Sunday, November 20, 2005

Who's Sorry Now? Who's Sorry Now? Whose Heart is Aching for Breaking Each Vow?

Corruption Inquiry Threatens to Ensnare Lawmakers
By Philip Shenon
The New York Times

Sunday 20 November 2005

Washington - The Justice Department has signaled for the first time in recent weeks that prominent members of Congress could be swept up in the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, the former Republican superlobbyist who diverted some of his tens of millions of dollars in fees to provide lavish travel, meals and campaign contributions to the lawmakers whose help he needed most.

The investigation by a federal grand jury, which began more than a year ago, has created alarm on Capitol Hill, especially with the announcement Friday of criminal charges against Michael Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff's former lobbying partner and a former top House aide to Representative Tom DeLay.

The charges against Mr. Scanlon identified no lawmakers by name, but a summary of the case released by the Justice Department accused him of being part of a broad conspiracy to provide "things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts" - an attempt at bribery, in other words, or something close to it.

Mr. Abramoff, who is under indictment in a separate bank-fraud case in Florida, has not been charged by the federal grand jury here. But Mr. Scanlon's lawyer says he has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation, suggesting that Mr. Abramoff's day in court in Washington is only a matter of time.

Scholars who specialize in the history and operations of Congress say that given the brazenness of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying efforts, as measured by the huge fees he charged clients and the extravagant gifts he showered on friends on Capitol Hill, almost all of them Republicans, the investigation could end up costing several lawmakers their careers, if not their freedom.

The investigation threatens to ensnarl many outside Congress as well, including Interior Department officials and others in the Bush administration who were courted by Mr. Abramoff on behalf of the Indian tribe casinos that were his most lucrative clients.

The inquiry has already reached into the White House; a White House budget official, David H. Safavian, resigned only days before his arrest in September on charges of lying to investigators about his business ties to Mr. Abramoff, a former lobbying partner.

"I think this has the potential to be the biggest scandal in Congress in over a century," said Thomas E. Mann, a Congressional specialist at the Brookings Institution. "I've been around Washington for 35 years, watching Congress, and I've never seen anything approaching Abramoff for cynicism and chutzpah in proposing quid pro quos to members of Congress."

Even by the gold-plated standards of Washington lobbying firms, the fees paid to Mr. Abramoff were extraordinary. A former president of the College Republicans who turned to lobbying after a short-lived career as a B-movie producer, Mr. Abramoff, with his lobbying team, collected more than $80 million from the Indian tribes and their gambling operations; he was known by lobbying rivals as "Casino Jack."

Mr. Abramoff's lobbying work was not limited to the casinos, though. Newly disclosed documents from his files show that he asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of Gabon, in West Africa, to set up a White House meeting with President Bush; there was an Oval Office meeting last year, although there is no evidence in the public record to show that Mr. Abramoff had a role in the arrangements.

Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, an ethics watchdog group that has called for tighter lobbying rules, said it was too early to say whether the Abramoff investigation would produce anything like the convulsion in Congress during the Abscam investigations of the 1980's, when one senator and five House members were convicted on bribery and other charges after an F.B.I. sting involving a phony Arab sheik.

"But this clearly has the potential," Mr. Wertheimer said.

So far, one member of Congress, Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the House Administration Committee, has acknowledged receiving a subpoena from the grand jury investigating Mr. Abramoff. Another, Representative John T. Doolittle, Republican of California, has acknowledged that his wife, who helped Mr. Abramoff organize fund-raisers, was subpoenaed.

The Justice Department signaled last month that Mr. DeLay had come under scrutiny in the investigation, over a trip that Mr. Abramoff arranged for Mr. DeLay and his wife to Britain in 2000 that included rounds of golf at the fabled course at St. Andrews in Scotland.

The department revealed its interest in Mr. DeLay, who is under indictment in Texas in an unrelated investigation involving violations of state election laws, in an extraordinary request to the British government that police there interview former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the circumstances of a meeting in London with Mr. DeLay during the trip five years ago.

London newspapers quoted a document prepared by the British Home Office that outlined the Justice Department's investigation and said that "it is alleged that Abramoff arranged for his clients to pay for the trips to the U.K. on the basis that Congressman DeLay would support favorable legislation."

Richard Cullen, a lawyer for Mr. DeLay, said in an interview Friday that he was "glad that the Justice Department is looking into all aspects of the trip because I think that a thorough investigation will show that the trip was substantive and transparent."

Mr. Cullen said that shortly after he was hired several months ago, he contacted the Justice Department "to let them know that Mr. DeLay is available to cooperate in any way."

The lawyer said he was "convinced that when the Justice Department completes its investigation of Abramoff and Scanlon, that it will be clear Tom DeLay has acted ethically and has conducted himself consistent with all laws and House standards of conduct." He said he had not heard from federal prosecutors since the initial contacts.

The situation could be more serious for Mr. Ney, a five-term lawmaker whose position as chairman of the House Administration Committee gives him power over the operations of the Capitol building and allows him to divide up Congressional perks like office space and parking.

Mr. Ney's ties to Mr. Abramoff have been revealed slowly over the last year, largely through testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which has held a series of hearings into accusations that Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon defrauded their Indian tribe clients.

Mr. Ney was not identified by name in the documents filed against Mr. Scanlon on Friday. But the Ohio lawmaker's lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Ney was the lawmaker identified as "Representative #1" in the Justice Department papers, which charged Mr. Scanlon with conspiring to provide "Representative #1" with a golfing trip to Scotland, meals at Mr. Abramoff's Washington restaurant and campaign contributions.

Mr. Ney took part in a golf trip to Scotland in 2002 with Mr. Abramoff, where they played at St. Andrews, as Mr. DeLay had done two years earlier. Documents and testimony to Congress showed that Mr. Abramoff had asked an Indian tribe in Texas to sponsor the trip and that Mr. Ney was then asked for his help in trying to reopen a casino owned by the tribe that had been shuttered by state officials.

Mr. Ney was also a regular at Signatures, the expensive Washington restaurant that Mr. Abramoff owned and used to entertain clients, colleagues and lawmakers. Former Signatures employees have said that Mr. Ney frequently ate and drank at the restaurant without paying. Mr. Ney has acknowledged the gifts but said they were within limits set by Congressional ethics rules.


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Frank war lost, another to go?

November 20, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
One War Lost, Another to Go
IF anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war's critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.

Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that "maybe some blame" for the war's "less than optimal" progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi "democracy" had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers' money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race. No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.

They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey last week found that the percentage (52) of Americans who want to get out of Iraq fast, in 12 months or less, is even larger than the percentage (48) that favored a quick withdrawal from Vietnam when that war's casualty toll neared 54,000 in the apocalyptic year of 1970. The Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs, found that "if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline." He observed that Mr. Bush was trying to channel L. B. J. by making "countless speeches explaining what the effort in Iraq is about, urging patience and asserting that progress is being made. But as was also evident during Woodrow Wilson's campaign to sell the League of Nations to the American public, the efficacy of the bully pulpit is much overrated."

Mr. Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006. As Mr. Mueller says, the decline in support for the war won't reverse itself. The public knows progress is not being made, no matter how many times it is told that Iraqis will soon stand up so we can stand down.

On the same day the Senate passed the resolution rebuking Mr. Bush on the war, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reported that "only about 700 Iraqi troops" could operate independently of the U.S. military, 27,000 more could take a lead role in combat "only with strong support" from our forces and the rest of the 200,000-odd trainees suffered from a variety of problems, from equipment shortages to an inability "to wake up when told" or follow orders.

But while the war is lost both as a political matter at home and a practical matter in Iraq, the exit strategy being haggled over in Washington will hardly mark the end of our woes. Few Americans will cry over the collapse of the administration's vainglorious mission to make Iraq a model of neocon nation-building. But, as some may dimly recall, there is another war going on as well - against Osama bin Laden and company.

One hideous consequence of the White House's Big Lie - fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 - is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That's already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America's will and resources to confront that expanded threat.

We have arrived at "the worst of all possible worlds," in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke's former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990's, and their riveting new book, "The Next Attack," is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, "we are losing" the war against the bin Laden progeny now.

"The Next Attack" is prescient to a scary degree. "If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad," the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams." The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate, "could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East." But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label "Iraq."

Only since his speech about "Islamo-fascism" in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the "evildoers" of Saddam's regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can't escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.

Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying "to rewrite the history" of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America's "broad and coordinated homeland defense" even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration's inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.'s, as opposed to Saddam's fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how "we're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes" even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.

And once again he bragged about the growing readiness of Iraqi troops, citing "nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces." But as James Fallows confirms in his exhaustive report on "Why Iraq Has No Army" in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, America would have to commit to remaining in Iraq for many years to "bring an Iraqi army to maturity." If we're not going to do that, Mr. Fallows concludes, America's only alternative is to "face the stark fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly."

THAT'S the alternative that has already been chosen, brought on not just by the public's irreversible rejection of the war, but also by the depleted state of our own broken military forces; they are falling short of recruitment goals across the board by as much as two-thirds, the Government Accountability Office reported last week. We must prepare accordingly for what's to come. To do so we need leaders, whatever the political party, who can look beyond our nonorderly withdrawal from Iraq next year to the mess that will remain once we're on our way out. Whether it's countering the havoc inflicted on American interests internationally by Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo or overhauling and redeploying our military, intelligence and homeland security operations to confront the enemy we actually face, there's an enormous job to be done.

The arguments about how we got into Mr. Bush's war and exactly how we'll get out are also important. But the damage from this fiasco will be even greater if those debates obscure the urgency of the other war we are losing, one that will be with us long after we've left the quagmire in Iraq.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

$3,100 RAISE FOR raise for workers

Rich Senators Defeat Minimum-Wage Hike
Congressional Pay Rises While Minimum Stays Same
Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist

POSTED: 6:12 pm EDT October 26, 2005
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U.S. senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers.

Can you believe it?

The proposed increase was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor. Under a Senate agreement, it needed 60 votes to pass.

All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative votes were cast by Republicans.

Four Republicans voted for it. Three of the four are running for reelection and were probably worried about how voters would react if they knew that their well-heeled senators had turned down a pittance of an increase in the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the country.

The minimum wage was last increased in 1997.

Kennedy called the vote "absolutely unconscionable."

The lawmakers are hardly hurting. They get health insurance, life insurance, pensions, office expenses, ranging from $2 million on up, depending on the population of a state. The taxpayers also pay for their travel, telecommunications, stationery and mass mailings.

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said the rejection was "outrageous and shocking."

Sweeney said minimum-wage workers "deserve a pay raise -- plain and simple -- no strings attached."

He said it is "appalling that the same right-wing leaders in Congress -- who have given themselves seven pay raises since the last minimum wage increase -- voted down the modest wage increase proposed by the Kennedy amendment."

During the same period since 1997, raises that the Senate has given itself bolstered senatorial pay by $28,000 a year, Kennedy said.

"If we are serious about helping hard-working families, we will give a fair raise to America's low-income workers without taking away essential protections," he added.

The Senate also killed an amendment proposed by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., which also would have increased the minimum wage by $1.10 but included drastic measures such as wiping out the 40-hour work week, cutting overtime pay and weakening job safety and health protection.

At the same time, Enzi wanted to sweeten the pot for small business by providing tax and regulatory relief and to exempt small business from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Kennedy likened the Enzi bill to an "anti-worker poison pill" and said it would "severely hurt millions and millions of workers."

According to the Census Bureau, there are 37 million Americans living in poverty, up 1 million in just a year.

Statements by President George W. Bush since the Gulf Coast hurricane disasters indicate he has a new awareness of the plight of the poor in this country. Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans have made the more affluent realize the hardships suffered by poor families.

When asked about the Kennedy measure, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush "believes that we should look at having a reasonable increase in the minimum wage ... But we need to make sure that, as we do that, that it is not a step that hurts small business or prices people out of the job market."

Bush has not weighed in with his own proposal for a pay hike.

The Senate's action comes at a worrisome time when motorists are paying much more for gasoline and heating bills are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter, according to Kennedy.

As a result, families will have to tighten their belts to pay for the basic necessities.

"It is shameful that in America today, the richest and most powerful nation on earth, nearly a fifth of all children go to bed hungry at night because their parents, many of whom are working full time at the minimum wage, still can't make ends meet," Kennedy said.

Kennedy has been in the forefront of the fight for increases in the minimum wage for years, and I don't expect him to throw in the towel now.

Congress still may have a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of the less fortunate -- before the 2006 elections.

(Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address


Wrestling With History
Sometimes you have to fight the war you have, not the war you wish you had

By David Von Drehle
Sunday, November 13, 2005; W12

If only he could show us the memo.

"It's still classified, I suppose?" says Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, looking toward his assistant.

"It's still classified," Lawrence DiRita replies, "along with a lot of the underlying planning."

Rumsfeld nods, apparently disappointed. He is interested in sharing the memo because the memo, as he outlines it, demonstrates that his critics are utterly mistaken. He did not dash heedless and underprepared into Iraq. Rumsfeld foresaw the things that could go wrong -- and not just foresaw them, but wrote them up in a classically Rumsfeldian list, one brisk bullet point after another, 29 potential pitfalls in all. Then he distributed the memo at the highest levels, fed it into the super-secret planning process and personally walked the president through the warnings.

"It would have been probably October of '02, and the war was March, I think," of the following year, Rumsfeld explains. "I sat down, and I said, 'What are all the things that one has to anticipate could be a problem?' And circulated it and read it to the president -- sent it to the president. Gave it to the people in the department, and they planned against those things. And all of the likely and unlikely things that one could imagine are listed there. It was just on the off-chance we'd end up having a conflict. We didn't know at that stage."

Some might quibble with Rumsfeld's description of the historical moment. At the time he wrote the memo, dated October 15, 2002, Congress had recently voted to give President Bush complete authority to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. A White House spokesman had just confirmed that invasion plans were on Bush's desk -- detailed plans, we now know, which Rumsfeld had been shaping and hammering and editing for much of the previous year.

In other words, there was far more than an "off-chance" of conflict. All that remained to be done was for the president to reach his official decision. The train was loaded, its doors were shut, and it was ready to leave the station.

Rumsfeld never pretended there was anything off-chancy about the timing of the memo when he discussed it with Bob Woodward, who wrote about the document in his authoritative history of Iraq war preparations, Plan of Attack. In that account, Rumsfeld portrayed the memo as a warning blast, an attempt to do "everything humanly possible to prepare" Bush for the awful responsibility that had settled onto his presidential shoulders -- and his shoulders alone. For there comes a point when even the secretary of defense must realize that "it's not your decision or even your recommendation," Rumsfeld reflected with Woodward. By which he meant the Iraq war wasn't Don Rumsfeld's decision or recommendation.

As if to underline the point, Rumsfeld also told Woodward that he couldn't recall a moment, in all the months of planning for the war, when Bush asked whether his defense secretary favored the invasion. Nor did Rumsfeld ever volunteer his opinion. ("There's no question in anyone's mind but I agreed with the president's approach," he added.) So what was in the memo? Dire scenarios ranging from disasters that did not happen, such as chemical warfare and house-to-house combat with Saddam's troops in Baghdad, to bad things that have indeed come to pass, such as ethnic strife among Iraq's religious factions and the successful exploitation of the war as a public relations vehicle for the enemies of the United States.

Rumsfeld raises the subject of this memo near the end of an interview in his spacious Pentagon office. Outside the tinted blast-proof windows and across the Potomac, a brutal summer sun bakes the domes and cornices of Washington, but Rumsfeld is wearing a fleece vest over his shirtsleeves. He often finds his office chilly. Rumsfeld appears relaxed, charming, expansive. It seems awfully helpful of him to want to share a classified memo written expressly for the president of the United States, who was wrestling with his awesome power to wage war.

But then you wonder: Why did Rumsfeld write that memo, at that moment, and why is he flagging it now?

If the point of the memo was to nudge George W. Bush's hand from the throttle of the engine, to halt the train of events at the last moment, then it was too little too late. Rumsfeld would have known this after 40 years inside the sanctums of government. Plans have a way of gathering momentum as surely as boulders running downhill. One of "Rumsfeld's Rules," the booklet of maxims and tenets he has coined and updated through his lifetime in management, notes that "it is easier to get into something than to get out of it." The time to stop an idea is before it gets moving.

And if his purpose was to spur adequate thinking and preparation for the complexity of the Iraq mission, he failed. Military experts and strategic thinkers differ over whether the insurgency in Iraq can be quelled and a legitimate government stabilized on a timeline and a budget that the American people will support. Will it turn out to be "the greatest strategic disaster in our history," as retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, the Army's chief of intelligence and director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, recently asserted? Or will it someday be seen as "a hard struggle" toward an eventual victory, albeit a struggle through "the crucible with the blood and the dust and the gore," as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said in his final congressional testimony in September before retiring? Myers acknowledged that "we've made lots of mistakes along the way." But, he said, that was because "we are trying to do in Iraq what has never been done before."

But there is broad agreement now that if the United States salvages a victory in Iraq, it will come in spite of the initial war planning, not because of it. Rumsfeld's own advisory think tank, the Defense Science Board, took a long look at this issue last year and concluded that the architects of the Iraq war -- led by Rumsfeld -- lacked necessary knowledge of Iraq and its people, and that they failed to factor in well-known lessons of history.

"It is clear that Americans who waged the war and who have attempted to mold the aftermath have had no clear idea of the framework that has molded the personalities and attitudes of Iraqis," the board declared in a report bearing the official seal of the Department of Defense. "It might help if Americans and their leaders were to show less arrogance and more understanding of themselves and their place in history. Perhaps more than any other people, Americans display a consistent amnesia concerning their own past, as well as the history of those around them."

Maybe Rumsfeld's memo was written not just for its moment, but also for the future, as proof that he remained sober even in an atmosphere of neoconservative enthusiasm for the war. Although classified, the memo keeps surfacing in this context, always putting a little distance between Rumsfeld and the audacious gamble in Iraq. Five weeks before the invasion, as others were promising a cakewalk, Rumsfeld and his memo surfaced in the New York Times. It surfaced again with Woodward. And now here it is again.

This subtle distancing explains why the memo has joined other actions and inactions, statements and omissions as evidence, for some of the Iraq war's strongest supporters, that the man atop the Pentagon, despite his bravura, may not have had his whole heart in this war.

The idea may not be immediately obvious to Americans at their dinner tables -- that Donald Rumsfeld, the chesty, confident, competent "Rumstud" of the Iraq invasion briefing room, has held something back from the war effort. He was, after all, the public face of "shock and awe." He seemed to thrive on the glare, the pressure, the workload of war, at his desk daily by 6:30 a.m. and dictating his notorious "snowflake" memos -- the waves of questions and orders and ruminations that swirl through Rumsfeld's Pentagon like a blizzard -- long into the night. He dominated news briefings and congressional hearings like a tank rolling through small-arms fire, and he gloried in the hand-wringing of weaker souls. Behind the scenes, Rumsfeld and his civilian staff bulldozed skeptical generals and smashed rival bureaucracies in the planning and execution of the invasion.

So when William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard and a leading proponent of the Iraq war, charged Rumsfeld with insufficient commitment in August, Rumsfeld's assistant fired back with confidence. "Kristol thinks that he senses the 'inescapable whiff of weakness and defeatism' in the leadership of the Pentagon," DiRita wrote. "This is nonsense."

But Kristol remains unpersuaded. "I don't think he ever really had his heart in it," he says. And this is interesting, because one of the main reasons why antiwar critics have included Rumsfeld among the fervent forces behind the war is that he signed a letter in 1998 calling for the ouster of Saddam Hussein -- a letter written by Kristol. "He had nothing to do with making it happen," Kristol says of Rumsfeld. "We just faxed it to him, as one of the usual suspects, and a few days later they faxed back his signature."

The crux of the complaint against the secretary is this: Whenever Rumsfeld has faced a choice between doing more in Iraq or doing less, he has done less. When, during the pre-invasion planning, the State Department sent a team of Iraq experts to the Pentagon to help prepare a major reconstruction effort for the aftermath, Rumsfeld turned some of them away. As a result, "there was simply no plan, other than humanitarian assistance and a few other things like protection of oil and so forth, with regard to postwar Iraq. There was no plan," retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, explained in a recent speech.

When Army generals called for more troops to occupy the soon-to-be-leaderless country, Rumsfeld pushed for fewer. He cut the time for training National Guard units, including the ones that wound up photographing themselves with naked prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. (He twice offered his resignation when the prison scandal broke. Bush declined.) He blessed plans to begin pulling the invasion force out of Iraq almost as quickly as it went in.

The thread running through all these decisions is Rumsfeld's steady resistance to a long, troop-intensive effort in Iraq. A big part of his job, he explained that day in his office, is to "balance" the resources being poured into Iraq against necessary investments in a transformed, high-tech military force of the future. When senators tell Rumsfeld, as they did again in September, that the United States should have enough troops on the border between Iraq and Syria to cut off the flow of money and manpower to the anti-U.S. insurgency, one can imagine the secretary running through the math. Today's highly skilled volunteer troops don't come as cheaply as the draft-age cannon fodder of wars gone by. With pay, training and benefits, each soldier or Marine sent to secure that border would mean an annual debit of up to $100,000 in defense budgets for years to come. Ten thousand soldiers equals $1 billion. Not counting their guns, ammo, food, uniforms, armor, vehicles.

Which may be why Rumsfeld's military, as of late September, had assigned just 1,000 Marines to cover the western half of the 376-mile border with Syria. Picture five major college marching bands stretched over the distance between Washington and Trenton, N.J.

Doubts about Rumsfeld's priorities have been widespread in Iraq almost from the beginning. Soldiers wondered why they were doing heavy-armor fighting in unarmored trucks. Commanders scratched their heads when Rumsfeld insisted, at a Pentagon news briefing in 2003, that the ongoing war outside their windows wasn't "anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance." Kurdish leaders, concerned about a Pentagon cut-and-run, declined to disband their ethnic militias. "They say, 'Put a permanent U.S. base up here and we'll be glad to,'" one Kurdish representative explains.

Such questions took root in Washington a bit later, however. A turning point came in September 2004, with a pair of columns written by the well-sourced conservative Robert Novak. Many pro-war insiders believed that Rumsfeld was the origin of Novak's startling declaration that "inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is a strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying, Ready or not, here we go." Bush quickly shot down the trial balloon, but Novak stood fast, pointedly boasting in a follow-up piece that Rumsfeld had not repudiated the original column.

West Point military historian Frederick Kagan soon published a scathing assessment of Rumsfeld's war leadership. A supporter of the decision to invade Iraq, Kagan was appalled that Rumsfeld had not shifted his fabled intensity from visions of future warfare to the burgeoning war of today. "The secretary of defense simply chose to prioritize preparing America's military for future conventional conflict rather than for the current mission," Kagan wrote in Kristol's magazine. "In no previous American war has the chief of the military administration refused to focus on the war at hand." Defenders rose to Rumsfeld's side. The venerable conservative magazine National Review, while critical of Rumsfeld for underestimating the "magnitude of the task that rebuilding and occupying Iraq would present," opened its pages to rebuttals of Kristol's neocon journal. Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution chalked up America's troubles in Iraq to the huge cuts in active-duty troops that were begun by the first President Bush and continued under President Clinton. "In reality, [Rumsfeld] has carefully allotted troops in Iraq because he has few to spare elsewhere -- and all for reasons beyond his control," Hanson argued.

Others praised Rumsfeld's creativity in squeezing the most from existing troop levels by moving uniformed soldiers and officers out of jobs that civilians could fill instead. Some writers and politicians who could find little to praise in Rumsfeld's handling of post-invasion Iraq nevertheless hailed his willingness to cut outmoded weapons programs and shift forces away from Cold War bases.

"Mr. Rumsfeld, standing on his remarkable record of achievement, is far too effective a defense secretary for any serious student of recent American history to think that he should be replaced," former House speaker Newt Gingrich summed up in the Baltimore Sun.

The man himself seems impervious to these storms. As Rumsfeld reflected on his eventful tenure from an armchair near his big desk last summer, the most striking thing about him was how upbeat he appeared to be. Public support for the Iraq war was plunging. Criticism of him was spreading among the military brass and through Congress. Learned essays were circulating through war colleges and think tanks describing an Army near the breaking point under the pressure of the war -- equipment wearing out 15 times faster than anticipated, the divorce rate among officers tripled. Yet Rumsfeld radiated good cheer as he described his invigorating tussles with a Pentagon bureaucracy that is, by his reckoning, not much advanced beyond inkwells and steam.

His staff reflects that sunny superiority. "The ramparts of Washington are littered with the bleached bones of people who said Donald Rumsfeld was not going to survive," DiRita says happily. Rumsfeld's serenity comes from a distinctive blend of freshness and age. DiRita describes his boss as thirsty for new knowledge and also supremely confident in himself, able to make tough decisions without fretting or second-guessing. "He is always looking forward. He has a sense of himself, and the president likes that," the assistant says. "When you know who you are, you're pretty comfortable with the scrutiny that comes from public service."

At 73, Rumsfeld is the oldest person ever to run the Pentagon, having also been the youngest when he was appointed for his first tour in 1975. Yet, apart from a slight hearing loss that can seem to wax or wane depending on whether he likes what he is hearing, he bears little sign of age. His back is straight, eyes are clear, body is lean, mind is sharp, and he enjoys whipping much younger men in his afternoon squash matches. Only two secretaries of defense have served longer -- Robert McNamara in the 1960s and Caspar Weinberger in the 1980s -- and Rumsfeld shows no sign of flagging.

If only he could have had the war he wanted, instead of the war he got. Rumsfeld hoped and intended that Iraq would be a proving ground for his theories about a new era of warfare -- fast, light, "agile," high-tech and overwhelming. Instead, Iraq is an old-fashioned war, hot and dusty, of foot soldiers, fortified camps, checkpoints and armor. Rumsfeld stubbornly clung to his hope even after most others had faced reality. The CIA concluded by June 2003, two months after the liberation of Baghdad, that the United States was facing a "classic insurgency," but Rumsfeld specifically denied it until he was publicly corrected by his able commander, Army Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid.

Perhaps this is understandable, because the implications of the insurgency -- namely, a long, expensive military and political commitment -- were potentially ruinous for Rumsfeld's larger, futuristic agenda. But the reluctance of the man at the top of the Pentagon to come to grips with the reality on the ground had an impact, according to retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who surveyed Iraq last summer and reported on his findings to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

McCaffrey did not mention the secretary of defense by name in his report. But his terse, grim recounting of America's first 22 months in Iraq led directly to Rumsfeld's door.

"The enterprise was badly launched," McCaffrey wrote. The U.S. invasion "left a nation without an operational State." Rumsfeld's "overwhelmed, under-resourced" appointees were feckless in filling that void. Mistakes were made with alacrity, but effective corrections seemed to take forever. A year passed before the United States began serious and effective training of new security forces for Iraq -- indeed, the United States transferred sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government in June 2004 without any competent Iraqi military or police units to defend that government. In the meantime, Iraq devolved into "a weak state of warring factions."

No student of history should have been surprised by the insurgency. For centuries, guerrilla tactics have been the preferred strategy of the outgunned and outsoldiered, because insurgency offers a way of winning a war without having to conquer a superior army. Like mosquitoes ruining a picnic, insurgents patiently sap the superior army's will to hold a city, province or country. Kalev Sepp, a retired Special Operations officer and adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq, published an influential essay last spring in Military Review, an official Army publication, in which he identified more than 50 insurgencies around the world during the past century, ranging from the second Boer War in South Africa to the Hukbalahap Rebellion in the Philippines to the ongoing Russian campaign in Chechnya. Other writers have traced the history of insurgency to the Roman Empire.

After much wheel-spinning, lessons drawn from those examples are finally shaping the U.S. approach in Iraq. "We've crafted a strategy for success in Iraq based on historical lessons [and] counterinsurgency principles," Iraq commander Gen. George Casey recently testified before Congress. This strategy, Casey said, calls for an effort more political than military, precisely the sort of "nation-building" once scorned by Rumsfeld and Bush. The goal is to "enable the Iraqis to take charge of their future." Ordinary Iraqis won't fully turn against the insurgents until they can rely on a competent government to meet basic human needs -- for safety, economic opportunity, reliable infrastructure and so on.

Counterinsurgency is a matter of turning on the air conditioning and keeping it on. Of guaranteeing Iraqis that they can take a government job without fear that their children will be kidnapped as punishment. It is a question not just of sweeping the insurgents from Samarra or Fallujah or Ramadi, but of keeping such cities safe for the long run. The average counterinsurgency effort lasts nine years, Casey informed Congress, "and there's no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time to deal with."

McCaffrey concluded after his visit that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have indeed landed on the right strategy and are finally making progress. Credit, he said, belongs to the "superb" senior generals who took over after the chaotic first months, and to the soldiers and Marines comprising "the most competent and battle-wise force in our nation's history." His silence concerning civilian leadership of the Pentagon spoke volumes.

Rumsfeld's support continues to dwindle. He has alienated a fair percentage of America's officer corps, though few of them will say so on the record. The boss pays meticulous attention to the selection and promotion of new generals, "constantly scanning the bench: who's coming up," says his assistant, DiRita. Focusing on personnel is a way of putting his lasting stamp on military culture, Rumsfeld believes. It also has the effect of reminding officers that he is watching them carefully.

Nevertheless, the brass has ways of making itself heard. Opinions are expressed to trusted friends, retired comrades, veteran reporters. The tone of that feedback has become so negative that even some pro-Rumsfeld analysts now doubt his effectiveness. Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Reagan-era Pentagon official, is a good example: In his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column, Kelly recently called for Rumsfeld to resign, even though in many ways he "has been a terrific secretary of defense . . . Army officers think Rumsfeld has it in for them," Kelly wrote. "I don't think that is true. But when a perception is as widespread as this one is, it becomes a reality."

Another well-connected conservative, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, once regarded Rumsfeld as "the most persuasive proponent of the Bush Administration's muscular approach to global security." Now: "From the disarray of 9/11 to the decay of the Western alliance to the debacle of the Iraq occupation to the disorg-anized oversight of Pentagon procurement, Rumsfeld has served the president badly."

Then there's Congress. The secretary has always had a prickly relationship with Congress, which he and most defense analysts regard as too protective of obsolete military bases and big-ticket weapons. When Rumsfeld returned to the Pentagon in 2001 after 24 years away, he was shocked to see the extent of congressional nitpicking and micromanaging. "The number of congressional staffers [devoted to Pentagon issues] had doubled from something like 8,000 to . . . something like 16,000," he marveled. Those staffers demand hundreds of annual reports on a stupefying array of topics, he complained, many of marginal value. "There's so many hands on the steering wheel."

Rumsfeld did a bad job of masking his feelings. As his friend of more than 40 years, Nixon-era defense secretary Melvin Laird, complained recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Rumsfeld's "overconfident and self-assured style on every issue . . . did not play well with Congress." He warned that this "sour relationship on Capitol Hill could doom the whole [Iraq] effort."

Lately, though, the Republican-controlled Congress has gone past pestering to near repudiation of the secretary. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, recently returned from Iraq dismayed by the sorry state of the country's infrastructure, 2 1/2 years and an ocean of money after the U.S. arrival. He concluded that "the secretary of defense . . . was not, in my judgment, showing the strength and decisiveness that is needed at this time."

As a further rebuke, Warner joined most of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats in approving an amendment, 90-to-9, that would require clear rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners under Rumsfeld's jurisdiction.

This scolding of the administration was sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- which only underlined how irritated many senators have become. A high-profile bill that might advance the fortunes of McCain? There are few things conservative Republicans dislike more.

Rumsfeld, apparently, is one.

Why Rumsfeld, one of the smartest, most energetic and most forceful men to serve as secretary of defense, has reached this point is one of the deep riddles of today's Washington. The search for an explanation unfolds through scores of essays and articles, thousands of pages of briefing transcripts and congressional testimony, reams of Pentagon documents and hours of interviews with Rumsfeld watchers inside and outside the military. Few of these interviews could be conducted on the record, because Rumsfeld continues to exert significant control over promotions of those in uniform, and wields influence over Department of Defense contracts with the institutions that employ many outside experts.

Moreover, the war in Iraq has been intensely politicized, to the point that a number of people who agreed to discuss Rumsfeld would not speak on the record because they worried that their assessments would be attacked as politically motivated.

This inquiry also included, at an early stage, an interview with Rumsfeld, in which he was asked to sum up, in general terms, his broad agenda of the past five years. At the end of that conversation, he smiled and said, "Ask me something harder." But repeated requests for a second meeting to pose specific follow-up questions were unavailing. An e-mail containing specific questions was sent to DiRita last month, but neither he nor Rumsfeld responded.

So, return to the beginning: Iraq was not Rumsfeld's decision, nor did he ever formally recommend the invasion. It is not "Rumsfeld's war." His assistant is emphatic on this point. "No. It is America's war," DiRita says.

When Bush drew a bead on Iraq late in 2001, as U.S. forces and allies were taking control of Afghanistan, Rumsfeld was already deeply involved in two wars much closer to home. One was his campaign to remake the Pentagon for the 21st century. The other was a bureaucratic battle with then-Secretary of State Powell. It is impossible to understand Rumsfeld's approach to Iraq outside the context of these earlier, ongoing fights.

First, the war with Colin Powell.

The bitter lawsuits over the 2000 presidential election left Bush under enormous pressure as he chose his first Cabinet. Time was short and the country divided. Bush turned to Powell, a figure so broadly popular that he had been approached about running for vice president by both the Republicans and the Democrats. Powell had foreign policy acumen, military experience and the assurance that comes from years in command -- all areas in which Bush could use a boost.

Still, Powell's prominence and his

politics "raised anxieties" among some important members of the president's inner circle, as journalist James Mann explained in Rise of the Vulcans, his intellectual history of the Bush national security team. The general angered conservatives by favoring affirmative action and abortion rights. And he worried hawks with his Powell Doctrine for war-fighting -- it was much too cautious, they felt.

One of those conservative hawks was Vice President Cheney, whose differences with Powell went back a decade to the first Gulf War. Then, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Cheney was secretary of defense. Powell tried an end run around Cheney to appeal directly to President George H.W. Bush not to wage war against Iraq. When Cheney discovered Powell's maneuver, he ordered the general to "stick to military matters." Still, Powell succeeded in shaping the Gulf War

strategy according to his principles of decisive force and a clear postwar exit strategy.

This political and personal baggage carried into the new Bush administration. "The overriding dynamic of the Bush foreign policy team," Mann wrote, was an "intense, continuing desire . . . to limit the power and influence of Colin Powell." Job One was to cut off Powell's sway at the Pentagon, an institution he knew as intimately as anyone in government. Cheney and Bush turned to Rumsfeld, Cheney's longtime mentor and pal. Their partnership went back to the Nixon administration, when a young Don Rumsfeld gave an even younger Dick Cheney his first job in the executive branch.

Few men of the past half-century were better suited to intramural bureaucratic combat than Rumsfeld. As a Princeton wrestling champion in the 1950s, his specialty was taking down opponents, an art rooted in quickness, leverage and a ruthless eye for vulnerabilities. He translated these skills to politics and quickly made his reputation on them.

The story has been told many times. How in 1962, after a stint as a Navy fighter pilot, Rumsfeld was elected to Congress at age 30 from suburban Chicago and almost immediately helped organize a coup to oust the veteran House Republican leader, replacing him with genial Gerald R. Ford of Michigan.

How Richard M. Nixon noticed the tough young man and recruited him to run an anti-poverty program. How from that unlikely post, Rumsfeld picked a fight with Nixon's foreign policy guru, Henry A. Kissinger, arguing that Kissinger was too slow to pull out of Vietnam. How Ford found himself president after Nixon's disgrace and called Rumsfeld before he called anyone else. How Rumsfeld, as Ford's chief of staff, pulled off a "Halloween massacre" that finally reduced Kissinger's power over foreign policy, while installing Rumsfeld as the nation's youngest-ever secretary of defense (and moved Cheney up a step, too, making him the youngest White House chief of staff).

How Rumsfeld also orchestrated the dumping of Kissinger's original patron, Nelson A. Rockefeller, as Ford's 1976 running mate.

Fred Ikle, a pillar of the conservative defense establishment, paused a moment when asked to sum up Rumsfeld's style. "Let me put it this way," he said at last, "I would not like to be on the opposite side of an interagency clash from him."

Rumsfeld clashed with Powell almost immediately after Bush was inaugurated in 2001. The issue was China. Powell was quoted characterizing the United States and China as friends, even as Rumsfeld was framing his first major strategic document, the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, around the idea of China as a rising threat. Asked about the dispute at the time, Rumsfeld made a joke at Powell's expense. They agreed on "everything," Rumsfeld said, "except those few cases where Colin is still learning."

The laughter stopped as the Iraq invasion approached. According to Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, a "cabal" of Rumsfeld and Cheney "flummoxed the process" of planning the war. They carried their ideas in "secret" directly to Bush for decisions; meanwhile Rumsfeld authorized his staff to "tell the State Department to go screw itself in a closet somewhere."

Anything Powell favored, the Defense Department opposed. Powell suggested more allies; Rumsfeld announced he was ready to go it alone. Powell favored a larger force; Rumsfeld weeded out troops unit by unit. Ultimately, the invasion was a repudiation of the Powell Doctrine in U.S. military affairs. The force deployed was light and lethal -- but not, history has clearly shown, the master of all contingencies. Nor was there a clear exit strategy, merely the hope of garlands and easy reconstruction -- a point war critics have often made and Rumsfeld has never rebutted in detail.

As for Rumsfeld's war on the military culture, Bush fired the first shot in January 2001. Standing alongside his new defense secretary, Bush promised that Rumsfeld would "challenge the status quo inside the Pentagon." This formulation appealed to Rumsfeld, who had spent the quarter-century since his first Pentagon tour in private business, making a fortune by shaking up under-performing companies.

Diving in, he found his marching orders in a speech given by candidate Bush at the Citadel in 1999, calling for a "transformation" of the great but lumbering U.S. military. The Cold War force was built around big foreign bases and heavy weapons "platforms," such as tank columns and aircraft carriers. With the Cold War over, Bush said, America should use the chance to "skip a generation" of weaponry and tactics to seize the future of warfare ahead of everyone else. A transformed military would be lightly armored, rapidly deployable, invisible to radar, guided by satellites. It would fight with Special Operations troops and futuristic "systems" of weaponry, robots alongside soldiers, all linked by computers. This force would be unmatchable in combat, Bush predicted, but it should not be used for the sort of "nation-building" that characterized Pentagon deployments to Haiti and the Balkans under Clinton.

Little of this was entirely new. Since Vietnam, Pentagon leaders -- including the younger Rumsfeld -- had been searching for more efficient, less entangling, ways to project U.S. power. Even the Army, perhaps the most hidebound of the services, had begun a complete reorganization to make itself easier to deploy. "Some things had been done since the end of the Cold War," Rumsfeld conceded in the interview.

But the Pentagon is the world's biggest, richest bureaucracy, with an annual budget larger than the entire economies of all but about a dozen nations -- bigger than Switzerland or Sweden. The leviathan managed to shrug off most deep and lasting changes. Thus, when Rumsfeld took office in 2001, he recalled, "we were located pretty much where we had been located, geographically, around the world. We still had the same processes and systems and approaches."

Some of the most important changes on Rumsfeld's menu were also the toughest, because of the entrenched interests involved. Weapons programs and bases provide jobs in nearly every congressional district. Republican or Democrat doesn't matter when it comes time to protect those jobs, so the programs and the bases endure even after the strategy behind them has expired. Some defense secretaries quail before this status quo, but not Rumsfeld. Shortly after taking office, he began questioning continued funding for the Crusader supercannon, an artillery piece designed to destroy Soviet tank columns that no longer existed, and the Comanche helicopter, another Cold War relic. Such efforts made him a hero in the military think tanks but earned him a lot of enemies on the Hill. By late summer 2001, Washington was buzzing with rumors that Rumsfeld would soon resign.

Then came September 11.

Rumsfeld dazzled the public and his troops with his cool courage on that fateful morning. When American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, he rushed to the sound and shudder of the blast and began rescuing victims. Cheney later told a friend that this moment completely remade Rumsfeld in the eyes of the military, and Rumsfeld seized this second chance.

"The war comes along," Rumsfeld recalled, "and a lot of people said you can't do both -- there's no way you can continue to transform that department and . . . deal with the war simultaneously . . . [But] the war gives an impetus to it, a sense of urgency. One of the things that big institutions need is a sense of urgency. They are so lethargic . . . Well, the war created such a sense of urgency that those things are getting fixed. And they're getting fixed . . . a whale of a lot faster than might otherwise be the case because there's a penalty for not fixing them fast."

Buoyed by early successes of Special Ops forces and satellite-guided bombs in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld turned the run-up to Iraq into a transformation workshop. The Pentagon already had a plan for the possible toppling of Saddam Hussein; it was now taken from the shelf and completely remade under Rumsfeld's steady pressure. Generals and civilians involved in the process endured Rumsfeld's favorite management technique -- a brand of relentless interrogation known as "wirebrushing." Many grew frustrated at the fact that Rumsfeld always had a million questions -- but rarely said openly what he wanted or believed.

Editing and badgering, Rumsfeld cut the troop strength in the invasion plan by more than half, and cut the deployment time by months. Instead of a bombing phase led by the Air Force and Navy, followed by a ground war phase of soldiers and Marines, the secretary pushed for a truly joint operation, all branches of the military working together on a blitz to Baghdad. The dream of America's defense secretaries for a half-century -- genuine cooperation among the military services -- came to life.

Combining the audacity of Grant at Vicksburg with a degree of speed and precision never before seen on Earth, the invasion of Iraq "was the utter vindication of Rumsfeld's transformation," an impressed European diplomat said not long ago. "And," he added, "also its downfall." For there was a crack in this machinery that would be exposed if Iraq was not wrapped up quickly.

Rumsfeld spoke of this internal flaw, briefly and elliptically, during the interview in his office. He was describing the Pentagon as an Industrial Age contraption of rattling "conveyor belts" onto which huge weapons purchases and fat plans are loaded months and even years before they will come to fruition. The belts clatter along, beyond human reach, until finally they dump their loads, whether or not America needs them anymore.

"To have affected it, you had to have affected it five or six years ago -- or at least two or three years ago," Rumsfeld said of the system. So his mission, as he described it, was to get his hands into the machinery and start hauling resources off some belts so he could load new projects onto others. "I've had to reach in and grab all those conveyor belts and try to make them rationalize, one against another." This process of moving resources from belt to belt he calls "balancing risks." As in, the risk of not having a supercannon, compared with the risk of not spending enough money on satellites.

This is where the problem of Iraq came in. Rumsfeld explained that he has had to "balance risks between a war plan -- an investment in something immediately -- and an investment in something in the future." This opened a small window into a very important section of his thinking. Bush recently compared the war in Iraq to World War II, which implies a total commitment. Without a doubt, from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, the war effort was the only military conveyor belt worth mentioning. By contrast, Rumsfeld has conceived of Iraq on a smaller scale, as just one of many hungry conveyor belts inside his Pentagon.

He understood that as soon as the Iraq belt started rolling, it would carry resources away from his preferred investments in the future. So he speaks of his job as a matter of reaching onto that belt and pulling stuff off. "Balance" in this context is another word for "limit" -- limit the amount of money, troops, staff and materiel bound for Iraq. The war he wanted was a short one, involving a relatively small force that would start heading home as soon as Saddam was chased from his palaces. When Army generals urged him instead to load the Iraq conveyor belt with enough troops to fully occupy the country -- securing captured weapons depots, patrolling borders, ensuring order -- Rumsfeld saw the large fixed cost involved in recruiting and training thousands of new troops, a cost that would rattle down Pentagon belts for years to come. He tried to balance those risks of chaos against the conveyor belts that could otherwise be loaded with resources destined for future transformation.

It was a gamble, and one he has stuck with through round after round of raised stakes. Of course, the irony is that the Iraq effort has been the opposite of cheap and short. Despite Rumsfeld's best efforts, it is a budget-buster, and one can almost hear the conveyor belts destined for his transformed tomorrow grinding to a halt, one by one.

It is easier to get into something than to get out of it . . .

Another of Rumsfeld's Rules is the reminder that staff members, no matter how senior, are not the president of the United States. This, too, is central to an understanding of Rumsfeld's relationship to the war in Iraq. He didn't tell the president what to do because that wasn't his job. Some decisions, such as the decision to go to war based on a certain set of assumptions and a particular set of plans, belong to the president alone. "George Bush deserves the credit or blame for the war," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. "Rumsfeld gets the credit or blame for the execution."

The next few months could shed a lot of light on the ratio of credit and blame. Progress toward victory would make the earlier mistakes seem smaller. Gen. Casey told Congress in September that the United States has entered a critical period for its counterinsurgency strategy. The tenuous political structure of Iraq will either begin to solidify around the new constitution and next month's parliamentary elections, or it will fall apart. Civil war could doom the attempt to raise and train an Iraqi army that represents all factions of the country. But if, step by step, ordinary Iraqis decide to reject the insurgency and drive out foreign jihadists, then violence should ebb. American public support for the war might rebound. Iraqi troops could take the place of Americans, and U.S. ground troops could start to come home.

That's the hope.

"But if this becomes the next Lebanon," O'Hanlon adds, with the United States withdrawing in haste, and a shattered country left behind, then Rumsfeld's "reputation will go down among the worst secretaries ever."

And what about Rumsfeld's other wars? The first was a rout. Colin Powell has returned to private life, having been dropped, flipped and pinned in short order by the king of the bureaucratic wrestlers. It wasn't really a fair fight -- there was a tinge of World Wrestling Federation tag-teaming when Cheney joined Rumsfeld in pummeling Powell. But the former secretary of state is too much a loyal soldier to talk about it even now, Wilkerson, his former aide, explained.

The verdict on Pentagon transformation may come in February, when Rumsfeld will become the first secretary of defense to publish two Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Congress has mandated these head-to-toe examinations of U.S. defense needs every four years since the early 1990s. Rumsfeld's first QDR was virtually finished on September 11, 2001, and so it barely reflected, in a hastily drafted introduction, the new war on terror.

The new document will show how the hard reality of Iraq has altered Rumsfeld's original futuristic, China-focused vision. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is in charge of preparing the QDR, and in a recent interview he sketched a picture different from Rumsfeld's original signature ideas. Robots, computers, missile shields and orbiting lasers address threats that no longer seem as pressing. The someday menace of enemy missiles has faded compared with today's car bombs, suicide vests and that medieval remnant, beheadings.

This time around, England said, attention will be given to various back-office reorganizations that will surely glaze the eyes of those who once thrilled to Rumstud. "The business practices, and acquisition process, and the personnel systems for human capital management," England listed. "That's of great interest to Secretary Rumsfeld and to me." Even among Demo-cratic defense experts, Rumsfeld gets a lot of credit for tackling these dull-but-important issues. Still, speeding up the hiring of Arabic speakers, or streamlining the process for acquiring the next-generation of bomb detectors -- while of great value -- is a far cry from changing the very nature of war.

In that sense, perhaps the greatest transformation at the Pentagon during Rumsfeld's tenure will turn out to be the transformation of Donald Rumsfeld.

Even so, Iraq still won't loom largest on Rumsfeld's horizon. As England, his deputy, put it: Iraq "is just a small part of a long war in many places."

So finish there, with the "long war in many places"? How is that going?

Gen. Abizaid, the senior officer in the Central Command -- which covers Iraq, Afghanistan and many other hot spots -- appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee not long ago. He said he saw progress in Iraq, but mostly wanted to talk about the "al Qaeda threat as the main threat that we face."

"Its global reach and its ability to inflict damage should not be underestimated," Abizaid said. "This enemy seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction and will certainly use such weapons if they obtain them . . . They experimented with anthrax in Afghanistan. They tried to develop crude chemical weapons in Afghanistan. They are always talking about how they might develop a radiological dispersal device. If they could buy or acquire a nuclear weapon, they would. This is not my guess, this is what they say. It's well known they want to do this, and they'll stop at nothing."

Abizaid continued through a catalogue of fears both urgent and numbingly familiar. Neither journalists nor senators seemed to be paying rapt attention, and so there was little comment when the general reached his conclusion. Which was:

A full four years after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the bombing of the Pentagon, America's national security apparatus is still not properly arranged for the fight against terrorism. "We are not yet organized to the extent that we need to be to fight this enemy," Abizaid said. "We have time to do that, but we need to seize the moment."

Rumsfeld, seated with Abizaid at the witness table, might find in those words a mission worthy of his energy and passion. Iraq may have cost him his chance to remake the wars of the future. But there is still the unfinished job of getting ready for the war we're in right now.

David Von Drehle is a staff writer on the Magazine. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m. at
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Ah...Torture With Drills...That's FREEDOM for Ya!

British-trained police in Iraq 'killed prisoners with drills'
By Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker and Kim Sengupta
Published: 20 November 2005

British-trained police in Iraq 'killed prisoners with drills' Britain has been dragged into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings in Iraq

British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, admits that he knows of "alleged deaths in custody" and other "serious prisoner abuse" at al-Jamiyat police station, which was reopened by Britain after the war.

Militia-dominated police, who were recruited by Britain, are believed to have tortured at least two men to death in the station. Their bodies were later found with drill holes to their arms, legs and skulls.

The victims were suspected of collaborating with coalition forces, according to intelligence reports. Despite being pressed "very hard" by Britain, however, the Iraqi authorities in Basra are failing to even investigate incidents of torture and murder by police, ministers admit.

The disclosure drags Britain firmly into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings, torture and disappearances in Iraq. More than 170 starving and tortured prisoners were discovered last week in an Interior Ministry bunker in Baghdad.

American troops who uncovered the secret torture chamber are also said to have discovered mutilated corpses, several bearing drill marks.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, who uncovered the death at al-Jamiyat police station, called for an immediate UN investigation into police torture. "The Government keeps on saying that respect for human rights is a pre-condition of withdrawal. Well, it should be a pre-condition for UK soldiers to continue risking their lives in Iraq," he said.

Mr Reid said: "I am aware of serious allegations of prisoner abuse at the Jamiyat, including two deaths in custody. We take this very seriously. We have been pressing the Iraqi authorities very hard to investigate these allegations thoroughly and then to take the appropriate action."

Ministry of Defence sources privately confirm that the two SAS soldiers seized and held in Jamiyat in September were investigating allegations of police torture prompted by the discovery of the bodies.

British forces in armoured vehicles smashed their way into the station to rescue them, but officers have admitted they are powerless to protect civilians in southern Iraq from militias, and military patrols have been withdrawn from central Basra in the wake of the September clashes.

In the US-controlled districts of Iraq, some senior military and intelligence officials have been accused of giving tacit approval to the extra-judicial actions of counter-insurgency forces.

Critics claim the situation echoes American collaboration with military regimes in Latin America and south-east Asia during the Cold War, particularly in Vietnam, where US-trained paramilitaries were used to kill opponents of the South Vietnamese government.

Tainted by Torture
How evidence obtained through coercion is undermining the legal war on terrorism.
By Phillip Carter
Updated Friday, May 14, 2004, at 6:47 PM ET

There are plenty of good reasons to avoid using torture in interrogations. It's an immoral and barbaric practice condemned by most Western nations and theological traditions, for starters. International human rights law and U.S. criminal law both outlaw it. And as if that's not enough, there is serious doubt as to whether torture even produces reliable intelligence, as Mark Bowden explains in the October 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

Add this additional reason to the list: Any information gained through torture will almost certainly be excluded from court in any criminal prosecution of the tortured defendant. And, to make matters worse for federal prosecutors, the use of torture to obtain statements may make those statements (and any evidence gathered as a result of those statements) inadmissible in the trials of other defendants as well. Thus, the net effect of torture is to undermine the entire federal law enforcement effort to put terrorists behind bars. With each alleged terrorist we torture, we most likely preclude the possibility of a criminal trial for him, and for any of the confederates he may incriminate.

Thanks to a report in Wednesday's New York Times, we now know that the United States has intentionally used (with the sanction of the highest levels of government) torture tactics to pry open the mind of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, alleged to be one of al-Qaida's top masterminds. According to the Times, "C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as 'water boarding,' in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown." Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described such tactics as a violation of the Geneva Conventions. And the FBI has instructed its agents to steer clear of such coercive interrogation methods, for fear that their involvement might compromise testimony in future criminal cases.

So, setting aside for a moment all the moral, political, and practical problems of such tactics (staggering though these problems may be), as a purely legal matter, the use of torture during interrogation has so many negative consequences that it may ultimately allow some accused terrorists to win acquittals merely because it will lead to suppressed evidence of their factual guilt.

Evidence (such as a confession) gathered as a result of torturing a person like Mohammed will be excluded at his trial, if he ever sees one. This is true both in federal courts, which operate under the Federal Rules of Evidence, and military courts, which operate under the Military Rules of Evidence. Both the Fifth Amendment's right against compulsory self-incrimination and the 14th Amendment's guarantee of due process preclude the use of a defendant's coerced statement against him in criminal court. In addition, any evidence gathered because of information learned through torture (sometimes called "derivative evidence") will likely also be excluded. Furthermore, the Supreme Court suggested in its landmark Fifth Amendment case, Oregon v. Elstad, that it might exclude evidence gathered after the use of any coercion, regardless of attempts by police and prosecutors to offset the coercion with measures like a Miranda warning. If Mohammed were prosecuted, and a court followed the line of reasoning set forth in Elstad, he might well see the charges against him evaporate entirely for lack of evidence.

Right now, the Justice Department has no plans to criminally prosecute Mohammed or other top al-Qaida leaders (like Abu Zubaida) currently being held by the United States in shadowy detention facilities overseas. But federal prosecutors have filed charges against alleged al-Qaida member Zacarias Moussaoui for being part of the 9/11 conspiracy. And the Supreme Court is now considering whether trials of some sort are constitutionally required for other alleged terrorists. Problems with the Moussaoui case reflect the problem with evidence obtained through coerced confessions. In that case, it's not the government that seeks to bring in the tortured al-Qaida leaders' out-of-court statements—it's Moussaoui, the defendant. However, the result may be the same. Such out-of-court statements will likely be challenged as hearsay by whatever side isn't trying to bring them into court. And under the applicable hearsay exception, for declarations against interest [see Rule 804 (b)(3)], such statements are only admissible if they carry certain indicia of reliability. Given the questionable ability of torture to produce reliable information, this will be a hotly contested issue. It's not clear whether this evidence will ever be admitted to court.

This torture of top al-Qaida leaders may also cause problems for the government were there to be a trial for the alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. The tip that led to Padilla's initial detention on a material witness warrant in May 2002 came from intensive CIA interrogations of Zubaida, a close associate of Osama Bin Laden. In December 2003, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that Padilla be released from military custody and either charged in federal court or released. However, any prosecution of Padilla could be very problematic for the government, because the case for his guilt rests mostly (if not entirely) on secret interrogations of al-Qaida leaders, which now appear to have involved torture. If a criminal case is ever brought against Padilla, his lawyers are sure to challenge this crucial evidence on a number of grounds, including reliability and the fact that it was procured with torture in a way that "shocks the conscience."

Interestingly, such problems would not have arisen had these suspects been hauled before a military tribunal at the outset. The Pentagon's procedural rules for tribunals allow evidence to be admitted if it "would have probative value to a reasonable person." These rules contain no provision for the exclusion of involuntary statements, and on their face, do not allow the presiding officer of such tribunals to rely on Supreme Court precedent or federal case law to decide issues of evidence. Presumably, these tribunals were designed to allow for the admission of evidence from dubious circumstances, including the "intensive questioning" of Mohammed and Zubaida. So, if the Pentagon moves forward with its plans to try al-Qaida members before these courts, it may be able to evade this problem altogether.

However, even that won't solve the problem for the rest of the legal system, which only allows evidence obtained through constitutional means. By using torture to question the top terrorists it has in custody, the government has effectively sabotaged any future prosecutions of al-Qaida players—major and minor—that might depend on evidence gathered through those interrogations. It's plausible that skilled interrogation by the FBI, in accordance with American law, could have produced valuable evidence of these terrorists' guilt, which could have been used in court. But now that torture has been used, that may just be wishful hindsight.

As a nation, we still haven't clearly decided whether it's better to prosecute terrorists or pound them with artillery. But by torturing some of al-Qaida's leaders, we have completely undermined any efforts to do the former and irreversibly committed ourselves to a martial plan of justice. In the long run, this may be counterproductive, and it will show that we have compromised such liberal, democratic ideals like adherence to the rule of law to counter terrorism. Torture and tribunals do not help America show that it believes in the rule of law. But if CIA officials continue to use tactics that will get evidence thrown out of federal court, there will increasingly be no other option.
Phillip Carter is a former Army officer who writes on legal and military affairs from Los Angeles.

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