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Rumsfeld remains largely unapologetic in memoir

Donald Rumsfeld came to the Pentagon with a plan to transform the Defense Department. Then America went to war with Iraq.

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Later, after Rice succeeded Powell as secretary of state, Rumsfeld argues that she pushed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf too hard toward more democratic practices, wrongly put human rights ahead of important U.S. security interests in Uzbekistan, and fruitlessly pursued diplomatic engagement with Syria, Iran and North Korea.

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Though careful to describe Bush personally in complimentary terms, Rumsfeld suggests the former president was at fault for not doing more to resolve disagreements among senior advisers. Bush "did not always receive, and may not have insisted on, a timely consideration of his options before he made a decision, nor did he always receive effective implementation of the decisions he made," Rumsfeld writes.

Such criticisms stand in contrast to Rumsfeld's longtime aversion to publicizing his sometimes disparaging views of colleagues or discussing internal government deliberations. Still, his barbs stop short of ad hominem attacks, and the memoir, even with its flashes of lingering resentments, maintains a measured tone.

In a few places, Rumsfeld, now 78, reveals a more vulnerable side than he showed in office. He speaks tenderly of efforts by two of his three children - son Nick and daughter Marcy - to deal with drug addiction. He recounts an emotional moment 15 days after the Sept. 11 attacks when Bush asked him about Nick's recent decision to enter a treatment center. Rumsfeld describes himself as tearing up.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post ahead of a Feb. 8 release date, covers Rumsfeld's entire life, including earlier stints in government and a long career in business. But more than 60 percent of the book deals with his controversial six years as Bush's defense secretary.

In a lengthy section on the administration's treatment of wartime detainees, Rumsfeld regrets not leaving office in May 2004 after the disclosure of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. At the time, Bush rejected two resignation letters, five days apart, from Rumsfeld. Another 21/2 years passed before Bush, facing the Republicans' loss of Congress, decided to let Rumsfeld go.

"Looking back, I see there are things the administration could have done differently and better with respect to wartime detention," Rumsfeld acknowledges.

Rumsfeld argues that the administration was wrong to have been so focused on preserving presidential powers that it initially eschewed negotiations with Congress in formulating detainee policy. A chief proponent of this strategy, Rumsfeld notes, was former vice president Dick Cheney, a longtime friend. Rumsfeld contends it would have been better to get buy-in from Congress by soliciting its involvement early in drafting detainee legislation.

Even so, Rumsfeld doubts that the resulting practices would have differed much. He remains unrepentant about the Pentagon's overall handling of detainee interrogations, his own approval of interrogation techniques that were harsher than those in the Army Field Manual, the management of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the creation of military commissions. And he notes that even the Obama administration has found little recourse but to maintain the Guantanamo prison and continue holding suspected terrorists without according them prisoner-of-war status.


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