From the Desk of Donald Rumsfeld . . .
Thursday, November 1, 2007
In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid "physical labor" and wrote of the need to "keep elevating the threat," "link Iraq to Iran" and develop "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.
The memos, often referred to as "snowflakes," shed light on Rumsfeld's brusque management style and on his efforts to address key challenges during his tenure as Pentagon chief. Spanning from 2002 to shortly after his resignation following the 2006 congressional elections, a sampling of his trademark missives obtained yesterday reveals a defense secretary disdainful of media criticism and driven to reshape public opinion of the Iraq war.
Rumsfeld, whose sometimes abrasive approach often alienated other Cabinet members and White House staff members, produced 20 to 60 snowflakes a day and regularly poured out his thoughts in writing as the basis for developing policy, aides said. The memos are not classified but are marked "for official use only."
In a 2004 memo on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, Rumsfeld concluded that the challenges there are "not unusual." Pessimistic news reports -- "our publics risk falling prey to the argument that all is lost" -- simply result from the wrong standards being applied, he wrote in one of the memos obtained by The Washington Post.
Under siege in April 2006, when a series of retired generals denounced him and called for his resignation in newspaper op-ed pieces, Rumsfeld produced a memo after a conference call with military analysts. "Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists," he wrote.
People will "rally" to sacrifice, he noted after the meeting. "They are looking for leadership. Sacrifice = Victory."
The meeting also led Rumsfeld to write that he needed a team to help him "go out and push people back, rather than simply defending" Iraq policy and strategy. "I am always on the defense. They say I do it well, but you can't win on the defense," he wrote. "We can't just keep taking hits."
The only man to hold the top Pentagon job twice -- as both the youngest and the oldest defense secretary -- Rumsfeld suggested that the public should know that there will be no "terminal event" in the fight against terrorism like the signing ceremony on the USS Missouri when Japan surrendered to end World War II. "It is going to be a long war," he wrote. "Iraq is only one battleground."
Based on the discussion with military analysts, Rumsfeld tied Iran and Iraq. "Iran is the concern of the American people, and if we fail in Iraq, it will advantage Iran," he wrote in his April 2006 memo.
Rumsfeld declined to comment, but an aide said the points in that memo were Rumsfeld's distillation of the analysts' comments, though he added that the secretary is known for using the term "bumper stickers."
"You are running a story based off of selective quotations and gross mischaracterizations from a handful of memos -- carefully picked from the some 20,000 written while Rumsfeld served as Secretary," Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn wrote in an e-mail. "After almost all meetings, he dictated his recollections of what was said for his own records."
In one of his longer ruminations, in May 2004, Rumsfeld considered whether to redefine the terrorism fight as a "worldwide insurgency." The goal of the enemy, he wrote, is to "end the state system, using terrorism, to drive the non-radicals from the world." He then advised aides "to test what the results could be" if the war on terrorism were renamed.