The voices calling for President Bush to replace Rumfeld continue to increase in volume as the election gets closer. The charge is coming from a few retired generals. While a few other generals are defending Rumsfeld though the political support in some quarters is tepid.
One of the generals leading the charge is Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold [USMC Ret.] who in Time magazine wrote that Iraq is diverting the US from focusing on al-Qaeda. Then in the same article Newbold steps perilously close to a dangerous line one should not cross when he encourages serving officers to voice any doubts they have about this war in Iraq. It could be argued that Newbold is encouraging the officers to break the chain of command and to take their misgivings public before going through the channels in an attempt to correct the problems. What this would do, if it happens, would be to further politicize the military’s officer corps, where ambitious junior officers have flowcharts of postings and schools they need to make general or admiral and the timeframe for each event.
What is amusing is it was a media gaffe that possibly took Lt. Gen. Newbold from being J-3 Operations at the Pentagon to being retired in September 2002. After US special forces, in association with the Northern Alliance, started to push the Taliban back, Lt. Gen. Newbold told the assembled Pentagon press corps on October 16, 2001 that the Taliban had been “I think, as I say, the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated, and it will progressively over time.”
Wolf Blitzer on Late Edition used that video clip on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to suggest that the Department of Defense oversold the resistance the Taliban would put up in Afghanistan. So Sec. Rumsfeld had to reply to these assertions on CNN and he did by saying in part “Anyone who has ever watched the history of that country or the effort that the Soviet Union made to conquer the country has to know that these are people who have spent many, many years fighting, and they live in caves, and they are perfectly capable of fighting a very tough fight.” Other media outlets also used the evisceration speech so it was not just an isolated act.
In hindsight the collapse of the Taliban was very rapid but at the time of the October 16th briefing, all that was going on were special forces directing air strikes in support of the Northern Alliance and Kabul would not fall until November 14, 2001. So as Sec. Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, Chairman JCS until 2005, were wont to point out, this battle could be long and drawn out; they were erring on the side of caution since battle was still ongoing. The gaffe was even played as part of Newbold's retirement ceremony, along with a clip of Rumsfeld in the 1970s using the word eviscerate, though he seemed to take it in stride as he joked that he would only use one syllable words when Secretary Rumsfeld asked him to make a comment. I would think that would have been a perfect time for Gregory Newbold to raise his voice more loudly if he had such misgivings, but he didn't.
Even in retirement from the military, Newbold continues to make his presence known. And I am not talking about just his article in Time. Like other retired Princes of the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac, Newbold migrated to becoming a Beltway Bandit when he joined the Potomac Institute where he would be called in front of Congress to give his opinion on certain matters that he had expertise on. Not content with being a mid-wife to government policy, Newbold is also dabbling in the markets with GlobeSecNine; which is in the business of investing in defense companies. I don’t know about you but this strikes me like a serious conflict of interest since Newbold gives Congress advise on defense matters, Congress may act in some way on that advise, and if GlobeSecNine has a share of defense companies that get an increased order due to Congressional action, then Newbold profits from his own advice. This is the biggest problem in Washington DC is due to the almost incestuous relationship between the Princes of the Puzzle Palace, Congress, and the Beltway Bandits.
So Gregory Newbold has a vested interest in business continuing as usual at the Pentagon which Rumsfeld is threatening with his drive at reform/transformation. And anything he says should be judged with this information in mind.