In a striking sign of faltering U.S. efforts in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is now trying to distance himself from the decision to invade Iraq.
In last Sunday’s Washington Post, Rumsfeld downplayed his role significantly:
For there comes a point when even the secretary of defense must realize that “it’s not your decision or even your recommendation,” Rumsfeld reflected with Woodward. By which he meant the Iraq war wasn’t Don Rumsfeld’s decision or recommendation.
Rumsfeld went even further this morning on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos that he “didn’t advocate invasion” and in fact, “wasn’t asked” about the decision. [Full transcript below.]
Rumsfeld can’t rewrite history. The truth is, as early as 1998, he signed a letter urging President Clinton to turn his attention “to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts.”
Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Rumsfeld was already urging his aides “to come up with plans for striking Iraq “” even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.” According to notes, he wanted “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only [Osama bin Laden].”
Indeed, a Newsweek article from September 2002 described Rumsfeld as “the most visible and certainly the most colorful frontman for attacking Iraq.”
Full ABC transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: If you had known that no weapons of mass destruction would be found, would you have advocated invasion?
RUMSFELD: I didn’t advocate invasion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn’t?
RUMSFELD: No, I wasn’t asked. If you read all the books and the things —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why weren’t you asked? That’s very puzzling.
RUMSFELD: Well, I’m sure the president understood what my views were. But as a technical matter, did he ever look and say, “What should we do? Should we go do this or not do that?” This something the president thought through very carefully.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you trying to distance yourself from the war with that –
RUMSFELD: Of course not. Of course not. I agreed completely with the decision to go to war and said that a hundred times. And don’t — don’t even suggest that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m just asking.
RUMSFELD: Well, you know better.