Old Wives' Tales
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Toxin du jour
Claim: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered a stinging rebuke to Senator Ted Kennedy during a Senate committee meeting.
Example: [ScrappleFace, 2004]
Origins: In some of our other pages we make reference to the concept of treppenwitz, defined as "the wit of the stairway"
If there's a term to describe the case in which a third party crafts a response that someone else could have used in a given situation, we're not aware of it, but it would apply here
On 4 February 2004, the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services met with Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, and General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to "receive testimony on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2005 and the Future Years Defense Program." During that meeting,
In his first public comments on the issue since former top weapons inspector David Kay told Congress last week that he believed U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was flawed, Rumsfeld said in back-to-back hearings of the Senate and House Armed Services committees that the Bush administration did not manipulate or misuse prewar intelligence.The alternative version quoted at the head of this piece
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., told Rumsfeld that Kay's conclusions represent "a devastating refutation of the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq" that "seriously undermines our credibility in the world." Kennedy suggested that an investigatory commission planned by President Bush "look hard and fast at not just what the intelligence was, but how it was manipulated" by administration policymakers.
Rumsfeld offered several "alternative views" about why no illicit weapons had been discovered in Iraq, beginning with the possibility that such arms never existed.
Rumsfeld said weapons may have been transferred to a third country before U.S. troops arrived in March, hidden in Iraq, or destroyed before the war.
Or, Rumsfeld postulated, "small quantities" of chemical or biological agents may have existed, along with a "surge capability" that would allow Iraq to rapidly build an arsenal. And, he said, "We may eventually find it in the months ahead."1
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) pressed Rumsfeld on a statement Rumsfeld made in late March during the war, as U.S. troops advanced on Baghdad, that "we know where they are," referring to weapons stockpiles. Rumsfeld conceded that he had misspoken and should have said he was referring to "suspect sites," where analysts believed chemical or biological weapons might have been stored.
"You're quite right — shorthand 'we know where they are' probably turned out not to be exactly what one would have preferred in retrospect," Rumsfeld said.2
Mr. Rumsfeld faced sharp questions from Democrats who accused the administration of manipulating intelligence to suit their goal of toppling Mr. Hussein. "The debacle cannot all be blamed on the intelligence community," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. "Key policy makers made crystal clear the results they wanted from the intelligence community."
Mr. Rumsfeld told Mr. Kennedy that his assertions were baseless. "You've twice or thrice mentioned manipulation," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I haven't heard of it, I haven't seen any of it, except in the comments you've made."3
Last updated: 6 September 2007
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