Leading article: Snowflakes and scare-mongering

Share

Fear-mongering, arrogance and bureaucratic bullying. By such tools, Donald Rumsfeld became one of the most powerful, most unpopular and ultimately most unsuccessful Pentagon chiefs in history. Any doubts about that judgement have been removed by the publication this week in The Washington Post of a selection of his "snow-flakes" – the short memos the former defence secretary was wont to fire off daily in scores to his staff. They pestered, they irritated, and on occasion they terrorised their recipients. Together, they give a depressing snapshot of the modus operandi of their boss, as he presided over the debacle in Iraq.

"Keep elevating the threat. Talk about Somalia and the Philippines," Mr Rumsfeld urged in April 2006 as Iraq fell apart and eminent former generals broke cover to demand his resignation. "Make the American people realise they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists." In the same vein, he suggested re-branding the war on terror a "worldwide insurgency". He seems to have had as much scorn for Arabs as for "Old Europe", noting in a May 2004 rumination that oil had made Muslims forget "the reality of work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world".

Not least the snowflakes underline the mendacity inherent in Mr Rumsfeld's style. Whenever pushed into a corner at a Pentagon briefing, he would wriggle free by claiming that he was not involved in a particular decision, that he had not had the time to read an embarrassing article, memo or leaked internal report. Any mistakes, he implied, were made by underlings. In fact, as the memos prove, he was an obsessive micromanager, who knew everything that was going on.

Most depressing, however, while the man himself has gone, his methods remain. Mr Rumsfeld was forced from his job in November 2006, after the Republican midterm election defeat for which his mismanagement of the war was largely responsible. His successor, Robert Gates, has a low-key, cautious and thoughtful style, far removed from the abrasive Rumsfeld. But the scare-mongering continues. Be it the use of torture or the threat posed by Iran, this White House (still featuring Mr Rumsfeld's ally Dick Cheney) trots out the same justification: America is in mortal peril, and all means are justified. In other words, as the departed, unlamented master would put it: "Keep elevating the threat."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Recruitment Genius: Fundraising and Campaigns Officer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fundraising and Campaigns Off...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Appliance Service Engineer

£21000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This centre seeks an experience...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Independent journalist James Moore pictured outside Mile End underground station in east London  

From ‘coloured’ to ‘cripple’ - some words just don't belong in everyday language

James Moore
Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, leaves the High Court after the opening of the inquiry into his death  

Laying the blame for Litvinenko’s death at Putin’s door is an orthodoxy that needs challenging

Mary Dejevsky
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness