• Donald Rumsfeld Says Never Actually Criticized Bush In Interview With The London Times

    Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claims the Times of London misrepresented his views on the Iraq War in a recent interview and wrongly made him sound critical of former President George W. Bush.

    Since The Times piece came out Saturday, Rumsfeld has been busy trying to rebuke the paper for misinterpreting and taking his remarks out of context, The Washington Post reports.

    “The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic,” Rumsfeld, who served as Bush’s first defense secretary from 2001 to 2006, reportedly told the Times of London. “I was concerned about it when I first heard those words … I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

    As soon as the story broke, commentators jumped on Rumsfeld for flip-flopping.

    “This was the man stoking the fires for going into Iraq on the day of 9/11,” claimed journalist Bob Woodward Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” according to The Hill.

    The title of the Times of London, “Bush was wrong on Iraq, says Rumsfeld,” also didn’t seem to do any favors for Rumsfeld, as his skepticism of democracy seemed to entail that Bush was wrong for his strong belief that democracy would win out in Iraq.

    In Rumsfeld’s speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in May 2013, he stated that “Iraq could conceivably become a model — proof that a moderate Muslim state can succeed in the battle against extremism taking place in the Muslim world today.”

    Rumsfeld now says he still holds to the idea that a democratic Iraq would be a stellar model for the Middle East, but maintained that this stance, combined with initial uncertainty about whether democracy after Saddam Hussein was actually feasible, is not at all inconsistent.

    In May 2013, Rumsfeld told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer “the wonderful thing about democracy is that when someone sticks their head up, somebody doesn’t like it. And therefore, there will be that process, just like in our country. There will be a debate. There will be a discussion. And ultimately, people would decide who they want. It won’t be use who will be deciding who is going to be doing anything. It is going to be the Iraqi people, over time.”

    His early caution gave way to a more optimistic stance in February 2005, when he gave a speech while on the USS O’Bannon.

    “We just experienced last Sunday elections in Iraq,” he said. “Admittedly, the Iraqi people don’t have much experience with democracy…Instead of talking about killing people, instead of talking about invading neighbors, instead of a country that used chemical weapons against its own people and against its neighbors, what’s being done today in Iraq is politics.”

    “I wish I could assure you that everything was going to turn out well, but I can’t,” Rumsfeld added. “I suspect that there are going to be more people killed, that there will be more difficulties, that it will be a bumpy road, a tough road.”

    As for the accuracy of reporting from the Times of London, he’s got the tapes to back up his claims. Rumsfeld has a habit of recording each and every interview he gives, a practice which dates back to his time at the Pentagon.

    “So, the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq, it seemed to me, is unrealistic to a certain extent, and the president and the administration would have been better off not allowing the mission to creep that direction. I was concerned about it when I first heard the beginnings of those words. I’m for democracy, whatever that means, but it means different things at different times and different places,” Rumsfeld said, reading the full quote from his records to The Washington Post. “And I have a healthy respect for what we’re not capable of doing, and that’s nation-building, and I think that a different country with different neighbors and a different culture… culture is so important… ought to be different, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s probably a good thing for the world if people are different and have different approaches. You say what might you have done differently?”

    “My comments were consistently much more subtle, and the article in the London Times was really ridiculous,” Rumsfeld added as commentary.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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