H.R. Haldeman on Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld on Woodward and Ricks, and Ricks on where Rummy went wrong
- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
So in my research on the Vietnam War I was paging through H.R. Haldeman’s diaries to see what he says about General Creighton Abrams and was surprised to come across his comment about a former defense secretary we all know: "typical Rumsfeld, rather slimy maneuver." (657)
Pot calling the kettle, I know. It did make me ponder, for a moment, why it was that Rumsfeld was the senior member of the Nixon administration to enjoy the longest public career.
Meanwhile, I see where Mr. Rumsfeld just told an interviewer that he never read the books by Bob Woodward or me about the Iraq war. "Neither one of them were involved at all," Rumsfeld said. "They were all on the outside listening to people two or three levels down. No, I’ve not read their books."
Rumsfeld is indeed correct about whom I was listening to — and I am glad I was. In retrospect, I have come to see my book Fiasco as reflective of the views of many brigade and battalion commanders, and a couple of thoughtful division commanders, who indeed were several echelons below Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I think they also had a much better understanding of what was going on in Iraq than he did, and they were angry and frustrated, which is why Fiasco amounted to an indictment of the top generals and the civilian overseers of the military in the Pentagon, the White House, and the Congress. How often did Rumsfeld’s undersecretary for policy, Douglas Feith, go to Iraq? Anyone know? I can’t remember him going more than once or twice.