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Donald Rumsfeld - who's known as a people-eating systems man - has a long history that shows he prefers technology to humans. Certainly as SecDef he's always gone for high-tech military gear rather than giving the boots on the ground max priority when it comes to the basics: armored vehicles and vests, sufficient ammo and all the other vital stuff that helps soldiers make it through the Valley of Death.
His beloved shock-and-awe whiz-bang wonder weapons worked well enough initially in Afghanistan and Iraq, but as we saw on the tube last week, we're once again back to the age-old struggle of man against man - with grunts, not machines, taking and holding ground.
And now, apparently, Rumsfeld's obsession with machines and their efficiency has translated into his using one to replace his own John Hancock on KIA (killed in action) letters to parents and spouses. Two Pentagon-based colonels, who've both insisted on anonymity to protect their careers, have indignantly reported that the SecDef has relinquished this sacred duty to a signature device rather than signing the sad documents himself.
I then went to about a dozen next-of-kin of American soldiers KIA in Iraq. Most agreed with the colonels' accusations and said they'd noticed and been insulted by the machine-driven signature. One father bitterly commented that he thought it was a shame that the SecDef could keep his squash schedule but not find the time to sign his dead son's letter.
Throughout World War II, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall made sure that President Franklin Roosevelt was briefed in detail on the number of soldiers who had fallen. FDR, incidentally, probably wanted to know. He had sons who were serving.
Several also felt compelled to tell me that the letter they received from George Bush also looked as though it was not signed personally by the president.