Government is full of human beings, not robots. We can forget that. I've personally known both Donald Rumsfeld and Ken Adelman for a long time. My brutal criticism of Rumsfeld ended, as I knew it had to, our acquaintanceship, although it did not end my personal fondness for him and his family. But I was a tiny satellite in Rummy's orbit. Ken Adelman was very close. He is also a man of great intellectual honesty. And he could not defend the actions of this administration as soon as its Iraq war strategy unfolded into chaos and irresponsibility. Jeffrey Goldberg has a touching piece in next week's New Yorker on the disintegration of a friendship. Money quote:
"[Don] was in deep denial—deep, deep denial. And then he did a strange thing. He did fifteen or twenty minutes of posing questions to himself, and then answering them. He made the statement that we can only lose the war in America, that we can't lose it in Iraq. And I tried to interrupt this interrogatory soliloquy to say, 'Yes, we are actually losing the war in Iraq.' He got upset and cut me off. He said, 'Excuse me,' and went right on with it."
For the impertinence of raising a voice of dissent, Rumsfeld wanted Adelman fired from the Defense Policy group they had both been on for years. Adelman wouldn't quit. Just before the election, as one of his last acts as SecDef, Rumsfeld fired him (although it hasn't been processed and won't now happen).
"I'm heartsick about the whole matter," Ademan said. He does not know what to make of the disintegration of Rumsfeld's career and reputation. "How could this happen to someone so good, so competent?" he said. "This war made me doubt the past. Was I wrong all those years, or was he just better back then? The Donald Rumsfeld of today is not the Donald Rumsfeld I knew, but maybe I was wrong about the old Donald Rumsfeld. It's a terrible way to end a career. It's hard to remember, but he was once the future."
Adelman is not the only Rumsfeld acquaintance to say to me shortly after the Iraq invasion: "Don's not the same." Something got to him. Absolute power, perhaps?
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