The Return of "The Return of Ja(a)far" -- Donald Rumsfeld

Originally re-posted 2009-04-22 20:56:14 -0500. First printing appeared on the old Journal, linked to below. Promoted to help ensure that the information is readily accessible. -- GH

On December 16, 2006, Danse Macabre: The Return of Ja(a)far [Donald Rumsfeld] was posted on the old ePluribus Media Journal. It was a long piece that drew several analogies all keyed to variants of "Jafar" and running the gamut from Disney to Arab history to the Joint Army-Air Force Adjustment Regulations and back.

In light of the recent most-excellent exposé by Zwoof on DailyKos and the current flurry of activity regarding the torture memos, I'm going to re-post it again, this time in two parts. Tonight, first three sections, including The Art: The Story of Aladdin and Life Imitates Art: Donald Rumsfeld as "Jafar"; tomorrow, the final sections, including Turning the Corner: the Last Throes of Donald Rumsfeld, Rudy Jaafar -- "Time for Arab History to Follow its Course" and JAAFAR -- Joint Army-Air Force Adjustment Regulations (along with all footnotes and appendix).

*     *     *

"The Return of Ja(a)far" examines the return of Donald Rumsfeld to the role of Secretary of Defense, a sequel that -- like the Disney flick of similar name -- should have gone straight to video. It tells how some of the same characters who were bit players in a previous mess (the Nixon Administration) keep coming back to attempt to recreate a grand scheme on the level of players much more evil and out of their league, a league playing at the level of the Kissingers, Nixons and "Poppy" Bushs. True to GWB form, they continue to fail spectacularly upwards.

Image credit: Jose Guadalupe Posada, calavera del catrin

Along the way, we'll learn why Ja(a)far isn't always bad, and that, sometimes, he can be more of a "what" than a "who."

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
     - George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905
       US (Spanish-born) philosopher (1863 - 1952)

Throughout human existence, there are many instances of the saying "art imitates life" and its corollary of life imitating art. For, as long as humanity has had the capacity of self-expression coupled with curiosity and a sense of wonder, our instinct to depict our hopes and dreams or to record our history has found an outlet from cave walls to papyrus, from blackboard to whiteboard and from paper to electronic media. Our darkest points of history, the stuff of which nightmares are made, coexist alongside tales of humanity triumphant and dreams of a better tomorrow. History demonstrates that major themes often repeat, bringing fresh wisdom or reintroducing lessons yet unlearned to each new age. Sometimes, the cycles appear to repeat quickly, as though the lesson had been incomplete.

Such a lesson was recently manifested in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, who returned to the role of U.S. Secretary of Defense in 2001 more powerful than he was during his earlier time in the same role (1975-1977).


The Art: The Story of Aladdin

"All part and parcel of the whole genie gig. Phenomenal Cosmic Power. Itty-Bitty living space."
   -- Genie, Disney's "Aladdin," 1992

In November of 1992, Walt Disney Feature Animation released the film "Aladdin" to the delight and wonder of millions. As with all things Disney, the retelling of the classic tale from 1001 Arabian Nights underwent some serious editorial changes to the storyline in order to fit the Disney-inspired vision of a great movie for children -- not to mention becoming a great money-maker for the studio. The movie had all the trademark elements of a classic Disney adventure -- a hero who must fight incredible odds, a princess, an evil sorcerer/advisor, at least one talking animal and powerful magic in the form of a genie that lived in a magical lamp and possessed of phenomenal cosmic power limited by only a few unique constraints.

Disney's remake of the tale [1] took some broad liberties. The setting, a mythical kingdom called "Agrabah," was loosely based upon Baghdad. The evil sorcerer, Jafar, was the advisor to the sultan; he had a talking parrot named Iago to help him with his nefarious schemes to take control of the kingdom. The genie of the lamp had three constraints on his otherwise "phenomenal cosmic power": aside from his miniscule living accommodations, he couldn't make people fall in love, he wouldn't raise the dead, and the bearer of the lamp only got three wishes. No wishing for more.

The original "definitely-not-Disney" story was distinctly different. In addition to having severe anti-Semitic overtones, it took place in a land called China (a very Middle Eastern version of China), the sorcerer was an evil magician from Africa, and the Jinn of the lamp had no set limit on wishes -- he was a slave to the holder of the lamp. The original Aladdin also had a magical ring that bore a less powerful Jinn-like entity.

The Disney version was quite a success.

Two years later, to keep the franchise "fresh" in the minds of children everywhere, a sequel, "The Return of Jafar," was released straight to videotape It told of how Jafar returned, more powerful than before, to once again threaten Aladdin, the princess, and Agrabah.


Life Imitates Art: Donald Rumsfeld as "Jafar"

"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends."
   - Japanese Proverb

Rumsfeld's service as a member of the US House of Representatives, which lasted nearly four terms, ended when he was selected by Nixon for an opportunity to serve in his Administration. Rumsfeld resigned his seat and took the job.

He held various positions, making a name for himself, impressing Nixon, and being rewarded with choice assignments.

Image credit: Roberto Parada, "Eye on War"

Wikipedia has a fairly accurate summary:

Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 -- his fourth term -- to serve in the Nixon Administration as Director of the United States Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1969-1970); named Counselor to the President in December of 1970, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program; and member of the President's Cabinet (1971-1972).

In 1971 President Nixon was recorded saying about Rumsfeld ".. at least Rummy is tough enough" and "He's a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that."[5]

In February of 1973, Rumsfeld left Washington to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium. He served as the United States' Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council and the Defense Planning Committee, and the Nuclear Planning Group. In this responsibility, he represented the United States on wide ranging military and diplomatic matters.

Overseas at the time and so untouched by the Watergate scandal, Rumsfeld was tapped to lead the Ford transition team after Nixon's resignation. He knew exactly who he wanted to bring along for the ride: Richard B. Cheney, another Nixonian relic.

From [2]:

These two men quickly became the predominant figures of the administration of Ford, who appointed Donald Rumsfeld to replace Alexander Haig as general secretary of the White House only a month after assuming office. And Rumsfeld took the post with Dick Cheney as personal assistant. They were both in key positions which gave them a lot of influence in the administration.

As we've seen in the most recent incarnation of this infernal duo, "give them an inch...".

More from the Voltairenet article:

In November 1975, Gerald Ford's popularity was at its lowest point and he decided to solve the contradictions of his team, simultaneously satisfying the public opinion and the industrial-military complex.

Thus, he dismissed Defense Secretary Arthur R. Schlesinger, who was replaced by general secretary Donald Rumsfeld while Dick Cheney took the post of the latter. At the same time, he confirmed Henry Kissinger as State Secretary thus forcing him to resign his post as National Security Advisor, a position for which he promoted General Brent Scowcroft. Then, he appointed George H. Bush to replace William Colby as CIA Director and, finally, he informs Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller that he would not be part of the next presidential team. This amazing movement was known as the "Halloween massacre" and it marked the shaping of two clans: that of Kissinger, which favored a policy of relaxation and arms control in cooperation with the Soviet Union, and that of Rumsfeld, who was convinced that, after the defeat in Viet Nam, the humiliated public opinion dreamed of greatness and not of commitments.

In 1997, Donald Rumsfeld became a founder and active member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Among the other members of the PNAC were such notable (and notorious) luminaries as Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Donald Kagan, I. Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle and Paul Wolfowitz. This is the group that became the driving impetus behind the George W. Bush Administration's various policies -- energy, defense and foreign policies chief among them. (For a more detailed analysis of how the PNAC's plans and policies have been put into action -- specifically with regard to Iraq -- read this excellent analysis by occams hatchet.)

After the al Quaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld's determination to embrace and act upon the PNAC plans went into action.[3]

"Go massive ... Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

and ...

"[b]est info fast . . . judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time - not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]"
   --  Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, hours after the 9/11 attack

Rumsfeld's stint with the Nixon Administration, coupled with the overlap of the Vietnam war and his subsequent service in and out of government, set him upon a path that swept up other "like-minded" folks into the PNAC. These events and people also had a profound effect upon his thinking with regard to the military. The "Rumsfeld Doctrine" is only one part of this "new" philosophy:

The Rumsfeld Doctrine (named after its originator Donald Rumsfeld) is primarily concerned with the transformation of the United States Military. It would be considered Rumsfeld's own take on RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs). It seeks to increase force readiness and decrease the amount of supply required to maintain forces, by reducing the number in a theater. This is done mainly by using LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles) to scout for enemies who are then destroyed via airstrikes. The basic tenets of this military strategy are:

• High technology combat systems
• Reliance on air forces
• Small, nimble ground forces

Afghanistan and the Iraq wars are considered the two closest implementations of this doctrine.

We've now seen the effects of the "Rumsfeld Doctrine" in action, and "catastrophic failure" doesn't even begin to describe the disastrous results.

But how did we get there?

Perhaps a few excerpts from "Rumsfeld's War" by Rowan Scarborough (via an article from the Washington Times) will help shed some light on this. To wit:

"This is not a criminal action," the secretary of defense told Bush over a secure line. "This is war."


Rumsfeld's instant declaration of war, previously unreported, took America from the Clinton administration's view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration's view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.

"That was really a breakthrough strategically and intellectually," recalls Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. "Viewing the 9/11 attacks as a war that required a war strategy was a very big thought, and a lot flowed from that."

"...a lot flowed from that." A whole lot, and all of it covered in blood.

To continue:

Rumsfeld wanted a war that was fought with ruthless efficiency: special forces, high-tech firepower, a scorecard for killing or capturing terrorists. He had no desire to become the world's jailer. And he refused to be stymied by bureaucracy.

Rumsfeld quickly shared his views in a meeting of his inner circle, the so-called Round Table group including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

War planning began immediately. Immediately. And still more of significance from that article:

This would be a global war, Rumsfeld said, and he planned to give Special Operations forces -- Delta Force, SEALs and Green Berets -- unprecedented powers to kill terrorists.

This "planning," of course, apparently included a very large bankroll and a need to place "persons of interest'" away in detention, containment and debriefing. In addition to a new way to look at terrorism and a new purpose for the military, these unprecedented powers meant new interrogation techniques were also required.

Donald Rumsfeld was a major proponent of the introduction and use of torture against "unlawful combatants" in Abu Graihb and Guantanamo; he apparently saw no inherent contradiction between the approval and use of these methods against people he believed guilty and the international as well as domestic laws against cruel and unusual punishment.

Working with the major elements of the Bush Administration, many of whom shared the PNAC agenda (or had been active participants within it), new ways of doing things that cut down on bureaucracy (interference) and increased security (reduced or eliminated oversight) were slam-dunked into place.

Image credit: taken from Hans Holbein's "Dance of Death" woodcut "The New-Married Lady."

It wasn't long before the blood began to flow, and le danse macabre began in earnest. There are no signs of it stopping anytime soon, and indications that it could go on for a very long time.

End of Part I

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Disney's Alladin was a big deal in our house. I can probably do every Genie line, if not every line. I sing the harmony part in "New World." My daughter loved the movie. Still does at 19.

At some point during that recent dark near decade, we started referring to anyone who defended Bush as JAFR (just another fucking republican), pronounced Jafar. I always wanted to write this piece, maybe with a more Disneyesque flair... Great minds think alike.

We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking.—Jacques-Yves Cousteau

You're right, my friend -- we were definitely thinking along similar lines.  Please add this to a comment on the dKos version -- part II of which is now up, both here and there:

Part II on ePluribus Media:

Part II on dKos