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It's America's War

From the May 24, 2004 issue: But too many Democrats think it's Bush's war.

May 24, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 35 • By DAVID GELERNTER
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THE PRESSURE on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is fierce, because Abu Ghraib hit at a moment when many people were certain that the Iraq war had bogged down. And it had bogged down. It is in the nature of wars that they bog down occasionally. But that is no reason to sack the man who has run this stupendously complex, difficult operation with (on the whole) amazing success and integrity. Perhaps Rumsfeld and other Bush officials did not make quite clear enough beforehand that war is no picnic. But many Americans had already heard rumors to that effect. And the record will show that the secretary has in fact admitted (possibly under oath) that he is not perfect. Republicans who hint around that the defense secretary may indeed have to be cut up and thrown to the dogs are doing the nation no service.

Churchill got into parliamentary trouble repeatedly during the Second World War, but thank God the House of Commons did not sack him. In the Second World War, Britain did not merely bog down, she lost--early and often. If 1940 and '41 had their awful moments, 1942 started out worse. In January the House took up a no-confidence motion that could have deposed Churchill--British troops were reeling before the Japanese advance, and worse was to come. Before long Singapore fell, "the greatest disaster in British military history," Churchill called it; 130,000 British and Allied troops were taken prisoner. And later the same year Rommel captured the Libyan port of Tobruk: A British garrison of 35,000 men surrendered to a smaller Axis force. "One of the heaviest blows I can recall during the war," Churchill said. On such occasions Britain was discouraged, disheartened, humiliated. Yet somehow Parliament managed to restrain itself and not axe Churchill.

Churchill is one of history's greatest leaders, almost certainly its greatest minister of defense and a genius writer and orator. So far as we know, Bush is no Churchill and neither is Rumsfeld; they haven't been tried as Churchill was. But until a bona fide American Churchill comes along, they are doing fine.

David Gelernter is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.