by Mark Silva
The testimony of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today before a House committee investigating the coverup of details of the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed during “friendly fire’’ in Afghanistan, was filled with remorse for the loss of an American hero.
But Rumsfeld, making his first appearance before a congressional committee since retiring last fall, also found himself under political fire for the administration’s management of war.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat waging his second campaign for president with ardent opposition for the war in Iraq and unrelenting criticism for the Bush administration, asked the former secretary if he had ever discussed the administration’s “press strategy’’about the war with the White House -- if they had a strategy for communicating about the war.
“Well, if there was, it wasn’t very good,” Rumsfeld remarked.
Rumsfeld said he had never taken part in any press strategy involving the Tillman case, and certainly was never involved in any "cover-up.''
“I’m sure that the subject of the press and the government’s dealing with the press have come up on a number of occasions,’’ Rumsfeld said, citing discussions over use of the term, “global war on terror.’’
Rumsfeld recalled talking about “the very phrase, ‘global war on terror,’ and the differences that some people had on terror as something… that you don’t necessarily war against… I frequently would use the phrase that this was the first ideological struggle of the 21st Century.’’
But in general, Rumsfeld said, “To my knowledge there was no White House press strategy that the Pentagon was told to be mindful of.’’
"Something was working for you,'' Kucinich said... "Because you actually covered up the Tillman case for a while, you covered up the Jessica Lynch case, you covered up Abu Ghraib.'
“Congressman, the implication that ’you covered up’ — that’s just false,'' Rumsfeld replied tersely and in certain terms. "You have nothing to base that on, you have not a scrap of evidence or a piece of paper or a witness that would attest to that... I have not been involved in any cover-up whatsoever.”