Jail Don

Dismissal is too good a fate for Donald Rumsfeld. George Bush realizes that Rumsfeld deserves better. Faced with demands that he dismiss his Secretary of Defense, Bush vows to keep Rumsfeld on the job.

Three cheers for the President’s endorsement, which opens the way for a more delicious possibility: the appointment of a special prosecutor who will seek and obtain an indictment against Rumsfeld for a variety of crimes. Thank you, Mr. President.

You could have allowed Rumsfeld to go quietly in the night and begin a well-deserved retirement from government affairs. You could have allowed Rumsfeld to beat a hasty retreat into obscurity. But you know he deserves better.

Rumsfeld deserves to be sent to prison for his acts as Secretary of Defense. So the President is doing the right thing: He is keeping Rumsfeld in place in order to give the legal system time to do maximum damage against our country’s arrogant, pompous and unrepentant war chief.

Surely, any legal case against Rumsfeld would be strong. Let’s start with misappropriation of federal funds. As Bob Woodward details in his new book, “Plan of Attack,” Rumsfeld directed funds appropriated for Afghanistan to be used for the preparation of the Iraq invasion. He blithely ignored a requirement that Congress approve any such spending.

That’s against the law. Not a gray area. Not a maybe. It is a crime. Then there are Rumsfeld’s lies to Congress. Weapons of mass destruction, anyone? Rumsfeld’s mis-statements about Iraq’s potential to harm the U.S. can no longer be dismissed as mere “failures of intelligence,” as if the Defense Secretary might have decided differently on the matter had he received other advice. A special prosecutor will clearly document that Rumsfeld knew that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs and that he lied to Congress, repeatedly, in order to obtain the necessary legal mandate to go to war.

Lying to Congress is against the law. There are no legal-pyrotechnics required to make a case against Rumsfeld. His conviction would be a slam dunk.

Finally, of course, there are the cases of torture in U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The evidence is mounting that Rumsfeld knew about the shameful and destructive tactics used against Iraqis by the prison’s guards and did nothing to stop them. His evasive answers on the scandal (he insists he still can’t tell, for instance, whether the abuses were “an isolated instance” or not) suggests that an independent investigation may demonstrate that Rumsfeld created the conditions that led to the abuses of Iraqi prisoners. The Washington Post already has reached this very conclusion, opining on its editorial page that Rumsfeld “helped create a lawless regime in which prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliated, beaten, tortured and murdered...”

Once again, the Democrats are too timid. Kerry and fellow Senators Joe Biden and Tom Harkin are merely calling for Rumsfeld’s firing. Put him in jail? Surely, the possibility is absurd. Yet a mere three months ago, the possibility that Rumsfeld might get fired was treated as an absurdity. Yet today his resignation would be seen as mild punishment for his crimes.

How much longer before Democrats begin calling for a special prosecutor to take Rumsfeld down? How long? Not long.

To be sure, with or without the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Rumsfeld’s crimes, his place in history is now secure. As Robert McNamara is to Vietnam, Rumsfeld is to Iraq. McNamara, defense secretary to Lyndon Johnson, ran the Vietnam war in its period of greatest escalation. He lived to regret his decisions and remains haunted by his Vietnam experience. Just as McNamara spent the rest of his life confronting Vietnam, Rumsfeld will be forced to do the same with respect to Iraq.

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