Words of a master

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a man of many moods, prone to launching unprovoked wars on defenseless Middle East nations. Too harsh? It’s too kind.

Here’s Rumsfeld recently in Paris describing the Iraq war:

You have to hold up the youngster with four fingers when he’s learning to peddle. Then you use three fingers as he gets steadier, and so on and so forth. Today the U.S. is holding up the Iraqi bicyclist with two fingers but is afraid to fully let go for fear the bike might tip over.

And from today’s page one story in the Washington Post:

In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid “physical labor” and wrote of the need to “keep elevating the threat,” “link Iraq to Iran” and develop “bumper sticker statements” to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.

The memos, often referred to as “snowflakes,” shed light on Rumsfeld’s brusque management style and on his efforts to address key challenges during his tenure as Pentagon chief. Spanning from 2002 to shortly after his resignation following the 2006 congressional elections, a sampling of his trademark missives obtained yesterday reveals a defense secretary disdainful of media criticism and driven to reshape public opinion of the Iraq war.

Rumsfeld, whose sometimes abrasive approach often alienated other Cabinet members and White House staff members, produced 20 to 60 snowflakes a day and regularly poured out his thoughts in writing as the basis for developing policy, aides said. The memos are not classified but are marked “for official use only.”

In a 2004 memo on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, Rumsfeld concluded that the challenges there are “not unusual.” Pessimistic news reports — “our publics risk falling prey to the argument that all is lost” — simply result from the wrong standards being applied, he wrote in one of the memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Under siege in April 2006, when a series of retired generals denounced him and called for his resignation in newspaper op-ed pieces, Rumsfeld produced a memo after a conference call with military analysts. “Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists,” he wrote.

People will “rally” to sacrifice, he noted after the meeting. “They are looking for leadership. Sacrifice = Victory.”

Let’s hope Rumsfeld spends the remainder of his miserable life worrying about being arrested and prosecuted for war crimes. His days of scurrying away from the hands of the law have only just begun.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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