Friday, February 18


Donald Rumsfeld isn't making himself very popular on Capitol Hill, even though he's asking for another $82 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and another half trillion dollars for the Pentagon. Yesterday he walked out on hearings by a dumbfounded House Armed Services Committee and had to be apologized for by chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Cal). Those questions he WAS asked, he purported not to know the answers to:

Asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "I am not going to give you a number."

That was not because he didn't have one. Later in the hearing he admitted he had estimates at his fingertips but said they were classified. In an exchange at another hearing (I saw it this morning on CNN), an exasperated John McCain asked Rummy if he didn't think the American people deserved to know just what they were up against since it would be their loved ones doing the fighting, Rummy replied that yes, he guess they deserved it, but he still wasn't going to say.

Did he care to voice an opinion on efforts by U.S. pilots to seek damages from their imprisonment in Iraq? "I don't."

Could he comment on what basing agreements he might seek in Iraq? "I can't."

Of course he COULD have reminded them that there are four permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, with the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root diligently constructing 10 others. (Hat tip to Mahablog for referring to this Seattle P-I story.)

How about the widely publicized cuts to programs for veterans? "I'm not familiar with the cuts you're referring to."

If he truly ISN'T familiar with them he should be ashamed (an emotion he's ALSO unfamiliar with). As Defense Secretary he is responsible for the entire armed forces, both those currently serving and veterans, and he should be deeply engaged in legislation affecting their treatment.

How long will the war last? "There's never been a war that was predictable as to length, casualty or cost in the history of mankind."
When Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) mentioned an estimate of the costs for increases in troops' death benefits and life insurance, Rumsfeld said: "I've never heard that number."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) then complained about long-term Army expenses being included in an emergency spending package. Rumsfeld said the matter "really is beyond my pay grade."
Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) pressed Rumsfeld on whether he had talked with an aide who was quoted last month as saying Congress had been too generous in expanding military retirement benefits. "No, I have not, nor have I seen the statement that you've quoted in the context that it might have been included," the defense secretary replied.



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