Donald ‘Let’s Rumble’ Rumsfeld (as ‘Boondocks’ creator Aaron McGruder has dubbed our Secretary of Defense) is leading the Pentagon into a brave new world of authority that it has never before enjoyed.
Under President George W. Bush’s administration, the Department of Defense is tagged for a number of post-war activities that are traditionally the realm of the State Department.
Newspaper accounts over the past week have said that the Pentagon and the State Department are at odds over the composition of an interim government for Iraq after the war is over.
The State Department has no definite plan, but is calling for some coalition of the various Iraqi domestic and exile dissident groups.
Pentagon officials want the interim authority composed of a select group of friendly (with the Pentagon) Iraqi exiles.
Ahmed Chalbi, a 58-year-old exile who has the support of both the Pentagon and Vice President Richard Cheney, leads the group, called the Iraqi National Congress (INC).
The State Department and CIA have warned that Chalbi likely will have little support from Iraqis, due in no small part to the fact that he has not been in Iraq since he was 13 years old.
The Defense Department has taken little heed of these warnings. On Sunday, military aircraft began ferrying INC fighters into Iraq to form the core of a new Iraqi army.
Some officials have voiced concern that the Pentagon is positioning its favorites for a takeover.
The military is already preparing for postwar government in Iraq.
Under the newly created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
This group is to administer the Iraqi government until an Iraqi government is installed.
The State Department wants experienced diplomats in positions of authority, but the Pentagon is proposing a roster of U.S. conservative civilians to run the Iraqi ministries, including a former CIA Director James Woolsey (another Chalbi ally) as Minister of Information.
These officials would report to a U.S. military governor.
Congress has complained that they are receiving very little information from retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who is heading the Office of Reconstruction.
The Pentagon ‘has refused requests by the staff of the [Senate] Appropriations Committee to brief us, and has its people sitting around a swimming pool in Kuwait drawing up plans,’ said a congressional aide in an April 6 Washington Post article.
Although Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has said that the Defense and State Departments will be cooperating, the fact that a military man is heading the relief effort is raising some eyebrows.
This is not the only instance in which military officials have been playing politics.
President Bush is pushing for the military to be at the center of humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts after the war, supplanting the State Department’s constitutional role of dealing in foreign aid.
Although Congress is resisting the Bush plan because it ignores the State Department’s traditional role, the fact that the Pentagon is building its own Iraqi army suggests that they might not play by the rules.
It may be a good idea for the Pentagon to administer humanitarian aid; after all, it was the military that came up with the idea of dropping cluster bombs that looked the same as food packets on Afghanistan.
Defense officials are already awarding rebuilding contracts to U.S. corporations.
Halliburton, the company that Cheney headed before becoming Bush’s running mate, was given the contract to put out oil fires, and was in consideration for a number of construction projects.
Even leaving that aside, it is odd that the entity that is destroying Iraq is also being allowed to give out contracts to rebuild it.
The role of the U.S. military is to conduct wars and defend the country.
It is not to get involved in political issues and assist in humanitarian aid. Under Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has become alarmingly politicized.
Rumsfeld has been poking his gun around in areas where it does not belong.
Politicized militaries are dangerous, and Bush should rein Defense in and let the State Department do its job.
Brian White can be reached at email@example.com.