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Andrew Cockburn’s Rumsfeld Revelations
Posted on Mar 15, 2007
Scheer: You talked about torture early on in the interview and then we talked about Guantanamo Bay and he’s saying these are positives in his legacy. And a piece of new information that I got on this sheet and I read in your book was a quote that said, “Make sure this happens,” about Abu Ghraib. And I want to know if you wanted to comment on that a little bit, like, what was his involvement in that torture scandal and what did…?
Cockburn: Well ... he did his best to, when it broke, he did his best to distance himself, to say how shocked he was, that it was the worst day of his life. He said he tried to resign and Bush wouldn’t take it. I mean this is a guy who could get Bush to reverse any decision, well, for most the time until they finally fired him. I mean one thing he was very good at was getting Bush to reverse the decisions that he, Rumsfeld, didn’t like. So if he really wanted to resign he could have. But, you know, he went on like that. But yet there’s abundant testimony that Rumsfeld was deeply involved in devising and in approving interrogation, i.e., torture techniques. That he was the guy who sent the commander of Guantanamo, Jeffrey Miller, sent him out to Abu Ghraib to Gitmo-lize it. ... The quote you gave was on a bit of paper that someone found at Abu Ghraib [referring to] a list of torture techniques. So yeah, the whole response of the Defense Department was to blame it all on the National Guard military police unit from Cumberland County, Md., who indeed ... behaved in a shocking way, but, you know, which deflects all the blame downwards. I mean I found one of the most extraordinary things was that they gave, during the prosecutions, they gave immunity to a colonel, a full colonel, so that he could testify against a dog handler, a sergeant, a specialist, I mean he wasn’t even a sergeant. So that’s not the way things are meant to work.
So, you know, the fact that Rumsfeld, although I’ve heard he’s now—you asked what he’s doing—I’ve heard he’s been seen at at least one big law firm in Washington presumably discussing possibly the defense he’s gonna need in the light of these lawsuits that are being brought both in this country and in Germany against him for being personally and directly responsible for the torture.
Harris: What do you think Donald Rumsfeld would say if he had a chance to respond to you about what you’ve written?
Cockburn: Oh, he’d probably say I was peddling al-Qaida disinformation. He’d change the subject. You know he’s very good at—I mean if he really chose to discuss it in detail, which he certainly wouldn’t, he would, he’d blame someone else. I mean there was a very telling moment I put at the end of the book where he, just a few days before he finally left the Pentagon, he went on a farewell tour to Iraq. And he went around various bases and he loved to have these town meetings where the soldiers who probably had better things to do but they would all be marched to sit in ranks in front and behind him so that, you know, [it would] make a nice picture, and he would lecture them, give of his wisdom for a bit and then invite questions ... this is the secretary of defense and they’re just poor soldiers in the field…. But in Mosul, a base outside Mosul this last time, one soldier got up and said: Don’t you think you wish now you’d been, shown a little bit more patience? In looking for, you know, the inspections, looking for weapons of mass destruction before you invaded Iraq? You know, don’t you think you should have waited awhile? And Rumsfeld said, “Interesting. But you’re talking to the wrong guy. It was the president who made that decision, the Congress made that decision.”
In other words right up to the very end he can’t face up to the fact, in front of the guys he’s put in harm’s way, he can’t face up to the fact that he sent them. You know that it was his decision. Oh, no, it was the president. It was the Congress. It was Rumsfeld all over.
Harris: But isn’t that the privilege of the secretary position? That you don’t have to be accountable, that you can point your finger at the guys who are on top of you? I mean that’s his greatest luxury.
Cockburn: He obviously thought so. If you think that, you and he are about the only two people on this turning globe who think so. Everyone else thinks, hey, he was secretary of defense, he was Donald Rumsfeld. He was the most powerful man in an executive position in the U.S. government and if he, and if he’s too ashamed to admit his responsibility that really is a window into his soul.
Harris: Do you think anybody will ever take him to task for what he’s done?
Cockburn: Well, I have.
Harris: You have. I mean do you think he will suffer true legal consequence?
Cockburn: That’s an interesting question. I mean I don’t think he’ll be visiting Germany any time soon. Oh, he’d be advised not to. I think his travel, I think he is a bit worried. I was very interested to hear he’s been hanging out at, it was Williams and Connolly I heard he’s been seen at. Very big D.C. law firm. But he may have gone to others, for all I know. It’s interesting. ... Unfortunately, his gang has taken over the judicial system to such a degree in this country that, you know, in this country unless things really, really change, I would say [there is] zero chance of him suffering judicial sanction here. But nonetheless ... it’s worrying to have this legal process against him in Germany…. We have legal globalization to a degree now so that you can have assets seized. It’s a drag for him, and it’ll cause him to sort of [have], I don’t know, sleepless nights, but [at the least it will] cause him awkward, an awkward 15 minutes or so every so often.
Scheer: ... We talk about Donald Rumsfeld being a neoconservative—he’s very toxic, as you said earlier. What about the other guys? I mean, are we going to see another rise of neocons? Are these guys, are they going to start all falling apart, or is this going to just continue every election cycle that we’re going to have neocons as just a new political party that we have to get used to?
Cockburn: Well, you know they’re in both parties and they sort of mutate. You know we have Democrat—... originally, you know, the neocons were all Democrats, like Wolfowitz. He was in a Democratic administration, he was in the Carter administration, it was his first biggish job. So they’re still around. ...
The prominent ones are lying low, like this extraordinary outburst from Perle and Kenneth Adelman and a couple of the others about oh, it’s shocking, you know, the invasion of Iraq was a big mistake, it all turned out rottenly, you know, I had nothing to do with it ... they did it so badly it’s all Rumsfeld’s fault. Well, I mean they were so deeply involved they were up and over their ears in it. First of all in promoting the whole idea to begin with. I mean a lot of decisions that went along with it. Their love affair with Ahmed Chalabi and so on and so forth. But, you know, so they’re discredited at least for the time being. Um, we have others. We have these fellows at The New Republic still working away and they still got their big think tanks. And the surge, you know the surge in Baghdad, that’s a neocon and it comes from Frederick Kagan ... that legacy is still very much with us. I mean Cheney’s office is stuffed with neoconservatives. But it’s good that people point the finger at the neoconservatives and it’s good that they get blamed, but people shouldn’t let themselves off the hook either. There’s still an automatic, semiautomatic, tendency to believe them, you know, [as] the propaganda volume is turned up to full on Iran right now, you know, the menace of Iran. And speaking with a little bit of skepticism because of what happened in Iraq. But nonetheless I think if they do it right they could probably massage the media into endorsing some kind of strike against Iran. So, you know, yeah, the neoconservatives are still with us.
Harris: And I think they will be for some time. I hope you’re wrong about them [the media] being so flexible they could be pushed into a war into Iran, but time will tell, huh?
Cockburn: Yeah. I’m afraid so.
Harris: Andrew Cockburn has written the book “Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy.” If you have questions about what went on in 2002, what happened when we went in in 2003, I think Donald Rumsfeld is a good place to start. It’s a great book. You owe yourself the read. Andrew Cockburn, thank you for joining us on Truthdig.
Cockburn: I’m delighted. Thank you very much.
Harris: For Josh Scheer, for Andrew Cockburn, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.
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