Doctalk: The Unknown Known


Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris, best known for the Fog of the war (2003) & Tabloid (2010) created another heated documentary. In his latest film, The Unknown Known, Morris probes former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld trying to find the truth on why the United States invaded Iraq.

During his first stint, Rumsfeld was the youngest to ever serve under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977; however, during the Bush administration from 2001 to 2006, which made him the oldest. Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton in 1954, receiving a Bachelor in Political Science. Following graduation, he served in the Navy for three years during the Vietnam War, after the war he entered into politics.        

Rumsfeld created an estimate of 20,000 memos covering a variety of policies and issues, which he referred to as “snowflakes.” Some of these memos were never addressed to the public and considered “secret” documents. Rumsfeld spoke on camera about some of these secret memos.

Morris asks Rumsfeld, “Why did we go into Iraq?”

The Bush administration shifted focus from invading Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden to invading Iraq to eliminate Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein. Hussein was a corrupt, power hungry dictator who committed a mass genocide, killing thousands of innocent people in Iraq. There had been speculations of Al- Qaeda and Hussein working together on the 9/11 attacks but these speculations were proven wrong.  Iraq was viewed as developing weapons of mass destruction, such as nerve gas and anthrax, which gave the Bush administration an incentive to invade. Once Hussein was captured, the Iraq government executed him.

The war in Iraq puzzled Americans because Saddam Hussein had no connection to the September 11th attacks and the “missing” weapons of mass destruction had not yet been found.

 Rumsfeld argued that it was part of a contingency plan to invade Iraq and defended the claim about the weapons of mass destruction by stating that Hussein was killing his own people. Rumsfeld viewed Hussein as a threat to the American people. The war in Iraq cost $1.7 trillion and thousands of lives were lost. According to analysts, the debt will continue to increase over the next several decades. Morris also confronted Rumsfeld about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Inmates who were imprisoned in this camp are believed to be terrorists. Rumsfeld said, he had never given the protocol to water board or treat inmates inhumanely as a way of interrogating inmates. 

Rumsfeld gave specific instructions on how to interrogate inmates. Any violations led to a CIA investigation. Any person found guilty faced serious consequences.Rumsfeld believes it was crucial to keep this prison open because it is protecting the Americans from terrorists who posed a threat. 

Rumsfeld stepped down from Secretary of Defense in 2006.  Bush said there needed to be new direction and a fresh set of ideas regarding the war in Iraq. Bush appointed Robert Gates, former CIA Director, to succeed Rumsfeld.

If you have an interest in foreign policy then this documentary is a must see! Morris challenges Rumsfeld throughout the entire documentary. Morris, pried out the most information from Rumsfeld, in spite how reserved and selective he was being throughout the interview. This documentary may not answer all the questions, but it can certainly give you better understanding of the decision to invade Iraq.

Mathew Kane

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