Rummy 04/11/03: "Henny-Penny, the sky is falling" (note characteristic death's-head smile)
I started poking around the online archives of the PBS Newshour, and I came across some classic stuff from my man Rummy from almost exactly five years ago. Here he is in one of his finest moments, giggling like a fool about the looting that was going on in Baghdad just after US troops took the city, from the War News Roundup of 04/11/08. The audio-only feature doesn't work any more, but the video is still available. This is one that can't be fully appreciated without seeing Rummy giggling through his death's-head smile and waving his hands around. That comes at just past the halfway point in the video.
First, here's the Newshour summary of the events introducing Rummy the Great:
KWAME HOLMAN: Lawlessness also reigned in parts of Baghdad this evening. Government buildings-- including the education, industry, trade and planning ministries-- all were on fire. This is the third day of rampaging in the capital. At one government building, Iraqis took food that had been stored there. At Ba'ath Party headquarters, furniture was being hauled away. A stack of mattresses was carted off in a wheelbarrow despite hand-written signs that said in Arabic "Looting is forbidden under Islam." At the Pentagon this afternoon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said prominent reporting of the chaos in Baghdad and other cities overstates the seriousness of the problems. (my emphasis)
Actually, vitually all accounts of the war with even remote credibility agree on one thing: the looting going on at the moment was catastrophic for the occupation, and wrecked the ability of the governmental institutions to functions. It was a looters' form of "shock and awe" that struck at Rummy's ability to run Iraq.
Mario Vargas Llosa in his articles on the occupation for El País repeatedly stressed the negative impact the looting in Baghdad had made. Patrick Cockburn wrote of the Baghdad looting in The Occupation (2006), "The failure of the US military to deal with the looters convinced many Iraqis that Washington did not care what happened to them. ... Security was never truly restored over the next few years".
But what did Rummy the Liberator of Mesopotamia think about the looting at the time?
DONALD RUMSFELD: The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times and you think, "my goodness, were there that many vases?" (Laughter [from the press]) Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?
REPORTER: Do you think that the words "anarchy" and "lawlessness" are ill-chosen...
DONALD RUMSFELD: Absolutely. I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny-Penny, "the sky is falling." I've never seen anything like it. And here is a country that's being liberated, here are people e going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free. And all this newspaper could do, with eight or ten headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a civilian, who they claimed we had shot... one thing after another. It's just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country. Do I think those words are unrepresentative? Yes.
The Pentagon press corps just snickered along with Rummy about the whole thing.
But Big Pundit David Brooks was able to read Rummy's thoughts for us
DAVID BROOKS: You could read it in Rumsfeld's eyes. I just had the greatest victory maybe in military history. How about a little patting on the back -- and the next day -- there was maybe one day of patting on the back -- the next day, what about the looting and welcome to the press corps. You know. (my emphasis)
The "greatest victory maybe in military history." With perception and historical perspective like that, no wonder Brooks is still one of our leading pundits! The "greatest victory maybe in military history."
Rummy 04/09/03 on the impossibility of the US invasion causing a humanitarian crisis:
CHARLES ALDINGER, Reuters: It seems as the shooting wanes in coming days, that the humanitarian need will grow drastically.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Why... I can't see why the humanitarian situation would grow drastically. Quite the contrary. The humanitarian problem occurred under the Saddam Hussein regime for a decade. The circumstance of those people has been terrible. They had been denied all kinds of things because he was unwilling to cooperate with the United Nations. Now, what's happening now is that humanitarian assistance is coming in. That doesn't mean the situation is worse; it means that it's better. I'll tell you what's going to happen is, the more people who go into that country and see how serious the situation is, the needs of those people-- and they're real needs-- they're going to report there's a humanitarian crisis, the implication that it just occurred. It didn't just occur.
Rummy 04/09/03 being sad about incorrect media reporting:
JOHN McWETHY, ABC News: Is it your sense, especially in the Arab-speaking world, that they have become convinced of the rightness of the cause that you are fighting this war for?
DONALD RUMSFELD: There's no question but that there are a number of, particularly television stations, as well as print, in that part of the world that have carried a message that was false. They've carried a message that tried to lead people in that part of the world to believe that we were fighting Iraq and the Iraqi people, as opposed to a vicious dictator; that we were anti a religion, which is totally untrue. Does it make me sad to see television saying things that are flat not true and people printing things in that part of the world that's flat not true, children being taught things that is flat not true, yes it bothers me but what can one do except to tell the truth, behave in a way that is consistent with the our values and this country and the coalition has done that in this case. (my emphasis)