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September 8, 2003

Comical Rumi. His eyes increasingly pointing in different directions, Secretary Rumsfeld today explained that critics of Administration policy are responsible for its failures.
Mr. Rumsfeld did not mention any of the domestic critics by name. But he suggested that those who have been critical of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and its aftermath might be encouraging American foes to believe that the United States might one day walk away from the effort, as it has in past conflicts.
Well, obviously. After all, no “American foes” would ever suspect that the US “might one day walk away from the effort” if those “domestic critics” would just button their lips. Being as how “foes” never read any history, certainly not their own. That’s why they’re foes, and not smart Americans like us.

So come on, shut up, you darn critics! You’re ruining everything! [01:36 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Comical Rumi.:

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 03:02 PM:

Rumsfeld appears to regard U.S. involvement in the Middle East as a poker game in which the other players at the table can't see the cards or make intelligent calculations. ((Shut up and let me bluff them into folding. Don't jinx me or I'll have you removed from the casino.)) A short-sighted highroller with other people's lives and money.

Sven ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 04:46 PM:

President GEORGE W. BUSH: ...[D}emocracy's a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion, and I welcome people's right to say what they believe [and then smirkily dismiss such liberal nonsense as the uninformed, lilly-livered warbling of a 'focus group.']

Doug Rivers ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 05:06 PM:

BUT - Sawad, the Bali bomber, thanked the Australian people who, in his words, supporting his cause when they demonstrated against George Bush's policies. Its OK to criticize the policies and actions of a war time president, but its possible for those criticisms to cross the line and start actively encouraging the bad guys.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 05:16 PM:

Rumsfeld is just carrying some partisan political water for Bush here because he knows full well from his days in the Nixon administration that it wasn't dissent at home that defeated the U.S. in Vietnam but that the Vietnamese could not be beaten militarily.

While the military situation in Iraq is not at all like it was in Vietnam (well, at least not yet) that doesn't mean we'll succeed in helping Iraq become a stable, democratic nation. Bush is right that attaining such a goal will take years to accomplish, but I don't think he or his neo-con advisors really know how they're going to do it. Bush may be able to whistle in the dark through the next Election Day and even win thanks to the naive trust many still have in him, but that is not a plan which will work in the long run.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 06:01 PM:

Totally surreal. Like an acid flashback to Vietnam. No, not the war in Iraq, which is really quite different than Vietnam in a lot of ways. But the response to criticism? The same. Of course, in Rumsfeld's case that's because he was in the executive branch back then, too, as David W. notes.

Marna ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 06:46 PM:

I confess that of all the things one could call That Bastich, "Rumi" gives me the grievous flinchies.

I am really very fond of Rumi, and of his works.

Andf not fond at all of Rumsfeld.

We could call him Rummy, were it not for the fear of insulting perfectly respectable itinerant heavy drinkers.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 07:30 PM:

When I was a kid, there was circulating in the schools an urban myth claiming that the people of New Guinea had tried to buy John F. Kennedy, presumably to be their king.

This suggests what we might do with Rumsfeld once the BushTwo administration is shown the door:

We *sell* him to a Third World country that is in the market for a military strong man.

Yes, the domestic variety are dime a dozen. Any swaggering lieutenant who has had a year or two of college in France or the US has the qualfications. But Rummy would be a Presidente of a superior sort.

Who knows, maybe a whole passle of neocons would follow him to his new home.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 07:40 PM:

That's amusing, Stefan, and not as outlandish as one may think, as at least one former Soviet republic (Estonia) hired a retired US military officer to build its military. OK, he'd been born there and had emigrated to the US as a child fleeing the Nazis & Soviets, so he had a good excuse to go back, but still ...

Fred Boness ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 07:59 PM:

... and if you've noticed, these days nobody messes with Estonia.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 08:19 PM:

Doug Rivers, are you saying that we must implicitly believe everything that Sawad says? (Or are you just telling us that you believe everything Sawad says?)

Norbizness ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2003, 09:03 PM:

Let's not forget the prime example of unpatriotic dissent, expertly hashed out by Captain Crisco himself:

"To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists - for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."

So you see, Sawad was only reacting, as Ashcroft predicted, to some podunk city council passing a resolution against the Patriot Act. And for all you passive enablers of that podunk city council.... SHAME!

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 06:12 AM:

Actually, I wonder now if Sawad had been lied to? I know nothing about anti-peace activists in Australia, but in the UK, I've been told once or twice by people who *didn't* attend the anti-war rallies that "there were pro-Saddam Hussein banners and people making speeches supporting Saddam Hussein". Which is flatly not so: certainly not at any peace rally I personally attended in Scotland, and I saw no contemporary reports of such banners or speeches at other rallies. Reports of Saddam Hussein supporters at peace rallies speaking openly in favour of Hussein's regime have all come long after the fact and without any documentary evidence.

It would not surprise me if anti-peace activists in Australia had made up similiar stories about Australian peace rallies, claiming that there were pro-terrorist banners and speeches. And Sawad had heard the lies, and believed them, and was therefore thanking the supporters he thought he had who never existed.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 08:19 AM:

There were certainly banners supporting (Palestinian) terrorists at a couple of the London marches I attended, though they were few and frowned-on by the organisers. But that's the thing about wars. It gets harder and harder to stay neutral.

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 08:27 AM:

"Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?"

Bonus points for anybody who can point out where this is from.

Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 08:31 AM:

Basically it's like this. When somebody carps about Donald Rumsfeld, it helps terrorists this much:


When Donald Rumsfeld creates a situation where terrorists are going around blowing up mosques and UN buildings, it helps terrorists this much:


When Donald Rumsfeld carps about the danger of people carping at him, it helps the United States this much:

Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 09:06 AM:

Marna, I'm kind of fond of "Rumbo" as a nickname for him myself...

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 09:23 AM:

I'm not. I think his type loves it when we throw insults like that at them.

It's like that pastiche of the Star Wars poster featuring Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, and other administration figures, which made the rounds of the weblogs about a year ago. I'm absolutely sure it's still tacked up in more than one Administration office. We think we're hurting them by comparing them to figures out of silly pulp adventure stories. They know--and this is a great truth that conservatives get and many liberals don't--that being associated with images of courage, swashbuckling, and physicality is a huge win for them.

So no, I think slagging off Rumsfeld as "Rumbo" is an absolutely terrible idea.

Sven ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 09:24 AM:

Doug Rivers sez: Its OK to criticize the policies and actions of a war time president, but its possible for those criticisms to cross the line and start actively encouraging the bad guys.

I could just as easily claim that people who supported the war are "objectively pro bin Laden" because they encouraged a reckless foray into the Middle East that will ultimately increase al Qaeda recruitment and global terrorism.

I could also argue that everyone who gives the administration a favorable rating in polls reflects Bush's delusions back upon himself and gives him the political cover to continue to pursue a wrongheaded and discredited policy in Iraq.

But I respect your opinion, so I won't go there.

Rob Tomshany ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 10:15 AM:

It's not that liberals "don't get" that it's good to be "associated with images of courage, swashbuckling and physicality." It's that they don't see a "Star Wars" poster as such an image, but as a piece of pop kitsch.

Rob Tomshany ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 10:22 AM:

To continue the point, since it may not be obvious enough--the liberal blind spot in this case is the failure to understand that someone else, even lots of someones, might take seriously something that liberals themselves think is laughable.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 11:43 AM:

Andrew Brown, there certainly were many placards and some speakers supporting the Palestinians (though not Palestinian terrorism - these were peace rallies) at both the anti-war rallies I attended. A confused thinker might create the following chain of reasoning: "(1) Being pro-Palestinian means you are pro-terrorism (2) Being pro-terrorism means you support Saddam Hussein (3) Anyone who speaks on behalf of the Palestinians must therefore support Saddam Hussein" but anyone with clarity of thought would realise that this syllogism is a nonsense.

Reimer, that quote sounds like Brecht, though I remember it as "The people have lost the confidence of the government; the government has decided to dissolve the people, and to appoint another one."

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 12:09 PM:

So maybe someone should do a poster of Georgie as Mickey Mouse, Condi as Minnie, Cheney could be Donald Duck. I like Ashcroft for Goofy, but I'm not sure about Rummy.


Doug Rivers ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 12:14 PM:

Yonmei. No I'm not saying we should trust everything or necessarily anything a terroist says. Only, after the verdict, he made the statement, so I'm not sure what he had to gain by lying.

I just believe it is possible for criticism to give aid and comfort to the bad guys. And if your (democratic) government has made the decision to go to war or take extended military action, criticism of that action must be carefully considered - precisely because you are free to do it. And I believe most responsible politicians of both sides try not to step over the line. Seems to me that Hodean, despite his sometimes stridency, has done OK in this regard.

Sven. Not sure of your point. I'm not at all saying that war critics are pro-terrorism - only that the actions of critics can encourage opposition to American forces. The criticism may well be valid, but a prudent question is "is it advisable, in context, if it aids the enemy"? On the other hand, another good question would be, in a "democracy", do we want to go to war and not have criticism? Dilemma of a free society.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 12:46 PM:

Doug, I offered an alternative explanation for Sawad's post-verdict statement at 06:12 AM: which I find more credible because I've seen that false syllogism used by pro-war (or more accurately, anti-peace) activists.

People in a free country are free to be stupid, as well as smart. They're entitled to uninformed, ignorant opinions. 70% of the US public apparently believes that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11. With stupidity run riot on that scale, I think it odd that you require that anti-war activists, and only anti-war activists, should be required to "think carefully" before voicing their opinions. I think everyone should think carefully before voicing their opinions... and to argue that people should refrain from criticising the government because they are free to do so doesn't really work: have you tried that one on the NRA? "Americans should refrain from buying guns because they are free to do so."

Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 12:55 PM:

The difficulty some of us are having, Doug, is that this administration seems to find any criticism it does not have a crushing answer for as "over the line" and evidence of a lack of patriotism--despite the fact that some of these very same people were involved in impeaching Clinton over a blow job, and in intentionally bringing that impeachment to a head at a point where they _knew_, everyone _knew_, that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein was coming to a head.

How come it's potentionally an act of treason (and yes, once you've introduced "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" to the discussion, you've introduced a charge of treason) to criticize or question Bush's policies and his implementation of them, when it wasn't any such evil thing to do the saem to Clinton's?

As for what Sawad had to gain by lying--how about what he had to gain by the bombing attack in the first place, and by being convicted of it? (Surely you noticed he was celebrating that?) His goal is to undermine the democratic process, to destroy the way of life that makes western democracies a problem for anti-democratic religious extremists. If he makes us afraid to exercise our rights, he's won.

And anyone who supports him in that goal is one of his allies, whether they consciously intend to be, or not.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 01:49 PM:

Doug, before I get started I just want to say that I'm sure you're more than adequately competent and intelligent in many aspects of your everyday life, and that I have no reason to believe you're not a fine human being.

However, and I'm sorry I have to say this, you've bought into a pernicious line of propaganda. You ought to have spotted it. The whole world, potential terrorists included, knows that America's leaders come in for heavy criticism. That's business as usual for our political system. Many of them further understand, as you apparently do not, that this is a function of our being a free and democratic society. It's evidence of our strength.

In fact, people all over the world know as a basic rule of politics that weaker regimes are the ones that tend to suppress criticism. (North Korea is, as ever, a special case.) Strong, legitimate regimes don't worry about it nearly as much. Terrorists would have a right to feel encouraged if Bush & Co. suppressed our public discourse.

But let us momentarily suppose that criticizing the administration actually did encourage terrorists. In that case, since Osama bin Laden's plans were set in motion well before the end of Clinton's presidency, the Republicans would have a hell of a lot to answer for.

But of course that's not how things work, as Bush & Co. know perfectly well. Claiming that criticism gives encouragement to terrorists is a cynical attempt on their part to get out of being criticized. And while I must admit that if I'd screwed up as often and as badly as they have, I wouldn't want to be criticized either, that one definitely comes under the common-law doctrine of tough noogies.

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 03:11 PM:

"Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?"

Berthold Brecht, I believe.

Doug Rivers ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 04:08 PM:

Yonmei. Didn't and don't say that only anti-war critics need to be careful. The thread topic is Rummy's remarks concerning war criticism. My point is only that his remarks aren't all that comical. The Bali bomber being an example of a terrorist reportedly encouraged by criticism of Bush.

Lis. You know, I shouldn't have said "aid and comfort" for the very reasons you say. It suggests treason and I don't believe or mean to suggest that criticizing Bush, the war, or whatever is treasonous in any context I have seen. I don't say all criticism is wise or good, but that doesn't mean its treasonous.

Theresa, pernicious propaganda? But your remarks are thoughtful and worth considering. It would certainly be wrong, as you seem to suggest is the case, for the adminstration- any administration - to use the potential negative effects of criticism to try and curtail criticism. "You must support the war, but you can't criticize the war, because it will help the terrorists."
The difference I see here is that once a democracy makes a decision to go to war, we all have a special, JOINT moral responsibility(conservative/liberal, D/R, etc) to our sons and daughters WE have put in harms way. You have enemies who want and are actively trying to kill them. Criticism at that point may still be worthy and necessary, but shouldn't it at least be cognizant of the (impact on) our citizen soldiers.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 04:09 PM:

The idea that criticizing the government aids terrorists makes my eyes cross. Truly. I can't get my mind around it. What can that mean?

Aid to terrorists. Aid are things like money, drugs, passports, explosives, secret government information, or some other material item. Possibly one can argue that direct propaganda for a specific group, such as Al Queda, also constitutes aid and comfort, though I'm awfully fond of the first amendment. I've always had mixed feelings about Jane Fonda.

How does my saying that I hate my government and that everyone has to vote Democrat next presidential election, no matter who they nominate, help Al Queda? In what way does it offer them anything at all? We're the United States, for heavens sake. We spend years arguing over a fucking blowjob and a real estate deal that wasn't even remotely tainted, and we're still here. If there's one thing we have excess capacity for, it's stupid arguments about the government and politicians.

Terrorists don't time their attacks based on the tides of public criticism -- or if they do, they're being very stupid. My countrymen, bless them all, have extremely short attention spans. This is a democracy, and a stable one. One of the things that means is that, even when a debacle like Florida in 2000 happens, even when a significant number of the citizens of this country believe that the election was stolen, the government continues to roll along about as smoothly as ever. There were Republicans threatening fisticuffs -- a truly terrible thing -- but there were no tanks in the streets, there was not the least movement by the military to move into a power vacuum. The country went on, getting most of its work done, during the scandalous impeachment of President Clinton. Oklahoma was a terrible shock, but it didn't destabilize the country. Choosing a moment where the airwaves are more contentious, rather than less, won't make a damn bit of difference. That's not the way our culture works. Rumsfeld is trying to use third world, tottering dictatorship models of power to describe the United States of America. As a politician is supposed to have said directly after Kennedy's assassination, "We're no banana republic, dammit."

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 04:20 PM:

Well, no, but the idea that the obligation to the troops not to hang them out to dry is in any way equivalent to an obligation not to criticize the civilian leadership is getting y'all closer.

Since the aforesaid civilian leadership is, right now, hanging said troops out in a hard dry gritty wind -- year long counter-insurgency deplopments are guarunteed attrocity generators, there's still no quantified plan communicated to either the American or the Iraqi people, and there's no stable declared objective to achieve which all this blood and treasure is being spent, I would say that the aid and comfort to the enemy is something the civilian leadership ought to be called on soonest.

With sharp pointy sticks, as required.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 05:23 PM:

Do I have a responsibility towards British soldiers getting shot at in Iraq? Indeed I do. My responsibility is to do what they can't, since they're currently stuck in Iraq following a stupid and illegal plan for invasion without enough post-invasion planning to run a piss-up in a brewery - my responsibility is to keep reminding Tony Blair that he's not King. Nor President. He's just the prime minister, he's lied to his own party and to the British people to get the UK in on a war that the American neocons dreamed up years ago, and if he doesn't shape up, we'll have him out. That's my responsibility to the troops, Doug: because they can't do it, they're on duty.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 07:29 PM:

Doug Rivers wrote:

"The difference I see here is that once a democracy makes a decision to go to war, we all have a special, JOINT moral responsibility(conservative/liberal, D/R, etc) to our sons and daughters WE have put in harms way."

WE didn't vote on going to war; we didn't have a plebiscite on the matter. I share your feelings on our moral responsibility to the people in harm's way, but I simply do not concur that criticism of the *Bush administration* is tantamount to reneging on that responsibility. Given the Bush Administration's behavior, many of us see criticism of that administration to be *central* to that responsibility. My best friend from high school is a SAW gunner with the 82nd Airborne, currently deployed somewhere in Afghanistan. I deeply resent the administration's attempts to weasel out of paying him, the actual guy on the line, anything extra for his difficult and extended service except a bit of hollow rhetoric (see below).

I do think we're trudging toward an ultimate good in Iraq; I do want to see an ongoing aggressive response to al-Qaeda and the Taliban wherever they rear their ugly little heads. I don't feel that these opinions are at all incompatible with my very strong opinion that the Administration supposedly "leading" these efforts is full of snakes, shysters, liars, hypocrites, amoral opportunists, and overtly grabby bastards.

The Bush Administration has waffled on its initial promises of aid and succor to the victims of 9/11, and it has been openly disrespectful to the "brave heroes" it's put to use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's a quote from a CBS news story concerning the House of Representatives' current budget proposals:

"The 4.1 percent raise for military personnel and more than 1 million civilian workers more than doubles the 2 percent recommended by President Bush, who cited the costs of the war on terrorism last month in seeking a lower rate."

That's right-- the war itself is too expensive to justify pay raises for the people actually fighting it. That's the Bush Administration in a *nutshell*-- claiming the moral high ground with an initial rousing display of sincerity, then running when the bill comes due. That's why we take more than a bit of exception to being told that it's our criticism (of the domestic politicians, mind you, not the troops in the field) that's putting our friends and relatives in uniform in danger.

Furthermore, let me say that many of us are lividly pissed off that scores of the politicos currently claiming that criticism of the Bush administration endangers our men and women in the field spent much of the 90s vigorously criticizing the Clinton administration's military deployments. So it's very hard for us to see this as some sort of principled non-partisan stand rather than another slimy attempt to pussy out of genuine accountability.

Cheers and best,


P.S. The full story I cited is here:


Neil "SEED!" Rest ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 11:42 PM:

>From Mary Kay,
>posted on September 9, 2003 12:09 PM:
>So maybe someone should do a poster of Georgie as >Mickey Mouse, Condi as Minnie, Cheney could be >Donald Duck. I like Ashcroft for Goofy, but I'm not >sure about Rummy.

I sold the underground paper in Chicago from mid-69 until its death at the beginning of '73.
The single issue I ever did the best business with was a cover of a classic Mickey Mouse flaunting a Spiro Agnew wristwatch. (something like 115 papers in 90 minutes at Union Station at evening rush hour.)

Neil ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 11:46 PM:

Oh, "RUMMY"! At very first glance I took it for "Jalaluddin Rumi", and it just didn't parse.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2003, 10:34 PM:

Doug Rivers wrote:

"The difference I see here is that once a democracy makes a decision to go to war, we all have a special, JOINT moral responsibility(conservative/liberal, D/R, etc) to our sons and daughters WE have put in harms way."

Where (as one of those, "sons and daughters,") one sees a wrong, it is a moral duty to cry it out.

Personally, I thought the war a bad idea. Now, well we are stuck with the bed of our own making, and no small amount of effort is required to tidy it up.

But to give the administration a pass, just because some of the sons and daughters are getting killed, maimed, being deprived of all sorts of things (from beds and showers to kids birthdays to decent food and steady mail. Life in Iraq ranges from the miserable to the tolerable, but even at its best the troopie is aware that he is not home, and these days he knows not when that will be), is to say that anytime they want to take off on a jaunt, all they need do is see to it that American troops aree being killed.

Because the end result of your argument seems to be just that, if troops are being killed we can't critisize.

If I am one of those troops (and I am) I want to know that life at home is still normal enough that the harangues of the gov't (it goes back to the Continental Congress, and no war has been without its detractors, read Lincoln on the Mexican-American War) continue.

The day my fellow Americans can't engage in such critique is the day I know there is nothing worth defending left.

Terry K.