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Rumsfeld: Don't Stop Abuse, Report It

   Andrew Sullivan's blog today mentions the very bizarre and troubling exchange yesterday at the Pentagon between Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace about whether the military should intervene directly to stop Iraqi forces from abusing prisoners. Our Dana Milbank also wrote about it today, and CBS radio carried clips of the exchange. From the Pentagon transcript

GEN. PACE:  It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it...

SEC. RUMSFELD:  But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it.

GEN. PACE:  If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

[The transcript does not indicate what kind of expression Sec. Rumsfeld wore upon learning that American soldiers witnessing abuse by Iraqis have to do more than file a report or dial 911 or send an alarmed email or make a mental note to do something later, or whatever it was that Rumsfeld had in mind. But the backtalk must have put the Secretary's knickers in a knot, because soon he went into a classic Rummy Rant.]

     SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, forget the press then.  Anybody.  We have an orientation that tends to make us think that everything is our responsibility and that we should be doing this.  It is the Iraqis' country, 28 million of them.  They are perfectly capable of running that country.  They're not going to run it the way you would or I would or the way we do here in this country, but they're going to run it.  And to suggest that every single thing that needs to be done in this country -- "Oh, the infrastructure's imperfectly protected; the Americans should do that, you don't have enough people to do that."  Nonsense.  We shouldn't have enough people to do that.  It's the Iraqis' infrastructure.  They're the ones who are going to suffer if the infrastructure isn't protected. "The borders can't be protected."  Well, we can't protect our own border.

             Q     You make the point that --

             SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  Just a minute.  Just a minute.

             Our problem is that any time something needs to be done, we have a feeling we should rush in and fill the vacuum and do it ourselves.  You know what happens when you do that?  First of all, you can't do it, because it's not our country, it's their country.  And the second thing that happens is they don't develop the skills and the ability and the equipment and the orientation and the habit patterns of doing it for themselves.  They have to do it for themselves.  There isn't an Iraqi that comes into this country and visits with me that doesn't say that.  They know that.  They know that they're the ones that are going to have to grab that country.  And it's time.

             Q     There's still a lot of training wheels on those bicycles.

             SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure there are.

             Q     And you always talk about that holding the bike.  But, I mean, there -- it doesn't seem like the numbers --

           SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, I think we've been passing over bases, we've been passing over real estate, we've been turning over responsibilities.  I mean, what else can you do?  Nothing happens at the same time in one fell swoop.  This is hard stuff for them!  It isn't going to be perfect.  But by golly, the people who have been denigrating the Iraqi security forces are flat wrong!  They've been wrong from the beginning!

   [We are pleased to report that Gen. Pace did not turn to him and say, "Sir, you're living in a dreamworld."]

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 30, 2005; 4:55 PM ET
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You'd think that former Gen./Sec. o' State Powell's voting with his feet would have been a big enough wakeup call to the GW Bush White House, now this.

Reality check, please.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Three kits in one day! The man's a machine.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 30, 2005 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"Well, we can't protect our own border."

actually - that's a pretty good point, no?

Posted by: ot | November 30, 2005 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The "insurgent" part, in Milbank's story, which appeared in my local paper, was also *interesting* to read. Rumsfeld attempted to come up with another phrase for "insurgent" ...

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, standing at Rumsfeld's side, evidently didn't get the memo about the wording change. Describing combat in Iraq, he paused and said, "I have to use the word 'insurgent' because I can't think of a better word right now."

" 'Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government' -- how's that?" Rumsfeld proposed.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Wonder how long Gen. Page will last? He's actually given me hope all's not lost.

About the borders, it always amazed me they used that straight-faced during the run-up to the war. "He's letting terrorists in" like anyone can completely control their borders.

My town has probably 10,000 illegal immigrants and tons of drugs.

Posted by: asdg | November 30, 2005 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Very few political figures get as obstreperous in public as Rumsfeld. It makes for a great interview and an excellent character for a story -- but possibly not for a great Secretary of Defense. One passage that jumps out at me: "They have to do it for themselves. There isn't an Iraqi that comes into this country and visits with me that doesn't say that." How many Iraqis come to America to meet with Rumsfeld? To what degree are those Iraqis honest brokers of information? How clear is Rumsfeld's vision of what's actually happening on the ground over there?

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 5:30 PM | Report abuse

What does it mean that after I read this I thought, "He made this up, right? . . . Right?!?!?!"

I feel like in some bizarro world. Does this man really not have a clue . . . AT ALL?!?!?!

Posted by: Lady Jane | November 30, 2005 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Point of clarification: by "he" I meant JA and "this man" is in reference to Rummy.

Posted by: Lady Jane | November 30, 2005 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Early on, after running clips of a combative Rumsfeld meeting with the press, Jon Stewart satirically said something to the effect of "C'mon! Somebody kick me in the balls! I'm Rummy!"

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Boss - Perhaps what the Secretray meant to say was, "There isn't a Chalabi that comes into this country and visits with me that doesn't say that..."

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Rumsfeld: "First of all, you can't do it, because it's not our country, it's their country."

Confirming Mr. Woodward's report that Rumsfeld was not present when Mr. Powell pointed out to W that "you break it, you own it."

Posted by: Tim | November 30, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Rumsfeld has been consistent in his message from the first that other countries have to take responsibilities where appropriate. For example, if I remember correctly it was early in the Afghanistan invasion (but it might have been early in the Iraqi invasion) that someone asked him about enemy--or maybe it was civilian--casualties, and he said [paraphrase:] "I don't keep track of that. Let them count their own dead."

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 6:14 PM | Report abuse

In Rummyworld, the Iraqi's are a proud people with a long distinguished tradition of torture and abuse. We could learn a lot by studying the ways of these quaint natives.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2005 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Something else I never understood ... why are we so intent on building a new military for Iraq? What is it for? Who the hell wants what Iraq has? Iraq has loads of treasures of human history and prehistory, but so do its neighbors. Iraq has oil. So do its neighbors. Iraq has historic rivers and fertile land, but they come with a lot of hungry people and poorly-working infrastructure. The only way to get any use out of invading Iraq is if you massacre all the people so that you don't pick up new expenses along with the goods. Iraq's neighbors, unlikable though many of them are, are not THAT evil. Are they? If they want to invade, let them. They can hardly do a worse job of running the country, many of them have cultural ties to different factions of Iraqi society that might make for stronger nation-states than what Iraq has now, and they get to pick up the bills as the cost of expanding their respective nations, instead of Iraq trying to start from scratch. Let the Kurds start their own country. Heck, let 'em stick it to Turkey and build a larger Kurdistan. It's not like Turkey really wants them.

What Iraq needs seems to be not a military, but a professional police force. Yes, the insurgents (or whatever euphemism you prefer) are more heavily armed than a standard cop. However, if you remove the military, you also remove any ambiguity about the status of anybody with an AK-47. Just take all the guns away. I realize this sounds anti-American -- the second Amendment and all that. However, these people are not under the U.S. Constitution, and the conditions that have brought about the need to form a new political order are very different from the American Revolution. After they form a Constitution and get things up and running, then they can (if they wish) enshrine the right to keep and bear arms and buy new weapons, thereby stimulating the weapons, mortuary, and Soylent industries. Good for everybody!

Posted by: Tim | November 30, 2005 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: GGordon | November 30, 2005 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Rumsfeld, like Cheney and Bush, likes to project a tough image--he's no girly-man, no, you could almost think of him as a grizzled old retired general, but what Carl Hiaasen wrote about Cheney this week applies to Rummy as well:

"The last time the United States went to battle, Cheney stayed far out of harm's way. His only wounds from Vietnam were the paper cuts he got from opening his five -- count 'em, five -- draft deferment notices.

"'I had other priorities in the '60s other than military service,' he explained to a reporter in 1989."

Here's the link to the article, classic Hiaasen:

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 6:51 PM | Report abuse

One part of Tim's comment's reminded me of something I heard on NPR--a discovery of a lost map of the middle east drawn by T.E. Lawrence. An interesting find in light of current circumstances, really in light of the post-WWII history of the region.

Posted by: Lady Jane | November 30, 2005 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I laughed my head off over the Milbank piece this morning. It was great. I love Milbank's humor.

Jamie McIntyre had a segment yesterday on Anderson Cooper 360 that talked about the Rumsfeld/Pace press conference.

I loved these observations by Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Still, the role of the Joint Chiefs chairman is to tell his civilian superiors what he thinks, not just what they want to hear. General Pace showed he has the brass to do that.

PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

MCINTYRE: As any defense secretary knows, sometimes, the military has the last word.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon

At the end of the McIntyre piece Anderson Cooper had this to say (LOL) --

COOPER: Man, that was a fascinating press briefing, wasn't it? Man.

YES it was, Anderson. LOL

Posted by: pmorlan | November 30, 2005 9:16 PM | Report abuse

2 different points.

1-Rumsfeld did serve in the military, joined service, flew planes after the Korean War was already done. He's not like Cheney that way, who has zero military experience other than ducking it.

But to topic:

2-We, the US, are training the Iraqi army and police - if the Iraqis we have trained are abusing/torturing people - in front of our own personnel no less - what the h_ll does Mr. Rumsfeld anticipate will be world reaction to that, after Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan?

How much lower in moral standing can these pathetic men lead our country?

Do any of these guys ... Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush ... have any contact with reality outside their bubbleworld of rigged political audiences, and military personnel who dare not speak their real minds?

They dishonor their oaths of office, our troops, our country. Every d_mn day it seems.

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | November 30, 2005 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Yet another example of the fundamental question of our age: When does faith (both religious and secular) end, and self-delusion begin?

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 30, 2005 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Rmsfield has completely lost it. Americans
do not tolerate torture. What does Rumfield expect to get out of someone who is being beatened and deprived of sleep?
He is "innocent" of the law and human rights. Someone saves us all !!!!!!

Posted by: George | November 30, 2005 10:12 PM | Report abuse

What level of incompetence is required to get fired in this administration?

Apparently, "a few bad apples" have control of America's foreign policies.

Luckily it's nothing to do with him.

Posted by: Bullsmith | November 30, 2005 11:01 PM | Report abuse

...expectation was too high...with the
retread bush2 iraq revue...and with the
stated continued quest for total victory
in iraq it may not be ending anytime in
the next decade...the israeli conflict
within palestine has been raging now for
going on 60 years...and i do respect
the completeness of israeli tactics and
methods...these guys play for keeps....
its either that or getting pushed back
into the med our mission done
leader may want to pony up on what his
total victory vision truly entails.....
i doubt that will happen...and i doubt
this WH has from the getgo ever truly
scaled this undertaking honestly.......

Posted by: an american in siam... | December 1, 2005 3:08 AM | Report abuse

What General Pace should have done is publicly correct his boss. I spent time in South America and if we saw host nation military violating people's human rights we were under orders to stop it, then report it.

It disheartens me that integrity and ethical conduct are merely feel good terms not connected to reality.

What is it about a 4 star general that loyalty to those above him is more important than loyalty to those below and more importantly to the Constitution?

Colin Powell will go down in the history books as a zero, not a hero, because he put loyalty to those above before anything else?

General Pace has the same opportunity. He should have turned to Rumsfeld and said, "No, sir that's not what they will do. They will stop the abuse, then report it. If you disagree then perhaps it's time for you to find a new Chairman. I'm no Dick Meyers or Tommy Franks."

Our moral superiority matters. Condoning the brutal treatment of prisoners puts us on the same plane as the Baathists.

Posted by: Robert | December 1, 2005 6:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey, I missed Saturday Night Live last week. Was this in the lead-off tease or the main body of the show?
Actually, I realize that SNL has not risen to this level of absurdity for some years.
Unfortunately, Iraq falls under one of the primary principles of American foreign policy- "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Iraq forms a counterbalance to the militant Iranian theocracy. SH was a vile tyrant, but he was a secular vile tyrant, and so we supported and\or tolerated him for years when he was busy killing Iranians and now we're trying hard to keep the country in one piece until the next (perhaps) slightly less vile tyrant arises. Turkey is a NATO ally and we don't want to loose bases there by openly encouraging a Kurdish state. What the hell any of this has to do with exterminating UBL and his pals is more and more obscure.
Oh, the other prime principle of our foreign policy- "always favor the status quo, the last good revolution occured in 1776."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 1, 2005 7:25 AM | Report abuse

With leaders like Rumsfeld in charge of our military, it's all over. Why is the congress so timid in face of an out-of-control administration hell-bent on bankrupting our nation in the process of killing off our youth in a futile war? Maybe it's because the deaths of paid mercenaries seem less bad than those of conscripted citizens.

Posted by: Jack Noble | December 1, 2005 8:13 AM | Report abuse


Wouldn't "MAD TV" be a more appropriate venue for that skit?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2005 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Maybe "Truth or Consequences"?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 1, 2005 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"Match Game"???

(doesn't fit at all, true, but I did SO enjoy Gene Rayburn and that den of double-entendre iniquity)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I sort of understand now why we can't just pull out of the war. But what would the consequences have been had we not gone to war in Iraq? Is it simplistic to believe that the money spent on the war would have been better spent on making America safe from terrorism (and from natural disasters - I just can't let go of New Orleans and the other states so devastated by hurricanes).

The game show hosts/masters of double-entendre were Groucho Marx (You Bet Your Life) and Johnny Carson (Who Do You Trust?).

Posted by: Nani | December 1, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

New Kit. Please walk in an orderly fashion down the right corridor and through the double doors. Yes, you can have your hand stamped for return to this Boodle. Please no pushing, jostling, or kvetching. Thank you for your continued attention and cooperation.

Posted by: CowTown | December 1, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Especially the kvetching. Please.

Posted by: Bayou Self | December 1, 2005 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Has no one else recognized that Rumy is really Pat Robertson in drag?

Posted by: richard | December 1, 2005 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Rumsfeld keeps saying they need to do it themselves and our rights are not the same as theirs.
He said they are perfectly capable of self government. So why stay?\
He's saying everything we "liberals" want to hear.

Posted by: R. Ferrell | December 1, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

we have been to this point before. cheney, rumsfeld, bush, et al have taken the country into a war on false pretenses. they are directly responsible for the deaths of more than 2100 good men and women. the lying will only continue. impeach bush now.

Posted by: butlerguy | December 1, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"It is the Iraqis' country, 28 million of them. They are perfectly capable of running that country."

Well, if this is the way you feel, Rummy, why the heck are we still there?

Posted by: Newbie | December 1, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Remember when rumsfeld said there were no insurgents.....well the idea of calling an economic intervention on Europes' behalf a "war" seems pretty similar. I mean it, what war? Who benefits from us being there? Any nation that depends on the natural resources in that area being available regardless of political leanings. That would be Europe, there's also supposed to be a pipleine being put across Afghanistan, but I think you'ld have to ask someone in Guantanamo about that. Now that we're there pulling out when the hornets are angry is not a good idea....shifting the focus is. I suggest it be called what it should have been from the beginning, an intervention, a preventitive strike.

Posted by: what "war?" | December 1, 2005 3:16 PM | Report abuse

How in hell do incompetent idiots like Rumsfeld get their jobs in the first place?

Posted by: John | December 1, 2005 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are running a cabal from the Whitehouse according to Mr. Powells former Chief of Staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

Rumsfeld and Cheney worked together in the Nixon administration.

Why is anyone suprised at the outcome...or his response to congressional oversight? Reality on the ground? ANYTHING?

Wake up - its typical.

Posted by: Here, In Real Life... | December 1, 2005 3:57 PM | Report abuse

enough of this... we gotta change things. check out

Posted by: dem | December 1, 2005 5:06 PM | Report abuse

'"Well, we can't protect our own border."
actually - that's a pretty good point, no?'


We don't have terrorists sneaking over our border so they can kill us. If we did we could do much more to secure the border than we are doing now.

Posted by: Bubba Ram Dos | December 2, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

If we follow Rumsfeld's logic of not to interfere, they can do it for themselves, then why is America there. If America is there, no they can't do it for themselves. He just wants people to be quiet about the abuse and not speak up, then they have a leak and they may have too kill someone. Like all the reporters " accidently " killed by U.S. soldiers.

Posted by: Gael | December 2, 2005 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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