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June 28, 2005

Securing the Igloo

Rumsfeldboots

This shot accompanied a background piece in Sunday’s NYT about the development of safer military vehicles.  More significantly, though, it appeared simultaneously with the administration’s weekend PR offensive to somehow fashion a more positive message on Iraq.

After riding around Iraq last year in a steel-reinforced Rhino Runner (“designed to counter 7.62 x 39-millimeter and 5.56-millimeter ammunition, overhead airbursts and explosive devices up to 1,000 pounds”), one certainly wouldn’t expect Rummy to feel threatened ducking a weak shot or two on Meet The Press.  The result, in fact, is that Rummy left Tim Russert licking his boots.

Every few weeks, an image appears that seems to subliminally capture some essence about the characters running our war machine.  I’m sure the BAG’s analysts-at-large will see plenty of material here.  From my view, I see some interesting physical and political metaphors. 

Perhaps Rummy’s physical stance here bears the photojournalistic equivalent of the posture he adopted on the weekend interview programs:  Put yourself front and center, look available, but at the same time, create a lot of distance.  Of course, don’t hide the fact that it’s pretty messy on the ground.  But keep one foot in their face if anyone has a problem with you over it.

Politically, just the footwear alone offers a wealth of associations.  Why can’t the coalition defeat the insurgency? (…a fact Rumsfeld asserted while running Russert in circles).  It’s because of the strategy he conceived failed to put enough boots on the ground. (The fact his happen to be “up” could also indicate where these folks “really stand” relative to taking true responsibility.) 

Of course, the administration has been highly successful in confusing the issue of who’s war strategy we are following, as well as what it is exactly.  (Sadly, the press continues to enable this obfuscation.)  When you lay it on the line though, this war is Rumsfeld’s war, and the catastrophic mistakes are also his.  In other words, when people look back on the military Iraq campaign, it will be Rumsfeld’s footprints that will be visible. 

(David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.  June 26, 2005 in The New York Times)

  • Quentin

    ‘Boots on the ground’ strikes me as a Pentagon euphemism for ‘people’. Maybe it is better avoided. Boots can’t die or be horribly maimed, people can. Some one else can wear the boots of a maimed or dead soldier, but the boots Rumsfeld are so ostentatiously displaying in this picture can be bought by anyone with his salary. Even by people are earning less and haven’t sent people to their deaths by lying and is still doing so.

  • http://enormousradio.blogspot.com Where I Am

    Alternatively, you could say that he is taking his boots off the ground … there has been talk from the admin about reductions lately.
    Or, Rum sees himself as a foot soldier in a monkey suit … the incongruity of the boots and the suit symbolize the incongruity of being a “professional” warrior.

  • lytom

    Just a feeling:
    The eyes of most present in the picture look in the same direction as Rumsfeld’s.
    I wonder who the “object” is. To speculate: selected, small enough group of reporters and mute soldiers are listening to the presenter, with Rumsfeld as a centerpiece, on how safe are these vehicles in unsafe Iraq.
    There is one military person, face-stressed, standing with his arms folded (resigned gesture) over the backrest of the seat, looking out of the window. Uninterested? Bored? or Resigned since there is no way out of listening to BS, pardon to PR.
    On the other hand, the media people are soaking it in.
    One more person’s eyes are looking in the floor’s direction, possible case of a fatigue or “have heard it already syndrome.”
    The whole picture has an air of insincerity.

  • bg

    Boots on the ground? These boots have never been in the dirt.

  • http://crazydaisy.us Kerstin

    This photo still amuses me, even after two days. You could photoshop Rumsfeld into the back of a limo on Wall Street and you’d never know the difference save for the clean boots. He looks so safe, so secure, so “on holiday” in a weird way. The smile, the rumpled suit, the relaxed posture has self-satisfaction written all over it. I’m particulary amused by his hands. He’s grabbing one thigh (just a little higher up and we’d have real fun) and has another on his waist. You could read it as an old man with a flare-up of arthritis or you could read it as the posture of a man who is at complete ease in a most incongruous setting.
    On second thought, maybe his hand is reaching into his pocket? Reminds me of the professor my husband had in business school who asked a fellow student what he wanted to do in his career. “I want to manage change,” was the reply. The professor reached into his pocket, thrust an open palm full of coins in the student’s face and thundered in a wonderful accent “THEESE IS ALL THE CHANGE YOU VILL MANAGE!”
    I wonder how long before I see Rhino Runners on the mean streets of my suburban town?

  • mugatea

    Nice product placement for Igloo.

  • http://asterism.blogspot.com Salam Adil

    The picture says it all – here is the civilian commander of the American Forces trying to act the soldier but not quite getting it right. Remember he effectively sacked then snubbed General Shinseki for contradicting him on the number of soldiers needed for the Iraq war.

  • Rogie

    Notice the empty seat next to Rumsfeld plus the man leaning over the back of it. Gives off the impression that someone (maybe Rumsfeld, maybe someone briefing those who would be present) instructed the soldiers not to sit near Rumsfeld. It gives me the impression that he doesn’t want anyone near him, and even does not want to listen to the guy leaning over the seat. The guy leaning over the seat seems to have given up trying to talk to Rumsfeld and looks out the window in irritation. Rumsfeld also shows some irritation, perhaps at whatever is being said or shown to him, making a V with his left arm and burying his right.
    Notice how crowded everyone else is, compared with Rumsfeld, who is reclining and taking up 2 seats and a foot rest.
    Maybe it’s my bias overcoming any logic, but I read this photo as Rumsfeld in isolation, forcing the military into corners, while simultaneously rejecting input.

  • The BAG

    Great comments. One reason I never tire of looking for good images is because the better ones continue to reveal themselves and give you more. I just did another pass, thinking about the observations about the shoes, and also DR’s smugness, and dynamic between him and the others.
    If he had a real rapport going with the immediate officers, it seems the guy behind him would have his folded arms closer to, or even touching Rummy’s chair. (On the other hand, maybe the lack of comraderie has a more practical — yet politically telling — explanation. For example, even if these guys are riding in the safest “Future Hummer” money can buy, maybe they are still nervous about being blown to bits.)
    The other thing I was wondering. Doesn’t it look like Rummy’s shoe is unlaced up top? Of course, it could be for comfort. But it could also indicate the acting-head of the military is more about show. (…Or maybe these are Bremer’s hand-me-downs, and they don’t fit Rummy either.)

  • bkny

    the man standing over rumsfeld and looking aside is a 3-star general — no? he looks sad to me, or maybe just resigned. the leg in the corner surely belongs to a military guy and all eyes (‘cept for mr 3-star) are cast in his direction. he’s probably giving the specs on the new, improved equipment. all those around rumsfeld appear to be media crew and civilian/security peeps.
    re the comment about the lacing on rumsfeld’s shoe — yea, it looks unlaced; compare that lacing with the boot on the left whose owner is dressed in desert camo.

  • gasho

    The photo reminds me of Dick Cheney’s recent remarks that the detainees in Guantanamo are living in the “Tropics” and have everything they could possibly want down there. This looks like Rummy’s answer to the troops – a spacious vehicle and a cooler (of beers?) – doesn’t that sound like a vacation with your friends in the desert? Not only appealing to the troops we already have ( and public perception of their safety and comfort) but possibly appealing to those yet-to-be recruited?

  • Tilli (Mojave Desert)

    There’s no way in hell, something like this would be bought to support regular troops.
    This is the luxury band-bus. Everybody else rides with their equipment in the back of the van.

  • cj

    Hmmn? Looks to me like the gang is watching the new “War of the Worlds” movie on DVD…. The guy turned away has already seen it–its his copy…. OK, maybe its the replay of Dubya’s victory in Iraq speech from a couple years ago….
    At best these guys look bored, at worst, maybe they are watching the clock to see how much longer they have to do this. No one looks particularly interested in being there.
    Rummy’s boots (and the cooler) give off that good ol’ boy sensibility–like we’re all just out here with the big guy duck huntin’ or somethin’.
    Apropos of nothin’–his tie sure looks long and my guess is that although he told the boys that the beer’s all gone, there is in fact one cold one left……! What a mensch.

  • http://greenimagination.blogspot.com Daniel Waldman

    I think this photo betrays everything that is dispicable about Rumsfeld. It’s all about show. I mean, do we really believe he’s wearing work boots because he’s going to be doing the difficult tasks needed to fix Iraq? Of course not!

  • MonsieurGonzo

    White. Judeo-Christian. Men.
    Improvised Explosive Device ?
    Improvised Transport Vehicle!
    *********** NO EXIT ************

  • Matthew

    When we, as humans, allow our hearts to connect to the hearts of those who are suffering, and feel our kinship with them as members of the human family, our ability to justify actions that increase their suffering diminishes. The mind and its rational manipulations cannot stand up to the power of a fully engaged and loving heart, which feels the truth that “their” pain is “our” pain.
    The atrocities that have been, and are being committed around the world by humans against other humans can only be possible when the human heart is disconneted from reality, and from the suffering of others.
    This picture is an emblem of this disconnect, and Donald Rumsfeld embodies a heart in isolation, cut off from Life. It is visible in his tired eyes from time to time.

  • Leigh

    One new meme that I have read about a lot over the past couple of years is our global “footprint,” which refers to our bases overseas, etc. Just this week, I heard something about our “footprint” in Iraq. The discussion was about if we made our footprint smaller in Iraq, if that would reduce the violence because the Iraqi people would not see so many of the soldiers so often, and we would not be seen so much as an occupation force.
    In this picture, his feet look huge. It seems to say that we have no intention of reducing our footprint in Iraq. (or the globe?)

  • troy

    Since time immemorial, war has often been conflated with ideals of virility and manliness. This image brazenly panders to that stereotype.
    Rumsfeld here is showing the world how macho he is, sprawled across two seats, “work” boots propped up on a beer-cooler, hand nestled un-self-consciously between his thighs.
    So crass.

  • Griffin

    My two gut reactions upon a split-second glance:
    (1) Self-important and pampered. This man has in no way earned the right to assume the posture and attitude he displays here. Instead of projecting the aura of a dignitary at work in a serious environment and dealing with critical issues, he looks like a fucking VP at Smith Barney on his way to a company golf retreat.
    (2) Those boots are brand-spanking-new, just out of the box–purchased and worn only as a prop for this day’s photo op.

  • http://drewthaler.blogspot.com/ Drew Thaler

    I don’t know about you guys, but this photo immediately made me think of the fact that showing the bottom of your feet/shoes to someone is an insult to many Arabs. Equivalent to giving someone the finger.
    When you take that into consideration, the huge emphasis on the soles of his boots pointed directly at the viewer is rather explicitly symbolic.
    Furthermore… well… he really looks like a poser. The boots might be necessary, sure, but why not wear something more casual with them? The juxtaposition of business suit and tan combat boots just makes him look like a dork. I know you can’t always be ‘on’ for the cameras, so I’ll cut him some slack, but you’d hope Joyce wouldn’t let him get away with that very often.

  • http://stophernow.blogspot.com Jami

    here’s a strikingly similar photo. both are trying to convey men of action. nothing could be further from the truth, considering how little thought these two men have given to the well-being of the soldiers they surround themselves with. i don’t like to say that, because i’m sure neither wishes the troops harm, but the fact is that we’ve been in this war two years, and their strategy so far amounts to “kill suspicious iraqis.”
    i think a more accurate picture of rumsfeld is one of our SECRETARY OF DEFENSE walking past the burning pentagon on the day of the worst attack on america in recent history. i don’t like to point that out, either. i don’t think rumsfeld is evil or even incapable. but the standard for success he’s been held to is: none at all.
    the way his fists are clenched and his back is hunched makes me feel very sorry for him. his failure was a big one.

  • Dan L

    You know, it looks like he stepped in some crap while
    he was walking around. It’s stinking, but nobody wants
    to be the one to have to tell him to clean his boots
    off outside.

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