There was something unsettling about Donald Rumsfeld recent tough-talk speech in Singapore in which he described his concern over what he viewed as China’s alarming weapons buildup. Rumsfeld speech was the top story next day in the Los Angeles Times, my local paper. And at the nearby Starbuck’s I saw it was also the top story in the New York Times.

The specifics of Rumsfeld’s speech were not very interesting or informative. For that one needs to consult the recent issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and an article by Jeffrey Lewis, “The Ambiguous Arsenal,” which argues effectively that China’s strategic weapons buildup has not changed significantly over the last decade. Rumsfeld held one trump card however. An updated intelligence estimate on China’s defense programs is “expected to be released soon,” according to mainline media speak. But since the Iraq intelligence debacle, who is going to take that seriously? Thanks to Bush, Condi and Rumsfeld, we now live in a time when the word “intelligence” is a guaranteed laugh-getter for Jay Leno and David Letterman.

In typical Neocon fashion, Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was tough and he got the attention he was looking for. Rumsfeld challenged China’s intentions, saying, "China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities here in the region. Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment?"

Despite his reference to China threatening unnamed countries outside the Pacific region, his real focus was clearly Taiwan, and more specifically, what would the U.S. do if China were to attack Taiwan since the U.S. has a defense pact with Taiwan. This is certainly a legitimate concern. With 150,000 U.S. troops pinned down in Iraq, with military recruitment dwindling, and no military draft in the works, what the hell is the United States going to do if China plays rough on Taiwan?

But my nagging thought as I read the story was: If only this weren’t Donald Rumsfeld speaking. Does anyone really believe anything Rumsfeld says these days? We’re talking here about the most failed secretary of defense in memory, a man who has singlehandedly used and abused the U.S. military for his own experimental aims, leading to the unnecessary deaths of countless American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. He has presided over the most disgraceful period in U.S. military history, with prisoner abuse scandals that just keep coming day after day, shaming the United States.

The only “plan” Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld ever had for the Iraq war – aside from doctoring the intelligence to fit their aims-- was to demonstrate to the Muslim world, and particularly the Arabs, that you shouldn’t mess with the United States. And since we can’t catch Osama bin Laden, they reasoned, at least not quickly, the only way to do this is to kill people that look like him. Which is to say, pull off a quick and easy military victory over some opponent in the Middle East that has a tough reputation but is really an over-the-hill palooka with no punch left. After that, everything will fall into place and terrorism will just go away. Dick Cheney assured Rumsfeld not to worry, that Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” so don’t get carried away with planning. Only egghead liberals plan.

And what about General Tommy Franks? Where is he now? There is a lesson here. Franks did what was asked of him—seize the country with the army Rumsfeld gave him. Franks was smart enough to realize that things were getting ugly fast so he quickly retired, got away from Washington, wrote a book, went on a promotional tour, and became a hero and a celebrity.

Rumsfeld wasn’t so savvy. Knowing that George Bush never fires anyone loyal, Rumsfeld decided to stay on for a second term. And now he gets the mockery, derision and scorn he deserves – but which the U.S. military does not deserve, but will continue to get as long as Rumsfeld remains as secretary of defense.

If ever a government official had zero credibility, it’s Donald Rumsfeld. He makes Robert McNamara look good. In a recent article titled “The Rumsfeld Stain,” Bob Herbert of the New York Times, asks, “How does Donald Rumsfeld survive as defense secretary?” Herbert writes that, on top of a litany of other malfeasances and abuses in office, under Rumsfeld’s watch, “troops responsible for guarding and interrogating detainees somehow loosed their moorings to humanity, and began behaving as sadists, perverts and criminals.”

Quite a legacy. We are at a point now where it could be decades before Americans traveling abroad can again hold their heads high.

Donald Rumsfeld is indeed a “stain” on America. But unlike Tommy Franks, there is no afterlife for Rumsfeld. He has passed the point of no return. Perhaps you have to give him credit for one thing: he’s decided to go down with the ship.

Gerald S. Rellick, Ph.D., worked in the defense sector of the aerospace industry for 22 years. He now teaches in the California Community College system.