Is there any show that neocon Donald Rumsfeld hasn't been on yet to push his book? CNN's John King at least asked him why anyone should want to listen to him, with no follow up of course after Rumsfeld got snitty with him for it. And he allowed him to credit our invasion and occupation of Iraq as some wonderful model for democracy and as partially responsible for the pro-democracy uprisings we're seeing across the Middle East and North Africa.
Transcript of Rumsfeld's revisionist history below the fold via CNN:
KING: So, should the president say U.N. resolution be damned, the United States is going to use its military force to effect regime change? Do you think any president of the United States can say that after the Iraq experience and the political toll it took on your former boss?
RUMSFELD: As I wrote in the book, the coalition should not determine the mission. The mission should determine the coalition. And what happened was a coalition was put together without clarity as to the mission. And had it been done differently at the outset and you said, here's the mission, and then fashioned the coalition which is what President Bush did. He had 90 nations in the global war of terror. He had dozens in the Afghan coalition, dozens in the Iraqi coalition.
KING: He had dozens at the beginning, Mr. Secretary. But, by the end, he didn't have that many. I went to Iraq a couple of times and well after the point where you had the United States in the overwhelming part of the mission, the Brits down in Basra a little bit, and, occasionally, you'd run into a small group of Georgians out in the middle of the country guarding some weapons depot.
RUMSFELD: The United States is always the center part of these missions. They are today in Libya, notwithstanding all the discussion about the coalition. The fact is -- you look at the number of strikes, the number of cruise missile, the number of these things done, and it's overwhelmingly the U.S.
KING: So, President Bush, I assume with the advice of Secretary Rumsfeld, saw the coalition in Iraq dwindling and said, OK, that's the price I will pay, the mission is important to me. Are you saying this president should make a different calculation and set a goal and not worry about if anybody is with him?
RUMSFELD: I think that it's important for the United States to decide very clearly what it is that it's worth putting U.S. military at risk for. State it and then fashion a coalition around it -- yes, that's what I do believe.
KING: And to the person sitting around the kitchen table, you know how political the Iraq debate became. Answer the person watching out there right now and saying, why in the world would I listen to Donald Rumsfeld?
RUMSFELD: Well, you really got that in your mind, don't you? I'll tell you, it's interesting. Everywhere I go, people are very friendly. They're interested and, obviously, CNN maybe isn't, but --
KING: It's not a question of CNN.
RUMSFELD: Fact of the matter is that everywhere I go, people are enormously interested and want to discuss things. And they're serious and rationale people. And that's a healthy thing. I mean, it's not an accident I think that the book is on "The New York Times" best- seller list. Somebody is obviously buying it, don't you think?
KING: People are buying. I think they're interested in history.
RUMSFELD: I thought you said they weren't interested.
KING: I didn't say they weren't interested in history or maybe your perspective. But why should they listen to your view of how to affect something happening in the county?
Let's stay on the specifics of that. The president now faces a difficult decision. It is a difficult decision. Should he arm the opposition? And you've heard the president, they say there are some flickers in the intelligence that some of these guys could be bad guys. They could be al Qaeda or they could be Hezbollah. Overwhelmingly, they think it's not that. They think it's mostly good-willed people, good-intentioned people who want to get rid of Gadhafi.
Do you take that risk?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I'm not inside. I'm not there.
Obviously, once the -- we've got American troops committed who -- we want them to succeed clearly. I think that there is a good deal of question as to who is involved in the rebel group. And I don't have any better visibility into it than you do.
But you do have to be careful about arming rebels.
Now, we did a good job in Afghanistan. We armed the northern alliance and some of their militias in the south, and they were very successful in driving the al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and of changing the regime from the Taliban to the Afghan government.
KING: But what about the mujahidin experience? Some would say it helped bring the Soviets down. Others would say the mujahidin then became the Taliban which became a partner of al Qaeda which begot 9/11.
RUMSFELD: Both are correct. It did bring the regime down, the Soviets down, their puppet government and it did, obviously, help arm the Taliban and cause that problem. There's no question. But that both are correct.
KING: We can go back in history to your experience -- well before the Bush administration, traveling as an envoy to the region and traveling once even to sit down with Saddam Hussein back in the day. When you look at everything that's happening in that important and volatile region right now -- what's your sense of why, whether it's Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya?
RUMSFELD: I think there's two things I would state and I can't prove either one. I can't tie a thread from this to that.
One would be the fact that the governments in that part of the world have not moved towards freer political and freer institutions. And as a result, you got a very large, young population without jobs in most of those countries. Couple that with the information age where people see television and they see Facebook and Twitter and these things, they can see the opportunities that people in other countries have and it's frustrating. And so, you get this revolt going on.
Second thing that's been written about increasingly in recent days, particularly after the foreign minister of Iraq went up and spoke in favor of the coalition effort, is the fact that you've got an Arab country nearby that has elected people. They fashioned a constitution and then had elections under their new constitution and they're functioning as an evolving democracy. And people, of course, can criticize it and say it's not perfect.
But the United States wasn't perfect. We had slaves into the 1800s. Women didn't vote in the 1900s. We had a civil war. So, it's a tough path from where they were to a repressive regime to a more democratic system.
The fact of the matter is that that's symbol of what Iraq is doing, I believe, I'm told, told people in that region that these des pots, these repressive leaders are mortals. They aren't immortal. They're not going to be there forever and we can change things.
And I think that that message probably is part of it, as well -- although as I say, I can't tie a thread directly.