By now, most of the people interested in hearing Donald Rumsfeld's account of his service as Secretary of Defense have already learned that Errol Morris' 103 minute long interview, The Unknown Known, with the retired Rumsfeld elicited little confessional material from his smiling and smirking subject. I believe that's because Morris asked Rumsfeld mostly about what he had said, not what he had done.
I have followed Rumsfeld's career from the '80, when I started CNN, until at least 2005, when as a guest on Fox News, I suggested that he be fired for the same reasons that Dan Rather had been fired -- he was the guy in charge when bad things were going on in his department.
In September 2009, I wrote here about one of the worst decisions reached during Rumsfeld's time in office. I suggested that Secretary Gates, Rumsfeld's successor, had cared far more about the safety of his troops than Rumsfeld's team did:
When Rumsfeld's DOD was begged by troops and officers in Iraq to provide them with better armored vehicles than Humvees, a DOD Assistant Secretary responded to Congress that the cost of death was less than the cost of Cougars or Strykers, and refused to take immediate action. When better vehicles were finally ordered, the contracts went to small companies unable to meet the immediate need in Iraq.
Gates, on the other hand, spent billions of dollars on MRAPs that met Army and Marine specifications. They were built in American factories within a year, sent to Afghanistan and certainly saved lives in the war there. (In the end, as IEDs were more and more powerful, even the new vehicles failed to provide sufficient protection.)
Gates tried to save soldiers' lives, Rumsfeld's assistant thought saving lives cost too much money.
In 2004, Pat Tillman, a true American hero, died in Afghanistan after his Humvee, the most vulnerable of the armored vehicles that were used in the war, broke down. Tillman's unit split up into two parts. The Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) reported that one unit "was ambushed and became engaged in a running gun battle with enemy combatants... Upon hearing explosions, gunfire, and sporadic radio communication..." Tillman's portion of the platoon "dismounted their vehicles and moved on foot, to a more advantageous position to provide overwatch and fire support." The other unit, not recognizing Tillman's team, opened fire on them. Tillman and one other soldier died, two others were wounded.
Tillman, a Pro Football Sports Illustrated "All Pro", who had in 2002, turned down a $3.6 million dollar offer from the Cardinals to enlist, was proclaimed a hero, a victim of enemy fire and awarded the Silver Star medal. Five weeks later the DOD admitted that Tillman's death was "probably" caused by friendly fire.
On August 1, 2007, former Secretary Rumsfeld was called before a Committee of the House of Representatives and questioned about what he knew and when he knew it. Once again, he avoids and evades. When asked by a Congressman when he heard about the incident, his reply is an unknown unknown: "I don't recall when I was told and I don't recall who told me." When asked who informed him about the incident, he replies, "I don't recall precisely how I learned he was killed. It could've been internally or it could have been through the press."
If a former Secretary of Defense says with a straight face that the press might have been his source about the misdoings of the Pentagon, just think how easy it was for him to make sure that Errol Morris remained an unknowing unknown. That's the kind of thing that Rumsfeld just doesn't talk about.