Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Fresh Face, Somebody Who Understands

Nixon and Rumsfeld, circa 1971

"Rumsfeld flees France fearing arrest," reads the story, still unconfirmed. "Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of 'ordering and authorizing' torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest."

What we know for certain, according to the New York Times, is that "several human rights organizations
based in the United States and Europe have filed a complaint in a Paris court accusing former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of responsibility for torture."

Monsieur le Procureur, begins the text of the document, after twenty-four pages summing up:

Il résulte des éléments ci-dessus et des documents annexés à la présente plainte que la responsabilité pénale personnelle de Monsieur DONALD RUMSFELD dans les faits de torture et de mauvais traitements, constitutifs également de crimes de guerre, est absolument indiscutable.

(It follows from the above elements and documents annexed to this complaint that the personal criminal responsibility of Mr. DONALD RUMSFELD in the facts of torture and ill-treatment, also constitute war crimes, absolutely indisputable.)

If this isn't exactly justice at least not yet it is still a physical relief to read.

And it reminded me of this 1971 conversation between Nixon and Rumsfeld: the then-president, in almost avuncular mentoring mode, and his shiny young underling looking for work commensurate with his talents:

PRESIDENT NIXON: I have an idea. I have an idea. There might be, even at this time-- you're not, you're not too sensitive about, I trust you're not about where you sit at the table. You really ought to be, you really ought to be in foreign affairs. I wish I had any position. The question ...(inaudible) assistant secretary or something like that. ...(inaudible) That's where the action is. That's where it is.

RUMSFELD: And five years from now, that would give me a--

PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh, enormous.

RUMSFELD: --a credential, a background in terms of running for the Senate in Illinois, or in terms of being involved in the world. It's just a much--it seemed to--it struck me that it may be something say, your ...(inaudible) at this point.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Well, let's look at the transcript.

RUMSFELD: Of course, those service secretaries are--

PRESIDENT NIXON: Well, they're just ...(inaudible). I like them all as individuals. But the poor guys, they do, they must do important things. ...(inaudible), if Henry weren't such a difficult person, god knows he needs somebody else ...(inaudible). He needs a fresh face, somebody that understands.

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