shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.
Donald S. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.
Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable comments to the Veterans of Foreign Wars
yesterday demand the deep analysis - and the sober contemplation - of every
For they do not merely serve to impugn the morality or
intelligence - indeed, the loyalty — of the majority of Americans who
oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land;
Worse, still, they credit those same transient occupants - our
employees — with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither
common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad,
suggests they deserve.
Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of
human freedom; And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the
kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still
fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile… it
is right — and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.
In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was
adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis.
For, in their time, there was another government faced with true
peril - with a growing evil - powerful and remorseless.
That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the
facts. It, too, had the secret information. It alone had the true
picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in
terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s - questioning their intellect and their
That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.
It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone
It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all
treaties and accords.
It knew that the hard evidence it received, which
contradicted policies, conclusions - and omniscience — needed to be
The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew
Most relevant of all - it "knew" that its staunchest critics
needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost
of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile - at
best… morally or intellectually confused.
That critic’s name… was Winston Churchill.
Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this
evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way
Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.
History - and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England
- taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty - and his own
confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the
man, but that the office can also make the facts.
Thus did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.
Excepting the fact that he has the battery plugged in backwards.
His government, absolute - and exclusive - in its knowledge, is not the
modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis. It is the modern
version of the government… of Neville Chamberlain.
But back to today’s Omniscients.
That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused… is simply this:
This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such,
all voices count — not just his. Had he or his President perhaps
proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about Osama Bin
Laden’s plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago
- about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one* year ago - we all might be able to
swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful
recipe, of fact, plus ego.
But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own
arrogance, and its own hubris.
Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or
intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to
Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to enveloppe this
nation - he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have - inadvertently
or intentionally - profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.
And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and
the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the
Emporer’s New Clothes.
In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?
As a child, of whose heroism did he read?
On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day
With what country has he confused… the United States of
The confusion we — as its citizens - must now address, is
stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when
men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and
obscured our flag. Note - with hope in your heart - that those earlier
Americans always found their way to the light… and we can, too.
The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and
this Administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the
terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for
which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City,
so valiantly fought.
And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country
faces a "new type of fascism."
As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew
everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he
said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.
This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.
Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble
tribute… I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist
Edward R. Murrow.
But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I
come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of
us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew
everything, and branded those who disagreed, "confused" or "immoral."
Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954.
"We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction
depends upon evidence and due process of law.
"We will not walk in fear - one, of another. We will not be
driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history
and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men;
"Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to
defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."
—Keith Olbermann (http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/08/30/keith-olbermann-delivers-one-hell-of-a-commentary-on-rumsfeld/)