OPED21 "Straight talk" on Hazar Qadam

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has the reputation of a man who tells it as it is, and has achieved an almost cult status for his daily briefings at the Pentagon. This is due to his giving the unvarnished facts e.g. "... we would really like to kill them..." However, his folksy, semi-candid delivery shouldn't be mistaken for full candor and a willingness to tell the complete story, especially when it might be embarrassing to the administration.
The DoD's first reflex after any error is to deny everything, then to deny everything, then partially admit the error (if the evidence becomes irrefutable) while obfuscating the issue, but never to forthrightly admit that an error has been made. Rumsfeld has done the same, albeit in a very entertaining manner. A prime example of this reflex is what transpired following the raid on Hazar Qadam.

OK, so mistakes can happen under the best of circumstances, let alone in the morass that is Afghanistan. When they do occur they need to be acknowledged and the appropriate lesson learned so that they are not repeated. The Afghans know what happened, they were there. And reportedly the CIA has apologized and paid $1,000 to each of the families who lost members in this raid. So the only people being kept in the dark by attempts to obfuscate are the public. Since the truth will eventually out, why risk diluting one's credibility? This would seem to violate one of Rumsfeld's Rules (PDF file) - 'You and the White House staff must be and be seen to be above suspicion. Set the right example.' Folksy and fun Rumsfeld's press conferences may be, but there should be a suspicion that he is not being entirely candid....

© SNi 03/09/2002