Bush's 'rottweiler' turns on the charm

The rottweiler of the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld, turned up on British television last night de-fanged, de-clawed and at times ­ if David Dimbleby had not asked some rather aggressive questions ­ almost purring.

Mr Rumsfeld's half-hour interview on BBC2 appeared to be part of a charm offensive by an America taken aback by two signal policy failures: its inability to convince public opinion of the urgent need for a war on Iraq and the increasingly perilous political position of its ally-in-chief, Tony Blair.

"Rummy" was at his most urbane: softly spoken and almost reasonable. He sat back, looking quizzical and not allowing himself to be riled. Which was a good thing, because among the questions asked by a well-briefed Dimbleby were some that American politicians are all too rarely asked at home. Mr Rumsfeld had to account, not all too well, for his 1983 handshake with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, when, as a "private" businessman, he went on a mission authorised by President Ronald Reagan. He was asked about the perception of double standards: why did the US support Israel, despite its non-observance of UN Security Council resolutions and its weapons capability, although it was going hell for leather after President Saddam.

Pressing the case for action against Iraq in the absence of positive evidence about weapons of mass destruction, Mr Rumsfeld said President Saddam had "learnt to live in an inspections environment. He does things underground. He's very skilful at denial and deception."

He also seized the chance to "correct" some recent howlers. As for "old" and "new" Europe, he had not meant to write off "old" Europe (ie France), he had simply been saying that, with enlargement, the centre of gravity of Europe was shifting. And, by the way, he had actually meant "Nato" and not the EU.

The Defense Secretary said the US was prepared to give the UN more time but he warned that time was running out. Iraq was a threat to the world, as well as to US interests. "The issue that's before the world, it seems to me, is the pervasiveness of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of these," he said. "The situation with Iraq is that we're at the end of the string. We've tried diplomacy for 12 years."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£350 p/d (Contract): Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP /...

Guru Careers: Entry-Level Account Executive

£18 - 22k (DOE): Guru Careers: Entry-Level Account Executive to join a full se...

Guru Careers: Account Director

£38 - 45k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Director to join a full ser...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Communications Executive - eCRM / digital comms

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Communications Executive -...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks