Donald Rumsfeld, known for his tart one-liners as well as his hawkish foreign policy stands, says in a new memoir that he regrets that he did not step down as defense secretary after reports of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In "Known and Unknown," Rumsfeld says he wishes he had insisted that President George W. Bush accept his offer to resign after news broke in 2004 of the rough and humiliating treatment of detainees by American jailers. In an account of the book by the New York Times
, Rumsfeld blamed the abuses on rogue soldiers -- not any approved policies. But he says that "more than anything else I have failed to do . . . I regret that I did not leave at that point."
The subsequent "drum-beat of 'torture' " by critics became a "damaging distraction," he writes in the book, which is published by Sentinel and due out next week.
As for those snappy wisecracks, the 78-year-old Rumsfeld now says he shouldn't have said "stuff happens" when looting was reported after the fall of Baghdad, and admits that using the term "Old Europe" to diminish France and Germany for not supporting the Iraq War was not all that diplomatic, the Washington Post
notes in its report on the book.
But Rumsfeld, for the most part, defends his actions and says the invasion of Iraq was worthwhile because the Middle East "would be far more perilous than it is today" had Saddam Hussein stayed in power. And he says President Bush broached the idea of a war strategy for Iraq just 15 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. With the Pentagon preparing to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the president "asked that I take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq," Rumsfeld says.
Rumsfeld also calls Bush a "far more formidable president" than he is given credit for, but says his management style often failed to produce clear objectives during National Security Council meetings. He puts part of the blame for that on then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and also criticizes then-Secretary of State Colin Powell for running an operation at Foggy Bottom that was reluctant to follow Bush's political direction.
For his part, Rumsfeld says he never refused requests from military commanders for more troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But he concedes more boots on the ground may have averted the looting and chaos in Baghdad after the government was toppled.