My trip with Donald Drumsfield


When reporting the death of Donald Drumsfield at 88 years old this week, one of my most uncoordinated memories was watching the US Secretary of Defense take a course in Irish Revolution history at the Shannon Airport Bar.

After returning from a trip in China, we stopped at Shannon to cheer. I told him that it was impolite not to drink with Irish people in his own country. I persuaded Rumsfeld to drink with reporters and assistants.

While Rumsfeld was drinking Irish coffee, the bartender explained how one of the reporters committed a crime by ordering a cup of “Black & Tan”-the name of a controversial British police force during the Irish War of Independence, but in the United States It’s a drink. This is a relaxing moment for someone whose mistakes often cause him trouble.

During his career, Rumsfeld has held numerous roles, including Congressman, NATO ambassador, and White House Chief of Staff Gerald Ford, who later became his Secretary of Defense. When George W. Bush appointed him to the same position in 2000, Rumsfeld made history as the youngest and oldest head of the Pentagon—the only person to hold that position twice.

Bush appointed Rumsfeld not only because of his security credentials, but also because, as the CEO of the pharmaceutical company GD Searle, he won praise for effectively reorganizing a large organization. Bush wanted someone to reform the Pentagon. But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was given a completely different role.

When I started reporting on Rumsfeld in 2004, it was almost a year since the Iraq War. With the arrest of Saddam Hussein, the cheers gradually turned into frustration, as strong rebellions broke out across the country.

After being praised for the speed at which the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld became a typical representative of all problems in Iraq, most of which were due to lack of planning and insufficient U.S. troops.

However, even before Iraq fell into a dangerous quagmire, he would use his linguistic dexterity to divert difficult issues. In a conceited city, he stands out as a confident person who will never accept blame.

When raids swept through Iraq, his reaction was: “Freedom is messy” and “Something happened.” The insurgents are the “dead”. When a soldier asked why the U.S. was so slowly providing armor for the Hummer, he replied: “You are at war with the army you own.” When approving the controversial interrogation technique in Guantanamo Bay, Ram, who used a standing desk Sfield wrote: “I stand for 8 to 10 hours a day. Why is the standing time limited to 4 hours?”

As a former naval pilot and wrestling champion of Princeton University, Rumsfeld is very competitive. As an avid squash player, he lets his assistants play hard balls-a form of game that does not require running to give him an advantage-and will jokingly post the score on his when he wins On the office door.

Although it is difficult to separate this person from the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld is very charming and intelligent. But he also has dark circles, seeing him bullying, Including his general. His skills as a fighter once allowed Richard Nixon to describe him as a “relentless little bastard.”

I experienced his rudeness during a trip to North Africa, when he criticized me on his blog, and he claimed that it sounded like he was traveling in luxury.When a reporter later joked that Rumsfeld was afraid to play squash with me, he cried disdainfully: “What, this bastard who wants to be the food editor of the Financial Times?” (I interviewed him Lunch with the Financial Times Just before the trip. ) Later I learned that the real reason for his anger was that I wrote to say that the military doctors distributed sleeping pills To the press team On the plane. He never let me travel with him again.

However, although Rumsfeld, as the former CEO of a pharmaceutical company, is very worried about the effects of the distribution of sleeping pills, when it comes to the treatment of Guantanamo detainees, he hardly cares about his image or the fact that there are no sleeping pills in Iraq. . Of weapons of mass destruction, the United States called it a deadly invasion defense.

One of his most outspoken critics is Senator John McCain, who said he will “be one of the worst defense ministers in history.” He is often compared to Robert McNamara, the Minister of Defense during the Vietnam War, who also entered the public hall of vicious defense officials. However, unlike McNamara, who later showed some remorse, Rumsfeld never expressed regret for the Iraq War, which claimed nearly 500,000 lives and plunged the country into chaos, which has not yet been restored. .

Whether Rumsfeld ever expressed regret in private, in his own words, is still “a known unknown.”

demetri.sevastopulo@ft.com

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