As we all know, Donald Rumsfeld was instrumental in providing the rationale for going to war against Iraq in 2003. Today, 12 years later, we remain on a war footing in that region of the world. Let’s take a look at one of Secretary Rumsfeld’s key statements that was part of the drumbeat leading to the Iraq war.
In February 2002, JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, at that time NBC’s Pentagon correspondent asked Secretary Rumsfeld:
“In regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.”
“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones. And so people who have the omniscience that they can say with high certainty that something has not happened or is not being tried, have capabilities that are — what was the word you used, Pam, earlier?”
At first blush, I note no “I’s” in his response – just “we’s.” The personal pronoun “I” connotes personal commitment. A response that starts with or contains an “I” likely reflects personal commitment. What follows that “I” is important, but it’s also important that we see no “I’s.” So, there is no personal commitment in his response.
Let’s first take a look at the question: “In regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction?” This is an excellent question. I wish Miklaszewski had stopped there! But he goes on, “Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.” With that addition, Miklaszewski allows Rumsfeld to wiggle out of answering the critical question.
One of the teachings of my book, “Getting the Truth,” is that poorly structured questions can prohibit you from getting the truth. This is a prime example. You need to structure - no sculpt - your questions to make sure they are simple, direct, and compact. All excess needs to be trimmed, eliminated, and avoided. Miklaszewski’s addition was unnecessary and only provided a route for deflection, avoidance.
Predictably, Rumsfeld responds to the addition, not the core question. Despite his confidence and arrogance, his response is very telling. He never answers the core question – rather, he deftly evades it. I’ve often said that when people don’t answer the question, they did. That is to say they had the opportunity to directly answer the question but chose not to. In this example, he not only doesn’t answer the core critical question, he evades it by providing a non-answer. The word “evade” connotes intent, a clever avoidance. This is a clever, evasive, non-answer.
And, maybe, therein lies the reason we see no “I” in his response. Non-answers don’t need “I’s." Non-answers require no commitment.
So, now the question is: “Why would he choose to evade giving us the justification for the 2003 Iraq war?” History is slowly but inexorably revealing the answer.
To learn more, get Joe Koenig's "Getting the Truth"