We're used to hearing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld answer questions about things that went wrong in Iraq by saying they went right. When he does that to reporters, it's annoying. When he does it to troops risking their lives in his failed test of bargain-basement warfare, it's outrageous.
Yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld told soldiers at a staging area in Kuwait to ignore "the doubters" who say the escalating war is not going well. Then he invited the troops, some of them headed to their second combat tours, to ask him "tough questions." They evidently thought he meant it.
A National Guard scout from Tennessee asked why there was still an equipment shortage that forced units to scrounge for "hillbilly armor": "pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted." When the cheering died down, Mr. Rumsfeld said that, really, there was plenty of armor and in any case, "all the armor in the world" might not save you from a roadside bomb.
"You go to war with the Army you have," Mr. Rumsfeld fumed, "not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." He may have forgotten that the timetable for invading Iraq was dictated by politics, not military necessity. The armor shortage was also an outgrowth of his zeal to prove that a country can be invaded and occupied by a small and lightly armed force. A spokesman for the questioner's unit told reporters that 95 percent of its 300 trucks were not sufficiently armored.
Later, a woman said she and her husband "joined a volunteer army" but were serving extra tours under the "stop loss" program, a forced-duty clause in military contracts. "The 'stop loss' has been used by the military for years and years and years," Mr. Rumsfeld lectured. "It's all well understood when someone volunteers to join the service."
Mr. Rumsfeld talks a lot about supporting the troops. We wish that someone powerful would explain to him that doing so includes treating them with respect and telling them the truth.
Nice sentiment, but fat chance. Telling the truth, and respect for the troops and the citizenry in general, is not on this administration's agenda as it would be ideologically counter-productive. I'm surprised the troops didn't tear the rat bastard to shreds. Or offer him a leisurely tour of Baghdad in a down-armored Humvee.