Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ben's response, interspersed:

INNER OFFICE
END OF THE AFFAIR
by Jeffrey Goldberg
Issue of 2006-11-20Posted 2006-11-13
Two months ago, Kenneth Adelman, the former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, received a call from the Pentagon: Donald Rumsfeld would like to see him as soon as possible. Adelman said he knew then that this meeting might be their last.
The two men had been friends for thirty-six years.

Adelman first worked for Rumsfeld in the Nixon Administration, and then served as Rumsfeld’s assistant during his more rewarding term as the Secretary of Defense, under President Ford.

Rumsfeld drafted Adelman to help him in his brief, ineffectual campaign for President, in 1988. Their families sometimes spent vacations together, and Rumsfeld continued to call on Adelman for advice. In 2001, Rumsfeld appointed his friend to the Defense Policy Board, a group of lobbyists, defense intellectuals, and politicians of once high standing, who gather periodically to give the Secretary unvarnished advice on strategy and management.

Rumsfeld had apparently come to see Adelman’s advice as a bit too unvarnished. Before the war, Adelman famously remarked that the invasion would be a “cakewalk.” He wasn’t wrong about that. Seizing Baghdad was comparatively easy; holding it quickly became the problem. “When Rumsfeld said, in reaction to all the looting, ‘Stuff happens,’ and ‘That’s what free people do,’ I was just so disappointed,” ALAS, THAT IS WHAT ALL PEOPLE DO SOMETIMES Adelman recalled last week. “This wasn’t what free people did; it’s what barbarians did.” Within the confines of the policy board, Adelman became blunt about his disenchantment with the Pentagon’s management of the war. At the board’s meeting this summer, Adelman said, he argued that the American military needed a new strategy.

“I suggested that we were losing the war,” Adelman said. HOW DOES HE KNOW THAT? THERE WERE ELECTIONS, A COURT , A FAIR TRIAL OF SADDAM, ETC. ETC. ETC. “What was astonishing to me was the number of Iraqi professional people who were leaving the country. People were voting with their feet, NATURALLY; PEOPLE DON'T LIKE GETTING BLOWN UP and I said that it looked like we needed a Plan B. I said, ‘What’s the alternative? Because what we’re doing now is just losing.’ ” SEE ABOVE.

Adelman said that Rumsfeld didn’t take to the message well. “He was in deep denial—deep, deep denial. And then he did a strange thing. He did fifteen or twenty minutes of posing questions to himself, and then answering them.

He made the statement that we can only lose the war in America, that we can’t lose it in Iraq. And I tried to interrupt this interrogatory soliloquy to say, ‘Yes, we are actually losing the war in Iraq.’ He got upset and cut me off. He said, ‘Excuse me,’ and went right on with it.”

The meeting ended disagreeably. In any case, the two men had stopped socializing some time ago. Adelman’s wife, Carol, hoped to maintain the friendship, but he had become unsure. “On Christmas in 2005,” Adelman said, “Don invited us over for a small gathering, but by that time I couldn’t go. Carol went. I was feeling too much pain by then.”

When Adelman went to see Rumsfeld in his office, he knew that Rumsfeld wanted him out. “He said, ‘Ken, you’ve been my friend for most of my adult life,’ and he said that I was going to be his friend for the rest of his life,” Adelman recalled. “Then he said, ‘It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board.’ I said, ‘It won’t be best for me. If you want me off, it’s not a problem, but if it’s up to me I’ll stay on.’ He wanted me to resign. He didn’t want to do it himself. And so we did that little dance.”

Adelman went on, “Rumsfeld said, ‘You’ve become disruptive and negative.’ Well, I got a little flustered and said, ‘That’s bullshit about being disruptive. Negative, you’ve got right.’ He responded by saying, ‘Well, you interrupt people in the meetings.’ And I said, ‘You know where I learned that from? I learned that from the master.’ ” Rumsfeld laughed, Adelman said.
“I had the floor then, and I started by saying what a positive influence he had been in my life, that I love him like a brother.

He nodded, kind of sadly. And then I said, ‘I’m negative about two things: the deflection of responsibility, and the quality of decisions.’ He said he took responsibility all the time. Then I talked about two decisions: the way he handled the looting, and Abu Ghraib. He told me that he didn’t remember saying, ‘Stuff happens.’

He was really in denial that this was his fault.” Adelman said that it struck him then that “maybe he really thinks that things are going well in Iraq.”

No conclusions were reached at the meeting, and there was no further communication from Rumsfeld until shortly before the election, Adelman said. Rumsfeld sent him a letter, which reads, “As we discussed when we met, we are moving ahead on the Defense Policy Board and we’ll be naming a replacement for your spot in the next week or two. I appreciate your cooperation.” It was signed “Regards, Donald Rumsfeld.” (Rumsfeld’s office did not return telephone calls seeking comment.)

A few days later, Rumsfeld was out. Adelman is, apparently, still in. “I’m heartsick about the whole matter,” he said. He does not know what to make of the disintegration of Rumsfeld’s career and reputation. “How could this happen to someone so good, so competent?” he said. “This war made me doubt the past. Was I wrong all those years, or was he just better back then? The Donald Rumsfeld of today is not the Donald Rumsfeld I knew, but maybe I was wrong about the old Donald Rumsfeld. It’s a terrible way to end a career. It’s hard to remember, but he was once the future.”He made the statement that we can only lose the war in America, that we can’t lose it in Iraq. to say, ‘Yes, we are actually losing the war in Iraq.’ He got upset and cut me off. He said, ‘Excuse me,’ and went right on with it.”

The meeting ended disagreeably. In any case, the two men had stopped socializing some time ago. Adelman’s wife, Carol, hoped to maintain the friendship, but he had become unsure. “On Christmas in 2005,” Adelman said, “Don invited us over for a small gathering, but by that time I couldn’t go. Carol went. I was feeling too much pain by then.”

When Adelman went to see Rumsfeld in his office, he knew that Rumsfeld wanted him out. “He said, ‘Ken, you’ve been my friend for most of my adult life,’ and he said that I was going to be his friend for the rest of his life,” Adelman recalled. “Then he said, ‘It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board.’ I said, ‘It won’t be best for me. If you want me off, it’s not a problem, but if it’s up to me I’ll stay on.’ He wanted me to resign. He didn’t want to do it himself. And so we did that little dance.”

Adelman went on, “Rumsfeld said, ‘You’ve become disruptive and negative.’ Well, I got a little flustered and said, ‘That’s bullshit about being disruptive. Negative, you’ve got right.’ He responded by saying, ‘Well, you interrupt people in the meetings.’ NOT ME --- I NEVER DO THAT --- JUST ASK ANYONE I INTERRUPT --- And I said, ‘You know where I learned that from? I learned that from the master.’ ” Rumsfeld laughed, Adelman said.

WINSTON CHURCHILL AND MANY AMERICAN OFFICIALS DO THAT IN A PROCESS CALLED "MURDER BOARDS."

“I had the floor then, and I started by saying what a positive influence he had been in my life, that I love him like a brother. He nodded, kind of sadly. And then I said, ‘I’m negative about two things: the deflection of responsibility, and the quality of decisions.’ He said he took responsibility all the time. Then I talked about two decisions: the way he handled the looting, and Abu Ghraib. He told me that he didn’t remember saying, ‘Stuff happens.’ He was really in denial that this was his fault.” Adelman said that it struck him then that “maybe he really thinks that things are going well in Iraq.” MAYBE THINGS ARE GOING WELL. I THINK THEY ARE.
No conclusions were reached at the meeting, and there was no further communication from Rumsfeld until shortly before the election, Adelman said. Rumsfeld sent him a letter, which reads, “As we discussed when we met, we are moving ahead on the Defense Policy Board and we’ll be naming a replacement for your spot in the next week or two. I appreciate your cooperation.” It was signed “Regards, Donald Rumsfeld.” (Rumsfeld’s office did not return telephone calls seeking comment.)

A few days later, Rumsfeld was out. Adelman is, apparently, still in. “I’m heartsick about the whole matter,” he said. He does not know what to make of the disintegration of Rumsfeld’s career and reputation. “How could this happen to someone so good, so competent?” he said. “This war made me doubt the past. Was I wrong all those years, or was he just better back then? The Donald Rumsfeld of today is not the Donald Rumsfeld I knew, but maybe I was wrong about the old Donald Rumsfeld. It’s a terrible way to end a career. It’s hard to remember, but he was once the future.”

I THINK DON RUMSFELD WILL BE REMEMBERED AS A SUPERIOR AMERICAN PUBLIC SERVANT.

I AM ALSO AN ADMIRER AND FRIEND OF KEN AND CAROL ADELMAN. THEY ARE FINE PEOPLE AND HAVE DONE VERY GOOD WORK.

ON THIS ONE, ALTHOUGH I WAS NO FLY ON THE WALL, I LEAN TOWARD RUMSFELD.

Ben

(Article appeared in The New Yorker. )

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben writes: "MAYBE THINGS ARE GOING WELL. I THINK THEY ARE."

Ben, you should disabuse yourself of the notion that things are "GOING WELL" in Iraq. You are the only person in Washington who seems to really believe that. How in the world can you think things are "going well" in a country where today, dozens of government employees were rounded up and kidnapped by gunmen in Iraqi police uniforms? The Iraqi GOVERNMENT cannot even protect itself. THIS IS NOT A CHARACTERISTIC OF A NATION IN WHICH THINGS ARE "GOING WELL." The security situation is getting objectively worse, and the rising body counts for Iraqi civilians is the objective measure for that. This war can still be won. But it will not be won by Pollyannas like you who continue to bleat the "stay the course" nonsense which even Bush has wisely abandoned.

Iraq cannot be won if we pretend that things are getting better when they are not. Wake up.

November 14, 2006  

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