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Rumsfeld Redeploys to Right-Wing Think Tank

Rumsfeld Redeploys to Right-Wing Think Tank

By Bill Berkowitz

OAKLAND, California, Sep 13 (IPS) - While General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were giving the U.S. Congress an upbeat assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq this week, one of the chief architects of the war was preparing to redeploy to a West Coast conservative think tank.

Once he was the "it" guy; everything he said was treated as the gospel truth. He took on celebrity-like status: The Wall Street Journal's editorial board member, Claudia Rosett, described his press briefings on the war in Afghanistan as "the best new show on television." CNN called him a "virtual rock star" and the Fox News Channel described him as "a babe magnet for the 70-year old set". President George W. Bush dubbed him a "matinee idol".

His star turn reached its zenith during the period he guided the U.S. military to a triumph over the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Although he once declared that he didn't "do quagmires", the quagmire that became Iraq was his ultimate undoing. And it was the Republican Party's crushing electoral defeat in November 2006 that sealed his fate.

Now, he's heading down the familiar path well trod before him by other Bush officials, aides and advisors, defeated Republican candidates, and retired military officers; he's headed for a secure and well-funded post at a major right wing think tank.

In early September, Stanford University's Hoover Institution announced that former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld would become a visiting fellow at the Institution.

According to a statement issued on Sep. 7 by Hoover's director John Raisan, Rumsfeld will participate in the institution's new task force of scholars and experts studying post-Sep. 11 ideology and terror.

"I have asked Don to join the distinguished group of scholars that will pursue new insights on the direction of thinking that the United States might consider going forward," Raisian said.

Not everyone on the Stanford University campus was as upbeat about Rumsfeld as Raisan. "It is a moral disgrace," said Stanford American history Professor Bart Bernstein, an opponent of the war in Iraq. "He is not a person of intellectual merit; he is not an academic. As a policy-maker, his only claim to fame was, at best, flawed and morally corrupt.

"On the grounds of intellectual judgment and moral character, he would seem to be a markedly inappropriate choice," Bernstein said. "This should be treated as a collective embarrassment." Earlier this year, retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), began service as the first Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institution. Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican defeated in his bid for re-election, signed on to head up a new programme called "America's Enemies", which will be located at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, a Washington-based think tank formerly headed by neoconservative hawk Elliott Abrams.

Paul Wolfowitz, another neocon architect of the Iraq war, returned to the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, one of the premier conservative think-tanks. And former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, defeated in the race of governor of that state, signed on with the Family Research Council, a prominent Washington-based Christian conservative lobbying group.

The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, has a 25-million-dollar annual budget, possesses a 250-million-dollar endowment, and employs some 250 people. Its website describes it as a "public policy research centre devoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy -- both domestic and foreign -- as well as international affairs."

The Institution was founded at his alma mater, Stanford University, in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who later became the thirty-first president of the United States. What started as a collection of documents on World War I later grew to "became one of the largest archives and most complete libraries in the world devoted to political, economic, and social change in the twentieth century."

According to Media Transparency, a website tracking the money behind the conservative movement, between 1985 and 2005, Hoover received nearly 24 million dollars in grants from a host of conservative foundations, including the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc., the Smith Richardson Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc., the Walton Family Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

There is no denying that Rumsfeld has had an extraordinary career both inside and outside of government. A congressional staffer during the Eisenhower administration, a four-term elected congressman from Illinois, Rumsfeld resigned to serve in the Richard Nixon administration as the director of the United States Office of Economic Opportunity, assistant to the president, and a member of the Cabinet.

In 1971, President Nixon was recorded saying about Rumsfeld "at least Rummy is tough enough" and "He's a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that."

After Nixon resigned due to pending impeachment over Watergate, Rumsfeld joined the Ford Administration as White House Chief of Staff and later as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Defence.

Although Rumsfeld left government for the private sector during the Ronald Reagan administration, he continued public service in various posts.

While acting as Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East in late 1983 through May 1984, Rumsfeld was the main conduit for crucial U.S. military intelligence, hardware and strategic advice to Saddam Hussein, then fighting Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.

Rumsfeld was a founder and active member of the Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative organisation determined to overthrow Saddam Hussein with military force. He was a signatory to the 1998 letter PNAC sent to President Bill Clinton urging "regime change" in Iraq.

After being confirmed as defence secretary in 2001, Rumsfeld set about transforming the military into a leaner, lighter fighting force. After the 9/11 attacks, he turned his attention to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine -- high technology combat systems, reliance on air forces, small, nimble ground forces -- proved successful in Afghanistan. Ultimately, however, it was ineffectual in Iraq, particularly after the insurgency launched its operations.

However else he served, Rumsfeld will be best remembered for the disaster in Iraq where he failed to provide enough U.S. troops from the beginning; where torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo became commonplace; where extended tours of duty and stopgap orders overextended the U.S., military and wore out reservists and the National Guard; and hubris worthy of the serial conquerors of the Peloponnesus.

There were the Rumsfeldian comments; Even the usually demure BBC featured Rumsfeld's remarks in a regular slot called "The Donald Rumsfeld Sound Bite of the Week" in which they played his most amusing comment from that week.

What began as cutesy linguistic flourishes charming the media and neoconservative pundits turned into bitter denunciations of anti-war critics and a media grown ever more impatient.

Rumsfeld compared Iraq war critics to Hitler appeasers and Stalinists, calling them "quitters" who "blame America first" and "cannot stomach a tough fight"; he said they "trying to appease a new type of fascism," and they were being manipulated by Osama bin Laden's "media committees". He also warned that terrorists were carrying out violence because they wanted a change in leadership in the U.S.

In his first public interview since leaving the Pentagon, Rumsfeld says in the October issue of GQ magazine that Afghanistan has been "a big success".

"In Afghanistan, 28 million people are free. They have their own president, they have their own parliament. Improved a lot on the streets," he claims.

In addition to shopping a memoir and giving interviews, Rumsfeld will now sort out his ideas from the comfort of Stanford University. Do not be surprised if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins him there in 2009.


Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

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