Is it any wonder Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a little testy -- if you can even call it that -- during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee this week?
If the media and a slew of armchair quarterback politicians had persistently derided you like they have Secretary Rumsfeld, blaming you for every negative turn in the war and crediting you with none of its achievements, how warm and fuzzy would you feel toward them?
Almost every time Mr. Rumsfeld opens his mouth in public, people accuse him of arrogance, rudeness, evasiveness and insubordination to people who aren't even his superiors. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this brilliant, sagacious man is treated like a punching bag by people who couldn't hold his briefcase. We are talking about a man who is in his late sixties, independently wealthy, professionally accomplished beyond the wildest dreams of his detractors, and who has nothing personally to gain through his position.
His critics are constantly accusing him of misjudgments, wrongdoing and a sinister, militaristic worldview. They call him, along with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, a liar, a warmonger, an empire builder, a know-it-all and a know-nothing.
To them, Secretary Rumsfeld is an exasperating paradox, a man who they think craves more power, yet just this week recommended against the Pentagon taking charge of CIA paramilitary operations. He's a fossil out of step with modernity, but who advocates a futuristic, leaner military machine. He's an ogre who delights in placing our troops in harm's way, yet resists the quarterbacks' calls for more troops in Iraq. This guy just drives them crazy.
So they berate him, insisting he is responsible for Abu Ghraib because he "created a climate conducive to abuse and torture" -- a slanderous fantasy concocted by these virtuosos of psychobabble. They sensationalize as catastrophically insensitive his candid response to a soldier that we are trying to up-armor our military vehicles as quickly as possible.
The vultures even mischaracterize his position on modernizing our forces by saying he wants to scale down our army. Mr. Rumsfeld again clarified his position to the Committee. "When we say 'agile,' some people seem to think it means making the military smaller; it does not. It's the shape of the forces, not the size, that it refers to."
Back in long ago days, when the War on Terror was a bit more palatable to the intelligentsia, Secretary Rumsfeld's confidence, brashness and directness were received with approbation. He was even portrayed as a sex object.