I don’t have much to say about it but it’s everywhere so I’m obliged to blog. Re: the substance, he tosses everything out there except the one thing that would have the most appreciable impact: more troops, more troops, more troops. Maybe that’s because we don’t have them, maybe it’s because he knows America wouldn’t stand for it at this point even if we did, maybe he still believes we have enough to win (unlikely, given what he says about going “minimalist” with our goals), or maybe he just doesn’t want to lose face by admitting that his critics were right all along.

But never mind that. Was this really written by the Secretary of Defense for White House consumption? Come on:

¶ Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.

¶ Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.

¶ Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it.

It’s so dumbed down (“taking our hand off the bicycle seat”) and bereft of detail that it’s practically useless. And note the gratuitous reference to Saddam. If Rumsfeld thinks we should appropriate some of his tactics, why not just say what those tactics are instead of tainting them by noting their Baathist pedigree? To me, it reads like something that was prepared with an eye to wider consumption. Could Rummy himself have leaked it? Consider three possibilities.

1. Bush or his supporters leaked it to embarrass Rumsfeld and/or boost Gates. Nearly everyone thinks Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq has failed except for the hardest core of Bush’s base, which lionizes Rummy for his steely demeanor and unwillingness to compromise. Putting this out there shows the diehards that even their hero thinks it’s time for a new approach. In fact, when asked this morning by Stephanopoulos about a change of course in Iraq, what did Hadley do? He pointed to Rumsfeld’s memo! See, neocons? It’s what Don would have wanted. The question then becomes, does the memo really represent Rumsfeld’s thinking or was it written at Bush’s behest to give him some cover from hawks in maneuvering towards a cut and run posture? And if Bush did ask him to write it, did he do so as part of a false promise that Rumsfeld would remain on as SecDef if he did? Why else would Rummy have written it, then? Intrigue!

2. Rumsfeld or his supporters leaked it to embarrass Bush. Captain Ed and Seixon both think this is what happened. It makes the most sense. Note that the memo was drafted the day before the election, with Republicans headed for a beating and Rumsfeld perhaps aware that the axe was about to fall. (Bob Novak says he didn’t find out until the day he was canned but the Times reported previously that Bush had been talking to him for weeks about leaving.) If Rummy suspected he was on his way out, he could have dashed this off as a last-ditch attempt to save his job — or, if he knew his fate was sealed, to confound his critics and undermine Bush’s assertions that replacing him was necessary to chart a “new course.” Says Captain Ed:

[I]t will be interesting after this memo to see how the press and the Democrats approach Rumsfeld. They have made him the Devil incarnate for the last three years for his prosecution of the war. Now that he has endorsed a lighter approach to Iraq, similar to what the media and the opposition have demanded, will they rehabilitate Rumsfeld as a “wise man” on the war? I suspect they will if the Bush administration continues to remain unwilling to adopt whatever recommendations the ISG provides in their report this week. We will see Rumsfeld interviewed on major talk shows in a much more respectful manner, asked to expand on the thoughts in this memo and his evaluation of why we need a “major adjustment”.

It’s hard for me to believe Bush won’t substantially endorse the ISG recommendations — otherwise why bring in Gates, who’s famous for advocating dialogue with Iran? — but if he doesn’t then this is what’ll happen. The memo thus becomes a type of insurance policy for Rumsfeld, giving him the credibility he needs to criticize/embarrass Bush later.

3. Quid pro quo. A combo of the first two. Bush and Rumsfeld conceived the memo in tandem. Bush gets cover to pull out, Rumsfeld gets eleventh-hour credibility.

So much for Rummy. Skip the memo and instead read the Times of London, which has two stories out today about the depravity of the Shiite death squads. Nothing is sacred:

In the war for Baghdad, mosques serve as garrisons. Sunnis use religious sanctuaries as strongholds to fight for mixed neighbourhoods. Shia extremists convert their mosques and prayer rooms, called husseiniyas, into execution chambers

“The guy begged them and screamed for God to save him. But the man started to cut and shrieked ya Allah, ya Allah. Then there was a cracking sound like a sheep being slaughtered. The man pulled off the Amariyah guy’s head. His eyes were still open.

That’s not the worst of it. Here’s where we go from barbarism to Nazi-esque extermination of undesirables:

There is said to be mounting evidence that Shi’ite death squads are being encouraged to roam hospitals in search of fresh Sunni victims, allegedly at the behest of officials in the Shi’ite-dominated health ministry

Last month, an anxious paramedic approached Jawad. “What he told me,” Jawad said, “was like opening the gates of hell.”

The paramedic took a phial from the pocket of his white coat and showed it to him. “It was a drug called Neostigmine used by anaesthetists. The only place to find this drug is in operating theatres,” he said. Injected in high doses, it will cause cardiac arrest.

“Who gave you this drug?” Jawad asked. “The ministry of health security gave it to me and asked me to give it to one of the patients,” the paramedic said. “But I can’t go through with it.”

“How did they know about the patient?” Jawad asked. The answer confirmed what the porter he called Ali had told him. “If you call them and tell them about patients from Anbar, Diyala or Adhamiyah, you get $300. If you help to get rid of one, you get another $300.”

Remember, the conventional wisdom is that only a “political solution” between the Sunnis and Shiites in government will improve the security situation. Meanwhile, the Shiites in charge of the health ministry are operating einsatzgruppen in the country’s hospitals.

But hey, look on the bright side. At least the occupation will be over soon.