Posted by lex, on August 30, 2006
Speaking to a crowd at the American Legion Convention in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, SECDEF made what would seem to most of us a set of fairly innocuous remarks on the nature of the war we’re in – even drawing some of the same historical analogies such as would be familiar to those who frequent the milblogs. But joining in the on-going scalp hunt, this is how the AP chose to frame those remarks *:
Rumsfeld Lashes Out at Bush’s Critics
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces “a new type of fascism’’ and likened critics of the U.S. war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis.
In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the Bush administration’s critics as suffering from “moral or intellectual confusion’’ about what threatens the nation’s security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defenses of President Bush’ war policies and was among his toughest attacks on the president’s critics.
Pretty harsh, yah? Had several of the usual suspects issuing denunciations. Except that, looking over his remarks (the entire text can be found at the DOD Public Affairs * website) it’s pretty clear that the AP’s characterization of the Secretary’s words picks a fight with an argument he doesn’t present. The relevant portions are excerpted below:
“1919 was the beginning of period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate public discourse and thinking in the West.
“Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that — if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and destruction of then-recent memory of World War I could be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the western democracies. . . .
“I recount this history because we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the threat of a new type of fascism. Today another enemy — a different kind of enemy — has also made clear its intentions — with attacks in places like New York, Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, and Moscow. But some seem not to have learned history’s lessons.
“We need to consider the following questions:
*With the growing lethality and increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?
*Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?
*Can we truly afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply “law enforcement” problems, rather than fundamentally different threats, requiring fundamentally different approaches? And
*Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America – not the enemy – is the real source of the world’s troubles?
“These are central questions of our time. And we must face them honestly. . . .
“In every army, there are occasionally bad actors – the ones who dominate the headlines today – who don’t live up to the standards of their oath and of our country.
“But you also know that they are a very, very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women in all theaters in this struggle who are serving with humanity, and decency and courage in the face of continuous provocation.
“And that is important in this “long war,” where any moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere. . . . ”
Doesn’t sound so bad when you put it like that, does it? Doesn’t even sound remotely political. Seems to your correspondent the textual equivalent of all fauxtography ** we’ve been reading so much about lately.
There are plenty of things to critize up and down the chain-of-command, but hopefully we’ll do that more as a way of generating lessons learned along the way rather than the usual political coup counting. This sort of thing is not just deceptive, it’s also unhelfpful in the broader sense of informing the public, and from the AP’s point of view, protecting their reputation for honesty.
Update: MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann sees what he wants to see in Rumsfelds’s speech, coughs up a public hairball, and gets caught out.
You get to have your own opinion, Keith. You don’t get your own reality.
**08-24-20 – Links changed – Ed.
*** 08-24-20 Link gone; no substitute found – Ed.