I come to praise Donald Rumsfeld, not to bury him.
(Get it? It's a play on Shakespeare. Pretty classy, huh?)
So anyway, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld seems to be in deep
doo-doo. Don't believe it? Listen to this:
Sixcount em, sixretired U.S. generals have rebelled against
Rummy. Let me identify the rascals: Marine Gen. Greg Newbold, Army Gen. John
Batiste, Army Gen. Paul Eaton, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, Marine Gen.
Wallace Gregson, and Army Gen. John Riggs.
All six have been publicly critical of Rumsfeld's handling of the
Gen. Newbold wrote a piece in last weeks Time magazine saying that
"I retired from the military four months before the invasion [of Iraq] in
part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to
hijack our security policy. I have resisted speaking out in public. I've
been silent long enough
Two-star Gen. Batiste turned down a promotion to three-star
general because he didn't want to serve any longer under Rumsfeld.
Gen Zinni has published an anti-war book called "The Battle for
Peace." He says Rumsfeld should resign. As long as he stays in office,
Zinni writes,"we are constantly defending the past, which limits the
ability to move ahead. We are not as free to make changes, to accept new
And Sen. Chuck Hagel told Don Walton last week that Rumsfeld "does
not command the respect and confidence of our men and women in
.There is a real question about his capacity to lead at this
You get the drift.
So, I began wondering, why does our President continue to let
Rummy be our Secretary of Defense?
And here's my startling explanation: poetry. Yessiree, poetry.
My startling explanation grew out of an internet piece by Hart
Seely. It's calledhang onto your hat"The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld:
Recent works by the Secretary of Defense."
I think Seely is on to something. I think he's isolated the
essential reason the President keeps Rumsfeld on.
I believe that the President has succumbed to the power of poetry,
that he's been hypnotized by Rummy's disguised poems without even knowing
You have to start with the secret literary life of the President.
He often comes across as something less than the brightest bulb in the
Library of Congress, but he has, I've decided, a serious addiction to
You'd think that I, even as a befuddled retired English major,
would have caught on to that long ago. But it's only now in my dotage
that I'm finally seeing the light.
The Truth, Mainly
When I ran across Seely's internet piece, it knocked my English
major socks off.
He tells us that Rumsfeld, Renaissance Man that he is, has a
brilliant past as "a pilot, a congressman, an ambassador, a businessman,
and a civil servant. But few Americans know that he is also a poet."
To which I would add that Rummy, to my limited knowledge, is the
only Secretary of Defense to ascend to stunning success as a poet.
Don't believe it? Look at what happens to some well-known
Rumsfeld quotations when Seely presents the words in poetry lines. Here's
the most famous, and probably the best, called by Seely "The Unknown":
"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 dont know."
Read it again. Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it
soft and it's almost like praying.
Here's another, called "A Confession."
"Once in a while,/ I'm standing here, doing something,/
And I think,/ 'What in the world am I doing here?'/ It's a big surprise."
And one more, this one called "The Situation":
"Things will not be necessarily continuous./ The fact
that they are something other than perfectly continuous/ Ought not to be
characterized as a pause./ There will be some things that people will
see,/ There will be some things that people won't see./ And life goes
Well, life goes on for most of us anyway.
And you expect the president to fire someone who can write poetry
like that? Where else could he find a Secretary of Defense who could rule
the military with the most free of free verse?
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail