Force Of July

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a busy man. Running the Department of Defense in jacked-up times. Ramrodding past Secretary of State Colin Powell a new American foreign policy, Diplomacy Through Bombsight. Reinventing the nation's entire military structure, where he encounters resistance every step of the way from older brass. Conducting a tireless round of press conferences so lively that you scarcely miss the nominal president of the United States.

Some reporters lately have had the temerity to ask hard questions about our recent adventures, and Rumsfeld had to verbally bitch-slap them. At his age! He should be sitting back in his recliner with a whiskey sour and copy of Popular Mechanics.

But no, he's busier yet! The same flair for micromanaging and knowing what's best for those in uniform is now being shared with the rest of us, here in Everytown, USA. His staffers have been phoning city officials, including some in Orange County, and strongly urging them to structure Fourth of July celebrations around the war in Iraq.

“I got the impression that they had a list of every city in the nation that had applied for a pyrotechnics permit, and were calling them to persuade them to be part of the program,” said one OC city official.

Maybe Rumsfeld's just looking out for his boys, helping to make sure the troops get the thanks they deserve. But it's not as if our servicemen aren't already swamped in bunting, praise and patriotic country songs. Do they really need Washington to orchestrate the public mood for them?

Apparently. The project even has a name: Operation Tribute to Freedom, putatively overseen by Air Force general Richard B. Myer. Check out the website at Therein, it is claimed that Pentagon officials had been “inundated” with requests from communities asking how they could show support for the troops. Another press release remarks on the “spontaneous” displays of support for the military. And there doubtless have been many.

So why, then, does the Department of Defense deem it necessary to cold-call cities to sell them on a military salute?

“It seemed pretty obvious they were just trying to manufacture more public support for their war,” said the city official.

Perhaps Rumsfeld and his fellows think it's time to stage-manage another round of administration-friendly patriotism now that, when left to their own devices, many patriotic Americans instead are supporting the troops by asking the Bush administration: Why did you commit our forces to kill and die in a war without good cause? Where is proof of the “imminent threat” you cited with such certainty in justifying the abandonment of two centuries of U.S. tradition and “preemptively” attacking another nation? If you cause people to be killed (including 139 Americans, at least 3,240 Iraqi civilians and probably tens of thousands of conscripts) without good cause, isn't that murder? Why do you tell critics to be patient, that these things take time, when that's the exact argument you rejected from the UN weapons inspectors? Why are the oilfields the only things that are secure in Iraq, where you've permitted even atomic materials to be looted? Why have you committed our forces indefinitely, with no exit strategy, to a country where they're under daily attack? Huh, why?

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