Last week, someone slipped New York Times reporters Michael R. Gordon and David S. Cloud the secret memo finished by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld just two days before he “resigned.” It was the last in a flurry of famed Rumsfeldian “snowflakes” that have fluttered down upon the Pentagon these past years. This one, though, was “submitted” to the White House and clearly meant for the President’s eyes. In it, the Secretary of Defense offered a veritable laundry list of possible policy adjustments in Iraq, adding up to what, according to Gordon and Cloud, is both an acknowledgement of failure and “a major course correction.”
Think of this last zany, only semi-coherent Rumsfeldian document–part of Washington’s grim ongoing silly season over Iraq–as Rumsfeld’s last stand. In it, he quite literally cycles (as in bicycles) back to the origins of the Bush administration’s shredded Iraq policy. It is, in a pathetic sense, that policy stripped bare.
Here are just three last-stand aspects of the memo that have been largely or totally overlooked in most reporting:
1. “Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start ‘taking our hand off the bicycle seat’), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”
From the early, carefree, “stuff happens” period of the occupation comes the wonderfully patronizing image embedded in this mixed metaphor of a passage–though I suppose Iraqis perched on bike seats could indeed have crumpled socks. The image of the Iraqi (child) learning how to ride the bike of democracy–or whatever–with the American (parent) looming behind, hand steadying the seat, was already not just a neocolonial, but a neocon classic by the time the President used it back in May 2004. (In fact, in an even more infantilizing fashion, he spoke of taking the “training wheels” off the Iraqi bike.)