November 30th, 2005

In Which Donald Rumsfeld Goes to Hell

by Philip Baruth

Let us consider the responsibility-averse phenomenon that is Donald Henry Rumsfeld. This is the man who took credit for the Iraq invasion plan, and bragged that it was already being studied in the War College — then disowned it when it became clear that the invasion plan played directly into the hands of the insurgents.

rumsfeldThis is the man who several weeks ago told George Stephanopoulos that no one consulted him when it was time to go to war — although if they had asked, he’d have supported it. Beautiful.

Well, Donald Rumsfeld has been doing some thinking about this whole insurgency thing, apparently, and he shared some thoughts with reporters yesterday. From the AP:

“‘This is a group of people who don’t merit the word `insurgency,’ I think,’ Rumsfeld said Tuesday at a
Pentagon news conference. He said the thought had come to him suddenly over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“‘It was an epiphany . . . . I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe,’ he said. ‘These people don’t have a legitimate gripe.’ Still, he acknowledged that his point may not be supported by the standard definition of `insurgent.’ He promised to look it up.”

So there he is, Secretary Rumsfeld, at the sumptuous Thanksgiving table, reaching for the crystal salt shaker because the damn maid has never learned to make a decent gravy — in spite of the fact that he only two years ago gave her a copy of his mother’s own gravy recipe, which has been in the Rumsfeld family for God only knows how long — and it dawns on him: these insurgents in Iraq aren’t insurgents at all, because they don’t have a legitimate gripe.

Is there any man in twenty-first-century America more spectacularly unprepared to deal with the impoverished suicide bomber than Donald Henry Rumsfeld?

Is there any man who has shown less flexibility on elements of the war that are clearly flawed — troop strength, armor outfitting, etc.? Is there any man — with the possible exceptions of the President and Vice-President — more clearly responsible for a losing war effort in Iraq? Any man more visibly to blame for the systematic diffusion of torture techniques throughout the military?

Let’s face it: this was an old man who attacked Afghanistan with the world’s blessing, and routed the miniscule Taliban army on the cheap, and he loved the feeling — it was the fountain of youth. And he went after Iraq with that same hunger, and now he’s paying the real price: the fountain of death. This war is aging him, every day, with each new revelation about lies in the run-up, and each new indication that America will be humbled in the end-game.

There was something amped-up and vampiric about Rumsfeld in the days when his Special Ops boys were riding horses in the mountains of Afghanistan. He stood up at that podium with the Brill-Creamed hair and his hands held out in these operatic gestures, and he was loving this rush of life, this feeling of what can only be called superpower.

But now something more powerful still has fastened itself to his neck, and he knows in his bones that he’ll go to his grave ten years sooner because of the Iraq war. And that history will cringe at his name.

And he thinks it’s unfair.

And that’s why he broods at the Thanksgiving table, and refashions the terms of the conflict endlessly in his own mind. That, my friends, is why his chestnut stuffing tastes like white phosphorous ashes, and why it always will.