Maureen Dowd


The overbearing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not used to being challenged, so he's probably still smarting from his bruising brush with reality in Kuwait.

He had surrounded himself with so many sycophantic generals that it took a grunt from Tennessee to point out that the defense secretary has no clothes - or armor for his troops. He has taken the greatest military in the history of the world and pushed it to the breaking point.

Some people think he's toast, now that conservatives such as John McCain and Bill Kristol have turned on him, and now that the grumbles are getting louder in the military, from Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf to television generals to rank and file reservists who have other jobs to go back to. (Besides, what can Rummy do to punish reservists who push back - send them to Iraq?)

But, hey, it's Christmas. Overcome with the spirit of giving, It's like to give Rummy a lifeline to escape the flak over armor.

It's amazing that President George W. Bush, who planned on running his administration like a business, and Rummy, who was a CEO himself, haven't come up with this brainstorm already. They're always touting the private sector, even for fixing Social Security.

They should take a lesson from their own playbook and reach out to corporate America. If Rummy can't adequately supply the army, maybe IBM and Xerox can.

Why should it just be parents of kids in Iraq who send them compasses and Kevlar vests? Everybody wants to support America's troops. If the Olympics can attract top corporate sponsors, why can't Rummy's Global War on Terrorism? Bring it on, Bank One!

Picture this: A truck rumbling across the desert on the evening news, completely armored, emblazoned with golden arches. Or a fleet of Visa Humvees. You know Donald Trump would love to slap his name on a few Chinooks. The 82nd Trumpborne.

And what about product placement? When soldiers give their Christmas greetings on Fox News, they could be holding a can of Pepsi or calling home on a Samsung phone. Why merely send their love when they could be writing letters in the sand on an Apple computer?

Like athletes or Nascar drivers, they could sell every inch of their body: STP helmets, Nike boots, Staples bulletproof vests, Starbucks MREs, Levitra tactical radios, Wellbutin CamelBaks, Sony laser target designators.

All those old, out-of-shape reservists being dragged back by Rummy would be great pitchmen for arthritis medication. Celebrex night vision goggles.

The big corporate sponsors might set up some hospitality yurts in the desert. Sure, security's so bad that Rummy was afraid to go any farther than Kuwait last week, but Michael Eisner might want to visit with some Disney imaginers and check out a different kind of Fantasyland - the neocon variety. Eisner could use some good publicity.

In this day and age, when every sports arena in America has been hideously renamed for some corporate entity, like Minute Maid Field in Houston, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and Fedex Field in Washington D.C., Rummy could easily think big. How about the American Express Green Zone? Instead of those four huge facsimiles of Saddam's head that adorned the Iraqi Republican palace, why not put up big heads (and necks) of Geoffrey, the Toys "R" Us giraffe?

Whole units could begin shopping themselves on eBay, trolling for corporate sponsors just as the Dartmouth swim team did in 2002 with the pitch, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a piece of NCAA Division I collegiate memorabilia."

What's a measly swim team compared to the thrill of ponying up for the 3rd Infantry Division, the army unit that conducted the famous "thunder run" and took Baghdad, a unit now about to redeploy in Iraq?

Rummy's a little distracted trying to get his silly space shield and fighting hard for his job, so it may take him a while to focus on privatizing. And meanwhile, America still has that pesky armor shortage.

So how about Tommy "Stop Writing Books and Finish the War" Franks, Paul "You Disbanded the Iraqi Army, Dummy" Bremer and George "Slam Dunk" Tenet taking off those preposterous medals of freedom and contributing them. Just as when Scarlett and Melanie took off their gold wedding rings for the Confederate cause, those medals can be melted down for a little Humvee armor.

With help like that and some corporate backing, Rummy could get the army he wants and wishes to have sooner rather than later. Like, while America is actually fighting a war. And with all the foreign companies investing, America could actually have a real coalition. The coalition of the shilling. No German troops, but why not a Passat partnership?