Thursday, November 1, 2007

Inside Rummy

Robin Wright at the Washington Post has uncovered memos from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that give an interesting insight into his views on Muslims, elevating the threat of war, and “sacrifice.”

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.”

Is it just me, or does Rumsfeld come off as just as much of a jerk in private as he did in public? In his mind, the war in Iraq wasn’t going badly because he and the rest of the neocons hadn’t planned on this being a long struggle, they weren’t prepared for the insurgency, and they didn’t send in enough troops with the right equipment or sufficient training in spite of the fact that anyone with a passing knowledge of human nature and geopolitics knew that going to war in Iraq would only breed resentment and terrorism against the United States and western civilization in general. No, it was because they didn’t sell it right and that damned liberal media wasn’t buying their propaganda that everything was just peachy. Look, schools are getting painted! But we weren’t buying it because “the wrong standards were being applied.” What standards could he possibly be talking about? Vietnam? Dresden? The Bataan Death March? Dr. Strangelove?

What’s perhaps the most telling thread running through these memos is that Rumsfeld’s primary mission was to basically scare the crap out of the country. That way the Bush administration could do whatever they wanted in terms of war and conquest. It’s not like there isn’t historical precedent for such thinking; it’s been the modus operandi of every dictator and warlord since they figured out that fear was the most effective method of getting what they wanted.