‘Rumsfeld – An American Disaster’ by Andrew Cockburn. Verso, 2007


Before Baghdad was bombed that fateful evening in 2003 I saw a TV report in which Baghdadis were demonstrating against the imminent war. Prominent among the placards was one which depicted the US Secretary of Defence with horns added to his head over the slogan ‘Devil Rumsfeld’. We are always cautioned against demonizing the enemy but maybe we can say in this case the Baghdadis were right.

I’m still not clear which of the Imperial Triumvirate at the top of the American Empire (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) was most responsible for the Iraq tragedy but Andrew Cockburn’s very detailed book makes a good case for Donald. His book is rampacked with so much information about Rumsfeld’s dogged pursuit of position and power – including a stab at running for President – that this reader was somewhat overwhelmed. It is a book in the tradition of every minute detail being laid out  … in detail, and is therefore something of a tough read. After all, when one has been led through half a dozen highly questionable wheelings and dealings one tends to fast forward through the next dozen or so. In defence of this ‘fault’ I have to admit that I did not need much convincing that Rumsfeld was – as the subtitle has it – a ‘disaster’ for America. My prejudice against the man is quite strong.

Apart from this suffocating welter of information the book is a very good read and exposes, once again, how a nation was misled into one of the most dreadfully mistaken foreign policy ventures in all history, and for which we in the ‘West’ are now reaping the whirlwind and will continue to reap for the foreseeable future. If, unlike me, you need to be more persuaded about Donald’s miscalculations and pig-ignorance about Iraq and Iraqis, you should read this book.

[By the way, Donald’s observation  that ‘there are known unknowns. That is to say there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know’ is a surprisingly profound insight and has, before reading this book, acted as something of a brake on my outright prejudices against the man. Not any more. Cockburn asserts that ‘old Pentagon hands recall it circulating in the Office of Defence Research and Engineering in a xeroxed compilation of similar maxims as long ago as the 1960s’.]


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