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David Miller: The Man Of The Hour

David Miller Online

Why Donald Rumsfeld Is The Man Of The Hour

There are not many benefits of being able to tune the television into one of the regional channels, especially here in Christchurch. Usually the entire show consists of local retailers trying to sell their wares on the shopping programme, religious sermons on the weekends and local sporting fixtures that look as if they are being filmed with a cheap video camera. However it is not all doom and gloom. In the mornings it is possible to catch an instalment of the German news channel DW-TV or the US diplomatic service both of which are recommended viewing to any mediaphile. It is on such channels that one can catch the world’s newest media star in action, a man who has risen to prominence since the events of September 11 and who has become a regular fixture on TV screens around the world. This media star is US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Until the terrorist attacks last year, Mr Rumsfeld had remained a little known figure in the Bush Administration as the spotlight focused on Colin Powell’s appointment to the State Department and the controversy that surrounded the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Both men had high profiles entering their new positions and prior to September 11 there would not have been many people who could name or recognise the face of the Secretary of Defence.

The attacks on New York and Washington changed all. Mr. Rumsfeld soon emerged as leader in the war on terrorism and was constantly on the screen informing the world that the US would respond to the attacks and reiterating his view that bin Laden would be captured alive or dead. At first Mr. Rumsfeld appeared ill at ease in front of the cameras. Whether he was aware of it or not, he tended to adopt a posture where he gripped the lectern tightly with both hands at either side and then lurch into his dialogue informing the world bin Laden was on borrowed time.

Since those inauspicious beginnings, Mr. Rumsfeld has refined his television image. These days he appears more relaxed when he casually informs his audience that the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces have incurred massive casualties and that all the US firepower that was so carefully built up over four decades of Cold War is now being put to good use. With his grey hair, spectacles and assertive manner, he combines the image of a wise university don and with the mannerisms of a tough, hard edged business professional and his strident manner and rhetoric at the press conferences has given the shell shocked Americans a sense of security and instilled in them the reassurance that they would be victorious in this struggle. It is doubtful that they would have gained this feeling had a younger Clintonite been his position serving under President Gore.

Why I admire Mr. Rumsfeld is that he obviously cares little for political correctness and is not prepared to justify the military campaign to anyone who feels that the current US strategy is uncalled for or somehow immoral. In all his statements to the media Mr. Rumsfeld has insisted that the US military will not halt its operations until they have proof Osama bin Laden is dead or has been captured and he is not prepared to spare enemy casualties in achieving this objective.

He is also a politician of rare courage. When asked whether he wished to see Taliban and al-Qaeda alive or dead he made it clear that although the US policy was for the former, his personal preference was the latter and has even made it clear that the treatment of prisoners is not at the top of his list of priorities. His goal is the destruction of bin Laden, his network and those who protect him and everything else is a distant second.

Mr. Rumsfeld is definitely one of the rocks that prop up President Bush. Mr. Bush has been criticised for his inexperience in the international arena. It was thought that Mr. Bush might be soft when it came to matters and situations outside the US, however with the likes of Messer’s Rumsfeld, Powell and Ashcroft behind him, he can feel assured that his foreign policy will be executed wisely and with vigour. Americans can also be assured that with such men in office they will have their revenge on those who attacked them and in Mr. Rumsfeld they have a leader who will not let them down. He is a Television star for the new millennium.

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