The Decline of Iraq, and the End of a Friendship

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Ken Adelman was a member of Donald Rumsfeld's informal advisory group, the Defense Policy Board. He was a strong backer of the Iraq invasion and the policy of democratization in the Middle East. Now, he's changing his tune and going public. The consequence of that decision has been the end of his 35-year friendship with Donald Rumsfeld. NPR's Guy Raz offers a reporter's notebook.


Earlier this week, NPR's Guy Raz reported on some of the changes expected in the Pentagon. He went to interview one of the men who's been intimately associated with the war in Iraq, Ken Adelman, a long-time informal adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld. What didn't make it into Guy's story is in this Reporter's Notebook.

GUY RAZ: Ken Adelman, U.N. ambassador, arms control expert, adviser to presidents from Gerald Ford on, Shakespearean scholar. And yet when it comes time to write Ken Adelman's obituary, that first paragraph will no doubt include the noun cakewalk, the word he used in an editorial predicting Iraq would be pacified with ease.

Mr. KEN ADELMAN (Former Adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld): The term was unfortunate because it implied a jiffy kind of thing. It implied that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was all there was to it.

RAZ: I met Ken Adelman a few days ago at an office he occasionally works from in Washington. He's been making the rounds lately, talking about why, if given another chance, he wouldn't have supported the Iraq invasion. But I wanted to hear about his 35-year friendship with Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. ADELMAN: I first met him at the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1970, and I worked there in the congressional office.

RAZ: In that office under Rumsfeld toiled talented young people who were soon to become famous: Cheney, Carlucci, Christi Todd Whitman, Bill Bradley, Ken Adelman. Adelman was a young man from Chicago, a bit cantankerous, a Goldwater Republican, all things he shared with Donald Rumsfeld, who soon became a close friend.

Mr. ADELMAN: But for me, being around Don Rumsfeld was always alive. It was - I mean it was exciting. It was always, you know, Fourth of July. Mentally, it was stimulating. You just - your mind was always flashing.

RAZ: Every time the Adelmans went to Chicago, they'd stay with the Rumsfelds. Their wives and kids knew each other. Back in the mid-1990s, the two men took a private trip to Vietnam.

Mr. ADELMAN: We were together from 6:00 o'clock in the morning till midnight at night, laughing and talking about this and discussing this, and we just loved it.

RAZ: And a few days before Donald Rumsfeld was asked to resign, he asked Adelman - his old friend and increasingly outspoken critic - to step down from the Defense Policy Board.

Is he a friend today?

Mr. ADELMAN: I don't know.

RAZ: What happened?

Mr. ADELMAN: Well, I had problems and he probably - he did have problems with me and my views on Iraq, on his performance and everything like that. And I had problems on Iraq. Not going in, mind you, but the way it was handled. And told him my views, and he didn't like it very much.

SIMON: Ken Adelman talking to Guy Raz.

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