by Chris Maynard
When a cabinet secretary dashes off to the scene of his biggest crime and bills it as a farewell tour, the visual pickings can be pretty slim. Sean Hannity of Fox TV went along for the ride, Donald Rumfeld’s fifteenth to Iraq, but there were no reporters. Similarly, the only pictures and captions came from the Defense Department. Perhaps this is what Mr. Rumsfeld had in mind when he said “go minimalist” in his famous pre-firing memo.
This scene offers Secretary Rumsfeld with one of his greatest triumphs, the Iraqi military, brand spanking new, bright as a penny and hardly been used.
According to the caption, the men are “Iraqi soldiers at Forward Operating Base Hawk.” We have to trust that either the men speak English or the Secretary has learned Arabic in his spare time. It might be bad form if they had been told to just stand there and stare at him while he performed. Is he giving them a pep talk or are they discussing Clausewitz? Maybe he’s telling them about how he and the neos kneecapped Colin Powell, or about the worrywart generals who wanted more divisions in on the invasion. They probably already know about the flowers strewn in the streets back then.
But those searching stares remain. The glare of the fluorescent bulbs doesn’t help matters but adds to the ramshackle look of the group. Was some PR type thinking “They’ll love this in Missouri?”
The second soldier from the right, in particular, catches the eye. His body has the question mark posture, leaning slightly forward at the hips, his head thrust toward the Secretary. Pressed into service for this type of dog and pony show, the soldiers on the left warily ride it out, but this guy looks like he might actually have a question. Of course, this might explain why Rumsfeld’s right hand, applied in continuous salesmanship, also seems ready to flick him away.
It also might explain why Mr. Rumsfeld’s trip was confined to US military bases.
Rather than checking out downtown Baghdad, he got no closer than the rather prematurely named Camp Victory next to the airport; the remainder of his itinerary was unannounced and took the form of visits to other heavily-armed bases. This time, however, instead of putting on his blue blazer and Timberlands for a stroll through the sand and dust, it was heads down, hold on and fare me well.
(image: Cherie A. Thurlby. Forward Operating Base Hawk. December 9, 2006. defenselink.mil)