Friday, January 31, 2003

Rumsfield bothers me

Donald Rumsfeld bothers me. I used to think it was “something about his eyes”. But then I read the Jan. 27 issue of Editor & Publisher magazine.

I had forgotten about Rumsfeld’s (Rummy, as he is known by his closest friends) involvement in the Nixon administration.

In E&P, Daniel Ellsberg, the “whistle-blower” who released the Pentagon papers about the cover-up of the Vietnam War, quotes H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff. After the New York Times reported on the Pentagon Papers for two days, Haldeman paraphrased Rumsfeld as saying, “Out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: ‘You can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment.” (Editor & Publisher, Jan. 27, 2003, p. 18).

Rumsfeld was on Nixon’s staff at the time.

“Whether Rumsfeld himself has kept that lesson in mind isn’t clear,” Ellsberg says (p. 19).

One has to be skeptical when President Bush and Rumsfeld try to make a case for war against Iraq.

I am not writing as a journalist who has covered Washington. My reporting beat since 1973 has always been much more local — city and county government and school boards.

I am writing as a regular Joe Citizen. I remember Vietnam. I remember Watergate. I have friends who served in Korea.

I remember the night I called one of our church members whose son was serving in the Gulf War and told his mother, “We are praying for your family.” She cried as she hung up the phone.

Is Saddam Hussein the number one terrorist threat?

President Bush says Saddam Hussein refuses to provide proof of what happened to weapons of mass destruction. Supposedly, our government has proof specific quantities of deadly materials once existed inside Iraq. But, remember what Rumsfeld said back in the ’70s — people don’t trust the government. Between Watergate and Vietnam, we have good reason not to do so.

U.N. inspectors have not been able to find proof of weapons of mass destruction. Maybe they never existed. Maybe Hussein has already given them to al-Qaeda. So, it would seem that if we bomb Iraq we are either doing so without provocation or we are locking the barn door after the horse got out.

Was I the only person in America to have trouble sleeping after the president’s State of the Union address?

If I understood correctly, Bush was saying we should oust Hussein and occupy Iraq because if we don’t, Iraq may supply weapons that will be used against the United States. Will we, the U.S., by ourselves try to become the world’s police? Our president has already indicated he is ready to go to war whether the U.N. agrees or not. What happens after we win the war in Iraq? How long do we occupy the area? Will we next move into Saudi Arabia and any other countries that may provide weapons to use against America?What about “homeland security”? Is that just a euphemism for fascism? Who will determine what constitutes threats to America at home? Opposition to the president’s objectives?

Some would call any opposition to the war in Iraq “un-American”. Now is the time for healthy debate — before the first shot is fired.

Will Colin Powell be able to convince the world to side with the U.S. against Iraq and go to war? Or, will Powell’s speech next week just be lip service?

I started this column by expressing distrust of Donald Rumsfeld. I know that ultimately President George Walker Bush will be responsible if our men go into combat. But Rumsfeld should know better and he has the ear of our president. No, I don’t trust Rumsfeld. After reading Ellsberg’s comments, I have more reason than just the look of his eyes.

Frank Phillips can be reached at