Rumsfeld had ‘worst style of leadership I witnessed in 38 years of service’
The US had no reason to invade Iraq in 2003, and only did so because of “a series of lies” told to the American people by the Bush administration, says Gen. Hugh Shelton, who served for four years as the US’s top military officer.
Shelton, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, makes the comment in Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, a soon-to-be-published memoir reviewed at Foreign Policy by Thomas E. Ricks.
“President Bush and his team got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies purporting that we had to protect Americans from Saddam’s evil empire because it posed such a threat to our national security,” Shelton writes in his memoir.
According to Ricks, Shelton states that, in order to get the war going, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “elbowed aside Gen. Richard Myers and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also intimidated and flattered Gen. Tommy R. Franks while working directly with him, and so basically went to war without getting the advice of his top military advisors.”
The result, Shelton writes, was a war plan that amounted to a “fiasco.”
Shelton reportedly saves his harshest criticisms for Rumsfeld himself, who he said had “the worst style of leadership I witnessed in 38 years of service.”
After his first meeting with Rumsfeld, Shelton recalls thinking, “We’re going to need some heavy-duty cleaning supplies if all we’re going to do is waste time having pissing contests like this.” When Rumsfeld was proven wrong in a meeting, Shelton says, he wouldn’t admit it, but rather would press on and do “his best to stay afloat amid the bullshit he was shoveling out.”
At one point, Rumsfeld utterly rejected a plan for how to deal with Iraqi attacks on U.S. warplanes in the old “no-fly zones.” Shelton liked the plan how it was, so when ordered to revamp it, he let it sit on his desk for a couple of weeks, and then sent it back to the defense secretary with a new label on it: “Rumsfeld Auto-Response Matrix.” “He loved every word of it,” Shelton reports with unconcealed contempt.
Shelton goes on to criticize the Bush administration’s assertions about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
“Spinning the possible possession of WMDs as a threat to the United States in the way they did is, in my opinion, tantamount to intentionally deceiving the American people,” Shelton writes.
Ricks notes that “[t]hese are pretty serious charges, given that they come from the man who was the nation’s top military officer for four years immediately preceding 9/11.”
Ricks also reports that Shelton has less-than-kind words for Sen. John McCain, who Shelton writes “had a screw loose because normal people just didn’t behave in that manner.”
In another part of the memoir, Shelton asserts that “[t]he John McCain that I knew was subject to wild mood swings and would break into erratic temper tantrums in the middle of a normal conversation.”
Shelton’s book goes on sale on Friday.