Tuesday, July 01, 2003

An assist from the transcriptionist

Check out this transcript from the DoD, in which Don Rumsfeld tries to explain why Iraq isn’t becoming a “guerilla war”:

Rumsfeld: I guess the reason I don't use the phrase "guerrilla war" is because there isn't one, and it would be a misunderstanding and a miscommunication to you and to the people of the country and the world. If you think what I just answered on the first question -- looters, criminals, remnants of the Ba'athist regime, foreign terrorists who came in to assist and try to harm the coalition forces, and those influenced by Iran -- I would say that those are five, if that was five items, five different things.

They're all slightly different in why they're there and what they're doing. That is -- doesn't make it anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance. It makes it like five different things going on that are functioning much more like terrorists.

I mean, if you think of what the Ba'athists and the remnants are doing, well, think what they did during the war, the Fedayeen Saddam. They put civilian clothes on, went around and took women and children and shoved them in front of them in Basra, as I recall, during the early part of the war, and attempted to use human shields and that kind of an approach. Now, that is not -- it doesn't fit that word.

So, I think I think that if one analyzes what is going on in that country, they would find a different way to characterize it. I know it's nice to be -- have a bumper sticker, but it's the wrong bumper sticker.

Q: Well, I know. But appreciating, as I do, your appreciation of precision in language -- (Inaudible.) --

Rumsfeld: You've got the dictionary definition?

Q: -- what the DoD definition of guerrilla war.

Rumsfeld: I was afraid you would have -- I should have looked it up. I knew I should have looked it up! (Laughter.) I --

Q: According to the Pentagon's own definition --

Rumsfeld: I could die that I didn't look it up!

Q: -- military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy- held or hostile territory by a regular -- (Inaudible.) -- indigenous forces. This seems to fit a lot of what's going on in Iraq.

Rumsfeld: It really doesn't. (Laughter.)

As I read this, it didn’t sound like what I had heard on Newsnight. Watching that show, I couldn’t help thinking what an ass Rumsfeld had just made of himself by explaining who and what he thought the Iraqi resistors were and then arguing against the same definition when it was shown to be the DoD’s own definition of a guerilla war.

Looking at the transcript, though, it seemed that I must have remembered it wrong, because Rumsfeld clearly got it right. These definitely aren’t “regular” troops, if that’s what was said during the excerpts third “inaudible” section.

Just for good measure, though, I swung over to the CNN site and suddenly saw the same words I had remembered hearing:

MCINTYRE: Appreciating, as I do, your appreciation of precision in language...

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You got the dictionary definition.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): I want the DOD definition of guerrilla war.

RUMSFELD: I was afraid you would. I should have looked it up. I knew I should have looked it up. I could die that I didn't look it up.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon's own definition (unintelligible): "Military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held or hostile territory by an irregular predominantly indigenous forces." This seems to fit a lot of what's going on in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: It really doesn't.

This transcript, which conforms to my memory of the video, changes the entire definition by defining the groups doing the fighting as “irregular, predominantly indigenous forces.” These are exactly what Rumsfeld describes in saying that these aren’t soldiers but rabble, so he’s back to being an ass (and let’s not even mention that he implied looters weren’t worth his time before, but now he blames them for killing Americans).

The question, then, is whether Rummy got an “assist” from the DoD transcriptionist. By changing one word and leaving out another (which came through loud and clear in my living room but was apparently inaudible on the scene), the typist made Rumsfeld’s answer a weaselly, waffling response that was still technically accurate. Better, one would think, than the embarrassing lie he actually told.

Is this important? Maybe. Maybe not. What is important is that it casts doubt on the role of the DoD transcriptionist’s role, just after the official DoD transcript was instrumental in pulling Paul Wolfowitz’s ass out of the this-war-was-for-oil fire (which, for my money, is still much ado about nothing), serving as a breeze across the embers of a scandal-that-wasn't in the minds of the conspiracy-minded. For most of us, though, this is either the small "historical revision" of an administration in full "cover your ass" mode or a moment of sloppiness on the part of a Defense Department cog. The Bushies can afford neither right now.

It’s beginning to become obvious to more and more people that nothing connected with this administration can be accepted at face value. They can’t be trusted to issue honest scientific reports. If the truth interferes with their plans, then they cover it up. They name a weak-ass intiative (which rolls back pollution protections) their “Clear Skies” plan and then fail even to uphold those weak-ass standards. They promised "Iraqi Freedom" but that turned out to be too hard. They won’t even keep the promises they made to the soldiers we were told we “must support” in Iraq (because we couldn’t have figured that out on our own). Now, it seems, not only do promises and responsibilities mean little, but they’re also willing to partake of a little “revisionism” when necessary.

The good news for the Bushies is that 56 percent of Americans still support the war in Iraq (which is a 30 point drop in two months). The bad news for them is that 53 percent say it would matter a “great deal” if they find out the administration lied about WMDs in Iraq. I still hope, for our country's sake, that we find WMDs in Iraq, but, considering the Bush track record, I would guess that this country’s about to get 53 percent pissed.

Update: Mmmmm.... Fresh lies...


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