It was as if Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had forgotten his talking points.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week, had a very strange response to last week’s call from Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) to withdraw all US troops within six months.
Rumsfeld told host George Stephanopoulos yesterday that talk of withdrawal tells insurgents that “if they wait, they prevail, and they’ll be able to turn that country into a haven for terrorism.”
The argument doesn’t make any sense.
“They’ll” is short for “they will.” It’s the future tense. So, one could reasonably argue that Rumsfeld’s words could just as easily mean “they are not currently able to turn that country into a haven for terrorism.”
Iraq is not currently a haven for terrorism? Has Rumsfeld not been paying attention … to the official statements of the Bush Administration?
In yesterday’s news, you have word — although deemed “not credible” by the administration — that a gunfight in the Iraqi city of Mosul took the life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordan-born leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
The US has a $25 million bounty on al-Zarqawi’s head. Why? Because it believes he’s a terrorist. From where is he launching his terrorist attacks? The administration says Iraq.
But even when al-Zarqawi is not mentioned, the administration has — at least since it couldn’t find weapons of mass destruction — made Iraqi terrorism a central argument for why we’re fighting in Iraq.
For example, President Bush said this in his primetime June 28 speech to the nation:
BUSH: Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate.
Seems pretty straightforward. But that was one of the few straightforward sentences Bush delivered that night. Maybe Rumsfeld was confused as Bush discussed terrorists and “their objectives,” as if Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency thought as one. Maybe he got lost as he heard the president use the mysterious “they” or “them” 39 times to describe the blended “terrorists.”
Still, the administration talking point about terrorism in Iraq goes back to when the administration outlined its pre-war “intelligence” on Iraq.
You may remember Bush’s infamous speech in Cincinnati, in October, 2002. That was the speech in which Bush first used claims made by captured Al Qaeda commander Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — eight months after the Defense Intelligence Agency had issued a report stating that it was “likely” that al-Libi was “intentionally misleading” his debriefers.
In that same speech, Bush said this about Iraq and terrorism:
BUSH: Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than ninety terrorist attacks in twenty countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans.
Of course, a lot of things in that speech turned out to be untrue. Maybe Rumsfeld didn’t pay attention to the spin then. Maybe he’s not paying attention to the spin now.
At another point in the interview with Stephanopoulos, Rumsfeld said, “I didn’t advocate invasion.”
This bit of revisionist history contradicts several other accounts. For example, CBS News, citing notes by Pentagon officials, reported that Rumsfeld told his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq hours after the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York.
And CBS’ version of history is supported by the former White House terrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who has said that days after the September 11 attacks, Rumsfeld was pushing for retaliatory strikes on Iraq, despite questions over Iraq’s links to Al-Qaeda.
In 2002, Newsweek reported Rumsfeld was “the most visible and certainly the most colorful frontman for attacking Iraq.”
Are we to believe that in an administration that frowns upon dissenting views about Iraq — look at what happened to Clarke, former chief weapons inspector David Kay or Army Chief of Staff Eric Shineski after they disagreed with the administration — allowed its Defense Secretary to have a dissenting view about pre-emptive war against Iraq?
That’s as preposterous as Rumsfeld’s statement yesterday.
This is what happens when Karl Rove gets distracted — people in the administration forget what the official talking points are …
This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.