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[Washington Babylon]

Rummy in Paris: Democracy is like riding a bike

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Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Paris today and he’s as upbeat as ever about the forward march of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rummy spoke this morning at the Cercle Interallié on Faubourg Saint Honoré, an exclusive club and conference center. The French edition of Foreign Policy magazine sponsored his talk.

The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban alarms most independent analysts. Indeed, the Karzai government exercises little real control of the country outside of Kabul. But a source that attended the event tells me that Rummy thinks things are going well in Afghanistan, and painted a picture of a land returning to prosperity with millions of refugees pouring back home.

As to Iraq, Rummy compared the U.S. role there to teaching a kid to ride a bike. Paraphrased by my source, this is what he said:

You have to hold up the youngster with four fingers when he’s learning to peddle. Then you use three fingers as he gets steadier, and so on and so forth. Today the U.S. is holding up the Iraqi bicyclist with two fingers but is afraid to fully let go for fear the bike might tip over.

Of course, most kids don’t have to learn to ride a bike in the midst of a civil war but Iraq no doubt will soon be riding all by itself and America’s burden of finger-holding will be lifted. No word on if the audience was able to stop gagging. In any case, Rummy might not want to spend too much time in Paris. Reuters reports today that human rights groups in France have filed a lawsuit “alleging that [he] allowed torture at U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba,” and have asked that he be detained.

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