His Own Private Pentagon, Part II Updated
National Security Advisor Fran Townsend: “I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is.”
White House Chief of Staff Andy Card: “It isn’t you, Fran. He treats Condi the same way. Me, too. He’s always telling me I’m the worst chief of staff ever.”
Robert Draper’s article, “And He Shall Be Judged” kicks off with perhaps the most startling revelation of all, one worthy of an exclusive treatment of its own. Beginning in the spring of 2003, Donald Rumsfeld began hand-delivering the top secret Worldwide Intelligence Update to the White House. The WWIU was nothing new. But the ones that Rumsfeld was spoon-feeding to George W. Bush were festooned with warm and fuzzy color pictures of all the fabulous, humanitarian work being done in Iraq and were headlined with quotes from the Bible.
This is disturbing in a number of ways and on a multiplicity of levels. First of all, it conclusively proves that Bush referring to our actions in the Middle East as a crusade wasn’t a careless slip of the tongue but a true Freudian slip. The invasion of Iraq and of our actions in perhaps the most violent and unstable region in the world really are motivated by religion. Pentagon officials at the time were jittery that if these Moonie Times Meets the Bible Worldwide Intelligence Updates to the Oval Office were made public, it “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib” would later prove to be. On some level, to some degree, when Bush administration officials were vehemently denying that the invasion and occupation of Iraq wasn’t about the oil, they were perhaps being honest.
But on a deeper level, it’s harrowing that our Commander in Chief was having propaganda catapulted at him on a daily basis just as we were. All George W. Bush was doing was giving us his own spin on the spin that the Pentagon was giving him: That we had liberated the Iraqi people from an oppressive dictator and were giving them the chance to enjoy democracy, that Iraqi children were kissing our troops for fixing their bikes and throwing candy at them.
I would expect a Chief Executive of adequate intelligence to not solely go by such warm and fuzzy intelligence updates backed up with the words of the Biblical prophets who no doubt would’ve been horrified were they alive to see our actions in their homelands. But as long as Bush’s prefab notions of the righteousness of our mission in Iraq were confirmed by Rumsfeld’s propaganda, the politically naïve and sociopathic Bush could afford to remain in his bubble.
Back in 2005, about a dozen retired generals came out swinging at Rumsfeld when even White House flaks couldn’t dispel and spin away the suspicion that not all was well in the shining new hub of democracy and capitalism in the Middle East. To be sure, George W. Bush played his part even if only in signing off with near-complete ignorance the very policies that have crippled the Iraqi people to this day. But Donald Rumsfeld, Draper avers, is more responsible for how badly south things had gone in Iraq than even the most cynical of us had thought. Problems began cropping up two weeks into Shock and Awe and these generals bided their time and waited until their pensions were safely ensconced into their bank accounts before publicly criticizing their old boss.
It had been alleged of Rumsfeld that he was so hostile to the idea of nation-building in Iraq that he had reportedly threatened to fire anyone who even mentioned the phrase “nation-building.” Rumsfeld, I hope we all remember, walked into the Pentagon briefing room and told the press the day before the September 11th terrorist attacks that we were essentially going to outsource everything we possibly could to the private corporate sector from which he and Cheney had freshly emerged. During that speech, Rumsfeld actually said, “Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”
Shorter Rumsfeld: “We have met the enemy. And it is the Pentagon” just as Republicans keep insisting that government is the enemy. In ironic ways they couldn’t have imagined, they were both right.
During his all-too-long second tenure as DefSec, Rumsfeld had adopted a curiously bifurcated style of managing the Pentagon: While being ferociously defensive of his massive fiefdom, treating National Security Council advisors, high-ranking generals and even the White House Chief of Staff with utter disdain, regarding many of them as a threat, in micromanaging and overseeing every detail, Rumsfeld was also disengaged.
The complete lack of interest in nation-building was just one instance. The stubborn refusal to send the regular Army into the devastated Gulf Coast was another (Let’s not forget, the uninvited Blackwater was there long before our own military and wound up bagging over $70 million in post-Katrina contracts). One former National Security Advisor was quoted by Draper as saying, “Rumsfeld was more interested in being perceived to be in charge than actually being in charge.” Perhaps this is partly why Bush had felt a kinship with Rumsfeld: Our heavily-vacationed Decider obviously had a similar view of his presidential duties.
It ought to be noted that virtually all of Draper’s sources refused to divulge their names for fear they would incur the displeasure of their former boss, George W. Bush. Frighteningly, the loyalty to Bush is still there if theirs to Rumsfeld isn’t.
Far from being a partisan hit man, Draper also tried to show Rummy in a kinder, softer light to the point of disingenuousness:
Donald Rumsfeld demanded much of others, but also of himself. Even the commanders who loathed him appreciated how he stood up for them in wartime, especially during the pitfalls at Fallujah and Abu Ghraib. He did not whine. He did not capriciously fire—and, if anything, was too slow to fire those he found wanting. Quietly yet frequently, he visited the hospital beds of those he had sent into battle.
What Draper’s obviously forgetting is Rumsfeld not personally signing the letters of condolence to the families of troops killed in Iraq, preferring to have his signature rubber-stamped on them, instead.
Forgotten by Draper is Rumsfeld blaming for losing the Vietnam war on the low quality of recruits, which he’d referred to as intake getting sucked into a jet engine and slapping the collective face of his fellow Vietnam veterans. And also forgotten by Draper is Rumsfeld’s response to a soon-to-be Swiftboated soldier who’d asked him why they didn’t have enough body armor. Rumsfeld’s now infamous rejoinder of “(Y)ou go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time” suggested that he had no hand in the shoddy and slipshod planning of the Iraq invasion.
It’s only fitting that at a time when he’s going on his Albatross Around the GOP’s Neck tour that Dick Cheney would say at Rumsfeld’s Viking funeral that he was the best Secretary of Defense this nation ever had. Cheney has been wrong about everything under the sun, from deficits not mattering, to the OVPOTUS being detached from the Executive branch to everything Iraqi. Why shouldn’t he be wrong about his old friend Don Rumsfeld, a man who crippled an illegitimate administration already hobbled by hubris, arrogance, and laziness?