Saturday, November 11, 2006

Oh My! A Rummy Omnibus

After nearly six years of much-publicized service as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon, saying that he had "proudly accomplished everything [he'd] set out to bungle." "Years ago, I decided to bog this great nation down in an extended, grueling foreign occupation, and I'm happy to say that's exactly what I've done," said Rumsfeld in a farewell address at the White House, during which he urged Americans to continue waging the ill-conceived, mismanaged, and evidently unwelcome fight for democracy in the Middle East. "Each of my actions—from undersupplying troops with body armor to focusing on capturing Saddam Hussein while Osama bin Laden remained free—has led America inexorably toward our current state of extreme crisis. Well, anyway, goodbye!

Yes, we start off our look at Donald Rumsfeld's horrible, no-good, very bad week with some black humor from The Onion (as well as a bit of geek humor via Wired's Cult of Mac blog). And we'll continue the yucks with CBS's Craig Ferguson:



But really, it's all fun and games until someone gets accused of war crimes:
Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.
[...]
Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld.
[...]
In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say, means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case — that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue — has been proven wrong.

"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor's previous inaction no longer hold up.

I guess Rummy won't be vacationing in Bavaria any time soon.

Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to Jurist, offers her take on why Rumsfeld should face charges (hat tip to Jeralyn at TalkLeft):
Prosecuting a war of aggression isn't Rumsfeld's only crime. He also participated in the highest levels of decision-making that allowed the extrajudicial execution of several people. Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which constitutes a war crime. In his book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Seymour Hersh described the "unacknowledged" special-access program (SAP) established by a top-secret order Bush signed in late 2001 or early 2002. It authorized the Defense Department to set up a clandestine team of Special Forces operatives to defy international law and snatch, or assassinate, anyone considered a "high-value" Al Qaeda operative, anywhere in the world. Rumsfeld expanded SAP into Iraq in August 2003.

But Rumsfeld's crimes don't end there. He sanctioned the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and thus constitute war crimes. Rumsfeld approved interrogation techniques that included the use of dogs, removal of clothing, hooding, stress positions, isolation for up to 30 days, 20-hour interrogations, and deprivation of light and auditory stimuli. According to Seymour Hersh, Rumsfeld sanctioned the use of physical coercion and sexual humiliation to extract information from prisoners. Rumsfeld also authorized waterboarding, where the interrogator induces the sensation of imminent death by drowning. Waterboarding is widely considered a form of torture.

I certainly won't miss Mr. Rumsfeld's draconian policies, nor will I miss his dismissive statements that informed everyone in the country in no uncertain terms that they're idiots. Like this one from his swan song in the Oval Office (via Salon's War Room):
Flanked by the president who appointed him and the man who would replace him, Donald Rumsfeld just addressed the nation from the Oval Office. He said it has been an honor to serve with the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, but he didn't mention that more than 2,800 of them have died in his ill-planned war in Iraq.

Intead, Rumsfeld talked about the criticism he has had to endure as secretary of defense. "It's been quite a time," he said. Then he thanked George W. Bush for his leadership "in this little understood, unfamiliar war, the first war of the 21st century."

The message was implicit but clear: Those who have criticized Rumsfeld for his conduct of the war just don't understand what kind of war it is. "It is not well known, it is not well understood, it is complex for people to comprehend," Rumsfeld said.

Andrew Sullivan adds:
The truth is: it was Rumsfeld who little understood and was unfamiliar with the actual conflict he was tasked with managing. It was not too "complex for people to comprehend." It was relatively easy to comprehend. If you invade a post-totalitarian country and disband its military, you better have enough troops to keep order. We didn't. Rumsfeld refused to send enough. When this was made clear to him and to everyone, he still refused. His arrogant belief in a military that didn't need any actual soldiers was completely at odds with the actual task in Iraq. But he preferred to sit back as tens of thousands of Iraqis were murdered and thousands of U.S. troops died rather than to check his own ego.

But I will miss his poetic side, as captured by Hart Seely and remembered in Slate's Recycled section this week:
The Unknown
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.


The poems were also turned into classical lieder by pianist Bryant Kong and singer Elender Wall (as noted by NPR, which includes a few song samples). And finally, a video wrap-up of some of Rummy's existential musings:



Auf wiedersehen, Rummy.


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