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Donald Rumsfeld Tells Sean Hannity In Iraq, “Mission Accomplishing” – Or Maybe Not

Reported by Ellen - December 12, 2006 -

The state of American journalism may have reached a new low last night (12/11/06) with Sean Hannity's softball interviews with Donald Rumsfeld recorded during their junket to Iraq. As often happens when he is in the presence of a Bush administration official, bullyboy Hannity was transformed into a lapdog – and a remarkably incurious one at that. You might think that a network which brags about providing “real journalism, fair and balanced” might have at least some questions about the planning and strategy for the architect of a war that was just declared a failure by a group of consultants called in by the president. But not on FOX News. So solicitous was Hannity, he didn’t seem to notice that Rumsfeld contradicted himself by claiming the war on terror a success while, at the same time, claiming that the threats to the US are growing.

There are lots of questions surrounding Rumsfeld’s tenure as Secretary of Defense, even as he prepares to depart. How does he explain his claim to know that WMD’s were in the area around Tikrit? How did he so badly misjudge the length of the war, which he originally said he doubted would last six months? How did he fail to be prepared for the looting that took place after the invasion? How did he so underestimate the insurgency? What about Abu Ghraib? Why has the war cost American taxpayers so much when we were promised that Iraq’s oil would pay for it? Despite the costs, why has the richest country in the world been unable to restore the infrastructure to a country less than half the size of Texas? But WMD’s, looting, insurgency, Abu Ghraib, and infrastructure never seemed to enter Hannity’s mind, much less come out of his mouth.

The way Rumsfeld told it, the real problem with the Iraq war is our country’s misperceptions. “I’m convinced what we’re doing is right and that it will ultimately succeed and that the country needs to better understand it. It has to become more familiar to the people. This is the first war of the 21st century. It’s new, it’s strange. It doesn’t have the benefit of major armies and navies and air forces clashing one with another and an outcome that’s clear.”

But then, smack dab in the middle of that sentiment, Rumsfeld dropped this potential bombshell. “There’s only so much the military can do. The military can do the military tasks but ultimately, it will take a political solution.” Was Rummy trying to pass the buck? Endorse the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for negotiations with Iran and Syria? We’ll never know because Hannity didn’t probe.

Rumsfeld then made the rather far-fetched claim – swallowed whole by Hannity – that the war in Iraq has been a victim of the success in the war on terror. “The danger to our country is real, it’s present, it’s lethal and it’s growing. That is a hard thing for people to understand because we’ve been so successful in not having an attack in this country for five years. This president is almost a victim of the success he has had in preventing another attack in our country because people have allowed the nature of the threat to diminish in their minds and I think we ought not to. We ought to understand – what was it Winston Churchill said? – the gathering storm… But by golly, we’re in a period where there is a gathering storm.”

Wait a minute, the president has successfully fended off terror attacks at the same time that the threat is growing? I thought the war in Iraq was supposed to lessen our vulnerability. But Hannity’s interest remained unpiqued.

Hannity’s idea of a searching question was to ask for Rumsfeld’s reaction to incoming Secretary of Defense Gates’ comment that we’re neither winning nor losing the war.

Rumsfeld’s response was that we are winning the war, it’s our faulty system of equating peace with victory that’s at fault. “The metrics for winning and losing are very difficult. Today, the president’s being measured on the amount of violence in Iraq, basically in Baghdad – three or four provinces out of 18 in one country. That is not the measure, that is the wrong measure. If that were to be the only metric or measure of success or failure, my goodness, then you’ve given the game to the enemy. All they have to do is keep the violence up in Baghdad and the media that’s there will say. 'Oh my goodness, the terrorists are winning and everyone else is losing.' That’s not it.

"But regrettably, there are not good metrics to determine how it’s actually going on, what’s happening. The kinds of things one would want to know, if you really wanted to have your finger on the pulse of who’s winning and who’s losing in this global struggle against violent extremism, you would want to know how the terrorists and the extremists are doing in raising money, how are they doing in recruiting? Are the things that are happening in the world advantaging them so that their cadre of people that support their position is increasing or is it decreasing? We know we are killing – the president has done a fascinating job of getting some 80 countries into a global coalition against extremists and we know we’re putting pressure on them around the globe. We know it’s harder for them to do things, it’s harder to raise money, it’s harder to transfer money, it’s harder to move between countries, it’s harder to recruit, it’s harder to move weapons. But they still do it. And the question is, is the pressure that’s being put on them greater than they are able to apply in terms of raising money and recruiting?”

So is the storm gathering or lessening? Hannity didn’t ask, of course. Rumsfeld, himself, didn’t seem to know. The only thing he seemed certain of, was that any screw-ups were not his fault. “I think that history has to look at this period as a period that is new, where there was no road map, there was no guide book that said ‘here’s how you do this,’ and that an awful lot of right decisions were made… You have no choice but to go after the terrorists, the extremists where they are. You cannot wait to be hit. And that concept was central to the president’s position and it’s the right one.”

You can watch both parts of the Rumsfeld interview on the Hannity & Colmes website.

Update: Think Progress noted that during the interview, Rumsfeld contradicted President Bush's claim that Rumsfeld's departure was not related to the recent election outcome. That was another issue Hannity either didn't notice or didn't think worth probing further.