How many times have I heard some piece of breaking news, usually reporting a fresh outrage of the Bush administration’s, and asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to have handy an interactive timeline of the Bush years — sortable by category — so I could whip up a quick blog post furnishing helpful context?” I’ll be honest: Not many. But it’s good to be able to do just that, thanks to our (nonpartisan, fact-based) Lie by Lie timeline!
As Senate Democrats push (futilely) for a resolution to have the Defense Secretary canned, I can simply click the “Rumsfeld” link on the timeline, and here (below) is what comes up: a fairly extensive catalogue of lies, obfuscations, idiocies, and screw-ups; an impressive enough record, one would think, to have gotten him fired long ago. Bear in mind, the time period covered by Part I of Lie by Lie ends at the start of the Iraq war, in March, 2003 — that is, before Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, “stuff happens,” “Heck, I’m an old man,” the utter disaster of the post-war period…. Stay tuned for further installments.
September 11, 2001
A note from an aide who was with the Secretary of Defense at the National Military Command Center shows that just five hours after the attacks Rumsfeld says, “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough to hit S.H. at same time. Not only UBL… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
December 1, 2001
According to Bob Woodward, Rumsfeld orders Franks to begin work on an Iraq war plan. Bush will meet with military leaders regarding the plan on a regular basis starting late December, despite public assurances that the administration is seeking a diplomatic solution to its showdown with Saddam.
January 22, 2002
After a Defense Department photo is released showing detainees in goggles and masks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defends the detentions of “committed terrorists,” saying, “We are keeping them off the street and out of the airlines.” Besides, he says, “To be in an eight-by-eight cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not a — inhumane treatment. And it has a roof.”
April 17, 2002
Reports emerge that American forces could have caught or killed bin Laden at Tora Bora. Reporters confront Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the story. He says he does not “know today of any evidence” that bin Laden “was in Tora Bora at the time, or that he left Tora Bora at the time.” Later reports will make clear that the military was asked by the CIA at the time to supply troops to help close off bin Laden’s escape routes. The military declined.
May 21, 2002
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tells a Senate subcommittee that there are al Qaeda terrorists living in the United States. According to Ron Suskind’s 2006 book, “The One Percent Doctrine,” this is a reference to the “Lackawanna Six,” a group of six men living near Buffalo, NY, who have made contact with al Qaeda and will be arrested by American authorities later in the year. Rumsfeld says they “are very well trained,” though intelligence officials familiar with the case already recognize this is not the case.
September 16, 2002
Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly tells reporters, “The President hasn’t made a decision with respect to Iraq.”
September 18, 2002
Donald Rumsfeld tells Congress, “Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam Hussein is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain—we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons.”
September 19, 2002
Rumsfeld tells Congress: “[Saddam has] amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including Anthrax, botulism, toxins, and possibly Smallpox. He’s amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons.”
September 27, 2002
Donald Rumsfeld calls the link between Iraq and al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.”
November 14, 2002
“Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that. It won’t be a World War III.” — Donald Rumsfeld, predicting the length of the war in Iraq, on a call-in radio program.
November 27, 2002
Donald Rumsfeld receives a memo requesting that he sign off on “Category III” interrogation techniques for use on prisoners. He does so. It is later shown that Category III interrogation techniques are consistent with torture as defined in US federal law, something the DOD knew at the time of the memo.
January 29, 2003
A day after the President?s State of the Union address, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backs him up. “[Saddam’s] regime has the design for a nuclear weapon; it was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa. The regime plays host to terrorists, including al Qaeda.?
February 20, 2003
In an interview with PBS’s NewsHour, Donald Rumsfeld has the following exchange with Jim Lehrer.
Q: Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?
A: There is no question but that [the troops] would be welcomed. Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda would not let them do.
He will later deny saying that America would be welcomed. ?Never said that. Never did. You may remember it well, but you’re thinking of somebody else…. I may look like somebody else.?
February 25, 2003
General Eric Shinseki tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Defense Department’s estimate of troops needed for occupying Iraq is too low and says “several hundred thousand soldiers” will be needed. (FDCH Political Transcript, 02/25/03) Paul Wolfowitz, appearing before Congress two days later, responds that Shinseki’s estimate is “wildly off the mark.” Says Wolfowitz, ?It?s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam?s security forces and his Army. Hard to imagine.?
Rumsfeld names Shinseki’s successor one year before the end of Shinseki’s term, making him a lame duck and an example to the rest of the military. Three months after Shinseki’s comments, former Army secretary Thomas White will admit that he was right.