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The World They Made
February 13, 2014 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Mark Danner has been writing a series in the New York Review Of Books: Rumsfeld's War And Its Consequences Now
A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a sixty-nine-year-old politician and businessman—a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful—returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:
Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]

Donald Rumsfeld Revealed [unfortunately paywalled, and I have yet to develop a workaround]
“Was it a failure of the imagination,” Morris asks, “or a failure to look at the intelligence that was available?”

It is the film’s most telling question, and though it passes quickly, for just an instant the entire elaborate scaffolding of tricked-up epistemological skepticism, promoted in the title of Rumsfeld’s memoir and now with lethal irony in that of Morris’s film, trembles and wobbles, exposed as the bare rhetoric of self-exculpation. Twice in the film, and with undisguised pride, Rumsfeld offers us this philosophy:
There are known knowns, the things we know we know. There are known unknowns, the things we know we don’t know. There are also that third category of unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know we don’t know. And you can only know more about those things by imagining what they might be.
Rumsfeld: Why We Live In His Ruins [paywalled too]
A perfect little chamber play of dysfunction: the American proconsul in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, secretly demands that 30,000 more soldiers be sent to Iraq, having neglected to mention this to the general who actually commands American forces there or to the president’s national security adviser, to whom Bremer supposedly reports. The secretary of defense, to whom he also supposedly reports, feels compelled to act out his shock and regret before the president.
In The Darkness Of Dick Cheney
The pinnacle of power had been attained not in Baghdad but long before, when the leaders decided to set out on this ill-starred military adventure. By invading Iraq Bush administration policymakers—and at their head, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—had managed to demonstrate to the world not the grand extent of American power but its limits. The most one could say is that the “demonstration model” had had the opposite result of that intended, encouraging “rogue states,” faced with the prospect of an aggressive United States determined to wield its unmatched conventional military forces, to pursue the least expensive means by which to deter such an attack: nuclear weapons of their own. Now the Iraq war suggested that even if the Americans did invade, a determined core of insurgents equipped with small arms, suicide vests, and other improvised explosive devices might well be enough to outlast them, or at least outlast the patience of the American public.
Documentarian Errol Morris (and "his secret weapon for unsettling interviews"), famous for his work in and on former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, has created a new piece on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, called The Unknown Known. "As an investigation, The Unknown Known adds little to our memory of Rumsfeld’s press conferences and his lugubrious ruminations over what words meant. The marvel of the film (and of other Morris projects) is the cold lucidity of the light in undeviating close-up on the “witness.” " The film focuses on the memos Rumsfeld sent, and still sends, the "snowflakes." Morris wrote about his experience for Vanity Fair:
He was clearly proud of the role that he had played in the Bush administration. I realized right away that the film I hoped to make was not going to be a story about someone who felt remorse. In fact, when I asked Rumsfeld about The Fog of War—my film about Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Vietnam War—he told me that he didn’t like it. He said that McNamara didn’t have anything to apologize for.
Last year, Showtime made a documentary focused on another prominent Bush Adminstration figure: The World According To Dick Cheney. Reviewed in the New York Times:
“The World According to Dick Cheney” has interesting insights and revealing moments, but for critics who long to confront Mr. Cheney it may prove dissatisfying, because it allows him to make astonishing assertions without direct contradiction or follow-up questions.
"Essentially, Cheney has one answer for most questions: I did what I believed was right, not what I thought would be popular." Dick Cheney was apparently displeased with how he was portrayed.

Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was instrumental in creating the Office of Special Plans, which was formed specifically to stove-pipe favorable intelligence directly to the Secretary of Defense and the White House, outside of the normal analysis and vetting process. While Danner characterized Paul Wolfowitz as a "neoconservative true believer," Andrew Bacevich wrote An Open Letter To Paul Wolfowitz in Harper's Magazine last year:
Even during the 1990s, those who disliked your views tagged you as a neoconservative. But the label never quite fit. You were at most a fellow traveler. You never really signed on with the PR firm of Podhoretz, Kristol, and Kagan. Your approach to policy analysis owed more to Wohlstetter Inc. — a firm less interested in ideology than in power and its employment.

I didn’t understand this at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which your thinking mirrors that of the nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter. Your friend Richard Perle put the matter succinctly: “Paul thinks the way Albert thinks.” Wohlstetter, the quintessential “defense intellectual,” had been your graduate-school mentor. You became, in effect, his agent, devoted to converting his principles into actual policy. This, in a sense, was your life’s work.
In 1992, the New York Times reported on a leak of a Department of Defense policy statement authored by then-Undersecretary Wolfowitz:
What is most important, it says, is "the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the U.S." and "the United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated" or in a crisis that demands quick response.
Wolfowitz talked about the policy guidance to Vanity Fair.

What it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003 via Brad DeLong.

Unstated Findings of the Detainee Treatment Report: Bush/Cheney & Co. Are War Criminals
posted by the man of twists and turns (89 comments total) 113 users marked this as a favorite

 
ah, missed a bit. Henry Farrel at Crooked Timber argues that President Obama should make de jure what is already de facto, and issue a blanket pardon to former Vice President Cheney.

I'll close with the great Thucydides, via:
[W]ar... proves a rough master that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes... the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning.... Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:29 PM on February 13 [34 favorites]


I used to be a lot more politically active, or at least interested. It was during the protests for the iraq war - particularly IN New York City, one of the cities which suffered the very attacks which the war was supposed to be addressing, except we all knew it was bullshit - that I realized that this kind of protest doesn't work, because the deck is stacked against us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


There are known knowns, the things we know we know. There are known unknowns, the things we know we don’t know. There are also that third category of unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know we don’t know. And you can only know more about those things by imagining what they might be.

This always struck me as very true, and it was the first I ever heard of someone talking like that. I apply it in my life when I think of making significant changes. It is, of course, an extremely good argument against doing things like invading a country and increasing by a thousand times the number of unknown unknowns you must encounter.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:40 PM on February 13 [47 favorites]


I think it's the "imagining" part that is problematic. I'd prefer something I little more concrete, like hypothesize. Because one is using reasoning, the other is fantasy.
posted by Big_B at 12:43 PM on February 13


Damn -- awesome title, awesome post ... and tomorrow is another snow day, so I might just get to read it all.

Thanks.
posted by allthinky at 12:46 PM on February 13


This always struck me as very true
me too! it's a type of Johari window, but Rumsfeld left off the fourth category (which makes up the title of the Morris' documentary) and Zizek wrote about the unknown known in 2004, w/r/t Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo:
If Rumsfeld thinks that the main dangers in the confrontation with Iraq were the "unknown unknowns," that is, the threats from Saddam whose nature we cannot even suspect, then the Abu Ghraib scandal shows that the main dangers lie in the "unknown knowns" - the disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene practices we pretend not to know about, even though they form the background of our public values.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:47 PM on February 13 [34 favorites]


I wish I could remember which book or article I had read this in, but I remember a very good piece on how the Bush Administration's public-facing salesmanship for the Iraq War had depended so much on possibilities and prevarication. Not the certainty that Iraq had posed a concrete threat to the US, but the mere image of the possibility of a mushroom cloud over DC, thanks to the failure of the US to act quickly enough.

It was an appeal to gut and muscle, as opposed to head-heavy over-analysis. In the wake of 9/11, this appeal was irresistible to many Americans. It was a Rambo II moment: do we get to win this time? Too many Americans did not want to hear from a Smart Person that military action against Iraq would be counterproductive and silly. No, they wanted to hear from their Leader that they were all going to kick ass. They wanted the world to realize that it had awakened a sleeping giant. For many Americans, nothing that Iraq had ever done was even one-tenth as important as the fact that we had an opportunity to kick ass again: we had "beaten" Iraq once before, and now was a fine time to "finish the job", whatever that meant. The vague, shifting cloud of public-facing motives for the war was another symptom of this pathology: were we there to prevent an attack? to get rid of WMDs, which could eventually be used for an attack? To "free" the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein, to bring democracy to the region?

The Bush administration had their own motives for the invasion, ranging from neoconservative ideology to pure venality, but for the American public as a whole, it was often a less complicated recipe.

Anyway, I'm rambling.

Very nice post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:48 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Well if we are quoting Thucydides, the one classical quote that every IR student knows:
The powerful do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
posted by shothotbot at 12:49 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


I think it's the "imagining" part that is problematic. I'd prefer something I little more concrete, like hypothesize. Because one is using reasoning, the other is fantasy.

Hypothesis, why? We will be greeted as liberators! And if not, we can fake tearing down a statue.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:49 PM on February 13


In fact, when I asked Rumsfeld about The Fog of War—my film about Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Vietnam War—he told me that he didn’t like it. He said that McNamara didn’t have anything to apologize for.

Yumpin' yiminy. Way to miss the point, Donald.

Rumsfeld is like a walking negative example of why it is crucial in life to critically examine yourself and your beliefs. It's as if the man literally lacks the capacity to understand that he may ever have been wrong or mistaken about anything.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:55 PM on February 13 [18 favorites]


Dick Cheney was apparently displeased with how he was portrayed.

It didn't convey what a big-hearted guy he really is.
posted by homunculus at 1:01 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Housman:
...they must still
Wrest their neighbor to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And I a stranger, and afraid, in a world that Rumsfeld (& co.) made.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:03 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


Remember when Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face and got away with it?

There's a metaphor about the Bush administration in there somewhere.
posted by logicpunk at 1:08 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity....
posted by temporicide at 1:12 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Bush to Rumsfeld two weeks after 9/11: "I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels."

You know, very shortly after 9/11 the NYT ran an article whose headline read something like "Bush Administration Developing Plan to Invade Iraq". I remember yelling at my computer screen, "IRAQ?!?"

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here, other than the Iraq plan was pretty transparent from the get go.

Just for the millionth time: Iraq. Who had nothing to do with 9/11.

Rumsfeld and all the other war criminals from that administration can go suck lemons.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:15 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Remember when Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face and got away with it his injured friend to apologise on national TV for putting his face in the way of the gun?

FTFY, etc.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:24 PM on February 13 [19 favorites]


I've said this before on here, but fairly recently I was at the gym and Fox was on because of course it was and they were talking about marijuana legalization. And one of the guys up and said, basically, "Look, if we admit we were wrong on pot, that means we're going to have to go back and look at a lot of things we might've been wrong about and I'm not comfortable with that."

And that struck me was the essence of modern conservative thought, particularly among the Rumsfeldian set.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:31 PM on February 13 [91 favorites]


If Obama doesn't drastically change the new behavior of the Executive before he hands the keys to the next President, the full extent of the disaster of the Bush Administration is far from being realized.
posted by deanklear at 1:31 PM on February 13 [15 favorites]


From the "Cheney" link:

Quite apart from the large factual questions blithely begged, there is a kind of stark amoral grandeur to this answer that takes one’s breath away. Just as he was likely the most important and influential American official in making the decision to withhold the protection of the Geneva Conventions from detainees, Cheney was likely the most important and influential American when it came to imposing an official government policy of torture. It is quite clear he simply cannot, or will not, acknowledge that such a policy raises any serious moral or legal questions at all...For Cheney the question is not only “not a close call.” It is not even a question.

The utter refusal to acknowledge, even in hindsight, that there may have been some failures in intelligence, in judgement, or in execution is mindboggling. It's as if every decision and statement issued from his hand was made ex cathedra. And there is no serious prospect of anyone having to justify themselves for their actions in administration, never mind face any actual consequences.
The pardoning of Nixon by Ford and the subsequent impeachment of Clinton have done immeasurable damage to the healthy governance of the US. There is now no credible means by which the senior officials in an administration can be made accountable for anything short of the most egregious of abuses of power. The system is broken.
posted by Jakey at 1:33 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


According to The Blaze an "Al Qaeda-linked group is issuing paper bills in western Iraq featuring images of Osama bin Laden and the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in the September 11 attacks"

As I've said before, "mission accomplished".
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:36 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


According to The Blaze...

That's Glenn Beck's "news" outlet. I... wouldn't put much stock in their reportage.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:40 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Well, they have a photo of the alleged currency. It might be faked, but there's no doubt that (a) Iraq is a mess of chaotic groups; and (b) some are at least aspirationally Al-Qaeda, to the extent that that name means anything any more. My point is that this wasn't true under Saddam. Like other dictators, he was there for himself.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:46 PM on February 13


I can almost feel sorry for George W. Bush. It really seems like he was an affable, not particularly bright, but electable schmoe who the grotesque and diabolical Cheney and Rumsfeld used to get themselves into the key points of power. We look at the failures and disasters of that area an call them The Bush Administration even though he was clearly just the "face" for the operation. He was just the kind of trust fund boob who wanted to hang with the cool kids. There's a world out there where Cheney and Rumsfeld were convicted and punished for their crimes and not allowed to die peacefully in their sleep; ours is sadly not that world.
posted by Legomancer at 1:54 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I can almost feel sorry for George W. Bush. It really seems like he was an affable, not particularly bright, but electable schmoe who the grotesque and diabolical Cheney and Rumsfeld used to get themselves into the key points of power.

I can't feel bad for Bush. They ran the same con with Reagan.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:00 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


The known unknown unknown unknown thing has been a seminar trope for a long time. The first time I heard it was in the late 1990's in a Landmark Education seminar and it was well-worn at that time. Their script even called for a pie chart, which I will do in bars since I can't do a pie in ascii.

|--| the things you know you know
|----| the things you know you don't know
|-----------------------------------------| the things you don't know you don't know

It was an element of a lecture on blind spots. We all have them and your only chance is to approach other people with different points of view with your mind open. I wonder if Rumsfeld got that lesson.

Also the John Judis New Republic article is interesting. He includes:

what I discovered from my brief experience at the CIA was that most of the analysts were opposed to an invasion.

Some of them surely knew things Rumsfeld didn't know he didn't know but I don't know if he listened to them.
posted by bukvich at 2:02 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I can almost feel sorry for George W. Bush. It really seems like he was an affable, not particularly bright, but electable schmoe who the grotesque and diabolical Cheney and Rumsfeld used to get themselves into the key points of power.

Well, but what about:

Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]

I mean, it's hard to read that and not come away with the impression that Bush was downright evil, whether or not he had a coherent or rational agenda.
posted by clockzero at 2:04 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Reading just the pull quotes above brought back so much of the negativity of the era. George W. Bush has had a fast rehab of his image in retirement, but he presided over a dark, stupid time.
posted by letitrain at 2:10 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


> I mean, it's hard to read that and not come away with the impression that Bush was downright evil, whether or not he had a coherent or rational agenda.

Would you blame Lennie Small or Ender for their crimes?
posted by morganw at 2:13 PM on February 13


Rumsfeld is like a walking negative example of why it is crucial in life to critically examine yourself and your beliefs. It's as if the man literally lacks the capacity to understand that he may ever have been wrong or mistaken about anything.

The guy resides somewhere on the socio/psychopath continuum. There is no "there" there in terms of an internal life.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:14 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Bush wasn't evil. He was just incredibly stupid. He was the privileged child of a powerful politician and he was not qualified to be the President.
There is one story about Bush's particular brand of certainty I am able to piece together and tell for the record.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have an army."
*I have dibs on that book title
posted by deanklear at 2:15 PM on February 13 [24 favorites]


Relevant(?):
FRONTLINE: Rumsfeld's War(2004)

See also: Bush's War, Cheney's Law, The Dark Side, The Insurgency, The Torture Question..
Maybe just take a couple sad days and watch ALL(read:many) the FRONTLINE

*sneaks back up-thread to RTFA*
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 2:18 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why we're arguing about this in 2014, but George W. Bush strikes me as a person of around average intelligence. Without some intelligence or cunning you don't get to be President of the U.S. You just don't. What he apparently lacked was the intellectual curiosity and humility to educate himself on issues or learn from his mistakes. He seemed to just not care to. He was Bill Lumbergh elevated to managing all of us.

At any rate, thank Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning for the leaks which prompted Iraq to not renew the Status of Forces agreement, forcing the "voluntary" withdraw of the massive US troop presence Obama wanted to keep in Iraq.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:20 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Far be it for me to defend George Bush, but I have heard lots of Americans say things of astonishing ignorance about my adopted home. The confusion with Switzerland is so common as to be expected. And even Sweden isn't sure if she has an army. For a time last year there was not one artillery battery - not one - in serviceable condition. The minister of defense admitted that the country would not last a week if the Russians attacked and no one came to help (Sweden is not a member of NATO). That country without an army? Bush's belief wasn't actually too far from the truth.
posted by three blind mice at 2:40 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The quote (from this NYT aricle by Ron Susskind) about the Bush presidency that resonates with me to this day, and I read it many years ago now, is the following:

"The aide [Karl Rove] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Realpolitik: the ugliest game humans play. Like in most games there supposedly are rules, and thieving, lying, murderers, should be held accountable for their actions (after judicious study).
posted by nikoniko at 2:52 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


The paywalled articles can be found on Mark Danner's own website
Rumsfeld, why we live in his ruins
Donald Rumsfeld revealed
posted by ouke at 2:52 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


If Obama doesn't drastically change the new behavior of the Executive before he hands the keys to the next President, the full extent of the disaster of the Bush Administration is far from being realized.

I'm afraid it's too late - that bus has left the station and I'm afraid that Obama was the conductor. The only time something could have been done was immediately after the 2008 election. A Nurnberg style tribunal might have had some impact. However, now, regardless of what Obama does on his way out, the precedent has been set for:

Torture - subverting the UCMJ
Destruction of the 4th Amendment
Destruction of the 6th Amendment

The result of this is that any time a President decides to do so, she or he can cite Executive Power and the precedent of the Iraq War.

I hate to be gloomy, but I think the country we thought we knew is gone for good. I should note that it doesn't stop me from being involved in politics, but I don't believe we can put the Bill of Rights back together again...
posted by BillW at 2:52 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I don't know why our culture has absorbed this ridiculous notion that "evil" is somehow correlated with intelligence. Ignorance and naivety have always been close cousins/useful tools of evil.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:54 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Bush wasn't evil. He was just incredibly stupid. He was the privileged child of a powerful politician and he was not qualified to be the President.

You say that like evil and stupid are mutually exclusive. He played a pretty significant part, to put it mildly, in starting both a massive war and a new age of war that has hemorrhaged hundreds of billions of our nation's public money, devastated whole countries, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocents. And he did it for ostensible reasons that he himself evidently didn't believe. That is evil.
posted by clockzero at 2:58 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


ouke, thank you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:41 PM on February 13


Honestly Bush is probably of well above average intelligence. Also, I would be doubtful that any single individual can have that much of an impact on anything. Obviously a President has much more power than most people but something like a war that kills hundreds of thousands of people and costs billions of dollars isn't just something that happens because some guy isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.
posted by leopard at 3:54 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'm still not over the Iraq War debate. I was called a traitor to my face more than once by Republicans and other idiots. Remember "Why do you hate America so much?" My blood is boiling just typing those words.

In my opinion, everyone who was in Congress at the time of the vote and voted to authorize military force in Iraq should resign and retire from public life. It was the single worst decision in American history, and they were in a position to stop it, and they didn't do it. Either they were too stupid to figure out they were being lied to, too scared of being voted out, or actually believed that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. All three of those cases disqualify them from holding office. I will never vote for anyone who voted yes for the Iraq War, and that includes Hillary Clinton.

Never forget what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and the Republicans did. Never forget.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:55 PM on February 13 [23 favorites]


Let’s talk American public responsibility for torture and Iraq

Cheney and His Clowns
On Monday, October 7, the conservative muckety-mucks came together at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan to roast the former vice president Dick Cheney. According to BuzzFeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith, the laughs were won by riffing on the most controversial policies of the George W. Bush administration’s war on terror.
David Addington: Cheney's Powerful, One-Man Legal Office
They've worked together for two decades and share a common goal: to gather as much power for the president as possible. A very private person, Addington rarely speaks to the press. Here, colleagues and journalists describe him, what he's like to work with, and the way he reads the Constitution -- and the powers it grants a president.
US Bullies UK To Keep Bush/Blair Iraq War Dialogue Secret
The inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, is believed to take aim at the official version of events, including misrepresentation of Iraq intelligence, as well as questions about whether former British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in secret negotiations with the Bush administration while lying to the British people.

Yet, the U.S. government is forbidding the release of communications between Blair and Bush in the lead-up to the war, declaring it classified information and pressuring British Prime Minister David Cameron to wipe this information from the report.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:57 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Never forget what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and the Republicans did. Never forget.

And all the Democrats who cravenly voted with them, repeatedly.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:03 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


The paywalled articles can be found on Mark Danner's website here and here!
posted by Bukvoed at 4:15 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Far be it for me to defend George Bush, but I have heard lots of Americans say things of astonishing ignorance about my adopted home.

Yeah, the President of the United States should have more than a passing acquaintance with a major industrial and military power.* Or any acquaintance. And then to correct an expert in international relations during a meeting, only to then go "O mah bad! Ur totes rite!"

GWB was and is an embarrassment.

(*To forestall the argument, who else builds their own damn jet fighters and tanks? Real short list.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:27 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


As a conservative I can't wait for the next Republican President to take up the powers that Obama has added to the Presidency. Forget about foreign policy, just think what we can do to confiscatory taxes and regulations with the toolkit Obama used to create the Dreamer amnesty when Congress wouldn't oblige.
posted by MattD at 4:36 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Dreamer amnesty - kids aren't dumped in a country where they don't speak the language.

Ignoring tax and eviro regs - West Virginia comes to YOU! One-termer. Do it. I defy them to.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:39 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


just think what we can do to confiscatory taxes and regulations

What's a "confiscatory" tax, and how is it different from other kinds of taxes? And what could a confiscatory regulation be?
posted by clockzero at 4:45 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wish that (lead) article were structured a little differently. The opening quote seems to imply that the Iraq war was a Bush idea, when it's later made clear it's comes from Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld himself.

Bush surely deserves the blame for starting that war, but I wonder what would have happened if he hadn't allowed Cheney to reconstitute an Nixonian cabal in the Defense Department.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:55 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Here's a fun idea for Metafilter. Hillary 2016, very probable.

A vote for her, a failure to punish her for her Iraq vote, is a vote for the warring to continue. Maybe other stuff is more important, but I know where I stand.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:58 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


MattD: "just think what we can do to confiscatory taxes and regulations "

You must be joking, right? I would turn somersaults if there was taxation at confiscatory level. Where would be the incentive to hollow out a company for quarterly results if your bonus is taxed at 90%? Where would be the incentive to reverse-in the debt after a private equity takeover, if the lending entity was in a taxable regime? Oh, the tragedy! Money remaining in circulation! Literally hundreds of Ferrari, Louis Vuitton and Chanel employees canned in order to provide a living to an entire nation's-worth of middle class. Oh the humanity!
posted by Jakey at 4:58 PM on February 13 [18 favorites]


vibrotronica: “I will never vote for anyone who voted yes for the Iraq War, and that includes Hillary Clinton.”
Right on. Hillary Clinton is an unprogressive corporate stooge. I'd sooner vote for Vermin Supreme and he wears a boot for a hat.


As for Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight from the Nixon and Ford Administrations, it's a harder call. Criminalizing political differences is a road down which lies madness. If it becomes a situation where you stay in power or you're hanged, or even just spend many years in prison, the over-under on how many more presidential elections will be held in this country is too low for my liking.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:59 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


A vote for her, a failure to punish her for her Iraq vote, is a vote for the warring to continue.

Alternately....

A vote for her . . . is a vote for the warring to continue.

She's one of the hawkingist hawks to hawk. There will continue to be no meaningful vote to cast in regards to foreign policy.
posted by absalom at 5:00 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Cheney and Rumsfeld are like evil, political Forest Gumps. Always in the background of some major fuckup or disgrace, seemingly surviving on sheer refusal to die.
posted by The Whelk at 5:01 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I remember watching the 2004 presidential campaign while working on a ranch north of Williams Lake, BC. We had satellite TV and dial up internet. Mek and I drank ourselves stupid and shouted at the gross venality of American TV from our tiny squalid bunkhouse. We watched Judge Mathis and The People's Court with our lunch after cold mornings moving handlines in the hayfields turned to hot dusty noon. We particularly enjoyed the commercials on Detroit TV stations at 3pm local time.

JG Wentworth means CASH NOW for your annuity or structured settlement!

We would listen to Metric playing over a muted CNN as we cooked dinner. Then, sitting in front of whatever creative use we had conjured that night for the 1200lbs of sterile bull hamburger in our freezer, we would howl with laughter and outrage at the day's recap on the Daily Show. A fifth of rye later, we'd go to sleep and repeat the next day.

Especially being stuck on dialup, Metafilter was a readily accessible ocean of sanity and portal to the outside world. Sometime after Bush won, Matt reopened signups. That day, mek paid his $5. A few days later he did the same for me.

So, I guess if I wasn't stuck on a ranch getting the intertubes through a 14.4 modem, and if the Iraq War hadn't happened, I might not have become a Mefite.

George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Doug Feith, this place has changed me immeasurably for the better, and it was you who made it a reality. If only you were all conveniently housed in a prison somewhere, I'd write you all a thank you note.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:10 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


You say that like evil and stupid are mutually exclusive. He played a pretty significant part, to put it mildly, in starting both a massive war and a new age of war that has hemorrhaged hundreds of billions of our nation's public money, devastated whole countries, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocents. And he did it for ostensible reasons that he himself evidently didn't believe. That is evil.

Right, but he literally thought he was a cowboy. He was trying to imitate Reagan, seemingly unaware that champions of apartheid, guerrilla war, and people like Pinochet and Saddam Hussein are not very welcome in the 21st Century.

When a reporter asked him if he had discussed the possibility of invading Iraq with his father -- senior having invaded just over 10 years before -- he said, "I answer to a higher father." Bush appointed a horse jumping judge who was fired from his job at judging horses to run FEMA, and as a result, lives were needlessly lost because simple cronyism. And I'm not even touching the issues of his idiotic militarism, shredding of civil rights, and bone-headed unilateralism. He was either prematurely senile, or a life-long idiot, and his policies created misery and death for millions of people across the world. But he was convinced that God would help him make it work.

So, I don't give it as a complement, but I do think he was too stupid to be intentionally evil. He just didn't know any better.
posted by deanklear at 5:54 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Remember when Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face and got away with it?

The guy apologized to Cheney
posted by thelonius at 5:58 PM on February 13


Most truly evil people are idiots blinded by unearned personal pride, various petty resentments, and the absence of certain core psychological components that, were they present, might make them understand their situation well enough to make less ignorant choices.

Hell, most old metaphysical systems explicitly identify ignorance (willful or otherwise) with evil, as if they were one and the same. Evil people are always venal clowns. Did Kim Jong-Il's adolescent obsessions make him any less evil? Of course not. Evil is a form of stupidity.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:08 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Yes, I meant to make it clear that even if Bush wasn't evil, the effects of his policies were. I think it's important to understand that bad policy can come from people who mean well than it is to revert to the good/evil paradigm. Idiot wolves in sheep's clothing are some of the more dangerous people on the planet. It's alarming that one was elected President.
posted by deanklear at 6:20 PM on February 13


Do I need to post Cipolla's Basic Laws of Human Stupidity again? Alrighty then.
posted by sneebler at 6:22 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


but he literally thought he was a cowboy. He was trying to imitate Reagan, seemingly unaware that champions of apartheid, guerrilla war, and people like Pinochet and Saddam Hussein are not very welcome in the 21st Century.

So you're saying Bush was too supportive of Saddam Hussein?

He was either prematurely senile, or a life-long idiot, and his policies created misery and death for millions of people across the world. But he was convinced that God would help him make it work... He just didn't know any better.

So all we have to do is replace him with someone with a very different biographical/psychological/racial/IQ/religious profile and America's foreign policy will dramatically change, right? Hope and change.
posted by leopard at 6:27 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I'd absolutely love to know how and why a thread about Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, and their evil somehow becomes yet another way for people to bitch and moan about Obama.

Come on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:31 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


This has nothing to do with Obama, that is the whole point. Politicians are figureheads, not action heroes.
posted by leopard at 6:35 PM on February 13


oh you just happened to quote his campaign slogan but you're not talking about him at all, gotcha.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:48 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Jesus, the density.

Yeah, you're right, government and politics are just about personalities and psychological profiles. See, this Bush fella was a dumbass and thought he was a cowboy and had daddy issues and thought God would make everything OK. And man, when he was in charge everything sucked. But then this new guy came up, who was black and taught Constitutional law at Chicago and was very thoughtful and intellectual and saw both sides and the shades of gray and didn't seem to have any interest in religion until he became politically ambitious. We couldn't ask for a sharper contrast. And of course, since nothing matters more than the psychological profile of the guy sitting in the Oval Office, we went from darkness into the light almost immediately.

I'm not bitching about Obama. I'm bitching about people coming up with theories of history that seriously hinge on what are essentially irrelevant biographical details. As far as I can tell Obama's biography is irrelevant to his track record as President. It's not like Obamacare had anything to do with his father or his time at Harvard Law or his experiences as a State Senator. Same for virtually everything else on the legislative agenda.

But yeah, I'm sure everything about the Bush years are best explained by his purported relationship to God, and if I disagree I'm just bitching about Obama.
posted by leopard at 7:22 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


So you're saying Bush was too supportive of Saddam Hussein?

Bush was a big fan of Vladimir Putin and Gadafi. If Bush had been born 30 years earlier he would have supported Saddam and the Shah too.

So all we have to do is replace him with someone with a very different biographical/psychological/racial/IQ/religious profile and America's foreign policy will dramatically change, right? Hope and change.

Well, since Obama hasn't tried to give a back-rub to a sitting Prime Minister, hasn't started any large-scale ground invasions, hasn't turned a somewhat secular mid-east state into a literal training ground for international terrorists, and hasn't presided over the costliest military campaigns in US history, I have to say that foreign relations have at least improved a bit since the election.

Not that Obama deserves a pass for his disastrous drone policies and his continued abuse of the Constitution, but he partially gets away with it because the Bush Administration was so colossally awful.

The GOP has to recognize the damage. I don't think they will see the Presidency again for a number of years. I think this likelihood is one of the reasons they are fighting immigration reform tooth and nail. Amnesty means the end of the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. So they'll fight immigration -- even though it's the right thing to do, and it will improve tax revenues, and it will help the economy -- none of that matters to the GOP.
posted by deanklear at 7:37 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Can we hold off on arguing about who we will or won't find pure enough to vote for in 2016 till we know who the candidates are? Because we're going to have those long, contentious threads here, and we can all hold forth on it then.

Bush was not stupid, just incurious and dull-witted from a lifetime of getting his own way and never facing any consequences for his fuckups. Without his family wealth, he'd be a middle manager somewhere, possibly even a semi-competent one. Instead, he was in a position to let himself be used to enable an unnecessary bloodbath to profit some of the worst people alive. He's responsible for shutting his eyes to reality and playing President, so the blood is on his hands too, regardless of how much of the strategy he understood.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The point of mentioning the father / higher father thing was not to suggest that "everything about the Bush years are best explained by his purported relationship to God," it was simply to illustrate that he was an idiot, and perhaps a petulant one who at least wanted the media to be clear he wasn't doing this under the guidance of his father, who failed to do it and was called various names for it.

So way to go with the whole disingenuous rephrasing thing and the disingenuous Obama reference followed by "WHO ME OBAMA WAHHH?"
posted by lordaych at 8:02 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in Iraq today: Clashes in Iraq's Anbar displaced 300,000. Hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes during six weeks of fighting between pro- and anti-government forces.
posted by homunculus at 8:04 PM on February 13


Once Kissinger said "we have no friends, America only has interests"
Now our president wants to be seen as a hero and he's hungry for re-election
But Bush is reluctant to risk his future in the fear of his political failure
So he plays chess at his desk and poses for the press
10,000 miles from the road to peace

posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:05 PM on February 13


> Criminalizing political differences is a road down which lies madness.

!

We're not talking about "political differences". We're talking about deliberately lying to start a war on false pretenses, a war which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans, set back Iraq as a country by 20 years, and sucked a couple of trillion dollars out of the US Treasury. And we're also talking about torture.

I hear this argument all the time. It boils down to, "No matter what evil things the President does, whether they're legal or not, lies or no, no matter what the consequences, e is forever immune from the slightest legal repercussions." It's wrong. It's wrong as a matter of law - and it's ethically wrong.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:23 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


> I don't think they will see the Presidency again for a number of years.

This is a complete certainly, as the earliest they could get into office is almost three years from now. But who knows what the future holds?

Americans have poor memories; they also like strongmen. In 2016, the Democrats could run Ms. Clinton, the Republicans could run some masculine, fatherly figure and clean up.

I'd also add that the Democrats have relentlessly alienated their base. The people who came out to canvass for Mr. Obama in 2008 did not come out in 2012.

And African-Americans won't necessarily support another Democratic candidate with the same fervor they did Mr. Obama.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:30 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''


They're all like that. You think I'm snarky when I'm here, man, you should hear me talking to people like that. It's all I can do not to bust their heads. Seriously. Some of them genuinely believe Jesus is coming back soon and so we can do whatever we want. Not hyperbolizing there in the slightest. Ashcroft for example "He has said he was anointed with oil "in the manner of King David" as he took each successive political office in his career"
They're really nuts.

So when I get here to talk to you people I'm keyed up. So if someone says something off kilter I get all bent out of shape because I expect reasonable discourse.

That said. I'd love to see the president pardon him, whether or not, he'd be potentially prosecuted for something. I'd say -especially - if he wasn't going to be prosecuted he should be pardoned. Just to say "yeah, we know we can't get ya, but you know what you did."
posted by Smedleyman at 8:35 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


The point of mentioning the father / higher father thing was not to suggest that "everything about the Bush years are best explained by his purported relationship to God," it was simply to illustrate that he was an idiot, and perhaps a petulant one who at least wanted the media to be clear he wasn't doing this under the guidance of his father, who failed to do it and was called various names for it.

So way to go with the whole disingenuous rephrasing thing


It makes no difference to either of our points if we talk about Bush thinking God would support him versus Bush being a stupid moron. This is not what we're disagreeing about.

And African-Americans won't necessarily support another Democratic candidate with the same fervor they did Mr. Obama.

Kerry and Gore each got about 90% of the black vote.
posted by leopard at 8:40 PM on February 13


> Kerry and Gore each got about 90% of the black vote.

Yes. I do note that African-American voter turnout was a great deal less for those two candidate than Mr. Obama.

Overall, my point was that it's extremely hard to predict the results of the 2016 Presidential election today. Yes, we informed, literate people feel that the reputation of the Republicans is irrevocably destroyed, but as I said, Americans have short memories and like strongmen.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:49 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Right, but he literally thought he was a cowboy. He was trying to imitate Reagan, seemingly unaware that champions of apartheid, guerrilla war, and people like Pinochet and Saddam Hussein are not very welcome in the 21st Century...So, I don't give it as a complement, but I do think he was too stupid to be intentionally evil. He just didn't know any better.

I hear what you're saying, but suspect I disagree somewhat with some premises there. I think you've got to be pretty seriously impaired before your lack of intellect is morally exculpatory and I don't think he's that dumb.
posted by clockzero at 8:51 PM on February 13


lupus_yonderboy: “We're not talking about "political differences". We're talking about deliberately lying to start a war on false pretenses, a war which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans, set back Iraq as a country by 20 years, and sucked a couple of trillion dollars out of the US Treasury. And we're also talking about torture.

I hear this argument all the time. It boils down to, "No matter what evil things the President does, whether they're legal or not, lies or no, no matter what the consequences, e is forever immune from the slightest legal repercussions." It's wrong. It's wrong as a matter of law - and it's ethically wrong.”
You're right, of course. I absolutely agree that Bush, et al., should all all have done time — even just a year and a day — in a federal prison, pour encourager les autres. I'd even support simply impeaching Bush and Cheney, although the consequences at this point would be largely ceremonial. I really would like someone, somehow to officially acknowledge that those things happened and censure the perpetrators in a manner that cannot be swept under the rug as mere partisan politics.

However, I still think it's a very dangerous game to play. We already know that the Disgruntled Burger Shack Employee Party, a.k.a. The GOP, is quite literally willing to destroy the fabric of society and eviscerate the very notion of self-government for personal short-term political gains. Hell, the ballot boxes weren't even put away yet when the AFP ran the story, "'Impeach Obama' on Facebook." The statistics on "impeach obama" start before he even won the nomination.

There are people who should be punished for their role in shameful torture practices, unjustified invasions, wasteful spending, et cetera, ad nauseam. I just don't see a way to do it that won't lead to worse outcomes and the erosion of freedom for the people.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:32 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I thought this was an interesting interview: 'The Twilight War' Between The U.S. And Iran
This is not a lie. I wrote a history that I think five people read because of the sensitivity of it. It is an absolutely fascinating story and 70 years from now when that thing's declassified people will look at Desert Storm and the invasion of Iraq - really, our whole wars with Saddam Hussein in a different light. But it's just not going to - and it's classified for some very good reasons. There is a lot of people's lives on the line if these things are exposed.

So, yeah. It's a fascinating job. Frustrating, again, sometimes because if your audience is only five people, well, what's the point of it sometimes? But I think it's important for the American public to have this stuff captured because eventually the stuff will get released and they'll know what the government's done in their name. And in many cases, it's actually pretty good stuff.
I wonder what he could be talking about that would put the Iraq war in "a different light." If Saddam's regime didn't have WMD's and wasn't really supporting terrorism, what could possibly have justified replacing it and leaving the country in ruins with 200k-1M dead and a closer relationship with Iran? I think this may just be more evidence that the military strategic leadership and the academic community surrounding them are slightly delusional.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:04 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


De la Vega's "hypothetical indictment" of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell that you are about to read remains, unfortunately, in the realm of fantasy.
posted by mikelieman at 11:33 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wonder what he could be talking about that would put the Iraq war in "a different light."
He's talking about the time after the Total Neocon Victory where forced lobotomies and cultural re-programming have made it impossible to have any other opinion.
posted by fullerine at 1:04 AM on February 14


All this talk of Bush as if he was something that happened in another century. The word "era" being used.

Guess what! It's STILL the "Bush Era". So what if there's a new face in the Oval Office. No justice, no change. Same-ol' same-ol'. Same era. You don't get to cancel history by refusing to examine it. You just have to eat more crow when you finally accept responsibility.
posted by Goofyy at 1:35 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Yes, at this point I believe the phrase "Bush-Obama" should see much more usage.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:14 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


surely this...?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 12:33 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


The known unknown unknown unknown thing has been a seminar trope for a long time. The first time I heard it was in the late 1990's in a Landmark Education seminar and it was well-worn at that time.

aha! i always suspected werner erhard did 9-11.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:37 PM on February 14


I haven't waded through all the links or comments yet. For me, there were two rather obvious knowns that doomed the war before it even began:

1. You shouldn't bomb a place you're about to occupy and rebuild to ruin.
2. After invading, give the opposition's army jobs, or at least something to do other than become looters or agitators.

Yeah, there were a lot of mistakes, but these were two obvious planning mistakes, not thought through before the war even began, that guaranteed the war's failure. Maybe Rumsfeld was too busy thinking up unknown unknowns.
posted by xammerboy at 4:34 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Rachel Maddow reports on a new initiative by former President George W. Bush to advocate for veterans of the wars he started and didn’t finish.
posted by homunculus at 6:34 PM on February 24


Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level
posted by homunculus at 6:34 PM on February 24


Opponents of Pentagon-Budget Cuts Just Played the Entire Media: Don't be misled by headlines about the Army shrinking to pre-WWII levels.
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Voices from Baghdad: Ten years ago Christine Spolar reported on the Iraq war. Last month she returned to find her old colleagues and friends living in fear, and a city traumatised by spiralling violence
posted by homunculus at 4:23 PM on March 9


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