On February 17th, Secretary of Defense Donald "Stuff Happens" Rumsfeld will visit the Council on Foreign Relations, the citadel of America's foreign-policy establishment. The topic of his talk is one Terry Southern, father of "Dr Strangelove," could have devised: "New Realities in the Media Age." (The meeting starts at 12:15 and the Council is located at 58 East 68th Street in Manhattan.)
Whose "new realities" will Rumsfeld talk about? The realities of a White House in which a key aide told a reporter that this Administration has scorn for the "reality-based community"? ("We're an empire," the aide told the reporter, "and when we act, we create our own reality.")
Maybe Rumsfeld will tell us how the "new reality" foreign policy is devised by a "cabal" in this White House--a "cabal" which, according to Colonel Lawrence Wilkinson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's top assistant, has hijacked our foreign policy. Or perhaps he'll explain the "new realities" of the worldview held by Vice-President Cheney, Rumsfeld and a handful of top staffers, including the indicted Scooter Libby, which has led us into a disastrous war, set the stage for torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and encouraged the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame?
Will Rumsfeld explain that the "new" reality necessitates lethal arrogance, incompetence and mendacity in taking America into an unnecessary and immoral war? Will he tell the audience that in "new-reality" speak "supporting the troops" means praising Bush and Rumsfeld when they send our young men and women off to die for a lie without proper and, in some cases, defective body and tank armor?
Will Rumsfeld defend the Bush team's "new reality" in this media age for the way it hides the coffins, the rehab wards and the force-readiness statistics to protect itself from bipartisan criticism of its mismanagement? Do "new realities" prescribe that a Defense Secretary dismissively reject warnings by a Pentagon-sponsored study documenting that the Iraq war risks "breaking" the Army? Does the "new reality" require the Joint Chiefs of Staff to waste their time writing letters to the Washington Post protesting a tough, reality-based Tom Toles cartoon (so as to cover their boss's backside), instead of seeking ways to end the maiming and killing of soldiers.
The Council on Foreign Relations, which has invited Rumsfeld to speak, is the same outfit which acceded to a White House demand that President Bush need not answer any questions when he appeared before its members in Washington, DC last December. By breaking tradition--every President who has appeared before it has engaged in Q&A with its members--the Council became a pawn in the White House's PR apparatus, serving a political propaganda objective rather than an educational purpose.
This time around, the Council will not make the same mistake. Rumsfeld will be questioned by members. (Disclosure: I am a member and I have my question(s) ready, and I know many other members who are eager to grill Rumsfeld. )
A key question any sane citizen must ask is why Rumsfeld hasn't resigned--or been fired? In April 2003, we ran a lead editorial, "Rumsfeld Must Go"--and since then John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Ralph Nader and MoveOn.org have joined us and millions of others in making the same demand.
While we know that George Bush is ultimately responsible for the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq, it is Rumsfeld who is the Cabinet member directly charged with planning and carrying on the war. His resignation should be only the beginning, not the end, of a full accounting of who was responsible for this disastrous war which former Reagan National Security Agency director William Odom has called "the greatest strategic disaster in US history."
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.
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