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Still Rumsfeld After All These Years

‘The Unknown Known’ is a fascinating portrait of an unknowable person

April 8, 2014, 12:00 am

Donald Rumsfeld tries to expand on some of his linguistic peculiarities in Errol Morris’ fascinating The Unknown Known. For example, there’s the “known known,” which is a thing that we know we know.

There’s the “known unknown,” which is something that we don’t know but we know we don’t know it. Then there’s the “unknown known,” the things you think you know that it turns out you did not know. Maybe an unknown known is the exit strategy for the war in Iraq.

Watching the former two-time secretary of defense twist himself into knots as he answers the dozens of questions that Morris throws at him off camera, one thing becomes clear: Rumsfeld is the unknown known. We think we know him, but we don’t. His answers change. He dodges questions. He says the US should not assassinate a foreign leader (in this case, Saddam Hussein), but suggests that invading a country in order to facilitate regime change is perfectly acceptable, even if the leader ultimately ends up dead. It’s like Donald Rumsfeld is retconning his second stint as Secretary of Defense.

Just remember when watching this must-see film that the root of all these conversations is nearly 4,500 dead Americans and more than 500,000 dead Iraqis. File that under “known known.”

Directed by Errol Morris
With Donald Rumsfeld
CCA Cinematheque
102 min.


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