Where Obama and Rumsfeld Intersect

By
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 1:56 am
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (WDCpix)

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (WDCpix)

Awkward as it may be, some of the Pentagon officials who contributed to the foreign-policy debacles of the last eight years that brought Barack Obama to power might be sticking around briefly during his first year in office.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

It’s an unusual circumstance for a defense secretary to remain in his position despite the transference of political power from one party to another. So Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in uncharted territory. Add to that the fact that the Obama transition team has made it clear that most of Gates’ aides and subordinates — some of them holdovers from his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld — will be replaced.

Obama has chosen his hires carefully during his transition, insisting that he values quality.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Gates sent an email asking a certain number of Bush holdovers to remain in place temporarily at the Pentagon while the Obama defense team fully staffs the department in early 2009. He told Republican political appointees at the Pentagon that the time it takes to move in hundreds of incoming political appointees means that he might ask some of them to remain in their positions for continuity’s sake. “I encourage you to continue to prudently plan for the transition from DOD employment,” Gates caveated his email, “as the pace of personnel decisions by the incoming administration is likely to accelerate.”

Times reporter Bill Gertz identified Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper as one official who might be asked to stay for the first few months of the Obama administration. It’s not clear who the others are. Spokespeople for the Obama transition did not respond to an email about Gates’ notification.

What is clear is that some Gates staff, even those who were Rumsfeld appointees, may remain at the Pentagon for the early months of the Obama administration. That’s not in itself unusual: many officials from the Clinton administration’s national-security apparatus remained in place through much of 2001 as the Bush administration staffed itself. But it could be awkward, particularly as several of those involved in many of the security-related blunders in the Bush administration warm the seats of liberals who view their term in office as a failure.

Here’s a guide to those who might be the most awkward for the progressives in the Obama Pentagon to work with, however briefly:

Abe Shulsky
.

Shulsky was a leading figure in the the constellation of intelligence and policy programs known collectively as the Office of Special Plans since its inception in 2002. Not much is definitively known about the mysterious office, but in 2007, the Pentagon’s inspector general declared that its prewar attempts at producing alternate intelligence analysis inflating the threat posed to the U.S. by Saddam Hussein were “inappropriate.” Douglas Feith, the senior Pentagon official under whose watch the office came together, has insisted that it did nothing of the sort, and merely assisted in the planning for the occupation of Iraq.

It’s a testament to Feith’s strategic judgment that he considers such a defense exculpatory. The planning for the occupation of Iraq was a well-known disaster borne of bureaucratic suspicion, wishful thinking and cultural ignorance. And the actual occupation that took place in its wake has been a debacle, leaving over 4100 U.S. troops dead and countless tens of thousands of Iraqis dead and millions more displaced. Obama, of course, differentiated himself from his Democratic primary rivals by his unchanging opposition to the war and won election partially on a pledge to end it.

Yet Shulsky, a longtime skeptic of the intelligence community, remains in the Pentagon’s policy directorate. It’s unclear what he does these days. When I reached him on the phone at his office this afternoon, he politely informed me that I’d need to clear all interview requests through the Pentagon’s labrynthine press office, where my request ended up in someone’s unreturned voicemail.  But journalist Laura Rozen reported that as recently as early 2007, Shulsky was part of a “secretive Iranian directorate de facto.”

Daniel Dell’Orto

Dell’Orto is a lawyer in the secretary’s general counsel’s office, and has served as acting general counsel since his longtime boss, Jim Haynes, resigned in disgrace in February. Haynes was a legal architect of the Bush administration’s indefinite detention and abusive interrogation policies. Dell’Orto was an able assistant. One of his jobs was to occasionally defend  the administration’s more constitutionally dubious contentions about executive power during wartime before Congress.

A particularly farcical moment came in July 2005, when Dell’Orto faced off against Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reserve lawyer and persistent critic of the administration’s expansive assertions of executive authority. In a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Dell’Orto bridled at the suggestion that Congress shared with the president the constitutional authority to legislate on captured enemy combatants. An incredulous Graham responded:

SEN. GRAHAM: Do you believe we have authority as Congress to regulate captures on land and sea?

MR. DELL’ORTO: I’d have to take a look at that particular constitutional provision. I haven’t examined that one of late.

Graham, of course, was quoting from Article 1, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States, which grants Congress the power to “make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Someone who needs help recalling that “particular constitutional provision” might be an uneasy fit in an administration that has pledged to close Guantanamo Bay.

Mary Beth Long
.

In an administration that hinted during the campaign at a tougher line on the Pakistani government, assistant secretary of defense for international security Mary Beth Long might be an awkward fit.

One of the reasons for Obama’s famous conditions for considering U.S. military force in Pakistan was the intransigence of the Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf toward an increasing “safehaven” — in the phrase used by a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate — for Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal west. That safehaven was partially created by the Pakistani army’s decision to seek ceasefires with militants in the area in 2006, which the militants repeatedly violated.

During a July 2007 House hearing, Long said that she had “personally” visited Peshawar and Islamabad to press the Pakistanis in an unspecified manner about the ceasefires, and defended the administration’s record of “increasing aid” to the Pakistani military — aid, it turned out, that was an untraceable cash payment. And she seemed to defend the Pakistani government’s continued approach of seeking “small agreements” with the militants to tamp the situation down. “Some would argue that the approach isn’t too different from the approach that we’re taking in al-Anbar” in Iraq, she said.

Yet over the next several months, violence from the tribal areas spiraled into Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, assassinating opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in December. It is unclear what Long did or did not do to try to prevent the further destabilization of Pakistan.

Additionally, some at the Pentagon are displeased by her style. One official who requested anonymity described Long as “an erratic, impulsive, disorganized manager who is feared and loathed by her staff.”

A spokesman for Long said she was out of the office this week and could not be reached for a response.

Jim O’Beirne.

O’Beirne most likely won’t be staying for any duration in an Obama administration, as best as I can tell. As the White House liaison to the Pentagon, he’s been in charge of placing political appointees into positions in the building — something that hasn’t traditionally carried over from Republican to Democratic administrations.

O’Beirne, the husband of longtime National Review writer Kate O’Beirne, has a special place in Iraq-war political history. Back in 2003, when the Pentagon was staffing the Coalition Provisional Authority to run Iraq, there was an obvious need for competent, experienced technocrats to rebuild the infrastructure of an unfamiliar country in record time. O’Beirne was in charge of recruiting them. Only he had a different set of criteria for the jobs at hand. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of a journalistic history of the CPA’s short existence, explained how politics factored in:

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.

Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

Needless to say, Obama may not have much need for O’Beirne’s resume.

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Comments

33 Comments

bruster55
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 7:02 am

This explains why our military is so disorganized. The only mistake That Mr Obama is making is keeping an ignorant man like Bob Gates. His comments on Guatanamo right after being appointed by Bush illustrates his complete ignorance.


bholl
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 8:35 am

Sec Gates = Bush Family Lackey
Needs to go back to working for their Villager's University in Texas.


Veterans For America » News Analysis: December 24, 2008
Pingback posted December 24, 2008 @ 8:53 am

[...] by the Obama Administration — to prevent a leadership vacuum with troops engaged in two wars. Could that be awkward, at the very least? In Afghanistan, the genuine front against those who plotted the 9/11 attacks, [...]


grf67
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 9:07 am

Obama has no extended need for anyone Rumsfeld brought on.


donphoto33
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 11:03 am

Anyone who followed the dictates of Rumsfeld and his heavy handed running of the DOD should GO!


Eddie
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

They are like virus in the system.. flushed them out right away without any further delay so we can have a clean slate of fresh and immediate smooth transition of new administration.


rangerpatriot
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

The near history problem with the Bush legacy is his HUBRIS is so far reaching, it has achieved a WHITE OUT effect, like a north east storm, with lake effect. Its so overwhelming, its impossible to track, and follow-up on each offense, without looking like a witch-hunt. I honestly think this was part of the strategy (Rove), do it all, do it quick, god will sort it out. Except, Rove, the father of religious WEDGE ISSUES with voters, does not himself, believe in god. That concept is simply a tool in his box of divide and conquer. The administration is already running a massive GET THE WORD OUT – information campaign to shore up Bush (43)'s history with addendum's and alibi's. Let's hope this bunch does not whipe their feet on the Constitution anymore, as they get in their moving van to build the shrine to the Cult of W, at his Texas Library.


velvett
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

The “mistake” of keeping Gates is rather serious since he (and Obama) plan to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan ASAP, even before withdrawing troops from Iraq.


Jack Milavic
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

There are a number of Under, Deputy and Assistant Under Secretaries that Secretary Gates will surly expeditiously remove. Some key DoD officials are responsible for the protraction of hostilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There is compete disregard for efficiency and existing technology within the halls of the Pentagon that can save lives and decrease costs to the taxpayer.


Ted Stewart
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

Obama needs to clean house PERIOD. Everybody who had anything to do with the lies that got us there and any who kept us in the war should GO NOW. Gates can go too!


Zenaby56
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

Looking forward to a thorough house cleaning. Time for CHANGE! Restoration of the US's integrity around the globe. Time to return to acting with honor.


Totto
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

My God, these are people to whom war is the only answer to every problem. They are completely unconcerned about human suffering, unless it's their own. Take away their offices, move them to another location, give them a desk and a chair and completely separate them from the functioning of the Pentagon. Instruct any other personnel that to discuss defense policy with them will mean immediate termination.


larry
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

Obama will not clean house….he has failed to do so so far…why expect any thing else. Another disappointment.


Nita Gonzalez
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

Well what do you expect from Bush administration. The last comment about how O'Beirne picked people to run Irag's government leads me to believe the Iraqies were right in their sad opinion of people from this country. Me as an average wouldn't have the ego to accept something like that. It speak very badly for these people. Nita Gonzalez


Where Obama and Rumsfeld Intersect | carpentershoes.com
Pingback posted December 24, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

[...] Read more from the original source [...]


james frank
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

I think these are well experienced American Patriots, and for their honorable service, we should definitely offer them continued service for their country. Transfer them to a transition team to help dismantle the Iraq War into the Iraq Reconstuction. Give them nice houses, in Iraq, with their own offices to work with the Iraqi government in the transition. Since they know more about what we have done the last 6 years, they are perfect to help the New Admistration dismantle their policies and hand over Iraq back to the Iraqi people. Of course we would need to continue the Bush/Cheney Doctrine that the President & V.P. are the deciders, and their pensions and government benefits are contingent on there continued employment. In other words, move to Baghdad or quit and forfeit all government benefits (pension, insurance, etc.)


burke
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

name names or shut up


kingbird
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

A fairy tale for Christmas Eve:
Once there was a great country whose people rejoiced in the knowledge that they had acquired the skills and had the intelligence to pass on to the rest of the world what had made their country great. Many years after they had begun, they were invaded by a group of people known as the Bushneys, unskilled and although seemingly educated, lacking in the understanding of what had made their country so great. With evil intent they managed in eight short—or long years depending on one's point of view—to dismantle what was best about the country, leaving it repulsive in the eyes of the rest of the world and domestically bankrupt.
It would be many years before it would regain its status, if at all. Not only because it had failed so badly, but because other nations had begin to surpass it in wealth, enthusiasm, knowledge and ability.
Merry Christmas to all and to all, God protect us!


nik
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

at least use proper grammar…


Al
Comment posted December 24, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

Most of these crooks and their cronies war profiteers should be in prison long ago, first of all Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. They are so street-smart to be still free.


Wrestling Videos
Comment posted December 25, 2008 @ 7:33 am

I can only say one thing. i can't believe Rumsfeld is still free.


Richard H. Davis
Comment posted December 25, 2008 @ 11:47 am

I'm glad to see the graphs on O'Beirne. He is (I thought) was of the unsung villains in the Bush Pentagon. I am curious about how many references his name would produce in Lexis/Nexis. It seems to be that he has been under the radar relative to his importance in sending completely inexperience, incompetent people to Iraq. Is there no law requiring the DOD to hire competent or qualified people? If there isn't, there should be, and if there is, the next DOJ should get around to checking if O'Bierne violated that law. One of the things that the Obama transition should be looking at, at a low priority, is extending the statute of limitations so that they have 8 years to investigate and charge these peole. If they aren't charged with the crimes that they committed, they sometime in the future, another administration will commit similiar crimes.


Wrestling Videos
Comment posted December 25, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

I can only say one thing. i can't believe Rumsfeld is still free.


Richard H. Davis
Comment posted December 25, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

I'm glad to see the graphs on O'Beirne. He is (I thought) was of the unsung villains in the Bush Pentagon. I am curious about how many references his name would produce in Lexis/Nexis. It seems to be that he has been under the radar relative to his importance in sending completely inexperience, incompetent people to Iraq. Is there no law requiring the DOD to hire competent or qualified people? If there isn't, there should be, and if there is, the next DOJ should get around to checking if O'Bierne violated that law. One of the things that the Obama transition should be looking at, at a low priority, is extending the statute of limitations so that they have 8 years to investigate and charge these peole. If they aren't charged with the crimes that they committed, they sometime in the future, another administration will commit similiar crimes.


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