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Reviewers Rip Rummy

Reviewers Rip Rummy

Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir Known and Unknown (previewed here) has been out–and the author ubiquitous–for about a week, long enough for reviewers to render a remarkably consistent verdict: it’s a 800-page exercise in evasion, self-justification, and blame-shifting, and it fails, ultimately, to persuade. Herewith, a sampling of assessments.

Maureen Dowd says Rumsfeld is starting to make Robert McNamara look good. At least the Vietnam-era defense secretary was capable of self-criticism; the unrepentant Rumsfeld is too “blinded by ego” to be sorry for his misjudgments.

Also in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani calls the book “tedious” and “self-serving” and “filled with efforts to blame others” for the colossal screw-up that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post says Known and Unknown epitomizes “the essential Rumsfeld: fighting to the dead end in the face of overwhelming fact.” He goes on: “There had been some question about whether Rumsfeld would use his memoir to apologize for what went wrong in Iraq, as Robert McNamara’s memoir did for Vietnam. But after four years of reflection, Rumsfeld remains dismissive of those less brilliant than he is – which is pretty much everybody.”

Likewise, Pratap Chatterjee at the Guardian remarks Rumsfeld’s blame-shifting tendency. “There’s plenty of reason to blame [Powell, Rice, Bremer, Bush et al.] for their failures, no doubt about it. But in reality, if there is one person who was in charge of the war, it was Donald Rumsfeld – and it is he who needs to apologize for the crimes of that war.”

Gwen Ifill, reviewing for the Washington Post, calls the book “a revenge memoir.” Drily, she summarizes: “Rumsfeld, according to Rumsfeld, was prescient, clear-headed, loyal and almost always right.” On the other hand, “he is also acerbic, dismissive and reluctant to admit that he occasionally missed the policy mark.”

Slate’s Fred Kaplan thinks Rumsfeld “may be even worse at writing a memoir than he was at being secretary of defense.” He allows that we expect a certain quotient of score-settling and self-justification in a political autobiography. “It can even be tolerable if it’s joined to an engaging style or sage insights about broader matters,” he says; but: “Rumsfeld’s book has no such redeeming features. And even if it did, its distortions and lies (I use the term advisedly) are just too blatant to be countenanced.”

David Corn at Politics Daily notices a glaring omission in the book. Although Rumsfeld acknowledges that the Iraq war “has come at a high price” in U.S. blood and treasure, he doesn’t “pay even lip service” to the hundred thousand or so Iraqi civilians who died as a result of American involvement. “There are several possibilities. Perhaps they believe their calculus would be harder to defend if such extensive and tragic losses were recognized. This is a tremendous amount of blood to place on the scales. Or can it be that they have just not paid much attention to the matter of civilian casualties and are (perhaps willfully) ignoring the topic? … Any honest debate about the merits of a war would consider this angle.

For Andrew Bacevich, writing at FT.com, “[t]he known knowns turn out to be the real problem.” He explains: “When the “things we know we know” prove to be false or misleading, statesmen drive their country off a cliff. Yet being alert to truths that are not true requires a capacity for introspection, a quality manifestly absent from Rumsfeld’s make-up. He remains stubbornly, even defiantly, someone who knows what he knows.”

Bacevich goes on: “Known and Unknown is tendentious rather than instructive. The reader who wades in should expect a long, hard slog, with little likelihood of emerging on the far side appreciably enlightened. Rather than seriously contemplating the implications of the events in which he participated, Rumsfeld spends more than 800 pages dodging them.”

 

Related Stories: 

Rumsfeld’s Memoir: Regrets and Iraq War Revelations

Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes


 

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Photo by:  the|G|™
By Julian Brookes, blogger for The Progressive Reader

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39 comments

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9:58AM PST on Feb 23, 2011

Jean M, Past Member and Dave Tohunga are quite right. Just more evidence of how "our" political system (dis)functions. Maybe something else would better live up to the visions of the Founders? But, shucks, that's pie in the sky. NOBODY in the US of A is really going to consider alternatives to "our" system. Self-examination and (perish the thought!) serious self-criticism are simply not American characteristics. We all know we're the best, and everybody else wants to be just like us. Right? Well, poor everybody else. Good night and good luck!

9:56AM PST on Feb 23, 2011

Jean M, Past Member and Dave Tohunga are quite right. Just more evidence of how "our" political system (dis)functions. Maybe something else would better live up to the visions of the Founders? But, shucks, that's pie in the sky. NOBODY in the US of A is really going to consider alternatives to "our" system. Self-examination and (perish the thought!) serious self-criticism are simply not American characteristics. We all know we're the best, and everybody else wants to be just like us. Right? Well, poor everybody else. Good night and good luck!

11:58PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

The article states ...
"it’s a 800-page exercise in evasion, self-justification, and blame-shifting, "

Tick all boxes !

Sounds like an archetypal political autobiography!

7:15AM PST on Feb 20, 2011

These are reviews by all left-wing blogs. What would you expect?

5:17AM PST on Feb 19, 2011

Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and Rove should be charged.We will be paying for years for all their corruption. What happened to Cheney's bribery charges? Guess they were paid off. I still can not believe how long it took for people to see through these twisted crooks

2:19AM PST on Feb 19, 2011

Reviews don't matter, reading does, and deciding for oneself with an open mind is important. The bigger concern stated here is: Why are these MEN not being charged with war crimes? We do not have enough steel willed congress people to take this on! Sad when our own gov't turns a blind eye to grievous deeds done by our (former) leaders! When our own gov't collapse comes, some of us won't be surprised...and will probably even rejoice!

10:04PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

Man's an international war criminal like Mengeles, Goebels, Pol Pot, Idi Amin etc etc.
This man has been proven to have authorised and implemented torture as policy, deployed illegal Depleted Uranium Ordinance and white phosphorous, and to have lied to Americans and still he's not in jail?
America has failed.
Like the former Soviet Union it has become bloated and corrupt
and a threat to all life on earth...
so the sooner the morally and financially bankrupt US collapses the better!
What goes around comes around as Chief Seattle said of those who invaded, stole the natives land and murdered them all, men women and children...
Not much has changed about the way america operates since as evidenced by american history globally since then.
Arrest the scumbag, as it was required by the constitution of US citizens that this war criminal and his accomplices treasonously destroyed.

9:31PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

What goes around comes around.

7:44PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

I don't read fiction or pseudo -reality

7:16PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

Again the question should be asked and answered by someone. Why have war crime charges not been filed? On the issue of depleted uranium weapons alone there are serious issues with the criminal actions of these war perpatrators. And now there is concrete evidence coming forward that they knew there were no WMD's and perpatrated a huge fraud upon the U.S. public. Not only do these criminals need to be convicted we need to bring down and reform the so called public media sham.

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