Casual racism, or just a very poorly thought-out remark?
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said a “trained ape” would have managed the US relationship with Afghanistan better than the Obama administration.
Speaking on Fox News, Rumsfeld slammed President Barack Obama over his failure to secure a status of forces agreement with outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would allow US military forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
"A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement," Rumsfeld said on Monday, noting that the US had similar arrangements with more than 100 other countries.
"It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship."
Rumsfeld's comments sparked outrage:
Karzai, who has ruled the country since the US invasion in 2011, has so far refused to sign the bilateral security agreement.
Washington hopes the incoming president, who will be elected next week when the country goes to the polls, will sign on the dotted line.
Rumsfeld also said the US-Afghan relationship had been “first-rate” during the Bush administration, but had gone “downhill like a toboggan” since Obama took office.
A July 2009 cable from former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry might suggest otherwise. The State Department missive, which was released by WikiLeaks, was Eikenberry's response to Karzai longing for the "golden age" of the early years of the Bush administration.
Eikenberry wrote, "I also took issue with Karzai's 'golden age' perspective, reminding him that I had been in Afghanistan during this period.
"It was clear, even at that time, that trouble was brewing as the focus on security and reconstruction drifted and declined due to lack of resources and a comprehensive strategy."
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Rumsfeld’s ape comparison, whether intentionally racist or not, came a day after Belgian newspaper De Morgen fielded accusations of racism for printing a doctored photograph depicting Obama and his wife, Michelle, as apes.
The newspaper also "joked" that Obama began selling marijuana after becoming the first black president of the United States.
A small photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin was posted above the Obama images accompanied by the words: “Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia. He sent us this attachment at our request, and chose to send pictures instead of text 'because he doesn't have a lot of time'.”
The newspaper apologized for the "tasteless joke" on Monday.