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Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner _ The New York Review of Books

Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner _ The New York Review of Books

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Published by Marienburg
Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner _ The New York Review of Books
December 19, 2013
Issue
Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner _ The New York Review of Books
December 19, 2013
Issue

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Published by: Marienburg on Nov 27, 2013
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A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional dayat 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 hisenormous 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 normalchannels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?] Then he said Dick [Cheney] told me about your son—I broke down and cried. Icouldn’t speak— said I love him so much He said I can’t imagine the burden you are carrying for the country and your son— He said much more. Stood and hugged me An amazing day— He is a fine human being— I am so grateful he is President. I am proud to be working for him.It is a touching and fateful scene, this trading of confidences between the recoveringalcoholic president and the defense secretary whose son is struggling with drug addiction,and shows the intimacy that can be forged amid danger and turmoil and stress. Trust bringstrust, confidence builds on confidence: the young inexperienced president, days beforeAmerican bombs begin falling on Afghanistan, wants a “creative” plan to invade Iraq,developed “outside the normal channels”; the old veteran defense secretary, in a raremoment of weakness, craves human comfort and understanding.And yet they’d hardly known one another, these two, before George W. Bush chose himfor his secretary of defense nine months before. To George W., Donald Henry Rumsfeldhad been little more than a political enemy of the Bush family. It was Rumsfeld, asPresident Gerald Ford’s ambitious young chief of staff, who had been instrumental in theso-called “Halloween Massacre” in 1975 that—so the legend goes—had helped clear theway for his own presidential ambitions by shunting George H.W. Bush, the wealthyeastern born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth preppie who was the scrappy Illinois-bornwrestler’s main rival, off to be CIA director. This was a job for which Bush could gainSenate confirmation only by agreeing not to accept the vice-presidential nomination in1976—even as Rumsfeld, as he tells us in his memoir, “for the third time in three years,
 
I
…found myself being discussed for the vice presidential nomination.” As Bush family
consigliere
 James A. Baker III cautioned George W. a quarter-century later, whenRumsfeld’s name was bruited for secretary of defense, “You know what he did to your daddy.”Certainly he knew, and one can be forgiven for suspecting that this knowledge might have been a strong part of the attraction, perhaps for both men. When Errol Morris asksRumsfeld whether his former aide Dick Cheney had brought him into the Bushadministration, Rumsfeld replies, “I assume that’s the case. I don’t think George W.Bush’s father recommended it,” and then beams with self-congratulatorymischievousness. It is one of several digs at Bush the elder, at whose side he had treadedthe perilous path of the highest ambition until, at a critical moment in August 1980, bothmen found themselves at the Republican National Convention pacing nervously in their Detroit hotel rooms, awaiting a call from Ronald Reagan about who would be his vice- president. In the end it was George H.W. Bush who was called to history. 
 Errol Morris
: It seems to me that if that decision had gone a slightly different way,you would have been vice-president and a future president of the United States.
 Rumsfeld 
: [Pause] That’s possible.Here as at several important moments in his brilliant and maddening film, Morris holdsfor three beats on that craggy inscrutable face, struggling to penetrate the benign “aw,shucks” good ol’ boy persona that Rumsfeld has worn so long he might well haveforgotten how to put it aside. A decade ago Morris’s camera, focused for those extra beatson the face of Robert Strange McNamara in
The Fog of War 
, had seemed to penetrate tosome sort of appalling well of pain and pleading, deeply felt or conjured or both, lurking just behind McNamara’s rheumy eyes.Confronted with Rumsfeld’s cheerful, hale-fellow-well-met opacity, Morris is mostlyforced to plumb the shallows. At a question about his part in the so-called HalloweenMassacre, he affects wry surprise. (“I suppose it is” called that, he concedes, withelaborately feigned wonder at the proclivity of reporters and historians to get things sowrong.) His alleged derailing of the elder Bush’s ambitions he dismisses as “utter nonsense.” (“I suppose it’s kind of more fun for somebody to be able to say they were pushed rather than they tripped.”) And his legendary ambition? “I never knew what I wasgoing to do next,” he tells the filmmaker with chuckling insouciance. “The only thing I’veever volunteered for in my life: one, was to go into the Navy, and the other was to run for Congress.”t is a familiar pose, the modest, even self-effacing man of talent to whom good things just…happen. Such unbidden blessings float down in many guises—for example, in the benevolent and providential interest of a kindly president. In Bradley Graham’s account in
 By His Own Rules
:The conversation in March [1971] was one of a number of private talks, preserved by

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