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A memoir isn’t enough to rehabilitate the careers of today’s disgraced public officials. Any case you make for yourself is damaged by the fact that you’re the one making it. A shrewder tactic is to go full-on Assange, releasing formerly secret documents that you can say prove you were right all along. And so here’s Donald Rumsfeld, doing his best WikiLeaks impression to accompany his new book.
After Iraq and Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, there are few rhetorical tactics Rumsfeld can employ to satisfy his hordes of critics. So he’s accompanying his memoir, Known and Unknown, with tons of primary source material: hundreds of raw documents detailing his thought process at the Pentagon, all searchable on his new website. This way, he’s not engaging with a debate he’s unlikely to win; he’s burying it under an avalanche of paper.
To put it uncharitably: when you’ve got a rep for being less-than-honest and unwilling to debate, you might as well let the documents speak for themselves.
Rumsfeld’s documents show him worrying about military interrogations. “I don’t feel I have good data on the people we have been capturing and interrogating in either country,” he told his intel chief, Steve Cambone, on Sept. 12, 2003. “I don’t feel I am getting information from the interrogations that should be enabling us as to the answer to the questions I’ve posed.” Probing. But perhaps Rumsfeld might have considered that before changing the rules for military interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, which “migrated” to Iraq, to allow more brutal treatment.
Rumsfeld isn’t the first to take this documentation-based approach. His policy chief, Douglas Feith, under fire for sexing up intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s relationship with al-Qaeda, accompanied his 2008 War and Decision with a searchable online supplement of his own documents from the Pentagon.