Friday, June 13, 2014

The Known Unknown

Just watched the  documentary on Donald Rumsfeld. 'The Known Unknown'.

 As Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration, and in a couple of other existences in American Government, Rumsfeld was instrumental in turning America into the 'world beater' it is to-day.

He began his political career; after a stint in the US Navy, running for congress, in which he served three terms. He was given a portfolio and worked in the Nixon White House.  He was a 'useful' tool for Nixon but he ran afoul John Erlichman who attempted to torpedo him. It almost worked by Rumsfeld was assigned elsewhere and when the Watergate  scuttled Nixon and his 'plumbing department'. Rumsfeld happily dodged that bullet.

Which stood him in good stead as an aide to Gerald Ford. Working as Dick Cheney's boss, Rumsfeld claims to have changed Ford's idea of avoiding Nixon's mistakes by not having a WH staff. He and Cheney threatened to quit unless Ford saw things their way, Ford saw things their way.

When Ford lost the election to Carter, Rumsfeld spent some time in private enterprise as CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals where he 'turned the company around by downsizing 60 percent of the workforce, raising profits and getting a 'boss of the year' award. He also positioned the company for a lucrative sale to Monsanto. He also worked for General instruments and Gilead sciences before making a return to politics as Secretary of Defense.

He had hoped to run on the ticket with Ronald Reagan but was 'delighted' to 'make way' for George Bush senior, and that Reagan had opted not to run with the ex-president as his running mate. Reagan  would use Rumsfeld to meet privately with Saddam Hussein - offering a handshake the Rumsfeld now describes as "iconic" -  and not enough help to have Saddam beat the Iranians. He was sent because he had no direct political connection but it was thought his prestige as a former SecDef would impress the locals. It did, they lost. And I'd say it started Saddam a-thinking as to what America really could do when needed. Hence Kuwait.

Even though he was carving out a career in free enterprise, generally by paring costs to the bone and negotiating successful buy-outs, Rumsfeld was never far from the halls of real power.  The Clinton years were lean but the prospect of another Bush White House was just the kind of thing the Chicago-school believers, Ayn Rand mifflins and Neocon pattern-bombers were slaverin' about. Bushco won and Rummy and pals got busy. Dick Cheney had 'surged' ahead  of his onetime boss into the navigator's seat as Vice President - he would put his mark on that office. Rummy was picked for Sec Def and the Pentagon - with its cadre of Neocon 'warfighters' became his bailiwick.

In the documentary he guesses at the hundreds of thousands of  'memos; he generated. Obviously at some point - after the invention of a portable recording device, Rummy became very adept at hearing himself talk. Talk, and word and language, it seems, took on a fetish-like quality for him. Constantly looking up definitions and relaying them to others with his 'slant'  you might almost swear he had his retirement fund invested in dictionaries.  

The war years were good ones for him. he claims to have gone to war with the minimum he thought would 'do the job'. So when the job started to head south and eventually became the 'quagmire' he said he didn't do, things started to turn rocky with the neocons.  They got him first. By resigning in protest at 'how the war was being run' and then blaming Rummy for the quagmire from the safety of new jobs in right wing think tanks. That bruised him.  Abu Gharib polished him off.

The publication of the notorious photos had the same effect on America's war effort in Iraq as the Tet offensive did in VietNam. For all the embedding and trumpets at sunset on the media, the mall-trotters got a look up -  'close and personal' - at something that made them doubt that things they were told were right at all. Saddam's WMD's never showed up and the premise for the war had to be changed from 'self defense of civilization'  to, well, probably a good idea anyway. As things continued to not go well Rummy developed the markings of a scapegoat for beleaguered administration - he resigned (for the third time) and Bushco took him up on his offer.  He was out, the new team was in.

So rummy got to watch the denouement of his adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq from the  corporate box and I'm sure he's glad he got out before more shi*t stuck to him. Mercifully the 'A' team didn't win, either. But he probably already knew that.

Rummy come across in the documentary as the personable, happy smiling guy he no doubt comes across as. But his is the smile of the Great White - if they do that  - the purpose is to distract you from the fact that he's constantly looking for an advantage, seeking the edge.   He strike  me as somebody who gets mad, but then  gets even too. He strikes me as a psychopath."

 Robert McNamara did the same kind of thing years after his work on VietNam.  When he did that, an older wiser man looking back on some serious mistakes he seemed to be  seeking some reconciliation and even redemption. He admitted to some errors. Rummy doesn't 'do errors'. The best he could do was call Abu Gharib ' sickening'. Sickening perverted guards doing 'sexo', but the fact that thousands of Iraqis were warehoused there to 'get the treatment' didn't bother him a whit.  If only he didn't have to hear, or see that stuff.

"The good lord only knows" but I don't think Rummy has a conscience.

Otherwise he couldn't life with himself.

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