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Keep Elevating the Threat

Rumsfeld’s ghost at the banquet

In the Washington Post today are printed extracts from some of the “snowflakes”, or internal memos, produced by Secretary of “Defense”, Donald Rumsfeld, during his last tenure. For no good reason that I can see, the WP does not provide facsimiles of the actual documents in its possession, so we have to rely on the reporter’s partial and selective quotations. Even so, it is fascinating language:

In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid “physical labor” and wrote of the need to “keep elevating the threat,” “link Iraq to Iran” and develop “bumper sticker statements” to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war. […]

“Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists,” he wrote.

People will “rally” to sacrifice, he noted after the meeting. “They are looking for leadership. Sacrifice = Victory.”

The meeting also led Rumsfeld to write that he needed a team to help him “go out and push people back, rather than simply defending” Iraq policy and strategy. “I am always on the defense. They say I do it well, but you can’t win on the defense,” he wrote. “We can’t just keep taking hits.”

Rumsfeld’s reminder of the need to “keep elevating the threat” is further proof (were any needed) that he and his colleagues were knowingly and deliberately indulging in fearmongering. (He does not talk of informing the American public of an objective threat that is actually increasing.)

Like most people who make thrilling, inspirational calls for “sacrifice”, meanwhile, Rumsfeld has in mind the sacrifice of anyone but himself. It is interesting to note further how he self-pityingly characterises his own position in terms of violence, “taking hits”, while at the same time not forgetting to congratulate himself on his fortitude (“They say I do it well”), and all the time in fact expecting those under his command, ordinary American soldiers, to take the real “hits” of bullets and bombs, in the service of his brilliant strategy to terrify the public into thinking that they are under attack from all sides.

(For more on civilian politicians bigging themselves up with military metaphors, compare also the juvenile bully’s glee with which Dick Cheney boasted that he “dropped the F-bomb on” Patrick Leahy.)

As these scraps remind us, Rumsfeld’s unique style of communication, in which jazzy egotism regularly won out over Machiavellian prudence, shone an especially bright light on the mind of this administration. He is sorely missed.

  1. 1  Andrew  November 2, 2007, 9:57 pm 

    A wonderful man of whom it could be said the following encapsulates:

    Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for global tyranny.

  2. 2  Fallhammer  November 4, 2007, 4:20 pm 

    “Sacrifice = Victory.” Straight out of the pages of 1984.

  3. 3  Steven  November 5, 2007, 12:06 am 

    Indeed, but to be fair also those of eg the Bible and The Lord of the Rings. Rumsfeld might have made an excellent Saruman, come to think of it.

  4. 4  richard  November 5, 2007, 4:21 am 

    Rumsfeld might have made an excellent Saruman, come to think of it

    …as an actor in the films, or actually as a hubristic wizard who thinks he can dance with the devil and escape with a percentage of the spoils?

    IF you mean the latter, I can only object that wizarding seems to require some sort of special skills or talents.

  5. 5  Andrew  November 7, 2007, 2:40 am 

    I’m reading Mann’s Dr Faustus at the moment. I suppose the poor devil only very rarely gets to make a pact with a genuine high class genius. Normally it’s mediocrities with ridiculous delusions to superiority like the Straussian neo-cons that he has to make do with.

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