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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz