Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld only ever said a wise thing by accident, and that was the case on April 11, 2003, when he explained that Iraqi rioters weren’t violent animals, but were taking out understandable feelings against a “repressive regime.”

These comments came during a routine Q&A session with Pentagon reporters—and of course, this was Rumsfeld trying to talk around the fact that an American invasion had shredded the civil fabric of a previously stable Iraq. But in the spring of 2015, as American thugs remotely terrorize CNN viewers, it’s worth revisiting.

The exchange began with a question about TV footage of Iraqis looting their own neighborhoods:

Q: Mr. Secretary, you spoke of the television pictures that went around the world earlier of Iraqis welcoming U.S. forces with open arms. But now television pictures are showing looting and other signs of lawlessness. Are you, sir, concerned that what’s being reported from the region as anarchy in Baghdad and other cities might wash away the goodwill the United States has built?

Rumsfeld replied (emphasis added):

Rumsfeld: Well, I think the way to think about that is that if you go from a repressive regime that has — it’s a police state, where people are murdered and imprisoned by the tens of thousands — and then you go to something other than that — a liberated Iraq — that you go through a transition period. And in every country, in my adult lifetime, that’s had the wonderful opportunity to do that, to move from a repressed dictatorial regime to something that’s freer, we’ve seen in that transition period there is untidiness, and there’s no question but that that’s not anyone’s choice.

On the other hand, if you think of those pictures, very often the pictures are pictures of people going into the symbols of the regime — into the palaces, into the boats, and into the Ba’ath Party headquarters, and into the places that have been part of that repression. And, while no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime.

Rumsfeld continued:

Rumsfeld: Wait. Wait. But in answer to your — direct answer to your question –are we concerned that this would offset it, the feeling of liberation — suggests that, “Gee, maybe they were better off repressed.” And I don’t think there’s anyone in any of those pictures, or any human being who’s not free, who wouldn’t prefer to be free, and recognize that you pass through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.

He went on to explain that TV depictions of looting and lawlessness were often misleading:

Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it’s the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, “My goodness, were there that many vases?” (Laughter.) “Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?”

There will never be another Rummy.

Photo: Getty