Citizen SMASH attended Secretary Rumsfeld’s last “Town Hall” meeting in the Pentagon — basically, Rumsfeld’s farewell to the Pentagon employees. Read it and weep. Selections:
Donald Rumsfeld is not universally loved in the Pentagon. I’m told that he can be a tough, stubborn, and demanding boss. Rumsfeld is infamous for firing off short memos — known colloquially as “snowflakes” — asking next-to-impossible-to-answer questions or demanding revolutionary changes. He came to the building in 2001, promising to transform the Department of Defense from a Cold War force to a more flexible, agile military, better prepared to face the challenges of the Twenty-first Century. Almost six years later, that transformation is well underway, but not yet complete. Along the way, Rumsfeld has stepped on many toes, and slaughtered many sacred cows. Inevitably, he made some enemies, especially among the senior officers and long-serving bureaucrats who were heavily invested in the “old way” of doing things.
But the troops, and a solid majority of the officers, love him. This is abundantly clear from the warm reception Rumsfeld receives as he walks up to the podium.
Another woman asks what was his worst day, and his best day. I expect him to say “September 11, 2001.” But he surprises me.
“Abu Ghraib.” He says, and a pall crosses over his face. Most men, having been faced with such a profound shame, wouldn’t bring it up voluntarily. But Rumsfeld isn’t most men. He seems genuinely, personally ashamed of what happened in that awful place. It has been reported that he submitted his resignation over the affair, but that the President prevailed upon him to remain.
“My best day?” He pauses. “How about a week from Monday?” A week from Monday, Robert Gates will be sworn in as the new SECDEF, and Rumsfeld will leave the building. He will be missed.
After the questions are done, there is a standing ovation. People in the auditorium crowd up to the aisle, in order to shake Rumsfeld’s hand as he passes.
I’m watching all this from the outside, on the monitor. And then the doors open, and he’s in the hallway. A bit smaller than I expected — I’m guessing about 5’8″ — and he looks really short next to General Pace, who is a giant of a man. But at 74, he’s a remarkably solid man, and he walks with strength and confidence. He proceeds slowly down the line of chairs, stopping to shake hands with several people.
He’s standing right in front of me. I offer my hand, and he shakes it. He looks me straight in the eye. “My goodness,” he exclaims. “Did all of you people stand out here for all this time?”