It was rather a gala scene this Monday at the Pentagon. Turning on the television, the eye was treated to that rarest of darshans — a glimpse of Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Standing beside Cheney was Powell the Principled, America’s answer to Sir Thomas More. As George Bernard Shaw once said to Mahatma Gandhi, “There is nothing so bad that you will not find Englishmen doing it; but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He does everything on principle. He fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperial principles.”
Shaw lived to be 94, but probably not long enough to have encountered anything so novel as the boneless wonder of Foggy Bottom. The things poor Colin has had to do in pursuit of principle! He misled the UN, all the while doubting his own evidence, even as he privately advised the President against invading Iraq. Per Bob Woodward, when Bush ignored his warnings and asked him summarily whether he wanted in or out, he opted in — on the spot. On later learning not only that his chief had shared the No-Foreigners Iraq War Plan with the Saudi ambassador, but that he had done so even before showing it to his Secretary of State, the Principled One soldiered on. Some small-minded folk who lack vision say he has no self-respect. They fail to see he is merely sticking to his job — er…that is…principles. And doubtless it was principles that saw him to the stage at this morning’s pep rally, whose theme was, “Abu Ghraib was terrible, but hey, nothing wrong with us!”.
On the other side of the dais stood Donald Rumsfeld, exhibiting all the cringing relief of an errant schoolboy who has spent the weekend dreading the certain prospect of the birch, only to have fortune intervene Monday morning with the news that the headmaster has decided not only to take the lenient view but actually to fete him!
Surely enough, President George W. Bush was center-stage, showering encomiums upon his Defense Secretary for the stellar job he had done. Under way was an ocular message to Republicans of every size and shape that it was time to close ranks.
In an extraordinary speech, Bush confessed himself disgusted with what he had seen in the photos and videos from Abu Ghraib, and yet, in the same breath, proceeded to extoll Rumsfeld. If you had just returned from a safari in the Masai Mara and missed all the recent scandals out of Iraq, you might have concluded from Bush’s speech that Rumsfeld was the hero who had singlehandedly brought to light some outrages in Abu Ghraib.
So touched was the Donald by the special flag march Bush had organized to scare his detractors, that his manner seemed especially obsequious, down to the tentative pat on the back as he saw the President off.
Meanwhile at the Democrats’…
An email received today said Kerry’s online campaign for Rumsfeld’s ouster had garnered 275000 signatures in just a few days. This was all very well, but I was reminded of the Sikh extremist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (killed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, in 1984, when the Indian army stormed it after a Najaf-like standoff). A repugnant character who brought untold misery upon the Indian state of Punjab, he nonetheless had one memorable observation about the difference between a dog and a lion. If beaten with a stick, Bhindranwale said, the dog would only think to attack the stick. The lion, however, would go for the hand behind the stick.
Democrats still don’t seem to get it. If this is only a matter of prison abuse, then surely Watergate was just a third rate burglary. That noise you hear must be Nixon turning over in his grave.