You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

July 21, 2008

LOOKING BACK: Rumsfeld Privately Criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki As Inferior To Mass Murderers

There's no question Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has recently been giving the White House and John McCain heartburn. On Saturday in an interview with Der Spiegel he essentially endorsed Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Then did it again today, right after speaking with Obama in Baghdad:

After talks with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki reaffirmed that Iraq wants U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2010, a few months later than Obama had proposed.

So it's worth looking back at the Bush administration's private views of Maliki, as stated by Donald Rumsfeld back in 2006.

For the recent New York Time story on the close government ties of TV military analysts, the paper pried loose tons of internal Pentagon records never meant to see the light of day. Buried in the pile was a recording of Rumsfeld having lunch with many of the Pentagon's analysts in December, 2006 just before he was replaced by Robert Gates. (The large .wav file is available here.)

One section of the recording goes like this:

UNIDENTIFIED ANALYST #1: This is really off the record, but do you think that this government can survive—the unity government—or they're eventually gonna have to go to an authoritarian one like came out of [South] Korea, Syngman Rhee, was really an authoritarian leader. The eleven years I was supporting commander in Korea, the president was an Army major general in civilian clothes and they had their highest growth rates and did the '88 Olympics and they finally handed it over. The real question is, and we all hope the unity government [inaudible], but it's very difficult.

RUMSFELD: It is very difficult. You look at it and there isn't anyone smart enough to know the answer to your question.

UNIDENTIFIED ANALYST #1: I think the answer's they can't, but how you do get that right person?

RUMSFELD: I mean, Allawi had steel up his backside.


RUMSFELD: And he wasn't well liked and wasn't perfect. He'd leave the country for long periods and stuff. He was not as attentive as he needed to be, it strikes me. But good lord, in terms of dealing with him, he was terrific. He could make a decision and he would kick some fanny to get it implemented, and you felt good about it. The fellow who proceeded Maliki [Ibrahim al-Jaafari] was like a windsock. You know, he was the last guy he talked to, and we're still off the record.

Q: We heard that windsock terminology over there from somebody else.

RUMSFELD: Oh man, he was something. Yes, he's a hell of a—a very pleasant guy, but good grief, the last guy he talked to. This fella [Maliki] is better than the one before, but he's not Syngman Rhee.

For anyone familiar with Ayad Allawi and Syngman Rhee, the casual admiration Rumsfeld expresses for them is like a punch in the stomach. The hands of both Allawi and Rhee are covered with the blood of their countrymen.

Allawi was a member of Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party during the sixties and seventies. Seymour Hersh quotes an American intelligence official as saying "Allawi helped Saddam get to power"; Hersh also reports that a high level Middle East diplomat told him that Allawi was part of a Baathist Party hit squad that murdered dissenters in Europe. (After a falling out with Saddam in the mid-seventies, Allawi lived in England and ended up channeling false information about Iraq's purported WMD and Al-Qaeda ties to the media.)

But that may merely have been the prelude. The Bush administration was able to briefly install Allawi as Iraq's Prime Minster in 2004. Soon afterward, Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker provided convincing evidence that, just before taking office, Allawi had personally shot seven Iraqi prisoners.

Yet as bad as Allawi was, the South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee was far worse. According to recent reporting by AP, Rhee, who took power in 1948, supervised the slaughter of over 100,000 South Koreans in the space of a few weeks.

Indeed, Allawi and Rhee seem almost indistinguishable from Saddam Hussein. But then, Rumsfeld never had any real problems with him either.

BONUS: Allawi's successor and Maliki's predecessor as prime minster was Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Jaafari is the one whom Rumsfeld refers to as a "windsock." In what must have come as quite a surprise to the Bush administration, Jaafari was a fervent admirer of Noam Chomsky.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 21, 2008 06:17 PM

How I love your bloooog. Yes, there are greater bloooogs, I suppose, but there is none I love better. This is the Pickup on South Street of bloooogs.

Posted by: Simbaud at July 21, 2008 11:16 PM

Chomsky recently wrote:

Teheran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that's receptive to their influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current US counterinsurgency strategy is "stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism." The outcome might be "a strong, centralised state ruled by a military junta that would resemble" Saddam's regime.

Posted by: Rob Payne at July 22, 2008 03:49 AM

Well, ya have some enlightened despots, and then ya have OUR GEORGIE.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 22, 2008 10:40 AM

"He's not Syngman Rhee."

Something most human beings would take as a compliment.

Posted by: Nell at July 22, 2008 12:37 PM

Simbaud, why do you persist in using "bloooog," rather than the correct term, "blog"?

I guess some people just have to be different for the sake of being different.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 22, 2008 02:10 PM

"bloooog" hurts my eyes. and isnt that rummy a lovely fellow.

Posted by: josh at July 22, 2008 04:32 PM

"Bloooog" is what we type when we've been drinking and our O-finger gets a little heavy. We would never type anything of the sort sober. For one thing, when we're sober, this blog really bites it.

Posted by: Simbaud at July 24, 2008 03:38 PM

We would never type anything of the sort sober.

I'm sorry. Drunk or sober, only very bad individuals would even think of using anything but the standard, approved term of "blog."

It's just a matter of respect for standardization. In a better world, any deviations would be punished, and punished severely.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 24, 2008 09:50 PM

Before you go off on another rant about standardization, your readership might like to know exactly how much you have invested in companies that produce so-called "movable type."

Posted by: Simbaud at July 25, 2008 06:02 PM

And I don't mean the publishing platform. I mean movable type!

Posted by: Simbaud at July 25, 2008 07:29 PM