Donald Rumsfeld Sad About Torture, Opponents of Torture

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Incorporating Washington Post Book World.Are you a small business owner looking (now that our economy is in Recovery) to hire an actual destroyer of human beings for your growing Torture of Humans business? In today’s competitive atrocity market, run-of-the-mill teenage terrorists with their scrotum-fuses and YouTube videos probably won’t get the job done (though they are notoriously cheap workers). You’ll likely need a death-monster with exceptional organizational skills, a man who knows desks and flow charts as well as he knows piles of nekkid prisoners. Might your reviewer suggest Donald Rumsfeld, with his résumé/memoir Known and Unknown? He might.

Of all the members of the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld is probably the best-qualified to write an actual book. His speeches and press conferences showed him to be a master of a strange sort of poetry, one closer to Zen koans than normal Pentagon briefings. You can find all sorts of examples in the collection Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Rummy is an intriguing poet. He’s philosophical and insists on Making You Think, but he writes plainly and readably. So many memorable phrases too!

Consider these two gems:

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The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
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 known unknowns,
The ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Needless to Say

Needless to say,
The president is correct.
Whatever it was he said.

Feb, 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

There is no poetry in Known and Unknown. Rumsfeld seems to be experimenting with a new-ish genre very popular with political folk, the “I’m really a pretty good guy” memoir. Or maybe it’s the “ain’t my fault bitchez” memoir. Either way, it’s all for freedom!

As you might suspect, Rumsfeld has much to say about Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Various pundits are beside themselves that he doesn’t say Sorry, which is completely baffling because What Did You Expect, etc.

Rummy on Abu Ghraib:

The acts were inexcusable. The photographs threatened to weaken public support and call into question the legitimacy of our ongoing efforts on the eve of the transition to Iraqi sovereignty.

Interesting to compare the length of those two sentences. Throughout the book, Rummy says he was outraged by the torture itself, but curiously he writes far more about the effect the release of the photographs had on public support for what he calls “the Iraqi liberation.”

I shared the sense of outrage, but the reaction to Abu Ghraib in some instances seemed exacerbated by motivations other than getting to the bottom of what had transpired and bringing to justice those who had engaged in the illegal acts. The shameful abuse at Abu Ghraib would be exploited by many: America’s enemies, of course, who skillfully used the outcry for their propaganda purposes; Arab governments that had an interest in making their populations think of the Iraqi liberation dangerous and chaotic; opponents of the war, who used the abuse to justify their position that the efforts in Iraq were immoral; and, most obviously, political opponents of President Bush seven months before the 2004 election. In some quarters, the reaction quickly veered into overstatement.

THAT’S what matters here, you see. Not the torture itself, but the effect it had on George W. Bush’s reelection chances. This is a slight improvement (?) over what the war-humpers were saying at the time, which your reviewer remembers as, “Well, torture by American soldiers might be bad, BUT AT LEAST WE’RE NOT SADDAM.” Now the standard seems to be, “Torture is bad but at least we’re not opponents of torture! Overstatement is the greatest terrorist.”

Known and Unknown has all the stuff you crave: Rummy’s first go-round as Secretary of Defense in the Ford administration; the famous meeting with America’s (at that time) good buddy Saddam Hussein in 1983; Rummy’s work in the Reagan administration organizing Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation (the chapter on that is titled, funnily enough, “Into the Graveyard of Empires”); his efforts to re-structure the Pentagon; all the wacky characters in the Bush administration (Colin Powell comes off badly, John Bolton well); eternal detention; torture, war, death, torture and so on.

His grand theme is twofold: 1) that all the horrors and crimes you associate with him really weren’t that bad, and 2) he’s not responsible for the horrors and crimes you associate with him.

Gitmo, Iraq, Afghanistan … it’s a good thing all of that unpleasantness went away when Rumsfeld was chucked out of his job.

Wait, what?

Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld, Sentinel HC, 832 pages, $18.55.

Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld., compiled and edited by Hart Seely, Free Press, 128 pages, $9.99.

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50 comments

  1. Weenus299

    It's one of those books you have to get just to show people how really philosophically fucked up the United States was in its pursuit of, whatever it was in the 2000s. The same way you'd want mein kampf to try and figure out what kind of crap was in that boy's head.

  2. meufchelou

    Well, it's garnering some good reviews on Amazon:
    "I love this book because I've had a crush on Don Rumsfeld ever since I first saw him on FoxNews.

    I used to watch him run circles around those pesky reporters in the Pentagon briefing room who were trying to get to the bottom of what was going on in Iraq or Afghanistan or whatever, and I would literally get weak in the knees with lust! President GW Bush had it right when he gave Rumsfeld a nickname: the RUMSTUD! No wonder Bush didn't fire him after Abu Ghraib!

    I just wish the RUMSTUD had included more details about his days as a competitive wrestler, and some pictures of himself in the locker room at Princeton. I'd much rather think about the RUMSTUD with his sweaty wrestling singlet peeled down to his waist then about Condoleeza Rice in her Ferragamo pumps. I like to fantasize that one afternoon (while my husband is out playing golf with his hedge fund buddies) the RUMSTUD invades our bedroom and puts me in a full nelson while Bill O'Reilly works me over with a falafel. I hope you get the picture!

    Anyway, "Known and Unknown" is going in the top drawer of my bedside table. That's where I've hid my personal WMD: the Golden Triangle Osaki Ultimate Beaver Vibrator! "

    1. chascates

      I thought the End Times were near when I first heard Michael Jackson was to marry Elvis' daughter but reading those reviews I now realize the End has come and I just didn't notice.

    2. baconzgood

      There is a fine line between "over the top" and "too much". You sir, walk that tight rope with skill!

  3. baconzgood

    I liked the other book excerpts better. Sure they are both about people getting fucked but this one doesn't read as romantically.

  4. ifthethunderdontgetya

    Point of order, Chairman Greer!

    All kōans are Zen kōans.

    Here's one A.K. posted on my blog today:

    If someone is techie enough to send email photos to people they barely know how come they aren't smart enough to not send photos to people they barely know?
    ~

    1. genxr

      The koan is not Zen.
      Attaining Zen is not Zen.
      The Buddha is not Zen.
      The student had a double bourbon and was enlightened.

  5. mumbly_joe

    Well, torture by American soldiers might be bad, BUT AT LEAST WE’RE NOT SADDAM

    My favorite version of this has to be, WELL, WE DON'T HAVE RAPE ROOMS. Except, it ends up, we did, in Abu-Ghiraib, and we raped prisoners, in addition to the handful we tortured to death. But no, TOTALLY DIFFERENT in our case, because we pretend there was no official sanction for it, even though there were CIA interrogators there when we tortured a guy to death.

    1. V572625694

      And what was the deal with "rape rooms," anyway, and Chimpy's love for that term. Is outdoor rape, or rape in a multi-purpose room, somehow not as bad?

  6. Radiotherapy

    I wonder if there is anything about tongue punching Bolton's "other " mustache….for the troops.

  7. Ancient_Hackery

    As you might suspect, even the title is cribbed. The original meme of "knowns and Unknowns" was originated by Norman Augustine, circa 1980. Rummie stole it, and kinda garbled it in regurgitation.

  8. Ancient_Hackery

    As you might suspect, even the title is cribbed. The original meme of "knowns and Unknowns" was originated by Norman Augustine, circa 1982.

    Rummie stole it, and kinda garbled it in regurgitation.

  9. Texan_Bulldog

    Race to the remainder bin: Donald Rumsfeld's 'It Wasn't My Fault' and Bristol Palin's 'I'm a Stupid Slag who Dropped out of the Luckiest Vagina Ever'

  10. OkieDokieDog

    Okay, I'll admit that I don't know much, but I do know this known : these fucking people (the whole gawdamn Bush Administration) did more to fuck up America, and create more terrorists (both here and off in all those brown/Muslin foreign countries & France, too) than any actual terrorist act. Don't get me wrong – 9/11 bad. These fuckers actions afterwards – badder.

    You can't say you're the Good Guys when you're NOT.

  11. PsycWench

    So…if I captured Rumsfeld and punished him for these terrible things he's done been associated with, and someone took pictures, that would be awful. Because if those pictures went public, I might never get tenure.

  12. Weenus299

    As we bone,
    There are known bones,
    There are things we know we bone.

    We also know
    there are boned unknowns.

    That is to say
    We bone some things
    We do not know.

    But there are also unknown unboned,
    The ones we don’t know we don’t bone.

  13. hagajim

    Here's what we know: Rummy is a huge DICK!
    Here's what we don't know: Why the fuck didn't just go away and die!

  14. prommie

    So, we took a few liberties with our renditioned and gitmoe'd party guests. Still, I put it to you, Greg, isn't your condemnation of the torture, the murder, the lies, the manufactured grounds for war, isn't this a condemnation of the entire military and intelligence establishment? And isn't this, then, a condemnation of our society as a whole? I'm not going to sit here, and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Golly gee no.

    1. HempDogbane

      Please carry this on to its logical conclusion. I'm standing by with a chair and a length of rope.

  15. ttommyunger

    One doesn't write a book with the facts he'd like to have, one writes a book with the facts he has; and tries to cover the difference with bullshit.

Comments are closed.