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Eternally Rumsfeld

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page A31

Rumsfeld faced calls for his resignation this summer over the abuses at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq. Republicans close to the White House said the decision to retain him was driven by the calculation that replacing him would appear to be a concession that the administration made mistakes in Iraq.

Moreover, some Republicans have speculated that Rumsfeld wanted to stay on with the hope that security conditions in Iraq would improve, leaving him with a better legacy.

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-- from a Dec. 4 Post story on President Bush's decision to retain Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2016 -- President-elect George P. Bush announced today that he would reappoint Donald Rumsfeld to another term as secretary of defense. Rumsfeld has served in that position since he was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001. After serving two terms in George W. Bush's administration, Rumsfeld served an additional two terms in the subsequent administration of President Jeb Bush. His 16 consecutive years heading the Pentagon is the longest uninterrupted tenure of any defense secretary, and that doesn't include the nearly two years he served in that post under President Gerald Ford. Rumsfeld is 84.

Sources close to the president-elect say that failing to reappoint Rumsfeld would be taken as a criticism of his uncle, former president George W. Bush, whose decision to invade Iraq in the spring of 2003 has bogged down U.S. forces there in a bloody and ongoing conflict that has lasted nearly 14 years. "George W. is mighty proud of independent Kurdistan," said one former official who is close to the Bush family. "He may have regrets about the Islamic Theocratic Republic of Basra, particularly since they got the bomb, and the PTCZWBOS [Permanent Temporary Curfew Zone Where Baghdad Once Stood], but he'll never admit it."

Rumsfeld does not plan on serving all four years of President-elect Bush's term, one Defense Department official said today. "As soon as things turn up, the moment the Green Zone is secured, he's out of there."

One figure in the outgoing and incoming administrations who argued strongly for Rumsfeld's retention was Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who first worked with Rumsfeld in the Ford administration. Cheney himself is about to begin his fifth term as vice president, a record-breaking tenure bought about in part by the decision of his cardiologists in 2008 that he could not safely be moved from the vice president's office.

Both Presidents George W. Bush and Jeb Bush periodically found themselves compelled to mount strenuous defenses of Rumsfeld's lengthy tenure. In a memorable 2006 news conference, a visibly exasperated President George W. Bush argued that wartime presidents had traditionally stuck with their commanders for the full duration of their conflicts. "Lincoln didn't dump McClellan, and I'm not dumping Rumsfeld," the president declared, leading the White House press office to issue its now-famous clarification that the Civil War had actually ended in 1862.

Rumsfeld's most recent term was marked by controversy over the extended tours of duty that many of the U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq have been compelled to serve. With enlistments in the armed services down to a trickle, and with Congress unable to find the votes to pass the so-called Sensenbrenner Plan to staff the armed services with unpaid, undocumented immigrants, many of the front-line U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been serving there since 2004, their terms of enlistment repeatedly extended by Rumsfeld's order.

Since the Mutiny of 2009 Defense Department officials have been concerned that bringing the "colonial army" home would risk infecting stateside troops with a crisis of morale. "We're fighting low morale in Iraq," one general said, "so we don't have to fight it here at home."

Rumsfeld's decision to remain at the Pentagon's helm may not have been dictated entirely by his desire to stay until the PTCZWBOS is secured. "Don took a bath when the dollar tanked back in 2005," one prominent Republican said, "and hasn't done all that well since the dollar was pegged to the yuan. In the absence of Social Security, he can't afford to quit."


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