Last night on the “Late Show,” Stephen Colbert achieved something truly historic: He came the closest to getting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to admit the Iraq War was a huge mistake of anyone who has ever interviewed him.
Colbert began his interview with Rumsfeld by directly quoting one of Rummy’s most famous remarks during the war, which still manages to leave me scratching my head. Rumsfeld said of the invasion of Iraq:
“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.”
Good luck trying to make heads or tails out of that convoluted form of logic. Colbert told Rumsfeld there was a fourth option he had not considered and seemed to apply in the case of Iraq:
“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.”
Colbert also reminded Rumsfeld of a recently declassified memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff stating that 90 percent of U.S. knowledge of Iraqi weapons programs at the time was based on “imprecise intelligence.” Colbert said this proved that while the Bush Administration firmly believed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, they had no genuine evidence of such:
“I believe that sincerely — I don’t think anybody made up the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction. I believe that everybody believed that they were there, but there was no hard proof that they were there. 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?”
After a few more minutes, Rumsfeld finally relented and offered up this:
“The president had available to him intelligence from all elements of the government, and the National Security Council members had that information. It was all shared, it was all supplied, and it’s never certain — if it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence.”
A surprised Colbert remarked:
“Wow. I think you answered my question.”
Perhaps, but it’s still a long way from an apology, which I don’t expect will ever be offered by Rumsfeld, Bush, or Cheney.
Watch the Interview
Featured Image Via Screenshot From YouTube