Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rumsfeld spots a sign of progress in Iraq

When Secretary of War Rumsfeld is bored, he likes to rename stuff (and torture puppies). Today, he decided (full transcript here) that the Iraqi insurgency doesn’t merit the word insurgency. “These people don’t have a legitimate gripe,” he says, so from now on, they’ll be “enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government” or ELIGgers for short. Also, since the Iraqi government is legitimate, “Any contention that there’s some sort of an occupation taking place or that coalition forces are there at anything other than the invitation of the government and the United Nations becomes a weaker argument.” Yeah, heaven forfend they get the idea into their heads that there’s some sort of an occupation taking place.

Asked about white phosphorus, Rummy handed off to the alliterative Gen. Peter Pace, and here there’s something interesting in the transcript. Pace insists willy pete is “a legitimate tool of the military” and that
It is not a chemical weapon, it is an incendiary (sic) [It is not an incendiary weapon as defined by the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons], and it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they are being used for marking and for screening.
The sic & brackets are in the transcript. I think Pace accidentally admitted to a war crime.

Asked about the uniformed death squads working within the, uh, legitimate Iraqi government, Rumsfeld: “I’m not going to comment on hypothetical questions. I’ve not seen reports that hundreds are being killed by roving death squads at all.” As Maureen Dowd once said, fire Rummy or make him read faster. He went on, “I can only talk about what I know. That’s life.” He actually suggested that the death squad claims are purely “politicking,” part of the December 15 elections, so they’re yet one more “sign of progress” – see if you can follow this – because instead of “repression by a vicious dictator,” “They’re tugging; they’re pulling; they’re arguing; they’re debating; they’re making charges and countercharges. That’s a good thing. That’s a sign of progress, in my view.” Yes, Sunnis complaining about being murdered by roving Shiite death squads is a sign of progress.

In response to a question about torture by Iraqi security types, there was this already-famous exchange:
GEN. PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. ...

SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

GEN. PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.
Rummy emits an odd combination of happy talk – “But by golly, the people who have been denigrating the Iraqi security forces are flat wrong!” – and language designed to distance himself from any responsibility for the atrocities that are going on now, and the atrocities to come:
Our problem is that any time something needs to be done, we have a feeling we should rush in and fill the vacuum and do it ourselves. ... It is the Iraqis’ country, 28 million of them. They are perfectly capable of running that country. They’re not going to run it the way you would or I would or the way we do here in this country, but they’re going to run it.
At 6:45 a.m. PST, Bush will give his speech outlining his “strategy for victory” in Iraq.

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