Apparently Donald Rumsfeld, looking out at the future, seeing unrest everywhere, knowing that that the world is changing, wants to deflect some of the enormous responsibility he shares for the deaths of 4,500 Americans, deaths of at least a quarter of a million Iraqis, and the displacement and ruin of several million Iraqi lives.
So, knowing that he still has the support of the bigots…Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, G. Gordon Liddy, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity…all the pundits who can stir up the White Supremacists, and the bean-sized brains, he makes a fatal error. He decides for some unfathomable reason–perhaps fear–to do what some people in our society seem prone to do–blame the Black guy. Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State in the Bush Administration is an African-American. How convenient.
Forget that Colin Powell and some of the calmer and smarter heads of the military establishment said that they did not want to go to war with Iraq. Disregarding that, and using “Bigot-TV” (Fox News) Rumsfeld is now trying to persuade people that somehow he was rational while all others about him were losing their heads. Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, we are to believe, was an innocent bystander…just happened to be standing there when the bombs went off in downtown Baghdad. He was there. He gave the orders. But someone else was responsible.
George W. Bush recently had reason to go to Switzerland. The Swiss told him that they might arrest him for war crimes. This did not go unnoticed by Rumsfeld. He does not want to become become the first victim of a little noticed, but growing, world-wide conscience. Rumsfeld decided to at least set forth his version of events in a book.
In his case it is almost believable that he, himself, did write the book. He’s no dummy. He can’t portray himself as some dumb, rich kid whose father and father’s father and father’s father’s father was rich. He was upper-middle class and smart and aggressive. As with any good Republican he used all his contacts to grift his way into tens if not hundreds of millions.
Now, suddenly, he’s scared. The tough guy is for some reason, scared. And he is a tough minded guy. He’s not some AWOL, mommy’s boy. He was a fighter pilot, a jet jockey, a pretty good athlete, good wrestler and football player. Let’s say, medium tough. After all it was Princeton, but in those days the Ivy league was different. Princeton did have a Heisman trophy winner.
Rumsfeld doesn’t want to be extradited to the Hague and live his last years in prison. He wanted to do the (war) crime, but he doesn’t want to do the time. Let’s make the assumption that he is nervous, as he should be. Most of us think that he is guilty as hell. He was the Secretary of Defense and we declared war on a country, ostensibly because they had weapons of mass destruction… but they didn’t…and there is very convincing evidence that he knew they didn’t.
Let’s go back to January of 1998. A dozen or so members of an arrogant, elitist organization called, contemptuously, “Project for the New American Century” had written a letter to President Clinton suggesting that we take much stronger action with Iraq than merely bombing them, which we had done in 1996 and again in December of 1998. We bombed Iraq for four consecutive days, seriously damaging any defense forces that Saddam had.
But this was not good enough for the PNAC, which included such members as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Bennett, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle and James Woolsey. Any list of defense “super-hawks” would include these people.
The goals of the PNAC, were to basically accept America’s role as the world’s arbiter of what is moral and right and use its military might to enforce those issues. Americans should create semi-permanent bases in several places in the world, and insure an “American Peace.” (Pax Americana. Sounds familiar.)
The “American peace” as it was called required a military “that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.” What does that mean?
In practice, it means that the United States, under the guidance of people like Rumsfeld and Bolton and Perle and Woolsey should roam around the world…Iraq would be a good place to start…and knock off anyone who caused us serious problems. How do we know that this is what the PNAC thought? Well, how about this?
A four-day bombing that basically demolished any serious aggressive action by Saddam Hussein was not good enough for this group. After we had been attacked on September 11, 2001, for which attack this PNAC group, now in power, had been totally unprepared…right here at home…they were still focused on attacking Iraq, going to war with Iraq. They were as focused on Iraq…or more…than they were on Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden. In fact, they didn’t seem to know who Bin Laden was.
Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense in 2002. It was his job. It was his responsibility. Henry Paulson and Alan Greenspan in 2008 screwed up with disastrous consequences in their area of responsibility, the economy. But they did not take us to war, even though they were there in the Cabinet in 2002.
In 2002 and 2003 it was Rumsfeld…not Paulson, not Greenspan, not Colin Powell, Secretary of State nor Gale Norton, Secretary of Interior…who had that responsibility.
When Bush announced his second tax cut, Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill had had enough. He said no…no more tax cuts. If I can’t execute my responsibility as I should, I must resign. It is unclear whether he resigned or he was kicked out. Either way, he did the right thing.
Rumsfeld not only said “go,” he set up a special intelligence unit in the Defense Department (or he let it happen, or he encouraged it or he couldn’t stop it and…didn’t resign or didn’t go to the press) to put in the “fix.” Someone rigged the intelligence to make it seem that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was ready to use them against us, “a mushroom cloud” as Condeleeza Rice said.
It was all a lie. Rumsfeld, whether he is a scapegoat or not, was the responsible person. It was his job, his responsibility and his accountability. He was a Captain (Colonel) in the Navy reserve, a former naval officer, a jet pilot. He understands that if you accept the responsibility then you are accountable. You are promoted, fired or—in some cases—jailed if you screw up really badly. Rumsfeld IS the guy, not the “fall guy” but the responsible, accountable party. He was in charge. He said…”let’s go.” He decided.
Recently Donald Rumsfeld, who by every measure of his past, his education, his upbringing, and the standards one would expect of a man who entered Congress when he did, should be a “stand up” guy.
Just because you were Republican in the days when Rumsfeld was entering government did not mean that you were a scumbag, lying, creep. There were people who danced in fountains with fan dancers. But few Congressmen or Senators would deliberately hold up unemployment checks that people need to feed their hungry children, or encourage shooting physicians because they don’t agree with their religious beliefs.
Remember that many people followed Nixon because they thought that he was misunderstood and while publicly unpopular, was privately a very smart man, a reasonable man and a good, if fiscally conservative, administrator. And when he proved to be somewhat ethically challenged, they turned, as did Rumsfeld, to Gerald Ford who did have excellent credentials as an honorable man.
So Rumsfeld, though he has gone much farther to the Right over the years, should not have lost all his convictions. One of those convictions is that you should not blame others for your mistakes.
He made a huge mistake, a mistake that many people, certainly tens of millions at the least to as many as perhaps a billion…a billion people…feel was not only a mistake but a serious crime. Some, yes, hate him and probably want him dead. Wars have consequences too.
So that responsibility might wear you down if you were a man who attended a good, independent elementary school of high ideals, a renowned high school where dissembling would be considered not only wrong but a sign of deep character flaws, and Princeton University, which has been known to produce some graduates and educators of extremely high character, including Albert Einstein.
So why would someone like the kind of person that Donald Rumsfeld’s life story should evoke run around the media world and in every other sentence mention the name of someone whom he almost never mentioned, except somewhat derisively while in office.
He now mentions Colin Powell in almost every other sentence, when obliquely mentioning responsibility for the war. You know Colin Powell, the former Chief of Staff of the Military. And, interestingly, he’s a Black guy.
Haven’t we heard some other people disrespecting another Black guy recently? It doesn’t mean that Rumsfeld is a racist. It simply means that Rumsfeld mentions Colin Powell as being someone who was, according to Rumsfeld, totally committed to the war. And he’s a Black guy.
He’s using the old classical Ciceronian technique of not condemning a foe, but passing over in silence his opinion of the person’s guilt or innocence and merely bringing up the person’s name repeatedly in an unfavorable association with the issue or crime. Powell didn’t want to go to war. By portraying him as in favor of it, Rumsfeld denigrates Powell’s image among the majority who were and are against the war and those who started it.
Powell went to the UN, says Rumsfeld, and delivered the argument for war. Yes, that is true. That was his job. When Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush decided to go to war, to attack a country that had no intention of attacking us, a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, it was Colin Powell’s job to go to the UN to make the U.S. argument for going to war with Iraq. Even though he was pretty sure it was untrue.
Why didn’t Powell resign? That’s a good question. Unlike Cheney or former Naval officer Rumsfeld or certainly unlike the twirp Bush, Powell was a lifelong soldier and former Chief of Staff of the military. He follows orders and does it damned well. That’s how you get to be a four-star general.
Powell told others at the time that he thought…and it was quickly proved to be true…that he was being lied to by the Intelligence community. But Colin Powell, unlike, sadly, Donald Rumsfeld is a stand-up guy. And, yes, a stand-up Black guy. He is taking his share of the responsibility. In the service, they call it being accountable.
If you ask Donald Rumsfeld today…a rich, still politically powerful man, with a fine wife and family, with apparently no hint of scandal in his personal life…what he might like to do over, it would probably be the period in his life from about 1998 to 2006. If you are a Democrat, you don’t like Donald Rumsfeld no matter what he did or didn’t do about Iraq.
If you’re a Democrat you don’t like him for his association with Nixon, for his conservative approach to politics, for what seems an incestuous use of government connections to enrich himself.
If you are more tolerant, you might say that he worked long and hard in government and merely got the benefit…that someone would have…of being offered a great job and being associated with a merger…which may have been good for the public. If it was, then no one should begrudge an income that most people would accept if they could.
On the other hand, if you disregard your antipathy for Rumsfeld as a conservative, as an elitist, then you must look at him objectively. If you do, you cannot excuse a person of his background for attempting to hang the accountability for going to Iraq around Colin Powell’s neck. And that what he is subtly trying to do. That is wrong. He knows it.
Rumsfeld was on the right track for a intelligent, thoughtful and appealing young man going into the Republican Party of his day. But then the track moved to the Right and moved further yet to the Right. He could have, but chose not to get off. As things turned out, when things went off the rails completely and the train went over the cliff, he was in the driver’s seat. Now he wishes that he had never been there.
But he was.