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Rummy’s Don’t Do List
by Ahmed Amr
July 12, 2004

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Over the course of the last three years, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made a series of announcements declaring that there are certain assignments that are not part of his job description. A brief analysis of these proclamations demonstrates that Rummy has consistently gone way beyond the call to duty and taken on exceptional burdens to demonstrate his enthusiasm for public service.   In performing his tasks, he has been willing to put aside his initial reluctance to engage in affairs of state that traditionally were performed by other government officials.

Donald has proven to be a duck that can quack and fly high in the sky to hunt down enemy drones.  We should hold him up as an example to all derelict public servants that shirk from taking on additional duties and are slaves to the narrow boundaries of their job descriptions.

When Rummy abandoned private life to serve the nation, he made it clear that he came to the job with a list of tasks he would not do. He gave the public early notice that he had certain reservations about certain responsibilities that - on account of his age and his back -- he was unable to perform. He would not clean the windows at the Pentagon or take out the garbage at the White House. In fact, all jobs involving janitorial tasks were strictly off limits because of his allergies to certain chemicals, especially Saddam’s.

Rummy then excused himself from having to answer the phones because of hearing loss. Due to this handicap, he also exempted himself from the odious task of having to listen to his Generals. These “hearing” reservations did not adversely affect his job performance because the General Staff was too incompetent to make assessments of the number of troops needed to conquer and subjugate Iraq. Such “political” decisions would be turned over to Rummy’s able assistant, Paul Wolfowitz, an old and battle hardened warrior from his Boy Scout days. To set the brass straight and clear their minds of all the delusions they had imbibed at West Point, Rummy unceremoniously ushered Shensenki out the door.

On many occasions, when the nation was at peril, Rummy dashed in to save the day. When duty called, Donald did what had to be done, regardless of his job description. To his eternal credit, in the heat of battle, he was even willing to violate his own “Don’t Do List”. We have many examples of this fine and noble public servant doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t do. 

1.     I don’t do quagmires. When Rummy uttered these words, he had no idea about the future demands of his job. But, when called to action, Rummy was the first Secretary of Defense to do a quagmire since Vietnam. Fortunately, he had behind him the experience of being the youngest head of the DoD in the Ford Administration. Having supervised the final days of that Southeast Asian quagmire, he was able to do us the favor of another quagmire, this time in Southwest Asia.

2.     I don’t do politics. Ever averse to getting involved in the petty squabbles of office politics, Rummy set all caution to the wind and took on Colin Powell and usurped his portfolio. Dissatisfied with the timid reports from the CIA, he set up his own in-house intelligence shop, the Office of Special Plans, to make an iron clad case for war. He appointed Douglas Feith to personally recruit fresh blood from the American Enterprise Institute to make certain that our intelligence gathering did not conflict with the assessments of Ariel Sharon.

3.     This is diplomacy, and I don’t do diplomacy. When the French and Germans acted up, Rummy huffed and puffed and blew them back to “Old Europe” -- right back where they came from. It wasn’t very diplomatic, but relationships with the Europeans will never be the same again. His many admirers hailed this feat by cooking up a whole vat of Freedom Fries.

4.     I don’t do foreign policy. It has been clear enough since the earliest days of the Republic that this was the job of the State Department. But here was Rummy busy with his own chores and he looks over his shoulder and sees that slacker Powell dozing off. Without a second thought, he bolts over to Foggy Bottom with John Bolton and leaves him there to keep a watchful eye on the affairs of state. Bolton makes his mark by letting the world know that “I don’t do carrots.”

5.     I don’t do numbers. Au contraire, when great decisions had to be made on numbers, Rummy shoved his generals aside and had Paul Wolfowitz tabulate troop requirements that were wildly off the mark.  Richard Perle famously said that troop deployment requirements were “political decisions that generals were not competent to make”.

6.     I don’t do deadlines. When the President of the United States gave Rummy a deadline to get the pathetic Paul Bremer out of Baghdad, Donald beat the deadline by two whole days.

7.     I don’t do ballpark. Does he or doesn’t he? We may never know. In any case, Wolfowitz is always available to do ballpark figures. When testifying before congress he was asked about the number of American soldiers who had perished in Iraq. Wolfie estimated the number at five hundred. At the time, over 700 American soldiers had already lost their lives in Iraq. 

8.     I don’t do predictions. When called to duty, Rummy and his merry band of neocons predicted that grateful Iraqis would meet American soldiers with flowers and kisses.  

9.     I don’t do hypotheticals.  Too bad. Because hypothetically, if we didn’t have Rummy at the helm we wouldn’t have a quagmire. 

10.            We don’t do first reports and we don’t speculate. Rummy’s speculation about the existence of WMDs turned out to be wildly off the mark. In fairness to Donald, he speculated in the service of his country.

11.            I don’t do bumper stickers. Fortunately for Rummy, I do. How about “This is the list your mother warned you about”.

12.            I don’t do book reviews. But I hope he still does article reviews to verify that every single item on this list came right out of the horse’s mouth.

Rummy’s fetish for “don’t do” lists has apparently infected the rest of the administration. General Tommy Franks made it clear that “we don't do body counts.” Bush made his mark by saying that “In Texas, we don’t do nuance”. Even the unimaginative Powell is now using Rummy’s list: “I don’t do book reviews”. Powell should get his own list. Hasn’t Rummy carried enough of Colin’s burdens?

Even the British are catching up to the latest fad. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spinner in chief, declared that “we don’t do God.” He should have cleared that one with George Bush. The Brits need to get a grip on the nuances of American slang.  The president can tell them all they need to know about nuance and God. 

In a final tribute to Rummy, I would like to humbly suggest a few other things that he might want to add to his “don’t do list.” We don’t do war without war crimes. We don’t do exit strategies. We don’t do visits to Walter Reed. We don’t do mea culpas. We don’t do accountability and we don’t do second terms in office.

Tributes to Rumsfeld’s staff:

“Paul Wolfowitz is a very bright guy, but he doesn’t know anything about war-fighting, and I suspect he knows less about counterinsurgency operations. I think that the neo-conservatives had their day, by selling to the President the need for invasion of Iraq. I think it's now time for a clean sweep—and it has been for some time, in my judgment—to get rid of these people.”
General Joseph Hoar, Central Command, 1991-1994

“In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility. At worst (I saw) lying, incompetence and corruption.”
General Anthony Zinni, Central Command 1997-2000

“Douglas Feith is the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”
General Tommy Franks, Central Command 2000-2003

Ahmed Amr is the Editor of NileMedia. He can be reached at:


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