"The Rumsfeld Diaries" Hammers the Point Home

November 8, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld is not a public figure who inspires indifference in most Americans. His central role in the Bush administration's diplomatic and military policies, combined with an unusual degree of charisma (he actually made People magazine's "Sexiest" list in 2002), have made him a lightning rod for scathing criticism and fervent praise alike (though considerably less of the latter than the former in recent days). But what of the man behind the inscrutable mask? What went through his mind when first he met Saddam Hussein? Cold policy calculations? Mirthless manipulation?

How about the vapid tittering of a young girl meeting a rock star?

"Used his hands while talking. Fluid, graceful. Spoke broken English, softly, as though it embarrassed him not to have the language mastered. Couldn't hear him well, so I stared at his mouth a lot. Mustache. Looked ticklish. Stop thinking about that. STOP IT!"

Deadbrain US author Allen Voivod has come up with a unique alternative version of Rumsfeld's long entwined career with America's Iraq policy, centering around the discovered secret "Rumsfeld Diaries". In these pages, Voivod takes the genuine shifting sands of US-Iraqi relations over the past two decades, and superimposes an entirely different relationship dynamic over the actual events, namely a clandestine affair between the deposed Iraqi leader and the American secretary of defense. In this astonishing exposé (which first ran in part as a serial on the British Deadbrain site) the intricate and deadly diplomatic dance is played to the tune of a high school crush. The result is rather like listening to a production of Wagner's Ring Cycle set to a Britney Spears soundtrack.

Voivod has a deftly savage touch, and a gift for producing characterizations which are remarkably plausible within the ludicrous framework of the narrative. The publication (only available in PDF e-book at this time) is slickly designed and laid out, peppered with actual quotes from Rumsfeld ("rum shots"), factoids ("rum raisins") and pithy third-party quotes ("rum runners"). They're smoothly integrated into the text, but make no mistake: this is satire with a message, said early, loud, and often. The introduction encourages readers to take action themselves to encourage Rumsfeld's dismissal, and the book comes with several "bonus features" including form letters you can send to your congressman and resource guides for taking action. Part of the proceeds are also being donated to Amnesty International and Human Rights First. It's a big package, and not all the extras will be for everyone. (And now that Rumsfeld has actually stepped down, some of them may seem superfluous.)

Nonetheless this is a strong first entry from Voivod; it's the early version of the Rumsfeld Diaries which first got Voivod his own Deadbrain franchise, and it's great to see this project reach a finished form. The Rumsfeld Diaries is intended to make you laugh and make you mad at the same time. To succeed at both is the mark of a true satirist.

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