Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.
“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”
The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”
President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.
In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.
With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?
It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.
Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.
“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”
“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.
“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”
When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”
That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.
Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.