Known and Unknown: A Memoir

Known and Unknown: A Memoir

by Donald Rumsfeld
Known and Unknown: A Memoir

Known and Unknown: A Memoir

by Donald Rumsfeld


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Few Americans have spent more time near the center of power than Donald Rumsfeld, whose widely commented-on memoir offers many previously undisclosed details about his service with four U.S. presidents. We follow his rise from a middle-class childhood to the Navy to a seat in the U.S. Congress at age thirty, and his experiences there during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. We also get his unique perspective as a cabinet-level member of the Nixon and Ford administrations, as CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, and as a special envoy to the Middle East for President Reagan.
Rumsfeld also addresses the challenges and controversies of his time as Secretary of Defense during the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He includes candid observations on the differences of views within the Pentagon and with other members of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council.
In a famous press briefing, Rumsfeld once said that “There are also unknown unknowns . . . things we do not know we don’t know.” His book makes us realize just how much we didn’t know.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595230843
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2012
Pages: 880
Sales rank: 53,756
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Donald Rumsfeld was the 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense. He currently chairs the Rumsfeld Foundation, which supports leadership and public service at home and the growth of free political and free economic systems abroad. The Rumsfeld Foundation funds microfinance development projects, fellowships for graduate students interested in public service, the development of young leaders from Central Asia and the Caucasus, and charitable causes that benefit the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 14
Unfinished Business

I was still serving as White House chief of staff on April 29, 1975, when America’s long and vexing involvement in Vietnam came to a close. A few weeks earlier President Ford had implored the Democratic-controlled Congress to authorize aid to our ally, the beleaguered South Vietnamese. He and Kissinger hoped the funds could bolster the South enough so it could arrange some sort of a truce with the North Vietnamese. But the U.S. Congress had had enough of Vietnam.

When Ford heard that Congress had rejected his request, he was furious. “Those bastards,” he snapped. An evacuation of all of our forces was now inevitable.

Vietnam was the first war in our history that the American people were able to watch unfold on television. That fact made a big difference. As such, we were all witnesses to the heartbreaking scene of U.S. forces executing a humiliating exit while our Vietnamese allies of more than a decade of war faced an uncertain future at the hands of the triumphant Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Throughout that long, sad day, I was with President Ford at the White House as he monitored the withdrawal. The American ambassador to Vietnam, Graham Martin, updated us on the number of Americans still waiting to evacuate, as well as the number of Vietnamese clamoring to leave. The second number kept growing.

Many of the Vietnamese who had worked with our forces were understandably desperate to flee from the advancing Northern forces, making use of rafts, small boats, whatever they could find to escape. When our Marines temporarily opened the gates to the embassy in Saigon, thousands of local citizens tried to force their way in, only to be physically pushed back. Martin and his team understandably found it difficult to turn our Vietnamese allies away.

As Martin’s wife departed by helicopter, she reportedly abandoned her suitcase so that space could be made for one more South Vietnamese woman to squeeze onboard.

Eventually it was decided that only American citizens could be airlifted in the short time remaining. The indelible image from that day is the heartbreaking photograph of desperate Vietnamese at a building across from the American embassy, trying to crowd aboard a helicopter departing from its roof. Those who had helped America during the war knew what was coming for them. It was an ignominious retreat for the world’s leading superpower.

David Kennerly, the White House photographer who had earned a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War photography and understood the power of images as well as anyone, put it succinctly to those of us gathered in the Oval Office with the President that day. “The good news is the war is over,” he said. “The bad news is we lost.”

Secretary of State Kissinger believed that Ambassador Martin would be the last American to leave the country. After word was received that Martin had been airlifted out of the South Vietnamese capital, Kissinger announced to reporters,“Our ambassador has left, and the evacuation can be said to be completed.”

As it turned out, that wasn’t quite true.

After hearing Kissinger’s statement, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger advised us of the problem. The contingent of U.S. Marines assigned to prevent the panicking Vietnamese from flooding our embassy was still on the ground. Somehow there had been a misunderstanding. Kissinger and Schlesinger each considered the other’s department responsible for the miscommunication. The President felt Schlesinger bore responsibility and said he was “damn mad” about it. The last thing Ford needed was another public disagreement between his two top national security cabinet officials.

I discussed the issue in the Oval Office with Ford, Kissinger, and Ron Nessen, the White House press secretary. A few in the room felt we should not issue a correction because the Marines were expected to be airlifted out soon, at which point Kissinger’s statement would be accurate. I disagreed. What if the Marines were overrun and unable to get out? In any event, what we had told the American people simply was not true. That mattered.

“This war has been marked by so many lies and evasions,” I said, “that it is not right to have the war end with one last lie.”

The President agreed. He sent Nessen down to the press room to issue a statement saying that the evacuation had not been completed after all.

Kissinger was not pleased about the correction and again vented his anger at Schlesinger. He wanted the Defense Department to be blamed publicly for the miscommunication.* So the war in Vietnam ended in much the way it had been carried out—with recriminations and regret.

Since my years in Congress, I had had concerns about our country’s involvement in Vietnam—to the point that both President Nixon and Kissinger viewed me as something of a dove on the subject. I hoped they would find a way to bring the war to an orderly close. It seemed to me that we had lost opportunities to actually win the war. During the Nixon administration, I supported the President’s and Defense Secretary Mel Laird’s policy of Vietnamization, which put the emphasis on enabling the Vietnamese to take charge of their own affairs. Even in the final days of the war, there was at least a possibility that we might have been able to salvage something worthwhile from the effort had Congress approved the resources to support the South Vietnamese government—and particularly to fund its army—for a longer period. But Congress was not ready to go against the strong antiwar sentiment in the country.

With the war’s unfortunate end, a great many in our military and among the American people swore they would never again get involved in the tough, bloody business of counterinsurgency. Many wanted to turn inward, ignoring conflicts waged by the Soviet Union and its proxies. Instead of bringing us peace, I feared the chaotic conclusion of Vietnam could result in an even more deadly escalation of the broader Cold War struggle. The withdrawal from Vietnam became a symbol of American weakness—a weakness our adversaries would highlight for years—and an invitation to further aggression.

Even after the pullout from Vietnam, President Ford pleaded with Congress to at least provide military aid to the anticommunists in the region so they could defend themselves. Those pleas, too, were rebuffed. As such, the victory of the Viet Cong was accompanied by the rise of Communist forces in neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

* By the next day Kissinger had cooled down. After a meeting with the President, he said, “Don, I want you to know that I believe you handled the matter last night just right. . . . We would have ended up in a pissing match within the government, and we don’t need that.” He concluded saying, “I owed you that and wanted you to know it.” Kissinger could be a fierce bureaucratic battler, but he also was a man of integrity who would admit when he had erred.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Part I Lessons in Terror 1

Chapter 1 Smiling Death 9

Chapter 2 Into the Swamp 17

Part II An American, Chicago Born 35

Chapter 3 The Last of Spring 40

Chapter 4 The Longest of Long Shots 53

Part III The U.S. Congress: From Camelot to Quagmire 67

Chapter 5 "Here, Sir, the People Govern" 74

Chapter 6 Young Turks 91

Part IV In Nixon's Arena 105

Chapter 7 1968: Year of Turmoil 110

Chapter 8 The Job That Couldn't Be Done 119

Chapter 9 Counsellor 130

Chapter 10 NATO and Nixon's Fall 147

Part V Javelin Catcher: Inside the Ford White House 161

Chapter 11 Restoring Trust 165

Chapter 12 A Rocky Start 176

Chapter 13 An Agonizing Reappraisal 192

Part VI Fighting the Cold War 203

Chapter 14 Unfinished Business 207

Chapter 15 Turning On the Lights 213

Chapter 16 Hold the SALT: Tension over Détente 222

Chapter 17 The 1976 Defeat 233

Part VII Back to Reality 241

Chapter 18 Searle's Sweet Success 245

Chapter 19 From Malaise to Morning in America 258

Chapter 20 Our Rural Period, Interrupted 267

Part VIII Leaning Forward 277

Chapter 21 Here We Go Again 284

Chapter 22 Dogs Don't Bark at Parked Cars 290

Chapter 23 Bears in the Woods 305

Chapter 24 The National Security Council 316

Chapter 25 The Agony of Surprise 331

Chapter 26 War President 349

Part IX Into the Graveyard of Empires 363

Chapter 27 Special Operations 367

Chapter 28 Little Birds in a Nest 379

Chapter 29 Kabul Falls, Karzai Rises 395

Part X Saddam's Miscalculation 411

Chapter 30 Out of the Box 416

Chapter 31 The Case for Regime Change 425

Chapter 32 A Failure of Diplomacy 443

Chapter 33 Exit the Butcher of Baghdad 459

Part XI The Occupation of Iraq 471

Chapter 34 Catastrophic Success 479

Chapter 35 Mission Accomplished? 493

Chapter 36 Too Many Hands on the Steering Wheel 508

Chapter 37 Liberation from the Occupation 524

Part XII Wartime Detention 543

Chapter 38 The Least Worst Place 554

Chapter 39 The Twentieth Hijacker 574

Chapter 40 Law in a Time of War 587

Chapter 41 The Road Not Traveled 601

Part XIII Pulling On Our Boots: Challenges and Controversies Beyond the War Zones 611

Chapter 42 Katrina and the Challenge of New Institutions 616

Chapter 43 Gardening 627

Chapter 44 The Army We Had 645

Part XIV The Long, Hard Slog 657

Chapter 45 Hands Off the Bicycle Seat 661

Chapter 46 The Dead Enders 671

Chapter 47 Eyes on Afghanistan 681

Chapter 48 Iraq's Summer of Violence 692

Chapter 49 Farewells 704

Chapter 50 After Tides and Hurricanes

Acknowledgments 727

List of Acronyms 731

List of Illustrations 733

Notes 739

Index 793

What People are Saying About This

Rush Limbaugh

"I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing." --(Rush Limbaugh (interview transcript)/2/8/2001)

John Barry

"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling…But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."--( John Barry/Newsweek-The Daily Beast/2/8/2011)

From the Publisher

"I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing."
-Rush Limbaugh (interview transcript)/2/8/2001

"Readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians."
-Kimberly Strassel/Wall Street Journal/2/8/2011

"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling...But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."
-John Barry/Newsweek-The Daily Beast/2/8/2011

"The book places the reader in Rumsfeld's chair and is a serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players. It will be an important addition to the history of our time."
-Peter Baker (New York Times White House correspondent)/Foreign Policy/2/9/2011

Rumsfeld "describes the highs and lows of a long and dramatic career and discloses some behind the scenes details that may shock you."
-Sean Hannity (interview transcript)/2/9/2011

"Known and Unknown is a meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians...this power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it."
-Christopher Buckley/Businessweek/2/10/2011

"'Dismissive' is a word often used to describe Rumsfeld, but 'dismissive' perfectly describes his critics, who are unwilling or unable to re-examine their own assumptions in the light of new or overlooked information and fresh perspective provided by Rumsfeld, in his exceedingly well-documented work. With its hundreds of annotations and supplementary documents, Known and Unknown is a significant contribution to the historical record. It is, as Rumsfeld once noted about similar memoirs, 'only from one perspective,' but it's a unique and valuable perspective, a serious work that deserves consideration by any serious student of recent history."
-Jamie McIntyre (former CNN Pentagon correspondent)/Line of Departure/2/10/2011

"It is a terrific book...Let me tell you something, it is absolutely fascinating. He's very blunt in talking about people and issues and so forth, you'll really enjoy it, in my humble opinion."
-Mark Levin (interview transcript)/2/10/2011

Mark Levin

"It is a terrific book…Let me tell you something, it is absolutely fascinating. He's very blunt in talking about people and issues and so forth, you'll really enjoy it, in my humble opinion." --(Mark Levin (interview transcript)/2/10/2011)

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