Dana Milbank in the Washington Post had an excellent piece the other day on Donald Rumsfeld’s recent press briefing, in which he tried to deny the Iraqi insurgents the “legitimacy” of being referred to as such, and ran into trouble with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace: Rumsfeld’s war on ‘Insurgents’.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, standing at Rumsfeld’s side, evidently didn’t get the memo about the wording change. Describing combat in Iraq, he paused and said, “I have to use the word ‘insurgent’ because I can’t think of a better word right now.”
” ‘Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government’ — how’s that?” Rumsfeld proposed.
“What the secretary said,” Pace continued, to laughter. But Rumsfeld’s new description — ELIG, if you prefer an acronym — didn’t stick with the general. Smiling, he uttered the forbidden word again while discussing explosive devices.
The secretary recoiled in mock horror. “Sorry, sir,” Pace explained. “I’m not trainable today.”
When UPI’s Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, Rumsfeld replied that “obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility” other than to voice disapproval.
But Pace had a different view. “It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it,” the general said.
Rumsfeld interjected: “I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.”
But Pace meant what he said. “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” he said, firmly.
Ever since seeing Kurt Vonnegut’s Daily Show appearance, in which he called Donald Rumsfeld “the dumbest man at the top of our government,” I’ve been taking a closer look, and coming to the conclusion that Vonnegut might well have a point.
But still, the Secretary of Everything can sure do spin. Just maybe not much else beside that.