Don Rumsfeld, playing a dead-end game in his memoir

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"We're changing the culture of America from one that has said . . . 'if you've got a problem, blame somebody else,' to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make."

- George W. Bush

Don Rumsfeld is a dead-ender.

Not in the meaning of the phrase as we understood it in 2003, back when he prematurely described the Iraqi insurgents as mere "pockets of dead-enders."

No, Rumsfeld is a dead-ender under the revised definition, provided by the former defense secretary in his score-settling memoir. In this telling, being a dead-ender means you are tough and formidable.

We receive this wisdom on Page 674 of Rumsfeld's book, "Known and Unknown," which at 815 pages is his longest snowflake ever. "Some in the media mistook my use of the phrase 'dead-enders' to mean I was suggesting that victory was imminent," he writes in the soon-to-be-released memoir, a copy of which was obtained by The Post's Bradley Graham. "In fact, my meaning was exactly the opposite - namely that our forces were locked in a bloody struggle with an enemy that would fight to the bitter end."

To support his point, he provides an ambiguous quote from April 2004: "The dead-enders, threatened by Iraq's progress to self-government, may believe they can drive the coalition out through terror."

Well played, Rummy! Except that isn't the quote that caused people to think he was suggesting imminent victory. It was this one, from 10 months earlier: "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, General [Tommy] Franks and his team are rooting them out. In short, the coalition is making good progress." In the same news conference, he dismissed the resistance as "small elements" and unorganized "remnants" whose rebellion "will end."

This is the essential Rumsfeld: fighting to the dead end in the face of overwhelming fact.

There had been some question about whether Rumsfeld would use his memoir to apologize for what went wrong in Iraq, as Robert McNamara's memoir did for Vietnam. But after four years of reflection, Rumsfeld remains dismissive of those less brilliant than he is - which is pretty much everybody.

The National Security Council: "I didn't think the NSC was doing its job well."

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