Rumsfeld takes aim at Schroeder, Chirac in new memoir

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WASHINGTON - Former German and French leaders Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac gave Saddam Hussein a “false sense of security” by opposing the use of military force against Iraq, making war more likely, former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld says.

In his memoir published Tuesday, Rumsfeld takes a clear swipe at Schroeder and Chirac for undermining Washington’s threat of military action if Saddam failed to comply with UN demands over his alleged stockpiles of illicit weapons.

Rumsfeld asserts that the German and French positions allowed critics of the US to claim that “Europe” was opposed to military force, even though a large majority of European countries backed the US.

“More troubling, the French and Germans were, intentionally or not, giving Saddam’s regime the impression that they could stop a military confrontation,” Rumsfeld writes.

“By giving Saddam a false sense of security, and thereby reducing the incentive for him to comply with the UN’s demands, the French and Germans undoubtedly made a war more likely, not less.”

Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown”, marks the first time he has publicly discussed his tenure in the Pentagon since he left the job in 2006, after being fired by then president George W. Bush.

Rumsfeld, 78, has appeared on television leading up to the release of the 815-page

book focused largely on his six-year tenure as defence secretary.

Rumsfeld, often at the centre of the trans-Atlantic rift between the US and its two NATO allies during the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, seeks to clarify his notorious “old Europe” reference to the two countries.

The remark, in a question and answer session with reporters just weeks before the invasion, further stoked resentment in Berlin and Paris. It was meant to point out there was broad support in Eastern Europe and that France and Germany did not speak for the entire continent.

“Ironically, my comment was unintentional,” Rumsfeld writes. “I had meant to say France and Germany represented ‘old NATO’ not ‘old Europe’.”

“In any event, the phrase ‘old Europe’ entered the vernacular. The segments of Americans that preferred calling french fries ‘freedom fries’ loved it,” he writes. “The elites in Paris and Bonn who thought themselves the guardians of a sophisticated, new world order did not. All in all I was amused by the ruckus.”

Bush, in his November memoir, also criticized Schroeder for his handling of the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, saying he lost trust in the chancellor and was not able to restore a positive relationship.

Rumsfeld defends the invasion of Iraq even though they key justification for the war - weapons of mass destruction - were never found. He said the outlook in the Middle East would be “far more perilous than it is today” if Saddam were in still in power.

He also takes some shots at former Bush officials, namely Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell after serving as Bush’s national security advisor.

Rumsfeld accused Powell of mismanaging the State Department and allowing it to drift from White House policy. He alleged Rice, as national security advisor, was unable to manage differences within the administration and present Bush with coherent choices.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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