hundred new tanker aircraft that its own experts had decided were not needed." The purchase was stopped in 2004 by a Senate investigation that revealed it was "viewed inside the Pentagon as a politically tinged bailout for Boeing."

Although procurement makes up one-fifth of the Defense Department's $410 billion budget (not including Iraq and Afghanistan); and the $30 billion tanker deal was rife with "widespread violations of Pentagon and government-wide procurement rules"…. Rumsfeld told investigators, "I don't remember approving it. But I certainly don't remember not approving it, if you will."

This from a man who published Rumsfeld's Rules, which included this admonition: "Be precise – a lack of precision is dangerous."

Dangerous indeed. Especially when the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan requires an unprecedented commitment of resources and a GOP Congress is doing nothing but cutting taxes on the richest, and shafting an increasingly squeezed middle class.

But what's $30 billion here or there (aside from being enough to provide health care to seven million people, according to the National Priorities Project)? Rumsfeld made it clear to investigators that he "does wars, not defense procurement."

William D. Hartung, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, has a decidedly different take: "Under Donald Rumsfeld's tenure, weapons costs have skyrocketed, and one Pentagon official has been convicted for favoring Boeing in a major weapons deal. Rumsfeld claims he can't recall if he approved the actions that have led to this state of affairs. For his failure to hold weapons contractors accountable as military spending tops $500 billion per year, Rumsfeld should resign."

And so, five years into the Bush Administration, with the Pentagon's own inspector general and the Government Accountability Office characterizing the Defense Department's procurement system as "broken and dysfunctional," we have arrived at yet another reason Rumsfeld Must Go.

We might not be able to divine souls in an instant as George Bush boasts of being able to do, but we have had ample opportunity to discover what Donald Rumsfeld is all about. To say the American people deserve better is as understated as saying the rationale to invade Iraq was somewhat flawed.

Get him out.

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