More than two years after his death, the odious spirit of Donald Rumsfeld has been resurrected.
It is not surprising. Every US administration has its share of banal bureaucrats who, in exchange for an important job with an impressive title, are willing to forfeit their integrity and jettison the truth in the “service” of country.
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And so, since early October, the world has seen and heard a lot from Rumsfeld’s hideous heir, National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby.
Like Rumsfeld, the former career naval officer speaks in a high-pitched monotone befitting his dour, monochromatic character.
Like Rumsfeld, Kirby is obliged to spout state-sanctioned bromides in defence of the wholesale destruction of innocent civilians – casualties all of America’s familiar kill-first, think-later foreign policy.
Like Rumsfeld, Kirby is the darling of Beltway pundits who, as a rule, defer to authority and genuflect before power.
On cue, the Washington Post described Kirby earlier this week as a “star” whose skill and experience have translated into “a commanding presence” during press briefings where he keeps the White House’s “messaging” on Gaza “clear”.
Kirby, the Post wrote, is “direct, plain-spoken and unmistakably supportive of the administration’s pro-Israeli policies”.
Oh, that he is.
But just as the establishment media’s cleansing of Rumsfeld’s wretched record could not save the late defence secretary from history’s harsh and lasting judgement, Kirby will be remembered – if this pedestrian apparatchik is remembered at all – for his obscene apologia of the obscenities Palestinians have had to endure at the culpable hands of America’s proxy, Israel.
I thought it impossible that Kirby could outdo his doddering boss, US President Joe Biden who, memorably, trafficked in fabrications about beheaded babies, and questioned the number of killed Palestinian children, women and men.
Looking ever so commanding in a crisp, black suit, with a white handkerchief jutting fashionably out of his breast pocket, Kirby insisted that Palestinians – among many myopic others – should, at the least, pause to acknowledge America’s generosity in the midst of a genocide.
“Look, we certainly share the concerns that so many others have … about the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” Kirby said last week from a rostrum at the White House flanked by the Stars and Stripes. “Tell me, name me, one more nation, any other nation, that is doing as much as the United States to alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Gaza. You can’t. You just can’t.”
I should let that astonishing paragraph stand as Kirby’s sorry epitaph since it demonstrates how prepared the Biden administration and its smug surrogates are to disfigure reality to promote a revolting lie.
But Kirby’s deplorable admonition requires a reply. Decency demands it.
Much of Gaza and 18,600 Palestinians – the bulk of them children and women – have been erased and buried in mass graves with the help of America’s lethal largesse.
Thousands more have been maimed, traumatised or remain entombed beneath the pancake-like rubble – the shattered remnants of once-vibrant homes, businesses, schools, mosques and hospitals.
Bit by inevitable bit, the occupied West Bank is also being invaded and erased. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested or worse, summarily executed, for being Palestinian or expressing solidarity with their besieged brothers and sisters in Gaza.
Millions of Palestinians have had to make forced marches in a futile quest for refuge from Israel’s incessant attacks. Denied food, water and fuel, countless Palestinians are starving. Disease and sickness are spreading in makeshift, mud-soaked refugee camps where flimsy tents dot the apocalyptic landscape.
Young and old Palestinian men have been rounded up like cattle, blindfolded, stripped near-naked and ordered to kneel in streets or barren fields. The sinister aim: to humiliate and degrade.
All of it – every cruel, inhumane and ruthless ounce of it – is being perpetrated with the explicit approval and consent of Biden and complicit company.
Kirby’s revisionism cannot obscure the plain facts that the rest of us can see. Nor can it mask Biden’s cynical strategy to circumvent a largely prostrate Congress in order to continue to feed Israel with weapons and ammunition to kill and maim Palestinians wherever it wants to, for as long as it wants to, by whatever means it wants to.
The nauseating corollary of Kirby’s rebuke is that Palestinians have been, in effect, ungrateful in the face of America’s phantom efforts to “alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Gaza”.
Rather than condemning America’s collusion with a genocidal campaign, Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and beyond should instead be thankful for America’s benevolence.
America is a friend, not a foe.
This is, of course, the definition of double-speak that performative hacks like Kirby are trained and expected to peddle. War is peace. Harm is healing. Bombs are bouquets.
Still, Kirby, the human weathervane, will do as he is told.
I suspect that, soon enough, he will be instructed to change tack and parrot the new lines offered up by a rattled president.
Speaking recently at a political fundraiser, Biden complained that Israel’s retributive pursuit of Hamas may have gone too far by killing too many Palestinians, too quickly and, as a result, was draining “support” among the international community.
“They’re [Israel] starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” Biden said.
Then, remarkably, Biden suggested that a mild form of regime change ought to be in the offing in Israel.
“This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history,” the president said. “He [Netanyahu] has to change this government. This government in Israel is making it very difficult.”
Biden’s calculated volte-face is motivated by parochial, not principled, considerations and interests.
Having incensed and alienated crucial domestic constituencies that he needs to remain commander-in-chief next November, Biden is now trying to distance himself from a reactionary Israeli cabinet that he has enabled rhetorically, diplomatically and militarily.
Kirby will spin like a Ferris wheel to square that hypocritical circle.
He will fail.
The grotesque damage that the US has done to Palestinians yesterday, today and tomorrow cannot be undone by malleable “messaging”.
That malicious legacy will be forever fixed in our memory.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.