PEGGY NOONAN, MEET PEGGY NOONAN
Peggy Noonan is no fan of Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, she tells us in her latest column (here and, for non-Wall Street Journal subscribers, here).
What's the problem?
You’d expect such a book (all right -- you'd hope) to be reflective, to be self-questioning and questioning of others, and to grapple with the ruin of U.S. foreign policy circa 2001-08.... Since some of those decisions are in the process of turning out badly, and since [Rumsfeld] obviously loves his country, you'd expect him to critique and correct certain mindsets and assumptions so that later generations will learn.
...[Here's] the point at which I tried to break the book's spine.
If you asked most Americans why we went into Afghanistan in the weeks after 9/11, they would answer, with perfect common sense, that it was to get the bad guys....
The failure to find bin Laden was a seminal moment in the history of the war in Afghanistan. And it was a catastrophe....
You’d think, nearly a decade after the events of Tora Bora, that Mr. Rumsfeld would understand the extent of the error and the breadth of its implications. He does not. Needless to say, Tora Bora was the fault of someone else -- Gen. Franks of course, and CIA Director George Tenet....
Osama bin Laden was not "one man on the run." He is the man who did 9/11. He had just killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, in a field in Pennsylvania. He's the reason people held hands and jumped off the buildings. He's the reason the towers groaned to the ground.
It is the great scandal of the wars of the Bush era that the U.S. government failed to get him and bring him to justice. It is the shame of this book that Don Rumsfeld lacks the brains to see it, or the guts to admit it.
So you'd expect that if you dipped into Peggy Noonan's archives she would turn out to have been withering in her criticism of Rumsfeld after that failure at Tora Bora, right? Or if not, you'd expect that she'd be expressing her mea culpas now, as she's urging Rumsfeld to express his -- right?
Well, obviously not. Here's Noonan on Rumsfeld in February 2002, mere months after Tora Bora:
... these days he seems, as leaders go, a natural....
At first you sense his candor and clarity and enjoy it without realizing it. Then you realize you must be enjoying it because you're still listening. Then you sense that his candor and clarity are in the service of intelligence and clean intentions. You find yourself following what he says, following the logic and the argument. Which makes you ultimately lean toward following him.
Yup, and you followed -- you and all your fellow right-wingers, Peg. Right into Iraq. Right into two patches of the Big Muddy. And you never called the failure at Tora Bora a "scandal," not until now. You never criticized the rest of the blundering -- not until it was too late.
Here's another curious moment from today's Noonan column:
America wanted -- needed -- to see U.S. troops pull Osama out of his cave by his beard and drag him in his urine-soaked robes into an American courtroom. Or, less good but still good, to find him, kill him, put his head in a Tiffany box with a bow, and hand-carry it to the president of the United States.
Wait -- "drag him in his urine-soaked robes into an American courtroom"? Well, yeah, that's what a lot of us would have liked to see -- but are right-wingers still allowed to say that? Do I have to point out that if bin Laden were captured alive tomorrow, and the Obama administration starting planning to "drag him ... into an American courtroom," Noonan's fellow rightists would explode in fury?
But, yeah, she's right -- if the capture had happened, Bush could have held such a trial and no one would have blinked. In fact, everyone would have been delighted.