Runs Away From Press And Acts Generally Weird On Baghdad Trip
Rumsfeld Losing It
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer
BAGHDAD, April 27: A full 10 seconds of silence passed after a
reporter asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld what the intense secrecy and security
surrounding their visit to Iraq signified about the stability of the
country three years after the U.S.-led invasion. Rice turned to
Rumsfeld to provide the answer.
Rumsfeld glared at the reporter.
"I guess I don't think it says anything about it," he snapped. He
went on to say that President Bush had directed him and Rice to go to
Iraq to "meet with the new leadership, and it happens that they are
located here," a reference to the heavily fortified Green Zone where
U.S. officials -- and many Iraqi leaders -- live and work.
Even though her arrival here followed an exhausting sprint through
Greece and Turkey, Rice appeared energized by the task at hand.
Rumsfeld arrived directly from Washington, after a recent Asian tour,
but he seemed disengaged and bored, both to reporters traveling with
him and to some U.S. officials. Some said he seemed irritated by the
whole exercise. He did not speak a word to reporters with him on the
flight to Baghdad.
During a joint meeting with reporters traveling with the secretaries,
Rumsfeld frequently doodled with a black felt-tip pen or stared
absent-mindedly at the ceiling when Rice spoke. Rice would
occasionally cast a nervous glance at Rumsfeld as he prepared to
respond to a question. His answers were terse; hers were expansive.
The two secretaries recently had a widely publicized dispute over a
comment by Rice that the administration had probably made "thousands"
of "tactical errors" in Iraq. Aides later said she had meant it
figuratively, but it generated headlines around the world. In a radio
interview, Rumsfeld dismissed it as a comment made by someone who
didn't understand warfare.
Asked about the flap here in Baghdad, Rumsfeld replied, "I wasn't
aware of what she meant." (The transcript shows that the radio
interviewer described her remarks carefully and placed them in
context.) Rumsfeld made no effort to smooth over the issue but
pointed to Rice and said, "She's right here, and you can ask her."
Rice noted that her comment about tactical errors had been made "not
in the military sense."
Rice courted the news media, racing through five television interviews
in 17 minutes.
Rumsfeld gave no separate interviews. At one point, he arrived early
for a meeting and saw an array of television cameras inside the room.
He shook his head at the reporters and turned on his heel.
Before the two Cabinet members left Baghdad on Thursday, Rice
dismissed any suggestions of tension. "Secretary Rumsfeld and I have
an excellent relationship," she told Fox News. "We're working very
"We're actually having a great time here in Iraq."
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