With the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and the Democratic takeover of Congress, many liberals are celebrating the start of a new era. Although the public and the new Congress must now look ahead for new solutions, it is crucial that they do not neglect to examine the past. It will take time to sort out the mess Rumsfeld left behind at the Pentagon.
Former CIA director Robert Gates, nominated to replace Rumsfeld, has excellent credentials and a reputation as a pragmatist, and hopefully he can point the Pentagon in a new direction. Rumsfeld’s mistakes will be felt for years, however, and only through investigations can legislators understand the current situation and rectify problems in the Pentagon.
Using the opportunity voters have given Congress, politicians on both sides should ensure the policies of the Rumsfeld era are investigated thoroughly. While cronyism in the Pentagon has existed for some time now, the remarks made by several retired generals in the past year and the evidence of no-bid contracts handed out to political allies reveal grievous abuses in the Pentagon. The public deserves to know to what extent Rumsfeld’s Pentagon filtered information about the Iraq War to suit its views of the war. By investigating this, we can see a far more complete picture of Iraq and of homeland security deficiencies.
Furthermore, Congress must carefully analyze how funding for the war in Iraq was spent. Although evidence of questionable funding decisions and rampant waste has emerged, neither the public nor legislators are certain to the exact extent of this corruption. Holding contractors more accountable and ending no-bid contracts for work in Iraq are musts – not only to lower costs and make troops safer, but also to expose any illegal activity and deal proper punishment where necessary.
Democrats in both houses have promised to enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Senators will need to properly question Gates on how he will contribute to this goal during his confirmation hearings – and to make sure he has an answer. Furthermore, senators must take care to find out Gates’s motivations; he has been accused of overstating Soviet military strength for political gain in the 1980s and had ties to many officials involved in the Iran-Contra affair. While the future for the Pentagon looks brighter with Rumsfeld out of the picture, it will only be through investigating its past that Rumsfeld’s mistakes over the past five years can be put behind us.