Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Riddle Me This, Rumsfeld! 

Pentagon Deleted Rumsfeld Comment

The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.

At issue was a passage in Woodward's "Plan of Attack," an account published this week of Bush's decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in January 2003 that he could "take that to the bank" that the invasion would happen.

Pentagon officials omitted the discussion of the meeting from a transcript of the Woodward interview that they posted on the Defense Department's Web site Monday. Rumsfeld told reporters at a briefing yesterday that he may have used the phrase "take that to the bank" but that no final decision had been made to go to war.

"To my knowledge, a decision had not been taken by the president to go to war at that meeting," Rumsfeld said. "There was certainly nothing I said that should have suggested that, and any suggestion to the contrary would not be accurate."

Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: "I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen."

The transcript made it clear that the foreign dignitary Woodward was discussing was Bandar, although Rumsfeld would not say that. "We're going to have to clean some of this up in the transcript," Rumsfeld said in the omitted passage. "We'll give you a -- I mean you just said Bandar and I didn't agree with that so we're going to have to -- I don't want to say who it is but you are going to have to go through that and find a way to clean up my language too."

All told, the Pentagon transcript omits a series of eight questions and answers, some of them just a few words each. Yesterday Rumsfeld described the deleted passages as "some banter."

Hey! They's funny!

Rumsfeld really does have a sense of humor, despite acting, looking, and speaking generally like a less articulate, angrier Robert McNamara. But that little joke he just made, is, well, it's...

wait a second, aren't these the guys who harbor terrorists? Shouldn't we be not tolerating them or something?

Speaking of angry Robert McNamara, apparently, Air Force One's in-flight movie lately has been The Fog of War.Much like this, from the B/C '04 campaign site:

How to explain? Well, first of all they're so convinced of the stupidity of their goddam electorate, that they can be pretty sure no one will actually read "Plan of Attack," and if they do, they'll just read what I like to call the "Hard-on for strong leadership" sections about how "decisive" Bush is.

Greil Marcus on the Fog:
Throughout a long talk arising from Morris's 2003 documentary The Fog of War, moderator Mark Danner pressed the former Secretary of Defense--under Kennedy and Johnson the tribune of the Vietnam War--to apply his conclusions from that time to the present day. Again and again, McNamara--at 88 in frightening command of his faculties, vehement, direct, lucid, at times even monomaniacally focused--ignored the question, dodged it, refused it, denied it. Finally Danner announced that he would read the "Eleven Lessons" from McNamara's 1995 In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam: "I'll ask you while I do so," he said, "to keep the present situation in mind."

One by one, the items went off like small bombs: "'We failed to...We failed to...We failed to...We failed to draw Congress and the American people into the pros and cons of a large-scale military action before it got underway...We did not realize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient...We do not have the God-given right to shape other nations as we choose...'"

"When I read these lessons again I felt a chill go through me," Danner said. "I was in Iraq. In October, reporting...they seemed to reflect with uncanny accuracy--it's for that that I've tried to push you, not only about--" McNamara cut him off.

"What he has done," he said to the audience, "is extract those lessons from this book. The lessons are in there...I put them forward not because of Vietnam, but because of the future!" He turned to Danner: "You want me to apply them to Bush. I'm not going to do it." He turned back to the audience, full of people who decades ago fought him with everything they had. "YOU APPLY THEM TO BUSH."

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