Sunday, May 17, 2009

A quiz

Where does this quotation come from:

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. 1 Chron 16:11.

A. Pope Benedict's blessing on the inauguration of Barack Obama.
B. Jerry Falwell's graduation address at Liberty "University".
C. A daily defense briefing from Donald Rumsfeld to George W. Bush.

If you guessed C, you are correct.

This is part of a slide show of defense briefing cover sheets delivered by Rumsfeld to Bush to keep manipulating him in his conduct of the war in Iraq. GQ magazine has uncovered these cover sheets as part of its coverage of how Donald Rumsfeld's organizational behavior contributed to the Bush Administration's crimes and failures.

On the morning of Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

This is only the latest of exposes involving Rumsfeld, which include such things as Rumsfeld's cheating at squash against his subordinates (Hey, if you're the Second Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, are you going to call the boss on his cheating?), but this is obviously much more substantive, since it involves the failures and crimes the permeated the Bush administration.

The article is exhaustive in cataloguing Rumsfeld's bureaucratic tactics, and the entire thing is worth reading. The logical question, of course, is whether Rumsfeld's mastery of the situation absolves Bush of responsibility.

I submit the answer is clearly no. First, the fundamental decisions were made, and the fundamental lies were told, by or at the behest of Bush. Second, in Bush we had an aggressively ignorant and incurious president, who by his actions mocked the very idea of competence as a governing principle. Despite the fact that he seized power in a judicial coup, once he took office Bush had the same obligation to the American people as any president, a responsibility that, once again, we are shown that he utterly failed to discharge.

And as Frank Rich points out in today's Times, it is for this reason that we cannot afford to simply turn the page, move on, and act as though the past eight years never happened.


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