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Rumsfeld Was the Living Symbol of America’s Plunge Into the Quagmire
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“A ruthless little b******,” was President Richard Nixon’s verdict on Donald Rumsfeld as recorded by the Watergate tapes – and everything in his career, supremely successful until the Iraq war, confirmed that Nixon had read him correctly.

Rumsfeld relished such tributes to his toughness, but he was above all else a skilful bureaucratic warrior in Washington and never the warlord he pretended to be. As defence secretary between 2001 and 2006, he gloried in his role as America’s military chief avenging 9/11, but his arrogance and inability to adjust to the realities of the Afghan and Iraq wars produced frustration or failure on the battlefield.

Manoeuvre though Rumsfeld did to avoid responsibility for the Iraq war, he became the living symbol of America’s plunge into the quagmire. Typically, he responded to this by banning his staff at the Pentagon from using the word “quagmire” along with “resistance” and “insurgents”.

Rumsfeld started his career as a Republican Congressman from Illinois and moved on to serve four Republican presidents. He headed the Office for Economic Opportunity under Nixon, became defence secretary and ambassador to Nato in the Ford administration. As President Ronald Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, he travelled to Baghdad to shake hands with Saddam Hussein and assure him of US support in the eight-year war that the Iraqi dictator had launched against Iran. His camaraderie with Saddam reflected American strategy at the time, but it also showed Rumsfeld’s liking for people with power and his dismissiveness towards those without it.

It was Iraq that turned out to be his nemesis. He promoted his public image as the man who did not blench when al-Qaeda flew a plane into the Pentagon on 9/11. He had personally rushed to succour survivors, though witnesses later said that stories of his heroism were exaggerated. By that evening he was giving a press conference from a bunker in the Pentagon demonstrating that, though President George W Bush might have been evacuated to safety, his defence secretary was standing tall.

Within hours of the al-Qaeda attack Rumsfeld was looking to use it as justification for a war against Iraq. He sent a note to General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, looking for “best info fast … judge whether good enough [to] hit SH [Saddam Hussein] @same time – not only UBL [Usama bin Laden]”. This detail – along with much else in this piece – is derived from Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy by Andrew Cockburn.

Rumsfeld sought in his memoirs to evade responsibility for launching the Iraq war, claiming that President Bush had never asked him if he was in favour of it. The excuse is absurd since the defence secretary had constant one-on-one meetings with Bush who might well assume that the man in charge of gathering America’s armies for the invasion was in favour of doing so.


Rumsfeld enjoyed flying around the world in his giant C-17 transport plane, addressing assemblies of US troops, but he was essentially a palace politician. Not only did he have access to the Oval Office himself, but he fought determined campaigns to exclude other top officials from meetings with the president. He was even upset when Jerry Bremer, the newly-appointed US viceroy in Iraq, had a private lunch with Bush in May 2003.

Rumsfeld never had much understanding of Iraq or Afghanistan and probably did not think that he had any need to do so because the military might of the US appeared overwhelming. He reacted furiously when the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Eric Shinseki, told a Senate hearing that several hundred thousand troops might be needed as an occupation force after the invasion.

Rumsfeld’s pretence that he did not favour the Iraq war is easily disproved, but a better line of defence from his point of view was that almost no members of America’s political-military elite were opposed to the war at the time. Critics counter this by saying that military officers whose promotion was in the hands of Rumsfeld were unlikely to express scepticism about his plans.

Rumsfeld produced a much quoted but fallacious explanation which was used to explain why the US was so often caught by surprise by disastrous events in Iraq. He said that some facts were known and others unknown facts, “but there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know”.

Rumsfeld said this in 2002 in relation to the shortage of evidence for the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and it briefly won him a reputation for intellectual brilliance. But it masked the damning fact that there were “known knowns” about Iraq that were good reasons for believing that regime change would lead to a prolonged military and political crisis.

I remember a leader of the Iraqi opposition, who was very keen to overthrow Saddam, saying to me a few more months before the invasion that “I just hope that the Americans do not realise what they are about to do is not in their interests.”

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Anon[159] • Disclaimer says:

    … when al-Qaeda flew a plane into the Pentagon on 9/11

    Ahhh… No.

    That would be a cruise missile.

    Al-Q did not have control of any cruise missiles.

    You cannot hijack a cruise missile.

    Actually… it was a juise missile.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
    , @Niebelheim
  2. The news that Rumsfeld passed with little or no suffering, fills me with great sadness…
    I was praying for him to pay for Aspartame.

  3. bayviking says:

    Another US war criminal, protected from arrest in France by the people that taught us the practice of imperialism.

    • Thanks: Old Brown Fool
  4. Lussier says:

    He reacted furiously when the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Eric Shinseki, told a Senate hearing that several hundred thousand troops might be needed as an occupation force after the invasion.

    An appropriate epitaph –
    “I went to war with the army that Wolfie had, not the army that PNAC wished they had..”

  5. So often, we hear of Sharia Muslims’ threat to Jews and The West.

    But, Jewish elites who rule the West wage war on Arab/Muslim modernizers and side with Sharia-Arabs of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Monarchies. Zionist Gayria and Saudi Sharia are allies against modernizing Arabs and Muslims. Thomas Friedman and his ilk cheered for Sharia-ISIS against secular Assad.

    • Thanks: Pat Kittle
  6. Notsofast says:

    a missile that just happened to hit the office that was investigating the trillions of dollars missing and unaccounted in the pentagon’s audit, wiping out all the investigators and all the evidence.

    • Replies: @RoatanBill
  7. This Cockburn peddles the same old Al Quaida story in every article he writes. What ever he writes is trite and known for a hundred years but he still goes for the old 911 narrative. Methinks he does it for hits.
    BTW the full quote by Donald Rumsfeld, now permanent resident of hades with no possibility of parole is “<i>“There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Even now, years later, Rumsfeld’s infamous quote is difficult to decipher.”
    Fux!^g shithead.

  8. Phipps says:

    This article omits one basic fact: Like everyone else in Washington D.C., Rumsfeld was a servant of Israel; thus his enthusiasm for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

  9. @Notsofast

    Building 7 in New York was the backup site for the Navy’s investigation and it mysteriously crumbled that day after NOT being hit by anything substantial.

    Anyone still holding on to the ME loonies did 9/11 is dead from the neck up.

  10. Glad the fucker died.

  11. Rumsfeld Was the Living Symbol of America’s Plunge Into the Quagmire

    America’s Plunge Into the Quagmire is not some newly discovered phenomenon that began with Rumsfeld.

    It’s descent began generations ago – beginning in the immediate aftermath of World War Two.

    Tens of millions of people (eg Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Ukraine, Syria, etal) have paid the ultimate price so war criminals operating the levers of power within the bowels of the world’s most indispensable nation operating behind a tissue paper thin guise of spreading democracy could establish/maintain a rules based international order (ie Western tyranny) they so dearly cling.

    The only difference is presently the smiley face mask which once provided cover for hegemonic wanton blood lust has slipped exposing the murderous fractions of humans for what they truly are – pure unadulterated evil.

    We owe a great debt to Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Bill Binney (etal) who have placed their lives and freedoms in mortal jeopardy in helping to expose the truth.

    The truth is out – unfortunately what is lacking is the will to hold the war criminals responsible for creating hell on Earth accountable for their actions but alas a majority of people are too busy being entertained or shopping to take notice of the dystopia they exist within.

    Smash your smart phone and free your mind – you are a slave to the device and then you die.

    • Replies: @Proximaking
  12. @Anon

    There had to be security camera videos of the plane crash into the Pentagon. Where are they?

  13. Old Prude says:

    I rather liked Rumsfeld. He seemed like a tough SOB, and did a good job driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and taking over Iraq. The Iraq invasion was, in retrospect, not only unjustified, but an enormous strategic mistake. How much Rumsfeld was responsible for that decision can be debated. He wasn’t ‘the decider’.

    That having been said, he allowed the DoD to continue it’s slide into diversity worship, including homosexual triumphalism: Gay”weddings” in the West Point Chapel, gay pride symposiums hosted by West Point with active duty officers participating at tax-payer expense…

    So he was willing to crush a bunch of third world savages, but was unable or unwilling to take on his own jack-ass generals like General “If our diversity were a casualty that would be worse” Casey.

    So, in the end, he has to be judged a failure: Two lost wars, and a corrupted, homo worshiping anti-white military.

  14. @Personanongrata

    Read “War is a Racket” by US General Smedley Butler the most decorated soldier of his time, written in the 1930’s. He said the US armed forces were murdering people on three continents from the 1890’s onwards and while at first when he joined up he thought he was fighting for democracy it soon became clear to him that he was murdering people for Standard Oil, Coca Cola and numerous other large US corporations dressed up as a drive for democracy.

    He at least had the decency to own up to what he and others before him had done but most people in the US still see the start of the rot only after WW2. Look at the fantastic architecture pre-1900 all over South and Central America and Mexico. These were wealthy countries at one time, what happened to them? US interference happened to them.

    • Replies: @Observator
  15. @Proximaking

    Our participation in World War II was imperialism on steroids. The historian Murray Rothbard succinctly described it this way, “Our entry into World War II was the crucial act in foisting a permanent militarization upon the economy and society, in bringing to the country a permanent garrison state, an overweening military-industrial complex, a permanent system of conscription. It was the crucial act in expanding the United States from a republic into an Empire, and in spreading that Empire throughout the world, replacing the sagging British Empire in the process. It was the crucial act in creating a Mixed Economy run by Big Government, a system of State-Monopoly-Capitalism run by the central government in collaboration with Big Business and Big Unionism. It was the crucial act in elevating Presidential power, particularly in foreign affairs, to the role of single most despotic person in the history of the world. And, finally, World War II is the last war-myth left, the myth that the Old Left clings to in pure desperation: the myth that here, at least, was a good war, here was a war in which America was in the right. World War II is the war thrown into our faces by the war-making Establishment, as it tries, in each war that we face, to wrap itself in the mantle of good and righteous World War II.”

    • Agree: Old Brown Fool
    • Thanks: Orville H. Larson
  16. So Rummy is now a dead psycopath. Dubya seems in good health and Cheney of course will never be completely dead.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  17. jFranklin says:

    “did not blench when al qaeda flew a plane in the pentagon” wow! what planet are you from ? a plane hit the pentagon and just disappeared? or how about when rummy was asked about building 7 by Mancow, and rummy said he never heard about building 7….Nixon was right!

  18. KA says:

    “Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war.”

    Streetlights intoduce the potentials of undermining MS -13’s case for stabbing and raping the underage and the elderly victims .

  19. @Phipps

    This article omits one basic fact: Like everyone else in Washington D.C., Rumsfeld was a servant of Israel…

    Cockburn himself is a servant of Israel, forever deflecting attention away from the ultimate source of 9-11 wars.

  20. Barzini says:

    How did the invasion of Iraq help Israel? Israel and Iraq had no common border. Saddam Hussein was no threat to Israel. He may have given fiery anti-Israeli speeches, but so what?

    • Replies: @animalogic
  21. @WorkingClass

    “Cheney of course will never be completely dead”
    Only the living, those endowed with some form of “soul” (even if probably finite) can die.
    Cheney is Death personified in flesh… like a talon in a sock puppet.

  22. @Barzini

    I care not a jot for Israel, but didn’t he (SH) launch a series (42?) of Scud missiles at Israel during Gulf War 1 in 1991?

    • Replies: @Patrick McNally
  23. Typically, he responded to this by banning his staff at the Pentagon from using the word “quagmire”

    Giggity giggity burn in Hell, Rummy!

  24. @animalogic

    The real motivation for the men from JINSA was to quickly replace the Cold War as a rationale for supporting Israel. Neocons around Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson had campaigned around Soviet Jews and the Cold War became the rationale for steady support to Israel. When the Cold War ended there started to appear voices suggesting that maybe now the US does not need to be so fixed on backing Israel. The goal of neocons writing about “A Clean Break” was to get the US involved in a campaign in the Mideast where it would be easy to “No one supports us more than Israel!” It’s true that Netanyahu, all else being equal, would have preferred a war in Iran. But neocons realized that it would be easier to sell a war in Iraq to the US public. Then once the US was snagged in this, it became easy to spread the message that “We must continue supporting Israel because Israel understands our problems with the Muslims the best!” That was the neocon aim. With the way that the Democrats are now trying to play up to black voters who often express pro-Islam sentiments this may eventually be an unmanageable tight-rope walk for them.

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