Pulp Fiction

Today former Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld launched his autobiography Known and Unknown: A Memoir with a tour of the usual media outlets.

Even judged by the standard of political memoirs Rumsfeld has mounted an epic display of denial that puts reggae bad boy Shaggy to shame. Bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora? Wasn’t me. Misleading intelligence about WMDs in Iraq? Wasn’t me. Iraq’s collapse into chaos? Wasn’t me. The Pat Tillman affair? Not even mentioned.

Rumsfeld really outdoes himself when he tries to wash his hands of the systemic abuse of detainees held in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Discussing the Abu Ghraib scandal with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, Rummy commented:

“That was such a stain on our country. To think that people in our custody were treated in that disgusting and perverted and ghastly way — unacceptable way.”

Fine sentiments indeed, and you might be forgiven for thinking that the incident had nothing to do with the former Secretary of Defense, until you recall that it occurred in a detention facility under his command and grew out of a permissive attitude to detainee abuse that he himself was responsible for creating.

But don’t just take my word for it – here is an excerpt from the Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody adopted unanimously in November 2008 by Republican and Democrat members alike:

“The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply a result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at [Guantánamo]… Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officers conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.”

In December 2002 Rumsfeld personally authorized the use of “mild, non-injurious physical contact” as well as stress positions, stripping naked and even dogs to break detainees. Rumsfeld famously even questioned why the use of stress positions was limited to just 4 hours noting that he was used to standing for 8-10 hours a day.

In fact, Donald Rumsfeld’s fingerprints are all over the Bush administration’s torture program and you don’t need to be CSI’s Gil Grissom to find them. The last category Rumsfeld’s autobiography belongs in is “Non-fiction”.

That is why we are calling on all good bookshops to take a long hard look at the content of Known and Unknown and then move it straight to the “True Crime” section of their stores.