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By Bill Gallagher

rumsfeld: n 1) an arrogant person whose incompetence puts others in danger; 2) an inebriated attitude of self-importance and disdain for truth and opposing views, high on hubris; 3) a person who creates failures and fiascos; 4) a jerk. etymology: word derives from U.S. President George W. Bush's Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose early 21st century military failures brought great suffering to the world and weakened American security. derivatives: v, adj, slang: Don't go "rummy" on me!

DETROIT -- "Don't make a rumsfeld out of this!" That's what my friend Carlos Meriwether proclaimed when he heard a discussion about the formal definition of a rumsfeld. Carlos is expressive, articulate and insightful.

An Army veteran and restaurant worker frequently honored for the quality of his work, Carlos is a grunt -- an up-front kind of guy who deals with the facts and gets his job done with steady competence. He is just the opposite of a rumsfeld.

Carlos made his crack as Sam Mills, a poet from Lansing, Mich., was crafting the definition of a rumsfeld. Sam is a peace-loving Buddhist, a thoughtful, reflective man who sees the worth in all living things.

But Sam saddens when he sees the rumsfelds of the world using force and destruction to impose the will of the strong upon the weak. He knows the bullying strategy is ultimately doomed.

The destruction of Lebanon and Hezbollah rockets raining on Haifa underscore the monumental failures of U.S. policy in the region. The tragedy will radicalize a new generation, and the human suffering is unimaginable.

But that crisis is distracting attention from an even bloodier mess -- Iraq. The nation we "liberated" is in complete chaos. Murder, kidnapping and lawlessness rule the streets. Sending more U.S. troops to Baghdad will not quell the violence. Iraq is disintegrating.

Even those among the dwindling number of misguided souls who still believe the invasion of Iraq was a good idea -- for whatever shifting reason they cling to -- must admit the occupation is a disaster and one of the most poorly planned and disgraceful military operations in U.S. history.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the vastly overrated U.S. commander of the invasion of Iraq, immodestly described his own work in his memoir, "American Soldier."

"History will record that America's strategy for fighting terrorism was a good strategy," Franks wrote, "that the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom was a good plan -- and that the execution of that plan by our young men and women in uniform was unequaled in excellence by anything in the annals of war."

Such self-serving hyperbole is now under serious assault, and Franks and his bosses, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, are being exposed as the military failures and strategic frauds they truly are.

In his new book, "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq," Thomas E. Ricks, the Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent, presents a detailed account of the failure to properly prepare for the war in Iraq and the nearly total absence of any thought about what might happened after Saddam Hussein's government collapsed.

Ricks' book is a scorching indictment of the political and military leaders responsible for the mess in Iraq and blows away Gen. Franks' glowing self-assessment.

Ricks does not mince words: "It now seems more likely that history's judgment will be that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 was based on perhaps the worst war plan in American history."

Thomas Ricks is neither an ideologue nor a smug Monday-morning quarterback. He's certainly not a Bush-basher nor a liberal peacenik. He's been covering the Pentagon -- first for the Wall Street Journal and now the Post -- for 23 years. He has a deep and abiding respect for the military.

His criticism -- richly researched and comprehensive -- is an important contribution to our understanding of just how thoroughly incompetent Bush, Rumsfeld and their sycophants in uniform truly are. It's stunning. They knew the United States would prevail militarily, but what to do following "mission accomplished" in Iraq was a mere afterthought.

Ricks lays it out in his very first paragraph: "President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 ultimately may come to be seen as one of the most profligate actions in the history of American foreign policy. The consequences of his choice won't be clear for decades, but it is already abundantly apparent in mid-2006 that the U.S. government went to war in Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information -- about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's terrorism -- and then occupied the country negligently. Thousands of U.S. troops and an untold number of Iraqis have died. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, many of them squandered. Democracy may yet come to Iraq and the region, but so too may civil war or a regional conflagration, which in turn could lead to spiraling oil prices and a global economic shock."

That paragraph should be memorized and some brave member of Congress ought to include it in articles of impeachment. Ricks proceeds to describe the failure to plan the occupation and the inability of Rumsfeld and his equally incompetent minions to understand how to deal with the insurgency.

In fact, Ricks makes the case that many tactics in the American military operation in Iraq actually fueled more violence. U.S. troops broke into homes, rounding up tens of thousands of civilians, most of whom were innocent. They used indiscriminate artillery fire on the insurgents, killing and wounding more civilians, used promiscuous violence at checkpoints, enraging local populations and, in effect, helping insurgent recruitment.

The atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison gave the insurgency a propaganda gift that will work for generations. Since Rumsfeld's "excellent war plan" never considered prolonged resistance, the management of prisons didn't hit his radar screen either.

As Iraq unraveled, Rumsfeld fiddled. When Baghdad was being looted, he famously dismissed the lawlessness as "stuff happens." Our great field commander Tommy Franks was AWOL, thinking about retirement, book deals, the Presidential Medal of Freedom he knew was coming his way.

"General Franks appeared to believe that planning for the end of the war was someone else's job," Ricks notes. The fiasco in Iraq still doesn't faze the fools who wrote the playbook. The bloodbaths in Baghdad and Beirut are just the "birth pangs of a new Middle East," according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Does anyone recall the last time she was right about anything?

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman argues the United States should be harnessing Europe, Russia, China and India to join a grand coalition to deal with the "madness" in the Middle East.

"But we can't. Why?" Friedman -- who initially supported the invasion of Iraq -- asks. "In part, it's because our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That's been shattered by their performance in Iraq."

The fiasco in Iraq has permanently poisoned wells of opportunity in the Middle East. There is little hope left to end the madness -- especially with so many rumsfelds in the neighborhood calling the shots.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com August 1 2006