Oliver Willis

Of COURSE Donald Rumsfeld Is A Liar

He is Donald Rumsfeld after all. I’m no fan of Bob Woodward, but his data here is pretty solid on Donald Rumsfeld being a pretty big liar. Woodward doesn’t say it, but Rumsfeld – by the way – is the man whose decisions led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. It’s always worth pointing that out.

On January 9, 2002, four months after 9/11, Dan Balz of The Washington Post and I interviewed Rumsfeld for a newspaper series on the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. According to notes of the NSC, on September 12, the day after 9/11, Rumsfeld again raised Iraq saying, is there a need to address Iraq as well as bin Laden?

When Balz read this to Rumsfeld, he blew up. “I didn’t say that,” he said, maintaining that it was his aide Larry DiRita talking over his shoulder. His reaction was comic and we agreed to treat it as off the record. But Balz persisted and asked Rumsfeld what he was thinking.

“Yeah,” Rumsfeld finally told us. “I wanted to make sure that — I always ask myself, what’s missing. It’s easy for people to edit and make something slightly better. But the question is, what haven’t we asked ourselves? So I do it all the time. I do it here, I do it in cabinet meetings or NSC meetings. It was a fair question.”

“I don’t have notes,” Rumsfeld insisted. “I don’t have any notes.” His memoir cites his personal handwritten notes dozens of time.

One of the important questions about the Iraq War has always been about when and who started the Iraq clock after 9/11. On page 425, Rumsfeld alleges that Bush on Sept 26, 2001 — just 15 days after 9/11 — called him to the Oval Office. “He asked that I take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq…” Rumsfeld provides no footnote for this scene.

When I interviewed Rumsfeld at his Pentagon office on Oct. 23, 2003, Rumsfeld had a different story. “I do not remember much about Iraq being discussed at all with the president or me or the NSC prior to when the president asked me to — asked me what I thought of the Iraq contingency plan — that I believe was November 21st of ’01.” He was confident of the date because six days later he went to talk with the combatant commander for the region, Gen. Tommy Franks. “And I would not have waited long from the president asking me.”