What’s truly striking and amazing about Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld is their persistent refusal/inability to reflect in any serious way on the immense moral, fiscal, and human costs of their failed wars. They are post-modern creatures – Rumsfeld never tackled an insurgency, he just “redefined” the word, just as he re-named torture – and you see this most graphically in Errol Morris’s small masterpiece, The Unknown Known. And so the very concept of personal accountability and responsibility is utterly absent. There was one flash of it: when Rumsfeld offered his resignation after the torture program’s reach and migration was revealed in the photos from Abu Ghraib. But even then, Rumsfeld was resigning because of the exposure – not because of the war crimes which he directly authorized.
And so it is fitting, perhaps, that after the massive misjudgment of the Iraq invasion and occupation, and after neglect in Afghanistan made that country even less safe from the Taliban, that Rumsfeld has the gall to attack the sitting president in a clear case of dealing with a foreign leader. Here is Rumsfeld, unable (unlike McNamara) to find a conscience within his massive, brittle ego, lashing out at the president yet again:
This administration, the White House and the State Department, have failed to get a status of forces agreement. A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius.
Here is the man who derided half of Europe and told the Brits they weren’t even needed on the eve of warfare talking about diplomacy:
United States diplomacy has been so bad, so embarrassingly bad, that I’m not the least bit surprised that he felt cornered and is feeling he has to defend himself in some way or he’s not president of that country. We have so mismanaged that relationship … I personally sympathize with him to some extent. Nobody likes to hear a foreign leader side with Putin on the Crimea the way he has. But I really think it’s understandable, given the terrible, terrible diplomacy that the United States has conducted with Afghanistan over the last several years.
So having described the first black president as inferior to a trained monkey, he actually sides with a current adversary of this country against his own commander-in-chief. There was a time when I would have been shocked by this. But Rumsfeld and Cheney can permanently reduce one’s ability to feel shock at anything.
A reader adds:
Rumsfeld fails to give his audience any hint of the fact that this is a problem that he made. America used to have no problem concluding SOFAs with its allies. Those agreements addressed Americans in uniform and provided that owing to the need for military discipline and control, the soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women) would be subject to military justice rather than the criminal justice system of the host government. However, under Rumsfeld, the footprint of the American military changed dramatically, and contractors came to constitute a majority of the force the US deployed. At the same time, American military and civilian justice failed utterly to deal with the contractors (think of the Blackwater contractors who massacred 14 Iraqis and wounded 20 more at Nissour Square in Baghdad in September 2008, for instance). These circumstances led both the Iraqis and the Afghans to refuse to sign a SOFA in the form the US sought, because the US’s terrible record (Rumsfeld’s record) of non enforcement. Thus, Rumsfeld created the problem and has made it increasingly difficult for the US to get these agreements.
The key problems, Iraq and Afghanistan, were problems under Bush as well as Obama, and were handled by the same professional team at the Pentagon. They really have next to nothing to do with the White House, under either Bush or Obama. But they have an awful lot to do with Rumsfeld and his scandalous mismanagement of the Pentagon.