Today Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech to the American Legion's annual national convention in Salt Lake City. You can read more here and here.
The excerpts I've read are depressing. For example, the Secretary asked, “With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?”
Quick question: does anyone here believe vicious extremists can be appeased?
I guess not. But then why... oh, I get it. The question is rhetorical. Its real meaning is, "If you disagree with our policy, you must favor the appeasement of vicious extremists."
Even if you think the Bush administration has been doing a fine job (took a lot of discipline not to say "heckuva job" there) of protecting the nation, isn't this kind of simple-minded demagoguery off-putting?
Back when I was in law school, I was taught that if you can win on the facts, argue the facts. If the facts are unhelpful, attack the credibility of the witness. That's what this is. If things were going well in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the administration would rightly trumpet progress and success. But they're not. They're attacking their critics, instead. I guess they feel they have no choice. And maybe they're right. After all, what else are they going to talk about?
Rumsfeld also said, "This enemy is serious, lethal and relentless. But this is not well recognized or fully understood.”
Show of hands, please: anyone here who doesn't recognize and fully understand the serious, lethal, and relentless nature of our enemies?
Okay, good: we all agree on the nature and severity of the threat. But then why... oh, I get it. The administration senses it's vulnerable to a discussion of how it's protecting the nation. If you disagree with how, the idea is that you must not really understand what's going on. The implication, of course, is that you're... an appeaser!
Back when I was in the CIA, I was taught, "Deny everything, admit nothing, make counter accusations." Refusing to discuss what's going wrong in Iraq and how we might make it less wrong while accusing your critics of appeasement is straight out of the playbook. If I weren't so disgusted, I'd be proud.
The Secretary claims that the American news media is part of the problem because it tends to emphasize the negative rather than the positive: for example, there was more coverage of what happened at Abu Ghraib than to Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith's winning the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I feel tremendous gratitude and respect to all our fighting men and women, and particularly to anyone who has been awarded the CMH. From the heart, thank you, Sgt. Smith.
But I have a feeling that if misdeeds at Abu Ghraib received more coverage than Sgt. Smith's heroism elsewhere, it was probably because people rightly sensed the somewhat larger geopolitical ramifications of what happened at Abu Ghraib. I don't doubt that there's bias in the media, but suggesting that bias is what put and kept Abu Ghraib on the map to the exclusion of stories of individual heroism is silly at best.
For people who claim to have all the right ideas, Rumsfeld and company come off seeming awfully insecure. Do they know something that we... do?