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Shame on You Mr. Secretary
June 24, 2003
By Mike Shannon

Even for a man to whom the words "glib," "self absorbed," "arrogant" and "duplicitous" appear to be perceived as complimentary, Friday, June 20's performance at a nationally broadcast Pentagon news conference marked a new low for Donald Rumsfeld.

By comparing the deaths of American service personnel with the murder rate of Washington, D.C. the Secretary has shown himself to have a degree of callousness that defies description. The point of his moronic contention was that if the population of the city of Washington was equal to that of Baghdad that simple mathematical extrapolation would show the casualty rate among the Americans soldiers is not so bad.

This rhetorical exercise goes far beyond bad taste. Following the chain of command in the American Armed Forces, these are his men he is discussing in so cold-hearted a manner. How dare he discuss the deaths of these brave young men and women with so cavalier an attitude?

It should be noted that these comments are in keeping with the Secretary's public record of exhibiting disdainful disregard for the welfare of the men and women he purports to hold in such high regard. He is, after all, the same man who dismissed the service of Vietnam-era draftees as "not adding value" to the American Armed Forces even though over a quarter of all combat deaths in Vietnam came from their ranks.

Mr Rumsfeld's latest shameful Freudian slip was intended to offset the mounting political damage the casualty rate in Iraq is having on the Bush Administration. With each new report of dead and wounded American soldiers reaching the eyes and ears of America, the validity of the President's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" rings more and more hollow. However, all Rumsfeld accomplished was to showcase, in startling relief, a cognitive disconnect between the lives of these soldiers and his all encompassing need to achieve the objective that would make Prince Machiavelli and Doctor Strangelove blush with feelings of gross inadequacy.

Not only it is disgraceful from a humanistic perspective, the comparison is ludicrous on any number of levels. First, its statistical validity is highly questionable. By neglecting to mention, even in passing, the murders that are inevitably taking place among the residents of Baghdad by its fellow inhabitants, he completely skews the numbers in his favor. Secondly, to use the capital of the United States as an example to the world of how dangerous and poorly policed some cities in America are, is an affront to every resident of Washington, as well as the country at large. That Mr Rumsfeld is a high ranking member of the administration which is charged with maintaining the "general tranquility" of the United States, he should be embarrassed to highlight woefully ineffective their efforts are.

Most telling is his neglect to point out that the American army may have invited itself into the city of Baghdad, but now that they are there, there is no denying they represent the rule of law. The only accurate comparison that could plausibly be made is to compare the deaths of the American soldiers on station in Baghdad with the murder of Washington police officers. A comparison that would have exposed his logic to be as preposterous as it truly is.

It was just a few short weeks ago that each American casualty was treated as a newsworthy event. CNN was just one of many media sources where the names, pictures, brief biography and the how and where of each soldier killed thousands of miles from home and hearth was prominently featured. Now with Mr Rumsfeld's disgraceful comments the deaths of young Americans in the service of their country have been reduced to statistical abstractions.

He should be ashamed of himself.

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