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Originally published Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 10:05 PM

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Rumsfeld largely unapologetic in memoir

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that master of the tart zinger, concedes he went too far with some.

The Washington Post

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that master of the tart zinger, concedes he went too far with some.

The man who, more than any other in the Bush administration, personified bravado and self-assuredness, has come to regret saying "Stuff happens" about the early looting in postwar Iraq. He admits his quip about "old Europe" — meaning Germany and France — not supporting the war was hardly deft diplomacy.

As for declaring, as he did in the first weeks after the invasion of Iraq, "We know where they are," referring to suspected stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction; well, Rumsfeld would like to take that one back, too.

But he still can't resist — in a memoir due out next week — taking a few pops at former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as well as at some lawmakers and journalists. He depicts President George W. Bush as presiding over a national-security process that was marked by incoherent decision-making and policy drift.

Much of Rumsfeld's retrospective reinforces earlier accounts of a dysfunctional National Security Council rived by tensions between the Pentagon and State Department. But speaking for the first time since his departure from office four years ago, the former Pentagon leader offers a vigorous explanation for actions.

Sounding characteristically tough and defiant in the 800-page autobiography, "Known and Unknown," Rumsfeld remains largely unapologetic about his overall handling of the Iraq conflict and concludes that the war has been worth the costs. Had the government of Saddam Hussein remained in power, he says, the Middle East would be "far more perilous than it is today."

Addressing charges that he failed to provide enough troops for the war, he allows that, "In retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped." But he insists that if senior military officers had reservations about the size of the invading force, they never informed him.

Rumsfeld portrays Powell as reigning over a State Department reluctant to accept Bush's political direction and intent on taking anonymous swipes at the Pentagon in the media. He chides Rice, in her initial role as national-security adviser, for often papering over differences rather than presenting Bush with clear choices when the Pentagon and State Department disagreed.

Later, after Rice succeeded Powell as secretary of state, Rumsfeld says she pushed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf too hard toward more democratic practices, wrongly put human rights ahead of important U.S. security interests in Uzbekistan, and fruitlessly pursued diplomatic engagement with Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Though careful to describe Bush personally in complimentary terms, Rumsfeld suggests the former president was at fault for not doing more to resolve disagreements among senior advisers.

In a few places, Rumsfeld, 78, reveals a more vulnerable side than he showed in office. He speaks tenderly of efforts by two of his three children — son Nick and daughter Marcy — to deal with drug addiction.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post ahead of a Feb. 8 release date, covers Rumsfeld's entire life, including earlier stints in government and a long career in business. But more than 60 percent of the book deals with his six years as Bush's defense secretary.

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