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Donald Rumsfeld

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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.
Philosopher Donald Rumsfeld, on the state of the CIA's intelligence on Iraq[1]

Donald "The Don" Rumsfeld (1932–) is a lizard[2] an owner of "trained apes"[3] "not a good Defense Secretary" and "glad he's gone",[4] according to Bill Kristol.

In his first term as Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, he was the youngest Secretary of Defense in American history, while in his second term under Dubya, he was the oldest. Fittingly, he endorsed the oldest Presidential candidate in history.[5]


At the time of the Iraq invasion, nobody I knew could understand why the Bush administration was so determined to use the excuse of 9/11 to invade a country that had nothing to do with it. None of their given casus belli added up, they contradicted each other, and frankly no one even seemed to be bothering to try all that hard to convince us. Everyone had their own pet theory: Oedipal grudge match; revenge for the assassination attempt on/humiliation of Bush I; couldn't hurt the poll numbers...Rumsfeld probably did it because in secret he likes to be made to wear pretty things and peed on and wanted to prove that this did not make him any less manly.
—Tim Krieder[6]

Rumsfeld the man just came off as strikingly shallow, a non-entity, a shell filled with ambition but with no real thought process to him. The documentary The Unknown Known showcases the uncanny valley behind Rumsfeld. The director found him incredibly frustrating to interview because you just couldn't meaningfully engage with him; there's simply nothing there. It is like watching an interview with an automaton. The takeaway was that some people are on autopilot, and if they get into positions of power, you're screwed. End of story. Not the most satisfying takeaway to be sure, but a worthwhile documentary if only for that. Though it was undoubtedly a maddening watch for many.[7]

Unusually for neo-cons, Don is no chickenhawk; he served as a naval aviator for three years in the 1950s and was a kung-fu master[8] reservist for several decades after that. So that's one redeeming quality. We may have some trouble finding others though.

The Rummy Returns[edit]

A ruthless warlord shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.
I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is.
—Fran Townsend[9]

Rumsfeld was Chief of Staff and then Secretary of Defense in the Ford administration. For some unknown reason George W. Bush attempted to resurrect his career 25 years later. At the time it seemed like he was surrounding himself with experience. (Cheney and Rumsfeld both had a lot of experience; they just turned out to be scumbags.)

  • Rumsfeld pushed to invade Iraq (in the aftermath of 9/11) because there weren't "any good targets in Afghanistan," and "there are lots of good targets in Iraq."[10] Rumsfeld thought the cost-to-outcome ratio for his party would be better fighting a big, doughy dictatorship rather than a loose network of insurgents.
  • Rumsfeld wanted a war on the cheap. The Army told him they needed 3x as many troops to secure the country. He canned top generals until he got someone to say 'yes'.[11][12] The military also sided against the civilian government, led by Bremer, and their decision to disband the Iraqi Army.[13]
  • Under Rumsfeld's aegis, we got rid of slow-moving artillery in favor of "air artillery": sustained, precision airstrikes that were thought to be an adequate replacement.[14] The U.S. later had to buy M777 artillery pieces. It turns out that artillery is still king.[15]
  • And worst of all, Rumsfeld and other planners thought the Germany blueprint would work: disband the military, de-BaathWikipedia the country (de-Nazification), and write a new constitution. Problem solved.
What they missed on the historical part was that from 1945 to 1992, the US stationed no fewer than 200,000 troops in West Germany per year. And that's not even counting the tens of thousands of British and French troops there as part of the occupying forces of Germany. In fact, British troops (known as British Forces Germany) still have 5,000 troops in Germany—not due to leave until 2020. To say nothing of the wholesale disarmament of society, the rounding up of Nazis and collaborators into large prison camps, the societal and cultural and religious differences, etc. None of that was addressed. It's the classic imperialist tactic, justifying nationalistic wars of aggression over the past 75 years based on successes within huge coalitions 75 years ago.

The White House was by no means all-in on Iraq. They wanted a cheap war, and they got a long one.

I'll be in the back, uh, supervising[edit]

In one of the worst acts of tempting fate, Donald Rumsfeld, during a meeting with Congressmen at the Pentagon, warned — on the morning of 9/11 — that “sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy defense department that contributes to — that underpins peace and stability in our world.” Very tellingly, when the attacks occurred that day, Rumsfeld deserted his post for half an hour before returning. For the 30 minutes or so that he was gone from his office, other officials were desperately trying to contact him, but were unable to do so.[16] Not a hawk, but he's definitely a chicken.

Here is the true extent of Rumsfeld's hypocrisy: When the Americans had Osama Bin Laden cornered, a general called up Rumsfeld to ask for an order to pursue. Rumsfeld said no, and Osama left for Pakistan.[17]


Rumsfeld's most important legacy may be the radical privatization of the American military, which has been an important factor in the conduct of the War on Terror.

Rumsfeld was sued by a guy who claims Rumsfeld authorized the use of torture against him, but it didn't go through.[18]

Rumsfeld's quote above is similar to if not verbatim from Werner Erhard. So, for that matter, is the quote below:

You don't go to war with the Army you wish you had, you go to war with the Army you have.
—Rumsfeld, er, "supporting" the troops

External links[edit]


  1. Watch it here!
  2. "Louis C.K. Asks Donald Rumsfeld: 'Are You a Lizard from Outer Space?'", HuffPo (And he's being kind.)
  3. Was Donald Rumsfeld Really Race-Baiting Obama With 'Trained Ape' Comment?, Talking Points Memo
  4. Kristol, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, discussing Rumsfeld's resignation.
  5. Levitz, Eric, "Donald Rumsfeld Will Vote for Trump Because He's a ‘Known Unknown’", New York Magazine (6/23/16 at 5:19 p.m.).
  6. Kreider, "Why's You Invade Iraq?", Pain 19 January 2011.
  7. Kaplan, Fred, "Seeking Truth in a Blizzard of ‘Snowflakes’", NYT 3.28.14.
  8. his mad kung-fu skillz.
  9. And He Shall Be Judged, GQ
  10. Rennie, David, "Ex-aide says Bush ignored warnings about al-Qa'eda", Telegraph (22 March 2004, 12:05 AM GMT ).
  11. Margolick, David, "The Night of the Generals", Vanity Fair (9/16/13 at 11:13 am).
  12. AmA with retired Colonel Peter Monsoor, 1.3.14.
  13. Dan Senor and Roman Martinez, "Donald Rumsfeld's Iraq revisionism", NYT 15 February 2011.
  14. Noah, Timothy, "Birth of a Washington Word", Slate (20 November 2002, 6:40 PM).
  15. Mizokami, Kyle, "The U.S. Army Is About to More Than Double the Range of Its Howitzers", Popular Mechanics 1 March 2017.
  16. Senior Officials Unable to Contact Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (Note that this has since been spammed all over the place by Truthers believing it was something more nefarious.)
  17. Rumsfeld scrapped raid - 6 years before calling OBL kill 'easy call', Politico
  18. Why Donald Rumsfeld Can’t Be Sued for Torture, Slate