It’s remarkable how much of the history we were taught in school was distorted or just plain wrong. Howard Zinn, famed historian and political activist, who died in Santa Monica in January of 2010, wrote “A People’s History of the United States,” which sold 2 million copies and exposed many of these falsehoods. The errors, however, should come as no surprise, for as Mark Twain reportedly said, “History is only the winner’s version.”
Recently former members of the Bush administration have been attempting to rewrite history via their “memoirs.” The latest is Donald Rumsfeld’s “Known and Unknown.” After reading it, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times suggested a more apt title might have been, “So many to blame so little space.”
Actually the book is 815 pages and derives its title from a Rumsfeld response to a reporter’s question about a link between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. After numerous viewings I still have no idea what Rumsfeld was trying to say. I ask that you read his quote below very slowly to see if it makes any sense to you.
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
I had two immediate reactions. One, my spell checker says there’s no such word as “knowns.” And two, I wondered what Rummy was smoking, and could I get some.
I almost felt sorry for Rummy as reporters giggled. But who could blame them? His response sounded like a cross between Abbot and Costello and the late double-speak comedian Professor Irwin Corey.
Rumsfeld does have a unique place in American history. In 1975, at 42, he was the youngest person to ever hold the office of Secretary of Defense when he served under Gerald Ford and in 2001, at 68, he was the oldest when he served for Bush Jr. (Bush’s infamous, “I’m the decider” 2006 outburst was in defense of the “fine job” Don Rumsfeld was doing, which I suppose was much like the “heckuva job” Brownie did during Katrina.)
Combined, Rumsfeld was the second longest serving defense secretary and the first to serve two non-consecutive terms. In 2007, however, John McCain said of Rumsfeld, “He was one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in history.” Ouch.
If you want a good laugh go to YouTube and type in “Rumsfeld known unknowns.”
In his opus, Rumsfeld is critical of just about everyone (except himself) including Poppy Bush for not having taken out Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. Rummy faults Colin Powell, George Tenant, Condi Rice, Paul Bremmer, and Gen. Tommy Franks whom he blames for letting Osama get away at Tora Bora. Whew. That‘s a lot of blaming, but, as they say on the late night TV infomercials, there’s more.
Rumsfeld criticizes the generals for not telling him he needed more troops to secure Iraq. (And yet after Gen. Shinseki testified before Congress in February 2003 that we would need 400,000 troops, he was forced to retire.) He somehow blames the Geneva Convention drafters for not anticipating that modern wars would need harsher treatment for combatants and the Supreme Court for defending detainee rights.
Even with the huge number of failures on his watch, Rumsfeld admits to only one error. As told to ABC’s Diane Sawyer, he regrets that he didn’t step down after Abu Ghraib. But even then it wasn’t his fault because Bush twice refused his resignation. Rumsfeld’s so-called admission reminds me of a character in a Woody Allen short story who confesses that his worst fault is that he often misplaces his hat.
Bush’s attempt at saving his legacy was entitled “Decision Points.” It sold well in the U.S. but not so in Europe. In fact, in November of 2010, London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, cautioned Bush who was embarking on a European tour. “You may never see Texas again,” Johnson warned, inferring that Bush might be arrested for war crimes. (In 1998 the late dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London for crimes committed during his bloody reign.)
As it happens just a few days ago Bush canceled a trip to Switzerland where he was to deliver a speech. He abruptly changed his mind after various human rights organizations asked Swiss authorities to arrest him for authorizing torture. Yikes!
In fact, human rights activists worldwide are seeking arrest warrants wherever Bush travels outside the U.S. (To see, go to: www.indictbushnow.org.) Currently, legal proceedings in Spain and Germany are targeting Bush and others in his administration for water boarding, torture and assorted peccadilloes. Personally, I’m not holding my breath, but at least it’s cut into Bush’s frequent flier miles.
Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.