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June 14, 2005

Rumsfeld Gives The Media A History And Civics Lesson

Radio Blogger has a transcript and video link to Don Rumsfeld's press conference today. His summation of the progress the Iraqi people have made since the liberation is so inspiring and important, that i'm going to cut and paste it here.

On the political portion of it, that's obviously not the business of this department, but I can comment on it.

The general feeling is as follows: That the election was held January 30th. It took a number of weeks to put a government together. Not a number of years, but a group of people, with no experience in democracy at all, took a number of weeks... a few months, to put together a government.

A lot of tugging and hauling, a lot of negotiating about what it would mean in the assembly, a lot of negotiating about what it might mean with respect to the constitution drafting, a lot of negotiating about what it might mean as to who's in what ministry, and for what reasons, and in the presidential council, I believe they call it. And they came to a conclusion.

When the conclusion was made and announced, one could look at worst case and say it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that the Shi'ia would say, "Okay, Sunnis, you didn't play in the election. You gave it to us for twenty, thirty years, and we didn't like it, and now it's our turn, and we're going to give it to you."

Quite the contrary. The Shi'ia, at the top leadership down, have been saying, "Look. We want to have one country. Let's reach out to the Sunnis. Let's include them. Let's find a way, even though they made a mistake and didn't participate in the election. Let's see that they're involved in this. Let's get them involved in the drafting of the constitution." Exactly the right instinct.

The Sunnis, instead of saying, "Okay, we didn't get in the election. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it wasn't. But now, we're not well represented, and we're not going to play, and go separately, and try to break the country into three pieces." The Sunnis didn't do that. I mean, everyone you talk to said, "we made a mistake. The Sunnis made a mistake." They should have gotten involved in the election. They didn't get involved in the election. They now know they should have gotten involved in the election, and thank the good Lord the Shi'ia are reaching out to them, and the Kurds are reaching out to them, and trying to include them.

Now, what does it mean next? Well, they're going to have a lot of to'ing and fro'ing on the constitution. Fortunately, they made a lot of those decisions in the transitional administrative law, the so-called TAL. And it's there as a guidepost. It's not a mandate. It's not a speed limit or direction, but it is generally agreed to. And so it'll serve, I would think, as at least a touchstone for the very complicated task of trying to find a piece of paper that people, who have had historic hostilities to each other, that have been held together, not through love or respect, but through vicious dictatorship repressing them. That's how they've held together as a country.

And now they're going to look for a piece of paper that will do that for them instead. Instead of a vicious dictatorship. Instead of repression. Instead of a police state. Instead of mass graves, filled with people... bodies, tens of thousands of bodies. There's going to be a piece of paper that those people are going to have to put their faith in. That is an enormous thing.

And they're going to be debating that, and tugging on it, and to'ing and fro'ing, and they're going to, in my view, come up with one... just a minute... just a minute... And then they're going to take that to the Iraqi people and have them vote on it. And another 26 million people will have a chance, or population, or whoever's eligible to vote, men and women alike. Some large number is going to have a chance to go vote on that. And then, it'll be there, and then they'll vote on whatever that constitution says, for a president, or a prime minister, whatever, representatives, they'll have a chance to vote on that in December.

This is amazing. This is historic. This is a gigantic step forward. This ought not to be dismissed or trivialized. This is a big deal.

Will it happen? I think it'll happen. Can I guarantee anything in life? No. I can't. No one can. It's their country.

i've bolded the most important passages. A transcript can't capture Rumsfeld's inimitable delivery, but the words are important, and you won't see them reported on your nightly news or in tomorrow's propaganda sheets.

Also, there was a moment when a reporter, probably impatient that the Secretary of Defense had strayed from the truly important news of the day (i.e. that someone at Guantanamo might have looked the wrong way at a copy of the Koran.) tried to interrupt the Secretary, who completely rebuffed the reporter saying "just a minute... just a minute..." It was cool. Go listen to it.

Posted by annika, Jun. 14, 2005 |
Rubric: annikapunditry


Imagine Rumsfeld as a law prof. Would you EVER miss class? I wouldn't!

Posted by: Mark on Jun. 14, 2005

Rumsfeld gave them a civics lesson, but they still need a lesson in manners.

Posted by: Bernard on Jun. 14, 2005

I once thought that nobody would ever surpass Weinburger as SecDef.

Posted by: Casca on Jun. 14, 2005

Cheney wasn't bad at SEcDef himself.

But, (as my grandchildren say): Rummy rules; the media drools.

Posted by: shelly on Jun. 15, 2005

Thank you for posting that, Annika.

At my college, journalism was the refuge for students that flunked out of every other major. That must be true for all colleges.

"This is amazing. This is historic. This is a gigantic step forward. This ought not to be dismissed or trivialized."

Is there anyone in MSM who opened a history book in their entire life? Or is democracy a concept repugnant to the MSM?

Posted by: Jake on Jun. 15, 2005

did i ever tell the story of the journalism major in my undergrad class on Latin American History who raised her hand halfway through the semester and said: "Professor, I've been reading the book like you told us to, but it keeps mentioning the Andes, and I can't figure out who they are. Are they some sort of political group?" True story. This same chick was always complaining about how easy history classes were compared to her journalism classes.

Posted by: annika on Jun. 15, 2005

"At my college, journalism was the refuge for students that flunked out of every other major."

One of my undergrad advisors (history and IR so I had too; this was the history prof) once made mention of "journalism, that fake major." I asked a classmate what that major consisted of and she explained that it primarily involved "hangging around the radio station smoking lots of pot."

Posted by: Dave J on Jun. 16, 2005

Er, and here I'm usually a grammar Nazi: TWO, not TOO. ;-)

Posted by: Dave J on Jun. 16, 2005