Mistakes Were Made Redux

It’s been a giddy 48 hours, what with seeing the words “Rumsfeld“ and “resignation“ yoked together so promiscuously in the national and world press. (Though Fred Kaplan’s Slate piece explains why there was never a real shot that he’d quit.) Yet the Pentagon’s failure to keep Congress informed and the “abuses” themselves (Rummy still isn’t sure if beatings, sexual trauma, & 35 suspicious deaths rise to the level of the “T” word) keep muscling aside the fact that the Abu Ghraib photos were most devastating in their confirmation of every bad thing anyone’s ever thought about America. Moreover, Rumsfeld’s dodgy performance before Congress yesterday was just the kind of event that becomes the highwater crest for scandals like this one–a week from now the American people will vaguely remember that Rumsfeld “already explained all that stuff” & flip back over to Alias. Rummy accepted hollow, semantic “responsibility” for what he himself deems a “catastrophe,” and graciously offered that of course he’d resign if he were no longer “effective.” “Effectiveness” in this context must mean “My limo driver still takes me where I tell him to” since the past week has proven like nothing before that Rumsfeld’s ideological fervor makes him screw things up on an intergalactic scale.

Much too was made a couple days ago about Bush’s refusal to apologize to the Iraqis–a result born, I suppose, of Bush’s genetic arrogance & an unwillingness to let his constituents see The Leader of the Free World kowtow to a bunch of whipped little brown people, especially in an election year. Luckily for Bush the King of Jordan happened to be in the neighborhood, so Bush pulled him aside and apologized to him–after all, Abdullah lives over there, doesn’t he?, and he has lips, doesn’t he?, so presumably he can pass the message along to anyone who’s interested. Bush then went on “Arabic TV” to talk directly to the Iraqis. Only one problem: one of the two stations he appeared on was merely our propaganda arm, while the other was pointedly not al-Jazeera, the widely watched but U.S.-unfriendly Middle Eastern network, and even in the interviews he did give, Bush was short on apologies and long on phrases like “The Iraqi people must understand…,” as if all this unpleasantness was caused by their swinish recalcitrance to face simple facts.

His appearances brought up the further question: If the last year has truly been about democracy-building, why didn’t Bush make a point of appearing on Arabic TV, on at least some kind of semi-regular basis, to explain his reasoning & perspective directly to the Iraqis all along? Like always with these guys, the answer is either stupidity or arrogance, and as usual it’s hard to tell exactly which of the two answers is the right one. Anyway, the idea seems like the least a guy can do for a country he’s invaded, & who knows, it might’ve even put a human face on an occupation the Iraqi people are rejecting with increasing force. It certainly seems a more far-sighted–and more prudent–course than inviting the insurgents to “bring it on.”

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