The Thursday Politics Thread: Into the Known Unknown

Mornin’ Politocadoes!

We say goodbye to Donald Rumsfeld, former congressman, defense secretary, mass-murderer and advocate of torture. He died peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones in his home, a boon that was not granted on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, or the many U.S. servicemembers he saw fit to be sent to their deaths in a pointless forever war. I should find a signing machine and send a condolence letter to his family.

Rumsfeld had a long career in US politics, unfortunately. Having first rose to prominence as a Congressman for Illinois’ 13th district. During which he voted for the Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1968, criticized the direction of the Vietnam War and the stability of the South Vietnam regime. He also was instrumental in getting Gerald Ford in position as House Minority leader, a role that would that later lead to House Speaker, Vice President, and President. Rumsfeld, or Rummy as he liked to be called, would resign from Congress to join the Nixon Administration. As an “Anti-Poverty Czar”, Rumsfeld would be accused of slashing anti-poverty programs. He was affectionately known by Nixon to be a “ruthless little bastard”.

After the Watergate Scandal and Nixon’s resignation, Rummy served his first tenure as Secretary of Defense during the Ford Administration. He supported a military build-up while undermining Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as he began the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with the Soviet Union. And in a move that would lead to lasting consequence, oversaw the transition to an all-volunteer military.

While working in the private sector, President Reagan appointed him Special Envoy to the Middle East. There, he would meet with Noted Romance Novelist Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and agreed on certain political objectives in the region. With the US intent on weakening Iran in the run-up to the Iran-Iraq war, flow of money, chemicals, and weapons were permitted or encouraged throughout the Reagan and Bush Administrations.

Following the contested 2000 Presidential Election that Al Gore actually won, President George W. Bush appointed Rummy to his old seat at the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, some sources suggest even the very afternoon of, Rummy began trying to shift conversation from War on Al-Qaeda to Iraq. Nevertheless, he also may be responsible for extending the War in Afghanistan. In December of 2001, a negotiated surrender with Al-Qaeda was deemed acceptable by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that was then nixed by Rummy himself.

Calling Iraq a  “brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily” he and his deputy Paul Wolfowicz would use every opportunity to shift the conversation to Iraq. Other members in the administration like Richard Clarke would recall him complaining that there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan. A memo attributed to Rumsfeld would include a section titled “How Start” with bullet points of possible excuses to go to Iraq. Eventually, the claim that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction would become the casus belli and the US would invade Iraq in March of 2003. Rummy would go on to lie, repeatedly, and with remarkable specificity, about the locations of the WMD. Ultimately, no WMD would ever be found in Iraq.

Following the Abu Ghraib scandal, greater scrutiny was brought to bear on the Department of Defense’s use of “enhanced interrogation” of Prisoners of War. Rummy was indifferent to the suffering of prisoners in Guantanamo, writing in a note that he “stands in one position for 8-10 hours a day, why is standing for prisoners limited to 4?” Bush would defend him every time he was criticized, saying he was the man they needed. Nevertheless, between the torture and generals finding his leadership to be lacking, Rumsfeld would resign in November of 2006.

Rumsfeld’s Pentagon would never accurately tally the number of lives lost. But some independent estimates place the number of dead at around 400,000. His reckless disregard for the humanity of prisoners of war lead to a normalization in American society of torture. He was accused by generals of having abysmal military planning and strategic competence. His disinterest in properly building up troops and focusing on military might, and utilizing diplomatic “carrots” instead of “sticks” at key points in the war lead to the quagmires that we still deal with today. He should be on trial in the Hague. He voted for Trump in 2016. Fuck him.

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