Last week, someone slipped New York Times reporters Michael R. Gordon and David S. Cloud the secret memo finished by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld just two days before he “resigned.” It was the last in a flurry of famed Rumsfeldian “snowflakes” that have fluttered down upon the Pentagon these past years. This one, though, was “submitted” to the White House and clearly meant for the President’s eyes. In it, the Secretary of Defense offered a veritable laundry list of possible policy adjustments in
Think of this last zany, only semi-coherent Rumsfeldian document — part of
Here are just three last-stand aspects of the memo that have been largely or totally overlooked in most reporting:
1. “Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start ‘taking our hand off the bicycle seat’), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”
From the early, carefree, “stuff happens” period of the occupation comes the wonderfully patronizing image embedded in this mixed metaphor of a passage — though I suppose Iraqis perched on bike seats could indeed have crumpled socks. The image of the Iraqi (child) learning how to ride the bike of democracy — or whatever — with the American (parent) looming behind, hand steadying the seat, was already not just a neocolonial, but a neocon classic by the time the President used it back in May 2004. (In fact, in an even more infantilizing fashion, he spoke of taking the “training wheels” off the Iraqi bike.)
Many others in the administration proudly used it as well. Rumsfeld in his rococo fashion elaborated wildly on the image in a speech to
And now, long after kids stopped riding bikes in
2. “Conduct an accelerated draw-down of
Talk about cycling back to the beginning, Rumsfeld’s “major course correction” takes us right to the original basing plans the Pentagon had on entering
Now, here we are, over three and a half catastrophic years later, back to those four bases (built to the tune of multibillions of American taxpayer dollars) plus one — undoubtedly the former Camp Victory, the huge American base that grew up on the edge of Baghdad International Airport (as well, of course, as the new, almost finished billion-dollar U.S. embassy with its “staff” of thousands inside Baghdad’s Green Zone).
3. “Aggressively beef up the Iraqi MOD [Ministry of Defense] and MOI [Ministry of the Interior], and other Iraqi ministries critical to the success of the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] — the Iraqi Ministries of Finance, Planning, Health, Criminal Justice, Prisons, etc. — by reaching out to U.S. military retirees and Reserve/National Guard volunteers (i.e., give up on trying to get other USG Departments to do it.)”
This mad suggestion, hardly noticed by anyone, cycles us back to the attitude with which Bush & Co. first entered
And why do I have a sneaking suspicion that all those “
In this way was Rumsfeld’s last stand remarkably like his first pedal. If only, after September 11, 2001, someone had left the training wheels on when the Bush administration went pedaling off on its merry, shock-and-awe way.
Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com (“a regular antidote to the mainstream media”), where this article first appeared, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.