Although he's definitely one of the more nefarious producer/directors of America: The Hack Space-Age Western Crusade, I must confess to a bit of a soft spot for Donald Rumsfeld. Amongst a group of coarse, blunt and demonstrably simple-minded administrators, Rumsfeld is at least a pleasantly enigmatic diversion. He is a much better speaker than the President, more in line with Cheney, but without the petrifying sneer. He routinely throws up a wall of bullshit in response to a question that would make Scotty McClellan giddy with triumphalism, and does it with none of Scotty's flopsweat. At times, while in the midst of a series of exaggerations, dodges, irrelevancies and outright falsehoods that some general will contradict two days later, the scariest thing will happen--he will say something eminently sensible.
Those moments are like the one great golf shot you have in a round, bracketed by countless duffs into tall grass and water hazards. As you follow the meandering path of the ball, you keep getting more and more frustrated--but you keep playing, because that next great shot is coming and you have to be prepared. Rumsfeld is like that. Who can forget the immortal poetry forged by Slate writers from his press conferences? The classic:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
or my favorite:
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.
So it pays to hang around at a Rumsfeld briefing, because that once-a-round shot can come at any time. Like today:
Asked at a Pentagon news conference why he did not think the word insurgency applied to enemy forces in Iraq, Rumsfeld said he had "an epiphany."
"I've thought about it. And, over the weekend, I thought to myself, you know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld instead referred to the guerrillas in Iraq as "the terrorists" and "the enemies of the government." U.S. military statements also have referred to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces."
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines an insurgent as "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government."
Part of the Rumsfeld charm is the Rumsfeld lexicon. Trifling things like the already-extant definitions of words are annoyances to him. So the fact that a mere dictionary would dare characterize as 'insurgent' a defeated ethnic minority fighting the puppet government and their occupying overseers--well, that's just not right.
And what's the word Rummy uses to replace insurgent? Terrorist-which does have some definitional cousins to what is going on, but certainly doesn't jibe with the popular notion of a religious fanatic blowing up civilians. The insurgency is vastly secular, and concentrates on blowing up Iraqi soldiers, police and US troops. What the heck was wrong with "insurgent?" It gives them too much legitimacy, Rummy says. You know what really gives them too much legitimacy? Iraqi leaders agreeing at an Arab conference that they are legitimate--as long as they're firing at us, anyway.
I can just see Rumsfeld shaving before work, thinking about those darn insurgents and their refusal to enter their last throes, before dropping the razor and muttering, "They're not even fit to be called insurgents! From now on I shall call them "Intentional Instability Merchants." Now...what rhymes with 'merchant?'
Finally, I can't let the story go without one last Rumsfeld epigram:
Rumsfeld described the enemy in Iraq as a mixture of "foreign terrorists," Saddam loyalists, Sunni Arab "rejectionists," criminals, and "people that do it for money."
People that do it for money? Does he mean hookers? I need to read Juan Cole more closely.