Rumsfeld Spills the Ink


Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution took a slight hit as a result of the December 2, 2007, constitutional referendum. The measures proposed by President Hugo Chávez would have ended term limits for the office of president, provided pensions for service workers such as maids and cab drivers, and given other benefits to poor and working-class people. Chávez expressed his regrets, but graciously acknowledged the 1.4 percent margin of defeat.

But former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld may have suffered the biggest loss. Fearing certain defeat for his wealthy Venezuelan friends, Rumsfeld stayed up all night to bang out a piece for the op-ed page of the Washington Post, December 2, 2007. The headline writer called the composition "The Smart Way to Beat Tyrants Like Chávez." The article really wasn’t needed, though, because the referendum failed to collect a majority of "Si" votes. Rummy and one of his friends like Wolfie or Condi could have turned off the computer and played another game of eight ball.

Rumsfeld’s unneeded op-ed spectacle goes straight to work in the first sentence. A victory for the constitutional referendum could "obliterate the few remaining vestiges of Venezuelan democracy." Dropping active verbs like smart bombs, Rummy predicts that Chávez and his referendum will "dismantle" the constitution, "silence" opposing media, and, worst of all, "confiscate" private property.

Not content with all that, according to Rumsfeld, Chávez has threatened drug-ridden Columbia by offering to mediate with "Marxist terrorists." Your average South American country doesn’t have a sufficient number of Islamic terrorists to warrant a surge, but Bogotá grows enough Marxist terrorists to keep Rummy, Wolfie, Condi, and Rove embedded with the Marines for as long as they want.

At this point, the effects of Rummy’s long night without sleep begin to obliterate the article. The twin-thrill of confiscation and Marxist terrorism gets forgotten in "institutions designed for a different era." We have "too few tools" in the neoconservative workshop. And Congress has gone to sleep with the Colombian free trade agreement in its fat lap, although Rummy, Wolfie, Condi, etc., don’t make a very good case, or any case at all, for how free trade would satisfy both the cab drivers in Caracas and the Marxist terrorists in Bogotá.

And you can’t even begin to get your waterboard into the surf before Rummy’s article goes off on a continental tangent with the Truman administration’s still-extant "institutional framework," which includes NATO, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, all of which have brought us heaven on earth, although some people in Venezuela don’t seem to know it. Then, just when you’re about to catch your breath, both Rummy and Truman give you still more "institutional framework" with the CIA, the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and (holy crap) the Voice of America.

All that, in one paragraph, has not kept the article from drifting off southward from Tierra del Fuego until it makes icefall along the Bellingshausen Sea, where all the penguins in Antarctica couldn’t prevent Rummy from going where he goes next. He’s only a third of the way into his article, and he’s forgot all about Hugo Chávez.

But you can’t stop a Rumsfeld once he gets his stick on the ice, although it might occur to the concerned reader at this point that the guy may need professional help, because his article is suddenly off and skating with weapons of mass destruction, "entrenched bureaucracies," Afghanistan, Iraq, al-Qaeda, the Soviet Union, the information age, blogs, cellphones, and the "endemic inertia and corruption" and other evils that threaten to melt both the United Nations and the entire "free world" (what a quaint term in the age of Rummy, Wolfie, Condi, and Rove).

After leaving the first one-third of the article and heading off across the Southern Ocean, Rummy’s plodding dirge mentions the alleged subject of the piece only one more time. Without slowing down for whales or anything else, Captain Ahab Rumsfeld orders Queequeg to unload a quiver of harpoons at "aspiring despots such as Chávez."

By this point, the reader has noticed how Rumsfeld strings neocon clichés together in a way that reveals both his stupidity and his criminality. He has no idea what a caricature he presents. He’ll roll on forever without regard for anyone but himself, and maybe occasionally his fellow hit men.

Then off he sails toward Antarctica, where, according to recent reports, the white whale is waiting.

PATRICK IRELAN is a retired high-school teacher. He is the author of A Firefly in the Night (Ice Cube Press) and Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family (University of Iowa Press).

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