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The Rumsfeld Legacy | The Nation

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The Rumsfeld Legacy

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What the heck, I'll pop over to Iraq one last time for a meet-and-greet with the kids I've sent to war. Thank goodness I'm not going to have to do this again, though; I was born an upbeat guy, but it does get to you knowing that the thing is such a bloody mess and yet more of them are going to be sacrificed.

Robert Scheer is editor of TruthDig, where this essay originally was published.

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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Did I write a secret memo saying that I don't believe in this thing anymore? You bet! But you can't let the public in on that and just cut-and-run. Jeez, how would that look for the Rummy Legacy? First I go over there back in 1984 and kiss Saddam Hussein's derriere in order to get him to take on the ayatollahs in Iran, and now I leave Iraq in the hands of those Iraqi Shiites who were trained in a decade of exile in Iran. Those are the insurgents I'm worried about, not those Sunni guys who used to be with us. Should I have tried to convince young Bush that Hussein could be brought over to our side? Probably.

Yeah, sure, the guy's a killer but he could have been our killer--again. Did I know about his killing those Shiite villagers back in 1982? Hey, I was fully in the loop, but that was then and this is now, so let him hang. Only, why did they have to limit his trial to crimes that I knew all about before we shook hands? Some darn columnist will dig up that photo and point out that if Hussein is guilty of war crimes, then maybe I've got blood on my hands. Phooey.

I'm not going down that negative road that finished off old Bob McNamara's legacy. What a disappointment--this is a guy who could sell us the Vietnam War and then blows it by suddenly getting all squishy about the truth when he's long retired. Jeez Louise, he was once my role model. No secretary of defense ever sold a losing war better. They think I've got a frozen smile, just look at those old pictures of Mac flying into Saigon and giving an upbeat assessment in the midst of carnage. Talk about whistling past the graveyard. And he stayed on the "We're about to turn the corner" message right to the end when LBJ fired him, just like Georgie Porgie did me.

But then he made his fatal mistake. Am I talking about being silent on Nam for the next twenty years while he hid out as head of the World Bank like Paul Wolfowitz? Heck no. It's smart to focus on saving the entire world when you've messed up just a part of it. No, where Mac went wrong was after he left the bank and wrote that memoir and did that Fog of War documentary, babbling on about how he was involved with getting over 58,000 Americans and 3.4 million Indochinese killed and how maybe he could be judged a war criminal. Sheesh! Never, never, use those words when you're talking about an American statesman, for God's sake!--it's downright unpatriotic. Worse, when you're talking about yourself as a possible war criminal and you happen to be one of the most famous Americans. Well, you are just subverting the dreams of ambitious young Americans for generations to come. You have no right to let down kids that way. They need heroes, and for better or worse we are all they've got.

Who else are they going to look up to? Malcontents? Like the mothers of kids who've died and are now questioning what it was all about? Criminy! Take the medals and shut up! I'm not going to let those kids down, so I put that brave smile back on and go back to Iraq and pretend once again this is all about preventing another 9/11. Hey, I'm a pro and I know what they need to hear: "We feel great urgency to protect the American people from another 9/11 or a 9/11 times two or three."

Does it make any sense when we always knew that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? Or when bin Laden is still on the loose and his protectors in the Taliban are on the rise in Afghanistan? Heck no. Do I believe it? Who cares? That's what I learned from working for young George and what his old man's Iraq Study Group doesn't get: Never let the facts get in the way of a good "war on terror" story.

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