Thursday, February 10, 2011

Known Knowns

I wouldn't run out and buy a copy of Donald Rumsfeld's 800-plus page memoir, Known and Unknown. According to the review in the New York Times, it is a "tedious, self-serving volume filled with efforts to blame others." 

There are, however, a few useful nuggets to be mined from what otherwise appears to be a very painful read.  For example, the book confirms how quickly the 9/11 attacks became a convenient rationale for the invasion of Iraq.  Rumsfeld reveals that only 15 days after September 11th, Bush invited him into the Oval Office alone, and, as reported in the Times, "the president leaned back in his leather chair and ordered a review and revision of war plans — but not for Afghanistan, where the Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington had been planned and where American retaliation was imminent."   Rumsfeld writes that the president asked him "to take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq.”  As Rumsfeld recalls, “two weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, those of us in the Department of Defense were fully occupied,” but Bush insisted on new plans for Iraq, not Afghanistan.

So we know Bush was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq.  But why?  Perhaps religious fanaticism.  My old friend Stephen pointed me to an account by former French President Jacques Chirac, who recalled that in 2003, Bush asked him to supply French troops for the invasion in order to stave off the satanic agents of the Apocalypse.  According to Chirac, Bush tried to appeal to their common faith and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”  Gog and Magog? 

Another, not necessarily mutually exclusive possibility, comes from Russ Baker, who wrote Family of Secrets.  Baker recounts what he was told by Mickey Herskowitz, a Texas journalist who was Bush’s co-author on a preliminary version of Bush's 2000 book A Charge to Keep:
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” Herskowitz told [Baker].  “It was on his mind. [Bush] said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade . . . if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it.  I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed, and I’m going to have a successful presidency.’”  Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow.
God, Freud and Political Power.  There you have it.


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