Mysteries of the Great Pyramid

On maneuvers in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld speaks the naked truth

Amid the constant shelling of Americans in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dropped a bomb of his own on December 7 (Kabul time): He broadly hinted that there will be "five or 10 or 20 years" of war.

In remarks on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, Rumsfeld told U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan:

You folks are going to be able to look back on your lives in five or 10 or 20 years and feel that you have been a part of something enormously important.

He didn't mean it that way! Or did he? More on that later. But first, keep in mind that Rumsfeld's not the only Pentagon cheerleader. Late last week, in fact, before he left on his trip to Asia with Vice President Dick Cheney, the SecDef hosted some actual West Point cheerleaders for a routine visit just outside his office (see photo).

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (center, blue tie) and West Point cheerleaders get ready to attempt the Naked Pyramid, a routine popularized by the Pentagon at Abu Ghraib (DOD photo/Helene C. Stikkel)

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The original Naked Pyramid, captured for posterity here, is one of the highlights of the Iraq trials, which are still being contested. (See Wikipedia's Abu Ghraib page for a guide to all of the events.)

The maneuver requires that, first, its participants get naked. The Washington Post has preserved details of how U.S. soldiers brought off the rest of the memorable routine:

One detainee after another was put in a crouching position on the floor, and a soldier directed the action. One by one they were placed on top of one another, forming a human tower.

The West Point cheerleaders couldn't keep working on their moves with Rumsfeld because they didn't accompany him to Afghanistan. But SecDef took care of the cheerleading himself, making his intriguing remarks shortly after he and Cheney ate breakfast with the troops at the base's Viper Dining Facility.

Kathleen T. Rhem of American Forces Press Service, one of the Pentagon's permanently embedded reporters, put her boss's remarks in context:

After breakfast, Rumsfeld walked a short distance, shaking hands with troops, and spoke to a small formation. There, he told individuals from several military services that what they're doing here is not in vain.

"Every time I come (to Afghanistan) I can see the progress that's being made, the energy that exists in the country, the refugees returning home," the secretary said, noting this was his eighth visit to Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

However, he also warned the servicemembers the war on terror is not over in Afghanistan. "There's still groups of extremists that would like to take this country back," he said, adding, "But that's not going to happen."

It was then that Rumsfeld dropped the news about the "five or 10 or 20 years." Face it. Even if he didn't mean it that way, he was right—for a change: The current conflagration spreading through Asia, with our help, will last at least that long.

The war will certainly consume the rest of the Zeros. You might as well start calling the current decade by that name. That's the way your children will look back on it.

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