Thursday, August 03, 2006

What, me rosy?

My dictionary defines delusion as "a false belief strongly held, in spite of invalidating evidence." In other words, a government official is delusional when he insists on believing and stating a falsehood that is demonstrably disproved by factual reality.

Exhibit A: Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, who was recently lauded by President Bush for "doing a fine job."

Rumsfeld has been symptomatic in the past. For instance, in September 2003, when he was reminded by a questioner that he had predicted prior to the Iraq war that the U.S. troops would be warmly welcomed by the Iraqi people, he insisted that he had said no such thing: "Never said that. Never did...You're thinking of somebody else." He stuck to his story, even though there was videotape of him declaring, seven months earlier, that "there is no question that they would be welcomed" by the Iraqis, and that the Iraqis would behave like the people in Afghanistan, "playing music, cheering, flying kites."

Fast forward to Rumsfeld's testimony today before a U.S. Senate committee. (Yesterday morning, he said he wouldn't appear because his "calendar" was full. Later, that full calendar magically opened up.) Anyway, while testifying, he told the senators that he had “never painted a rosy picture” about how the war in Iraq would go; in fact, he even insisted that "you would have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I have been overly optimistic.”

There he goes again, with those symptoms.

From the reality-based community files:

1. His aforementioned kite-flying prediction, uttered on Feb. 20, 2003.

2. His war's duration prediction, on Feb. 7, 2003: "It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

3. His WMDs prediction, on March 30, 2003: "We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”

It's entirely possible, of course, that Rumsfeld simply doesn't remember his past statements. In other words, maybe this is about amnesia, not delusion. I offer the moment on June 26, 2005, when Rumsfeld told Tim Russert on NBC that, prewar, he had given Bush a list of "15 things that could go terribly wrong," such as oil fields aflame and and mass refugees on the road. Yet when Russert asked whether the Defense secretary had cited the danger of a "robust insurgency," Rumsfeld replied thusly:

"I don't remember if that was on there."


So Rummy's rhetorical wanderings aren't exactly new. But there was something new today -- a clear hint of rebellion from the hawkish Republican establishment.

One of the Senate's old bulls, Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner of Virginia, heretofore a staunch defender of the Bush mission in Iraq, today implied at the hearing that the patience of the GOP Congress may not extend to presiding with U.S. troops over an open-ended sectarian civil war.

After a couple military generals said that, yes, a civil war seems to be a growing possibility, Warner said this: "I think we have to examine very carefully what Congress (in 2002) authorized the president to do in the context of a situation if we’re faced with an all-out civil war, and whether we have to come back to the Congress to get further indication of support."

Translation: We Bush allies didn't sign on for a civil war, so maybe the blank check stops here.