SUBMITTED OP-ED/GUEST COLUMN
May 10, 2004
No blank check for Donald Rumsfeld
A Practical Idealist makes a contingent call about
of our U.S. Defense Secretary.
By John Kusumi
Practical Idealism is not a political
party, but rather a political standpoint that arose in Generation X. We are
without candidates vying for office or appointments. Rather, we take on the
question, "What does government look like on a good day? How would it be
managed if people were important?" That last phrase is present, not out of
sarcasm or cynicism, but because the Practical Idealist clarion theme, ever
since its appearance on bumper stickers in 1984, is that "People Are
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
has a likeability quality to him, a depth of experience, and a certain geekiness
that I find endearing. He is known to be smart and detail oriented, with a
strength that I have admired in his hawkishness on China. It was others in the
administration, not Rumsfeld, who early in this term dashed the hope that
hawkishness would prevail in U.S.-China policy.
I can declare that I value hawks on
China, and that there are others in the administration whom I might denounce
before Rumsfeld. In fact I did so in my capacity for the China Support Network
in August 2003, suggesting a personnel change at the State Department.
Now comes along the Iraqi prisoner abuse
scandal, and observers of the news can note many calls for the resignation of
Donald Rumsfeld. He has the benefit of the doubt from here as of this writing --
because, I am not yet informed of the full extent of the abuses in Iraq. In Week
# 1 of this crisis, I've seen photos of degradation and humiliation and heard
stories that amount to torture. On that basis, I am still not calling for
There are strong reasons that suggest we
must finish what we started in Iraq. I believe this war to be unpopular, but
necessary. I was supportive in the first place of the mission to remove Saddam
Hussein from power -- something that should have been done in "Gulf War
I," a dozen years earlier.
To change out Rumsfeld could be
problematic for the United States, during a complex war operation where his
expertise, knowledge, and seasoned eyeballs are hardly dispensable. There are
reasons why my early reaction, in week one of this crisis, was that it is a
mistake to make this too personal about Rumsfeld, and "we would do just as
well to keep him in there."
However, we are cruising into Week # 2 of
this crisis, and I suspect that it gets worse. If he reads my writing, Rumsfeld
will know that I have a positive opinion of him as an individual. However, my
call about Rumsfeld's fate will not be based on anything personal; rather
instead, it will be based upon the outcomes of his management. America suffered
an enormous setback to its image -- something to shame us within world public
opinion for years -- based on what I saw in Week # 1 of this crisis. We did not
need that black eye.
However, the countervailing factors for
keeping Rumsfeld were so strong that I did not move with the herd as calls began
rising for his scalp. Practical Idealism is not pure idealism -- it has its
pragmatic side. However, the red line here is the matter of life and death. That
is the outcome by which to judge government management.
After I finish writing this Op-Ed, then I
will lean into examining the case. I do not yet know how far my disappointment
will extend. But, my call for the fate of Rumsfeld will be based on this
"outcome" factor. I am facing the question, "Did these outcomes
cross the line, and extend to the deaths of prisoners in custody due to
mistreatment?" I should hope not, meaning that I can be more forgiving of
milder abuse, and not call for Rumsfeld's head. But, if outcomes included deaths
under management, then I will be among those who will say yes -- this was that
bad, and that Donald Rumsfeld should step down.
John Kusumi is a former candidate
for U.S. President (Ind., '84). He has since then founded the China Support
Network and his XDC Software firm, and authored a book on political
activism and his experiences, available at Kusumi.com.