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Bill Orton
(D-Long Beach)

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May 31, 2003

Springtime Snowflakes:
Rumsfeld has it -- The Haig Syndrome
The Rummygram Blizzard


by Bill Orton

Summer may be approaching, but the word from Washington is that for more than two years now, "snowflakes" have continued to fall.

Ever since the Bush Administration came into office, the nation's capitol has witnessed a flurry of white, but it's not frozen water falling from the sky.

The blizzard is coming from the Pentagon.

"Rumsfeld has foreign-policy envy, critics say," blares a six-column banner headline over an article written by Joseph L. Galloway, of the Knight-Ridder newspapers, and published in Friday's Orange County Register.

From Rumsfeld's first days in office, Galloway reports, the defense secretary "has inundated Washington with a blzzard of memos regarding foreign policy."

Volley after volley of classified and unclassified world strategy memos -- "snowflakes" and "Rummygrams" -- land on the desks of officials across Washington, with most of Rumsfeld's advice aimed at the White House.

One consequence of the unsolicited foreign policy advice is that Secretary of State Colin Powell, NSC Advisor Condeleeza Rice and other top officials spend countless hours trying to reign in Rumsfeld.

"The theme is control," said one frequent recipient of Rumsfeld's foreign policy ideas. "He wants everyone to have to play on his field."

Some of Rumsfeld's memos urge that America:

-- Abandon our military bases in Germany and instead move to new facilities in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

-- Announce that we will withdraw our military forces from along the Demilitarized Zone in Korea.

-- Launch psychological operations against North Korea, to destabilize a regime that the CIA believes possesses "one or two" nuclear weapons and may soon be capable of producing "a bomb a month."

In these high-profile examples, Rumsfeld's meddling was rejected.

Abandoning Germany may fit with comments Rumsfeld made about "old Europe," but shifting bases to Eastern Europe would cost billions of dollars and violate American treaty obligations with NATO.

Withdrawing forces from the DMZ would cast doubt over our commitment to protecting against aggression by the North Koreans. And Rumsfeld's plan would have come about as the new South Korean President was to travel to Washington for his first meeting with Bush.

And the plan to toss leaflets and broadcast propaganda into North Korea seems like a poor strategy to combat one of the world's most tightly controlled regimes.

More interesting than what Rumsfeld wrote is the fact that these memos have come to light at all. The leaking of the "snowflakes" and "Rummygrams" is remarkable, considering this is perhaps the most disciplined Administrations in recent memory.

What does the the revelation of these uninvited forays into foreign policy show?

For me, it becomes one more large negative mark against the Defense Secretary. After all, his counterpart, Colin Powell, makes no attempt to meddle with the Pentagon, despite having served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as a lifetime military man.

Through word and deed, Donald Rumsfeld is galvanizing millions of people around the world and here at home against this Administration.

Relations with our allies are strained due to his statements. The President and Secretary of State have had to sooth wounds inflicted by Rumsfeld's words.

The inability to show meaningful and convincing evidence as to why we were justified to go into Iraq simply hurts our credibility in the eyes of the world and of our own people.

Indeed, in a recent book detailing George Bush's job performance as a war president, Bob Woodward points out that it was Rumsfeld who told the President and others on September 11, 2001 that the terrible tragedy offered the opportunity to "go after Iraq."

Considering that a new offensive is being planned against Saddam's loyalists, it would seem that the Defense Secretary ought to be focusing his efforts on the two wars we are still fighting, instead of using energy to meddle in the work of other officials.

The question we ought to ask is this: "Is Donald Rumsfeld hurting the president and the nation?"

Not since Alexander Haig have we seen a man so clearly wanting to control the reigns of power as we see now with Donald Rumsfeld.

When looking at the damage done to our global relations and the distrust sewn among millions here at home, I would argue that the Defense Secretary is a "sum-negative," where his negatives outweigh the positives.

On April 1st -- as the war raged in Iraq -- I argued that our brash defense minister had become a "sum-negative" for the president and for the nation.

I called upon Secretary Rumsfeld to resign then and I repeat the call.

In politics, the number one job of an aide is to enhance the reputation of the boss. For a cabinet member, that means enhancing the President and the nation.

Donald Rumsfeld's palpable belligerance, his hostile words, his meddling in the business of other departmwents and the inability to bring finality to the question of weapons of mass destruction have all led to the evaporation of the international goodwill that followed September 11th.

If Donald Rumsfeld truly cared about this President and the betterment of the nation, he would resign.

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Bill Orton, 40, is a writer and historian living in Seal Beach, California with his wife and daughter.


Bill Orton is a writer and historian living in Long Beach, California.