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Why is Donald Rumsfeld so ‘extraordinarily pleased with himself’?

April 4th, 2014
02:20 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

As the Bush Administration was drumming up momentum for its war with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went before a Pentagon press conference and uttered some now-notorious words.

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because 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, there are some things we know we do not know.”

“But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

A bit of impromptu philosophy? It is the context, says filmmaker Errol Morris, that reveals the slippery nature of the character involved.

“That reply in a Pentagon press conference came in response to a very specific question from Jim Miklaszewski, the NBC News Pentagon correspondent,” Morris told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Friday.

“He asked Donald Rumsfeld, ‘What evidence’ – he used the E word – ‘what evidence do you have for the presence of WMD in Iraq?’”

His “gobbledygook non-answer” to a “direct and very important question” says much of what you need to know about Rumsfeld, according to Morris.

So much so that he has named his new film about the former Secretary of Defense after yet another version of that very phrase – “The Unknown known.”

Morris interviewed Rumsfeld for 33 hours in an attempt to reveal a depth, a peek behind the curtain, into the highly controversial figure.

“What constantly amazed me is: Here is a man who has a central role in the history of our time, and who doesn't seem to be on any deep level engaged by that history.”

“Is that possible? That’s the mystery at the heart of ‘The Unknown Known’ – can someone be this powerful in a position of such importance and yet not get it, period?”

Morris, Amanpour said, “obviously come at Donald Rumsfeld with a very strong political view.”

Did he think Rumsfeld got a fair hearing?

“The view which to be sure I had going into the interviews was changed by the interviews,” Morris said.

“Do I feel I was fair? I make these movies because at heart I'm an investigator. I want to learn something I didn't know going into it or why bother. And I did.”

“Everybody wants to imagine that someone is in control – and I was left with an appalling image of a man interested in selling something but not really clear about what he was selling.”

Morris described Rumsfeld as “a man so glib and possibly so shallow as to be frightening. I call it a horror movie and it's the best description of this movie I've been able to come up with.”

Morris has made a name for himself through deep investigative films like The Thin Blue Line, about a man serving time for a murder he did not commit, and The Fog of War, about another highly controversial U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who presided over the Vietnam War.

The two “couldn't be more different,” said Morris.

The Fog of War was widely seen as absolution for a man vilified over his role in Vietnam – McNamara broke down in tears in the film, which won an Academy Award for best picture.

McNamara was “deeply reflective” and “in agony” over his role in Vietnam.

Rumsfeld, by contrast, was “absolutely unreflective, unapologetic – convinced of his own correctness, his rectitude. A man ultimately extraordinarily pleased with himself.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Victor

    What a Cheney Dick he is

    April 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Reply
    • beyond the arc

      Holy hell, it can't be that simple. He knows clearly what he's done, and the ignorance is a cover.

      April 7, 2014 at 4:04 am | Reply
  2. Jayman

    Perhaps one of the top unknowns among the "unknown unknowns" was the man himself. There needs to be psychological profiling of people in power before selection for important positions.

    April 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm | Reply
    • limpy

      there is, thats how they get in.

      April 5, 2014 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • tiredofthepandering

      you are certainly right? the current idiot in the white house should have been vetted much more by the fools that voted for him not only once, but twice, your suggesting certainly should been applied to the fool that there now, him, holder, the whole spineless crowd of them

      April 6, 2014 at 1:24 am | Reply
      • turogirg

        Everybody has the right to be stupid at some point, but you abuse this privilege.

        April 8, 2014 at 2:58 am |
  3. L.E.W. Comeau

    This is a man of Hitler sociopathic views that everyone is wrong but not him, In different times we would be hanging him for crimes againt humanity. He and hiis fellow haters bring bring scorn upon on the US people who just want to help. God help us if all we have is leaders such as him !!!

    April 4, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Reply
    • tiredofthepandering

      God help us to survive the term of the spineless idiot that is currently destroying our country

      April 6, 2014 at 1:25 am | Reply
      • major tom

        You mean saving it from all the damage done by the numbskull who came before him.

        April 7, 2014 at 4:06 am |
  4. buntyp

    How well considered was the 'Nuking' & annihilation of 2 Cities/towns, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, & how well done were they. Thousands of people just going about their 'Normal Business', & were soon to 'See & Hear' an 'Blinding light & Explosion', which they must have thought was what the 'Original Big Bang' must sounded like.

    Many were just 'Evaporated', but then THEY WERE EXPENDABLE – OR SO IT HAD BEEN DECIDED, by Men who who would be far 'More Believable' than Donald ( 'Cotton in the mouth) Rumsfeld.

    Such a Movie should be made, so we can see 'Giants with True Character'!!!!!

    April 5, 2014 at 2:11 am | Reply
    • Jose M. Rivera

      People going about their "normal business" of supporting a military government who engaged the USA at Pearl Harbor and caused, promoted and inflicted death on thousands of Americans, and other nationalities, soldiers and civilians. I cannot recall the moment when Iraq attacked USA or any of its territories. Rumsfeld is guilty of a conspiracy to kill or maim thousands of Iraqi nationals and too many US soldiers, based on lies and a psychotic show of power.

      April 5, 2014 at 11:32 am | Reply
  5. mrchatila

    State-sponsored terrorist, mass murderer #Donald_Rumsfeld who should be tried in a court of law for invading & destroying #Iraq along with #George_W_Bush & #Tony_Bliar as well as all #Arab rulers / traitors who allowed invasion of Iraq to happen through their lands especially those in the Gulf / GCC region...

    It is a complete failure of justice system in #USA if the above war criminals, mass murderers and terrorist are not tried and held to law to address crimes against humanity which they committed by invading #Iraq only to safeguard their special interests and those related to gulf / GCC ruling families...

    April 5, 2014 at 3:11 am | Reply
    • Tony

      Agree this man is a not only criminal also his a coward American shame on him and his supporters

      April 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
      • tiredofthepandering

        i knew i could come over to the communist news network for comments that only could be generated by people standing in line at the welfare office or the obmamafone office wating on there check while they write comments.. this is better than letterman,

        April 6, 2014 at 1:26 am |
  6. ashok

    One thing is now a known known. The US is a less powerful, influential and – dare one say it ? – respected power because of the unjustified, unprovoked invasion of Iraq. That cannot be good for a world that still regards it as the ultimate guarantor of a reasonably fair and just global order.

    April 5, 2014 at 5:08 am | Reply
    • tiredofthepandering

      we are sucking the last teat now because of the spineless sack of spunk currently occupying the white house, no president short of jimi carter has been pushed and shoved and bent over more than this one now there

      April 6, 2014 at 1:28 am | Reply
  7. NorthVanCan

    What a sober look into the heart of the republican party.
    Scary stuff indeed.

    April 5, 2014 at 6:14 am | Reply
  8. joe

    somebody had to pay for 9/11... might as well be Iraq..

    April 5, 2014 at 6:36 am | Reply
  9. Sam

    This man is a war criminal and should be in prison.

    April 5, 2014 at 6:49 am | Reply
    • rofl

      Along with your fat momma.

      April 5, 2014 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • dirk holger

      As long as these war criminals: Bush-Cheney-Rove-Rice-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld are not brought to justice (yes, they
      should try on all them their beloved water boarding!), this country has n o future.... Arrogance and stupidity come
      together in each of these slaughterers! Shame on them and the U.S.!!! DH

      April 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  10. Akhtar

    I just hope that he is satisfied with the number of notches on his gun.

    April 5, 2014 at 7:06 am | Reply
  11. malamappilai

    In the photo above, his CANINE TEETH ARE LITTLE BIT LONGER? This face really haunts all peace loving people all over the world even after so many years!. Dick Chiney/Rumsfeld minus Bush might have been a normal PRESIDENT!

    April 5, 2014 at 7:12 am | Reply
  12. Jack

    A truly repulsive sociopath to say the least. This...thing should be in prison.

    April 5, 2014 at 7:15 am | Reply
  13. Stephan

    He and all of the Bush clan belong in jail and should be tried for all of the bad things they did. Waterboard them and the truth will come out – for sure!

    April 5, 2014 at 8:34 am | Reply
  14. letmeeatcake amanpour reflective or apologetic for violence be her bread and butter for many year? is cnn refelctive or apologetic for all a spin on news that never give the clear picture?

    April 5, 2014 at 8:35 am | Reply
    • wasso

      Whenever there is a conflict, she hovers like a vulture over the remains

      April 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  15. Julian Assange

    If America had ANY commitment with JUSTICE this RAT and his GANG would have been HANGED long ago!

    And if America had the COURAGE to subscribe to the International Criminal Court this RODENT and his GANG of war criminals would be IN JAIL for live!

    America and it DUBIOUS SELFISH VALUES!

    April 5, 2014 at 8:41 am | Reply
  16. Von Arschloch

    Rummy ended Saddam's Holocaust which had claimed 2 to 3 million lives. His star is destined for the pantheon of the greatest Humanitarians known to mankind.

    That is Known as Known can be.

    April 5, 2014 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • John Smith

      You're absolutely right! Because now, thanks to Rumsfeld and his ilk, Iraq is a mediterranean paradise where nothing bad ever happens!

      April 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Reply
    • beyond the arc

      He'll be known, along with all his neo-Con pals, as the remnants of the Nazis.
      That's what they are, and that's what history will say.

      April 7, 2014 at 4:19 am | Reply
  17. gj2001

    He's a 9th degree self-pleasuraty. He knows how to please himself in any situation

    April 5, 2014 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • wasso

      Prolly got that penile implant

      April 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  18. Munir Katb

    Of course uncle Donald is pleased with himself. He killed or helped kill some two hundred thousand men, women & children in Afghanistan & probably over a million in Iraq. He pleased his eyes, heart & soul with human bodies & body parts in tens of cities & villages in these countries. He is enjoying seeing over 8 thousand US bodies sent back home, who gave the chance to make millions of dollars.
    Uncle Donald, you are a murderer that very little of such murderers are known to mankind & that should really make you happy.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:38 am | Reply
  19. Todd

    Why is this man so happy?
    Because he knows he will not be prosecuted, despite having committed some of the most heinous crimes of any man in the history of mankind. The only consolation is that history will judge him harshly.

    April 5, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply
  20. John Hillman

    McNamara had extreme reason to be reflective and apologetic. He oversaw the FIRST war the United Stated LOST. He did not stand up to his boss, Lyndon Johnson, who placed impossible restraints on his field commanders. Johnson ran the war from the White House. His field commanders were not allowed to command. Johnson/McNamara regularly lied about casualty reports.

    McNamara made the horrid decision that the Navy and the Air Force had to use the same fighter jets. Landing on a postage stamp (air craft carrier) requires much different structures from one landing on a mile of runway.

    McNamara made many more poor decisions. No fighting in Laos (officially). No fighting in Cambodia (officially). Allowing the North Vietnamese to put anti-aircraft positions near "forbidden" targets. He needed laser guided bombs decades before they existed.

    It is true that neither action should have been fought.

    The Bush bashers refused to criticize their liberal hero, Lyndon Johnson.

    April 5, 2014 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • Red frog

      You think the Iraqi victims and dead American soldiers care about McNamara?

      April 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Harvey B. Sarnat

      Viet Nam was NOT the first war the U.S. lost. It was the War of 1812, a shameless grab for more territory because the Americans were confident that the British could not spare many troops to send to North America because of the Napoleonic War in Europe. They were right, but they did not count on the Canadians defending themselves and the traditional enemies of the English and French in Canada uniting to repel the unprovoked invasion. The burning of Washington D.C. was retaliation the burning to the ground of the city of York, Ontario, later rebuilt with an indiginous name: Toronto. Shame on the U.S. in both the 19th and 20th centuries!

      April 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
    • simple simon

      I don't see anybody jumping up and down about LBJ.

      April 7, 2014 at 4:22 am | Reply
  21. Why wouldn't he be pleased

    He didn't get prosecuted for war crimes. Obviously he's pleased with how things went.

    April 5, 2014 at 11:15 am | Reply
  22. rofl

    Rumsfeld has his trollface on because u mad, CNN.

    April 5, 2014 at 11:16 am | Reply
  23. omar

    you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to collect informations,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه (فيس بوك,يوتيوب,تويتر,غرف الشات....الخ) للتجسس؟
    warning you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to collect informations,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه (فيس بوك,يوتيوب,تويتر,غرف الشات....الخ) للتجسس؟
    warning you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to spy??
    do usa&israel use the internet 2 collect informations,,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??

    April 5, 2014 at 11:37 am | Reply
  24. bert

    I would have fired him from my cabinet had I been President. He could give a nickel´s worth for care in equipping troops with Kevlar in the theatre of combat. Total absence of the sense and idea of leadership. A permanent joke.

    April 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • Red frog

      You think any of these politicians care about US soldiers? They're nothing more than faceless bodies they can use to do their dirty work. A few thousand American soldiers died, but so what? Halliburton got its money. Mission accomplished.

      April 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  25. Fred

    He's bound for Hell. That fact is known. How soon he gets there is unknown.

    April 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Red frog

      Satan would be out of a job then.

      April 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  26. John

    There's a name for people who feel like this, no regrets, certain they are right... a sociopath.

    April 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  27. Shellz


    April 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  28. Shellz

    It's a wonder how nonchalant he is through his body language. I wonder how he sleeps at night knowing the number of lives killed and/or destroyed due to this war. I also wonder, did Bush really feel Iraq was deemed a threat in any way?

    April 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • Red frog

      You honestly think these people care how many were killed? They probably had a betting pool of how many body bags will be sent back to the USA and having a laugh about it.

      April 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  29. Mr. T. Bag

    Christian Taliban...
    He should be water-boarded to death.

    April 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  30. B

    Imagine a German Nazi leader in 1940, who had no evidence of an impending attack by an enemy force, yet ordered troops to storm into Poland or France in a pre-emptive attack. A few hundred thousands civilians died, a few thousand German soldiers. Now, its 1952, and he's retired comfortably, still smiling and doesn't "get it" You know what that would be? An indictment of the Allies. Rumsfeld belongs in jail, that he is not, is an indictment of the American justice system which happily incarcerates someone who just consumed a weed bud, but did no one any harm.

    April 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  31. Red frog

    Seriously, he should be hanged for crimes against humanity. How he can still go around wallowing in the lap of luxury only shows the hypocrisy of the USA when it talks about human rights, democracy and equality.

    April 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  32. Roberto

    An example of "known unknowns" is his Sept 10th statement: "We can't track 2.3 triilion dollars in transactions". Rougly translates to: "We know the Pentagon got 2.3 trillion dollars, but we don't know where they went".

    April 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  33. Kerry Berger

    The difference between Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld is a genuine human being and a psychopath who feels no remorse. Rumsfeld should be extradited to the Hague on War Crimes charges along with Cheney and Bush and a few others.

    April 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Reply
    • Ing. A. G. Gonzalez

      Not quite, MacNamara quit the DoD post not because he was caught lying about the INFAMOUS GULF OF TOKIN incident (some saipans sailing past US Navy destroyers were reported as having shot rounds of munition and released torpedoes) but because his wife tried to commit suicide when college students, for the first time ever in the U.S,. tried to climb the walls of the Pentagon to access his office. Years after this infamous war ended -and the US was sent home with the tail between the legs- McNamara was asked what he thought of his monstruosity and he replied as he was taking about the time of the day "Oh, well, IT WAS AN HONEST MISTAKE". Mother F that is how he saw 60,000 of America's finest getting killed, an estimated 300,000 permanently maimed physically and/or mentally, plus an estimated 3 MILLION VIETNAMESE getting killed including women and children plus an estimated 7 million permanently maimed physically and/or mentally (REMEMBER AGENT ORANGE). And then of course is the 2 TRILLION DOLLARS BILL DOWN THE DRAIN.

      April 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Reply
  34. Acrabahyiouspe

    Huh? I thought this article would have some new information on Rumsfeld.

    April 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  35. Ovadiah ben Avraham

    Keep railing about the Bush administration folks. While America dissolves itself like a giant ulcer, China and Russia will gladly take the world leadership.

    April 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  36. Krehator

    He's pleased with himself because he got away with it and no one is gunna do a darn things about it. Most criminals are thrilled when they get away with it.

    April 5, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  37. Ing. A. G. Gonzalez

    Til now I had thought that Stalin was one of the world's worst cynic but Rumsfeld tops him. Alright the Georgian monster killed 30 million people and Rumsfeld and his fellow puppeteers of Dumb Bush´s Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Condoleeza and to some extent Gen. Powell are responsable of the killing of 6,000 of America´s finest (plus 30,000+ permanently maimed physycally and/or mentally) plus an estimated 120,000 innocent Iraqi civilians mainly women and children (plus some 500,000 estimated permanently maimed physixcally or mentally), but he will always be remembered as Master at Genocide Misdeeds. The Good Almighty will know how to judge him and many others. And, lets not forget that the Iraqi worngful and illegal invasión cost the U.S. 3 TRILLION DOLLARS and counting

    April 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  38. rex edie

    Rumsfeld and Cheney were both part of the Nixon white house. they both had many years of practice to become professional criminals and liars.... should be shot for treason..... as well as bush...rove...rice...wolfowitz...and the rest of the crew of deceitists

    April 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  39. rosaadriana

    Uhg, Rumsfield. Why did you have to remind me?

    April 5, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  40. hdq

    “Is that possible? That’s the mystery at the heart of ‘The Unknown Known’ – can someone be this powerful in a position of such importance and yet not get it, period?”
    Yes, that is possible, and it happens much of the time.

    April 7, 2014 at 4:48 am | Reply
  41. alumette

    He is a psychopath and has no conscience. Not to mention, he does not seem to have any positive human values, as well. A total reject and look what he did to our country.Shame on us for having people like him, do so much harm to so many.

    April 7, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
  42. josephreg

    Some people have nothing to do but beat a dead bush. Give it a rest and live in 2014... focus on the present..No jobs, gas high, US looks like a fool to the rest of the world. Government wants to control your health care so it can control you. We need people that are informed voters not those that follow a pied piper who speaks a hollow tune. 🙂

    April 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  43. Walter Knight

    To liberals, 'victory' is controversial. The world is better off without Sadam Hussan and his vicious government.

    April 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  44. Richard

    Pol Pot in a suit

    April 8, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply
  45. Simon Cohen

    The question that wasn't asked was: Was Iraq threat to US in 2003 real or imaginary considering the fact the US has 100% control over Iraq air space? The answer is that the threat was non-existent and therefore the pretense to invade Iraq was false regardless if Saddam had WMD or not.

    April 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Reply
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