Donald Rumsfeld, Poet!
compiled and edited by
Michael R. Burch
Donald Rumsfeld is an accomplished man. His main claim to fame is being the
world's pre-eminent warmonger. But Rumsfeld is also a poet. No, make that a Poet with a capital "P."
Until now, Rumsfeld's poetry has been properly appreciated only by other
warmongers and fervid fundamentalists. But now we are pleased to introduce
laymen to what Hart Seely calls Rumsfeld's "jazzy, impromptu riffs."
As we will see, Rumsfeld is an existentialist who has gone far beyond even
Kafka, Camus and Beckett in questioning the meaning of life, or the lack of it.
(Which makes perfect sense, since it's difficult to slaughter so many innocent
women and children if you think their lives have any meaning or value.)
According to Seely, Rumsfeld's poetry is "paradoxical" and employs "playful
language to address the most somber [of] subjects: war, terrorism, mortality.
Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on
but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His
work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken
vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams'. Some readers may find
that Rumsfeld's gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as
Our thanks to Hart Seely for compiling the following collection of Rumsfeld's
poems. These are the exact words of the former defense secretary, as taken from
the official transcripts on the Defense Department Web site. One must give the
Devil his due, and bow before his superior understanding of the transience and
meaninglessness of human life!
I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.
And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.
—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing
If I may hazard an opinion here, it seems that Rumsfeld is saying that when
the U.S. government elects to kill hundreds of thousands or millions of Iraqis,
that it will be perfectly clear why we are killing them (for the sake
of oil and U.S. hegemony in the Middle East). Congress will understand. The U.S.
public will understand. You will understand. But no one will bother to end the
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 don't know.
—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing
Here, it seems Rumsfeld is admitting that we don't know why we are going to
war and killing innocent women and children. If we don't know what the hell
we're doing, it would seem wise to avoid bloodshed, but of course complete
morons never stop to admit that not acting on ignorance is preferable to
destroying the world for no discernable reason.
You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.
It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.
Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.
All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.
—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing
In this epic poem, Rumsfeld seems to be confessing that he knew Iraq didn't
have WMDs but that he was intent on making it (war) happen nonetheless.
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.
—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times
The only people who are more surprised than Rumsfeld about his existential
ineptitude are Afghanis and Iraqis. The American public would be equally
surprised if it had the ability to question and reflect . . .
You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.
—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing
It seems Rumsfeld is suggesting that people who live in glass boxes
shouldn't throw stones, but of course that's exactly what he did.
The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!
A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!
—June 9, 2001, following European trip
In the poem above, I believe Rumsfeld's "trained ape" is himself. It seems
he trained himself to bang on his mouse until innocent Iraqi women and children
started dying at a "relatively modest cost."
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly
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 on.
—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing
Or perhaps life doesn't go on, if you're an Iraqi women or child being blown to
bits by an evil moron like Rumsfeld. How can anyone so unsure of everything make
decisions that affect and end multitudes of lives?