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Surge Desk

Donald Rumsfeld's New Memoir Trashed by Critics, John McCain and the ACLU

Feb 3, 2011 – 8:12 PM
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David Knowles

David Knowles Writer

You go to press with the book you have.

Coming in at just over 800 pages, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's new book, "Known and Unknown," was an ambitious undertaking. Given the harsh early reviews that have come in so far, however, one wonders if all that effort might have been better spent on a golf course.

Surge Desk surveys the critical response to the book so far.

Writing at The New York Times, veteran reviewer Michiko Kakutani lays into Rumsfeld's tome with marked vigor:
The tedious, self-serving volume is filled with efforts to blame others -- most notably the C.I.A., the State Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority (in particular George Tenet, Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and L. Paul Bremer III) -- for misjudgments made in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the failure to contain an insurgency there that metastasized for years. It is a book that suffers from many of the same flaws that led the administration into what George Packer of The New Yorker has called "a needlessly deadly" undertaking -- that is, cherry-picked data, unexamined assumptions and an unwillingness to re-examine past decisions.
Like Kakutani, The Guardian's Pratap Chatterjee takes aim at Rumsfeld for what he considers a not-very-artful attempt at historical revision:
In his book, Rumsfeld shifts responsibility for the failures in Iraq on to President George Bush and Paul Bremer III, the diplomat who ran ... Iraq for the first year, as well as on to former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. There's plenty of reason to blame them for their failures, no doubt about it. But in reality, if there is one person who was in charge of the war, it was Donald Rumsfeld -- and it is he who needs to apologise for the crimes of that war.
He's not necessarily a noted literary critic, but Sen. John McCain had a few choice words about the shots Rumsfeld took at McCain's legendary temper in his book. "Thank God he was relieved of his duties," McCain said on "Good Morning America."

More piling on came from the American Civil Liberties Union, which, as Fox News reported, zeroed in on Rumsfled's claim that the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was simply a one-off. "Mr. Rumsfeld's claim that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was isolated and aberrational is domonstrably false," Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, said in a statement. "Government documents show that the methods used at Abu Ghraib were the same ones Mr. Rumsfeld approved, and that the abuse of prisoners in Defense Department custody was systemic." Jaffer added, "This effort to rewrite history is shameful."

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