Secretary Rumsfeld is RAISING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.
September 3, 2002 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Secretary Rumsfeld is RAISING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS. [Quote inside.] Any links to substantive material on these questions, above and beyond an individual's personal opinion?
posted by sheauga (31 comments total)
 
From today's Rumsfeld briefing:
"I think also what's important is that people lift their eyes up off their shoelaces and go back to the fundamental and the fundamental issue is that we live in a different world today. We live in the 21st century. We're not back in the 20th century, where the principal focus is conventional weapons. We're in the 21st century, where the principal focus must be weapons -- unconventional weapons -- weapons potentially that could involve killing not hundreds of people but tens of thousands of people -- chemical weapons, biological weapons, potentially nuclear weapons.

And that means that we have to take that aboard as a people, and we have to talk about it, and we have to consider it. What does it mean? How does it conceivably affect our behavior? There are clearly risks to acting in any instance. But there are also risks to not acting. And those have to be weighed. People have to talk about them intelligently. These are important subjects for Congress, for the press, for the academic institutions, for the world community. And that's what this process is.

And I keep hearing people say, "Oh, Europe's unhappy with this" or "Somebody doesn't agree with that" or "Some general said this" or "Some civilian said that." I think what's important is the substance of this discussion. And I see too little attention to it and too much attention to the personality aspects of it, if you will, and to the trying to juxtapose what one person said against what somebody else said for the personality aspect of it, rather than for the substance of it. And if you think about our circumstance, when the penalty for not acting is September 11th, if you will, or a Pearl Harbor, where hundreds and a few thousand people are killed, that is a very serious thing. You've made a conscious decision not to act. And the penalty with that, for those people, it's a hundred percent. It's not one thousand or two thousand, it's that person is gone. If, on the other hand, the penalty for not acting is not a conventional or a terrorist attack of that magnitude, but one of many multiples of that, it forces people to stop and have the kind of debate we're having. What ought we to be thinking about? How ought we, if at all, to be changing our behavior? How ought we to live in this new 21st century world? What does it mean that tens of thousands of human beings can be killed in a biological attack if we allow it to happen as a society? Are we comfortable with that? Is that something that we've decided that it's so disadvantageous to take an action without proof that you could go into a court of law and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that something was going to happen, that the capabilities existed for -- of absolute certain knowledge, and that the intent to use those was imminent and clear, and you don't -- you may not have the type of certain knowledge. You may want that kind of knowledge in a law enforcement case, where we're interested in protecting the rights of the accused. You may have a different conclusion if you're talking about the death of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We're not talking about combatants here, we're talking about the kinds of people who were killed on September 11th. So it is that construct that needs to be considered. And it ought to be -- it ought to be talked about and well read through and thought about, it seems to me."
No, I don't work for the military. But given the gravity of the situation, I'd like to know what we link-happy people are turning up on the net these days that sums up our thinking on the way forward ...
posted by sheauga at 5:48 PM on September 3, 2002


Of course our situation is grave. It had been grave before Sept. 11, actually, and was grave through most of my childhood and teenage years. Remember the Cold War anyone? There was the threat of death every day. Sounds sort of like most of human history, sure, but people were conscious of the fact that death-by-nuclear-missle could come in an instant. But we could have died in millions of other ways. Life, when you think about it, is pretty grave on the whole. (Makes me think of the phrase "at-risk children" for some reason. All children are at risk. That the above phrase has become common in America says a lot about the mainstream's concept of risk and danger. Y'know, if your suburban or middle-class or better off, you're not "at risk." Sure. Whatever you say.)

So a lot of things haven't changed - like, say, the fact that a failure to consult Congress and the people before going to all-out war with Iraq would be unconstitutional. But the White House has put out the word that it wouldn't need any such consultation on Iraq, whose relation to Sept. 11 is not borne out in this press conference transcript and hasn't been anywhere else. It's good that the Defense Sec. is asking "the hard questions" but his peers need to accept the fact that others should be brought into the conversation, and not necessarily be accused of being flip or, worse, unpatriotic if they do so.

Again, though, much has changed since Sept. 11, by the way, but much else - like, oh, democracy (despite a shameful low voter turnout in elections here), the Constitution (with all its faults), the concept of just and unjust wars, etc. - has not.
posted by raysmj at 6:18 PM on September 3, 2002


raysmj, well put. Growing up with the constant threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation probably affects me in ways I can't even begin to conceive of.

Perhaps its about time congress took a good look at the War Powers Act and the executive branch's ability to start war at will.
posted by skallas at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2002


thanks for the link and quote, sheauga.
posted by azimuth at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2002


You may have a different conclusion if you're talking about the death of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We're not talking about combatants here, we're talking about the kinds of people who were killed on September 11th.

And Rumsfeld is arguing in favour of a potentially unilateral attack on Iraq with this statement? Because for all the talk of legal standards being frivolities, it appears that he, like Cheney, is prepared to stand as judge, jury and executioner on the Middle East on evidentiary standards that are markedly similar to those employed by the Iraqis themselves. Nation of laws, not men, indeed.

Back in the late 20th century, the focus for people who lived in London was unconventional weapons, and ones much less subject to speculation. Whereas the focus for people living in the north of Iraq was unconventional weapons, bankrolled by... oh, yes. Those people. It's frankly arrogant for Rumsfeld to suggest that no-one else is asking 'the hard questions'; it's just that others are not making such a fuss, because they had to deal with them long, long ago.
posted by riviera at 6:34 PM on September 3, 2002


Of course our situation is grave. It had been grave before Sept. 11, actually, and was grave through most of my childhood and teenage years. Remember the Cold War anyone?

The huge, HUGE difference being that during the Cold War you had a good idea who the enemy was. The enemies we were facing were nations who were willing to fight, at least to some degree, according to the Geneva Conventions and other "rules" of engagement. We are not facing that type of enemy now. We are facing enemies who feel that striking against civilian populations without warning and not admitting to their culpability is an acceptable way to conduct war.

This changes the dynamics of the situation drastically. Waiting for them to strike or admit to their act is futile, we have already seen that. Do we know wait until those that would support them can turn the situation into a Cold War, especially a Cold War against an enemy with no face? Where do you point missiles and send troops after a bomb smuggled into the US in pieces takes out a portion of one of our cities and cheers go up from many countries who breed this sort of hatred but no one stands forward to accept responsibility? The situation will not change over time, it just becomes more dangerous and less controllable.

It is a VERY different situation - and who would want to live under the spectre of such a thing again anyway?
posted by RevGreg at 6:46 PM on September 3, 2002


RevGreg: If you don't have a good idea as to who the enemy is, how or why do you go after "them" pre-emptively? What the hey? What good would it do? How do you know that you didn't get the enemy, and that another one may be back there plotting your descruction? Or that you'll make more enemies in the process? Etc.? You'll always be living under this "spectre." And you were before Sept. 11 anyway, whether you thought so or not.
posted by raysmj at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2002


Rummy: "I think what's important is the substance of this discussion."

Okay, Rummy, here's the substance of the discussion. Show us the weapons of mass destruction you keep claming Iraq is developing or shut the hell up. Or aren't you as big a man as Jack Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson?
posted by raaka at 7:02 PM on September 3, 2002


Oh, Rummy will show them to you personally raaka, just after he gets in there and finds them.
posted by semmi at 7:31 PM on September 3, 2002


1) Revolutionary war. The British had no clue what the enemy was like, and the way the enemy conducted themselves on the battlefield was not a widely accepted way of waging war.

2) If any country focuses on weapons as a priority, or who has weapons, I feel it is evident the said country is not interested in peace. If said country were interested in peace, they would be diplomatic, in whatever way they could.

3) During the Cold War, we had a known enemy (about as known as 'al Quada'... they were called 'damn commies'). Anyone could have been one ;)

4) We can not go declaring war all willie-nillie, without respect for our allies and friends. Without allies, all you have is potential enemies, and all that will ever amount to is more killing. That is the last thing we need.
posted by y0bhgu0d at 7:34 PM on September 3, 2002


RevGreg, I think your point does apply to al Qaeda, but not to Iraq. In fact, I think your point is an arguement for why Iraq would not wish to be involved with al Qaeda in the first place - it can only get them in deep trouble.

Here is an interview with Alex Standish, editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest, that is worth reading.

"There is also much confusion and, I'm afraid, ignorance within US intelligence circles about parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. There is an invincible ignorance about what al-Qaeda is and how it functions, and a complete misunderstanding of the internal politics of the Islamic world."
posted by homunculus at 8:09 PM on September 3, 2002


RevGreg said...Do we [k]now wait until those that would support them can turn the situation into a Cold War, especially a Cold War against an enemy with no face?

You have exactly described the entire cold war. Nothing has changed. The average person in the United States knew nothing about the Soviet citizen anymore than is known about the "enemy" now.

Nothing has changed. We have been at war my entire life. When I cowered under my desk waiting for the nuclear strike drill to end I knew just as much as I know now.

Our biggest defense is our laws and our adherence to same. Rumsfield is another in a long line of liers. Nothing has changed.
posted by filchyboy at 8:22 PM on September 3, 2002


Marginalia: This whole thread is a pleasure to read. I wish more people would link/read transcripts - reality is too far away as it is, never mind after all the pruning and filtering the media is forced to do. There's also a weird pleasure in reading them:

And with that, I'll be happy to respond to questions. Charlie?

Sick, I know... Thanks again, sheauga!

posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:27 PM on September 3, 2002


Sheauga, I think you're eagerly going along with Rumsfeld's rhetorical device. Look closely:

The fundamental issue is that we live in a different world today. We live in the 21st century.
...
there's no question but that this world of ours is living in a different time.


So the question is, what do we do about it, right? Well, this is a little device known as begging the question -- where you embed your conclusion in the premise. By the time we're answering Rumsfeld's question about how the world has fundamentally changed, we've agreed that it has.

And I don't. The concepts we've ostensibly been operating on all along -- democratic processes, consent among the branches of government, transparent systems of justice, seeking consensus for military action among our allies and among the people, waging only those wars that are necessary to wage -- are exactly the same ones we should be using today.

Yet many of those rules have been fudged by this administration: we've expected to give in to secret military tribunals, wars declared without congressional approval, unilateral overthrows of governments, wars without access by reporters, etc. The only way to convince people to swallow such disgusting measures is to hammer home the idea that everything has changed, the old rules don't apply, the old constraints are too constraining.

It is not true that everything has changed. It's our repsonsibility to snuff out that particular bit of propoganda.
posted by argybarg at 8:28 PM on September 3, 2002


he has not addressed any of the significan concerns that those of us urging caution have made.

brushing aside so many objections, by so many statesmen, military and nations so blandly illustrates the hubris of the administration.
posted by quarsan at 12:01 AM on September 4, 2002


Rumsfeld & co will never tire of putting bulls**t argument and logic forward to get more unchecked powers. That's what I read here. And he's spreading paranoia. And that's anti-patriotic. I can't wait for this bunch of idiots to go.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 12:22 AM on September 4, 2002


I agree with ugly_n_sticky. On the anniversary of September 11th I appreciate that America is in mourning and is concerned to prevent similar actions from occuring again. But it's crucial to get some perspective on the whole war thing.

America has lots of potential enemies and they can't all be defeated by dropping bombs on various nations. What's more, no war will ever guarantee against another terrorist attack of some sort. And to move the debate from terrorism in general on to 'weapons of mass destruction' is little more than a mass distraction. Plenty of countries have access to dangerous weapons - does America plan 'regime change' in all of them? No. Just those countries in the oil regions.

I have yet to read any evidence that Iraq was directly involved in September 11th or that Iraq is planning any kind of strike on US territory. The paranoia is not completely warranted.
posted by skylar at 12:57 AM on September 4, 2002


You would think that if 9/11 taught us anything it would be that sufficiently motivated people can use common artifacts (airliner, office tower) to cause mass destruction.

Not that chemical, nuclear, biological weapons ought to be ignored. But if the long-term safety of America is the point, it seems logical to spend more effort on understanding and combating the motivations that turn common implements into "weapons of mass destruction."
posted by sacre_bleu at 2:10 AM on September 4, 2002


One observation. Notice Rumsfeld's use of the word "Iraqis" as in: "It is the Iraqis that ended the inspections." Wasn't that the realm, of years past, that the Phonemes Of Evil, otherwise known as "SAAHDAHHM" were clearly annunciated? Why now suddenly a war against the Iraqis? It's always been against Saddam till now.

I wonder why?

Answer: They look just like Iraqis.

Does anybody else see the portent of this?
posted by crasspastor at 2:20 AM on September 4, 2002


Carthago delenda est.
posted by alumshubby at 5:17 AM on September 4, 2002


i was just thinking, back in the day, native americans might've been considered terrorists, like their way of life was contradictory to the idea of "america," so we destroyed it, ... and look where we are today! so like now anyone not in agreement (vehemently) is rounded up and placed on the rez (or cuba :) /me polemical

"We live, we die, and like the grass and trees, renew ourselves from the soft clods of the grave. Stones crumble and decay, faiths grow old and they are forgotten but new beliefs are born. The faith of the villages is dust now...but it will grow again....like the trees. May serenity circle on silent wings and catch the whisper of the winds."
posted by kliuless at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2002


Forget about showing us the proof on Iraq, why don't Rummy and Tony take their damning dossier to the UN? If it's as bad as they are leading us to believe then a UN mandate for action should be easy, or at the very least it should create some sort of coalition should Russia veto action.

But I'm sure they have a very good reason for not taking this document there.
posted by ciderwoman at 6:11 AM on September 4, 2002


I've been meaning to ask something, and I might as well ask it here: If Iraq cobbled a bomb together, how destructive could it be? And could they conceivably create a missile that could reach the US in the first place? Anyone have any idea?

The way Bush & co. have been talking almost suggests that a nuclear arsenal rivaling the old USSR's is about to pop out of the sand and launch at the US.
posted by picea at 6:40 AM on September 4, 2002


Rumsfield's speech seems to be little more than fluff

I think the war on Iraq gives people a lot of comfort. It makes them feel that they're doing something to stop future attacks (they're not) and that it distracts from the real possibility of successful attacks in future.

The sad truth is that while America has suffered the biggest terrorist attack in history it has not had to suffer a continuous stream of attacks. While the size of 911 was astounding, it's the constant threat of attack that results in most impact on your life.

I think the nightmare scenario is to get the war on Iraq in full swing only to have another major terrorist attack occur. This would, I think, reduce the enthusiasm for war as it would immediately remove the comfort factor and make the effort seem less rewarding.

I think Americans should start thinking more about the threat at home. They should push for improved airport security, and people should be more careful of unattended packages and suspicious vehicles. You may prefer to think of bombs in Baghdad rather than on your own doorstep but I think 911 proved this is not necessarily the case. In all this talk of war I think the reality is getting buried
posted by dodgygeezer at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2002


If Iraq cobbled a bomb together, how destructive could it be? And could they conceivably create a missile that could reach the US in the first place? Anyone have any idea?


I was just watching the news and 'bio weapons expert Richard Sullivan' said that Saddam had scud missiles and short-range ballistic missiles and was redeveloping a viral research facility near Baghdad. I have no idea what that means (in terms of anyone apart from the unfortunate Kurds, Iranians and Kuwaitis being attacked) but there you go. I can't imagine this dossier will say much more.
posted by Summer at 7:20 AM on September 4, 2002


The way Bush & co. have been talking almost suggests that a nuclear arsenal rivaling the old USSR's is about to pop out of the sand and launch at the US.

According to the experts the damning dossier probably says little or nothing about nuclear weapons but much more about chemical and biological weapons which seem to be a matter of public record anyway. I could launch into a rant about how the Kurds were gassed by Saddam while he was being funded by America - but I won't cos that'll just piss people off

I'm very surprised that there hasn't been some suggestion that the dossier contains information about Saddam funding terrorist groups which would gather much more public support for attack rather than information that seems to be over fifteen years old.

Ultimately, those who want war will get war and those that don't will be disappointed, dossier or not.
posted by dodgygeezer at 7:53 AM on September 4, 2002


I think the nightmare scenario is to get the war on Iraq in full swing only to have another major terrorist attack occur.
You're not the only one: "I'd prefer later than sooner," said a senior officer involved in the Pentagon's deliberations. "Can you imagine how it would look if we go to war against Iraq and there's another terrorist attack in the United States at the same time? People will wonder what we're doing."
posted by Dean King at 9:06 AM on September 4, 2002


"Can you imagine how it would look if we go to war against Iraq and there's another terrorist attack in the United States at the same time? People will wonder what we're doing."

For example, people might wonder why we're initiating a new conflict abroad, while at home, a year after 9/11, airport security is still a failure.
posted by homunculus at 11:11 AM on September 4, 2002


Okay, Rummy, here's the substance of the discussion. Show us the weapons of mass destruction you keep claming Iraq is developing or shut the hell up.

Judging by the overwhelming sentiment in the posts here - it is probably fruitless to point out that "Rummy" can't "show us the weapons" because no weapons inspectors have been permitted in Iraq for four years. It is frankly bizarrely disingenuous for Iraq to boot inspectors out - and then get away with claiming (along with American liberals) that no one has any "proof". Even more pointless, I suspect, to point out that the refusal to permit inspections is Saddam Hussain "unilaterally" breaking the terms he agreed to upon his surrender (UN Resolution 687).

Wonder if anyone would care to take a break from bashing Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld long enough to address the question of UN credibility - specifically, Iraq agreed to follow the terms of UN Resolutions (if he hadn't, he would not be in power right now ... he invaded a country, and lost his war - the allies did not persue him, but rather withdrew - because he agreed to the UN Resolutions). Since signing the documents, he has lied about compliance time after time, and at this point simply flat out ignores them.

Yet oddly enough - it is Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld - not Saddam Hussain - that seem to be the perpetual targets here.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:33 PM on September 15, 2002


[mild self-link]

MM: ...but we can't trust him anymore he removed our weapons inspectors and will not allow them back in unconditionally... posted by dash_slot- at 7:31 pm pst september 15 br>

[/mild self-link]
posted by dash_slot- at 8:26 PM on September 15, 2002


Ah, if only there was a way to bash Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld AND Saddam.
posted by semmi at 8:57 PM on September 15, 2002


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