Sunday, June 29, 2014

Blu-ray/DVDebut: THE UNKNOWN KNOWN--Errol Morris tackles smiling cretin, Donald Rumsfeld

On the basis of his work history, his thousands of memos and now this "interview" film, Donald Rumsfeld would appear to be a man given over completely to verbiage and wordplay with barely a thought to spare for any content involved. That he and the entire George W. Bush regime remain still not prosecuted as war criminals is the shame of the western world (but, hell, there's so much shame on so many subjects, what's a little extra now and then?). Folk did not flock to theaters when THE UNKNOWN KNOWN, the new documentary from one of the leading lights in the field, Errol Morris (shown below), arrived earlier this year, and that should be no surprise.

A majority of America-the-beautiful has generally refused to admit or even seem to care that its leaders lied and led us into a useless war that is even now -- check out today's headlines, people -- coming back to bite us in the ass and decimate even more of the Iraqi populace. (Crap dictator Saddam Hussein must be laughing in his grave.) If you've ever asked yourself, who were these men (and one sleazy woman) who led us into our worst misadventure to date, helping to destabilize the entire mid-eastern realm, a partial answer is now yours for the watching, as Mr. Morris lets Mr. Rumsfeld ramble on, finally showing himself up for the pompous, self-satisfied, two-faced twat that he is. Oh, the man has some intelligence, all right. But how he has put it to use! Here, he almost always seems to be bearing that shit-eating grin, shown on poster, top, and below. Golly: This man is just so pleased with himself.

Rumsfeld manages to contradict himself enough times during this documentary that you'd think he'd be ashamed. But no: He goes right on smiling and blathering. Our favorite moment comes when he assures us of one fact about the U.S. government: "We don't assassinate." What about Dora Farms, asks Morris? And Rummy then explains this obvious assassination attempt as though it somehow wasn't one.

What I did not expect that the documentary offers is quite a bit of interesting history regarding Rumsfeld's time in the Nixon and Ford administrations (hearing what Nixon and his men have to say about our Donald brings up the old saw about honor among thieves). And even back then, our guy had that super pro-military stance that demanded more, more more! Eisenhower would have puked.

Morris has assembled a lot of footage that spans the 1970s until post-9/11, and through it all, Rumsfeld rarely denies anything (except assassinations) but he "talks around" just about everything. At one point, he even gloats to Morris, "That's a little bit different cast I've just put on that. Chalk one up for me!" And when we watch him in action during those Iraq War press conferences, you'll wonder how the man avoided getting numerous "fat lips" from the press corp, so blatantly self-satisfied and self-serving was he at nearly every appearance.

Some of his golden moments are included here. Re the famously missing Weapons of Mass Destruction: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." And he tells us of his sending his President a letter of resignation (twice), which was not accepted. Perhaps the most truthful thing to come out of his mouth follows closely behind:  Had the resignation been accepted, "It would have been better for everyone involved." (But you just know he doesn't believe this for one minute.)

We learn, though not from Donald, how our torture techniques migrated from Guantanamo to Iraq. Initially he contradicts this finding, but then agrees with it. While most of Morris' questions are quietly on the mark, a couple of them we could have done without: "Do you control history, or does history control you?" he asks at one point.

Finally, it is only words that seem important to Mr. Rumsfeld. (Hence those many memos he kept sending.) Actions, it seems, count for little to nothing and can be made into something they are not by the proper use of verbiage  The final question -- and its answer -- will just add to your already simmering suspicions.

The Unknown Known -- distributed theatrically via Radius/TWC and on video via Anchor Bay Entertainment and running 103 minutes -- arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday, July 1, for purchase or rental via the usual suspects.

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