Quantcast
Connect with us

Stephen Colbert makes Donald Rumsfeld squirm until he nearly admits Iraq war was a mistake

Published

on

Stephen Colbert grilled Donald Rumsfeld over the decisions — and dishonesty — that pushed the United States into the disastrous war in Iraq.

The “Late Show” host said he thought it was unfair to ask Rumsfeld and other former Bush administration officials if they would invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

ADVERTISEMENT

“You only knew then what you knew then, (and) you only know now what you know now,” Colbert said. “Our now is tomorrow’s then.”

Rumsfeld seemed relieved that he would not ask that, but Colbert still made the former Secretary of Defense squirm with an arguably tougher question.

He brought up Rumsfeld’s most famous saying, about uncertainty in the world: “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.”

Colbert suggested a fourth option: “the unknown knowns — which (are) the things that we know, and then we choose not to know them or not let other people know we know.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The audience laughed — but they began to applaud as Rumsfeld seemed to realize he was not about to be let off the hook, after all.

“I’m going to save you embarrassment,” Rumsfeld said, as Colbert briefly paused to formulate a simple question from a complex set of facts.

“You don’t have to do that,” Colbert quickly countered. “I can’t be embarrassed — I’m a comedian.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Colbert continued with his question by pointing out a recently declassified 2002 memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that shows up to 90 percent of U.S. knowledge of Iraqi weapons programs at the time was based on “imprecise intelligence.”

The talk show host said this showed Bush administration officials believed there were weapons of mass destruction — but they had no hard evidence of their existence.

“I believe that sincerely — I don’t think anybody made up the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction,” Colbert said, as Rumsfeld insisted those beliefs were sincere. “That is cynicism beyond what I would ever want to think of my government.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“I believe that everybody believed that they were there, but there was no hard proof that they were there,” he continued. “And yet it was presented to the American people as if there was. So there was an unknown known for the American people. It was known that there was not hard evidence, but we were presented a partial picture — and that’s the unknown known that we were denied. Do you think that was the right thing to do?”

Rumsfeld said that memo had been posted on his website years ago, but Colbert pressed on.

“Were there things that the administration or you knew that we didn’t learn about out of the best possible intentions — which is, there were things that would undermine the case for a war you thought was necessary to save the United States,” Colbert said.

ADVERTISEMENT

At last, Rumsfeld delivered a straight answer.

“The president had available to him intelligence from all elements of the government, and the National Security Council members had that information,” Rumsfeld said. “It was all shared, it was all supplied, and it’s never certain — if it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence.”

The notoriously slippery Rumsfeld paused for a moment to let his explanation sink in, and Colbert marveled at his own accomplishment.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Wow,” he said. “I think you answered my question.”

Earlier in the interview, Colbert had asked Rumsfeld about Donald Trump, and the former Bush administration official said he thought the Republican presidential frontrunner and Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders had clearly tapped into the anger and mistrust many voters feel toward their government.

But Rumsfeld seemed to have no recognition for his own role in undermining that civic trust.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think there’s always a risk that people looking at government will come to conclusions that they may not be right,” Rumsfeld said. “That’s why we have a democracy. I mean, that’s why people vote, and they make judgments.”

“I think most people in the United States understand that government’s not perfect — look how long it takes to get snow removed,” he continued. “But, on the other hand, I think that what’s really important are the intentions and the capabilities of the people, and for the most part — I think it was Churchill that said that democracy’s the worst form of government except for any other that’s ever been tried.”

Watch the entire interview posted online by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

ADVERTISEMENT

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump’s ‘indefensible’ comments just made it ‘much much harder’ for GOP to win in 2020: Ex-RNC Chair

Published

on

President Donald Trump's latest anti-Semitic trope is going to make it "much much harder" for Republicans to hold control of the White House in 2020, the former chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) explained on MSNBC on Tuesday.

Michael Steele was interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball."

"There’s a long-respected leader of what's called Jewish Republicans, Matt Brooks -- I've known him for a long time -- this guy has the job of helping get votes, Republican votes, in the community, which generally votes Democrats," Matthews noted. "What is he going to deal with this baby, this assault on religious identity and trying to claim you must vote your group?"

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Whistleblower alleges misconduct in IRS audits — and it could finally deliver Trump’s tax returns: report

Published

on

On Tuesday, Politico reported that House Democrats received a tip from a whistleblower about possible misconduct at the Internal Revenue Service in audits of presidential tax returns — and plan to use this revelation to bolster their legal case for obtaining President Donald Trump's tax returns.

In a federal court motion, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), who is seeking the president's tax returns, included a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from earlier this month, informing him that the committee received an "undisclosed communication ... from a Federal employee setting forth credible allegations of 'evidence of possible misconduct' — specifically, potential 'inappropriate attempts to influence the mandatory audit program.'"

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Washington Post editorial board calls Trump too cowardly to pass background checks in scathing editorial

Published

on

The Washington Post just published a scathing editorial saying that President Donald Trump is far too cowardly to fight for gun safety laws or any kind of gun reform.

For a brief few days, while Trump was on vacation, he was willing to say that background checks needed to be tightened. But once he was on the phone with the National Rifle Association, everything changed. It isn't the first time. When Trump promised action after the Parkland, Florida massacre he said to the faces of parents who'd just lost their children. The next day he reneged. Now Americans are back at step one, where the next shooting is around the corner and even if police are on scene to take the shooter down in less than 60 seconds, people will still die.

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image