In The Unknown Known, director Errol Morris captures a fascinating portrait of former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key masterminds of the Iraq War, and a larger-than-life character who provoked equal levels of fury and adulation from the American public.
Rumsfeld and Robert S. McNamara are two of the most controversial defense secretaries of modern times. Both men presided over wars in which American self-deception about the countries being invaded shaped strategies that ran afoul of realities in the battle arenas. The Vietnam war was an outright loss and, at best, ambiguous resolutions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his ninth decade, Rumsfeld agreed to undergo the scrutiny of the Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris, who shows how this once powerful and influential man confronted his past with chilling smugness.
Using tens of thousands of memos, the documentary provides a window into history, not history as it actually happened, but history as Rumsfeld wants the world to see it. Morris demonstrates that Rumsfeld’s memos – whether intended to elucidate, rationalize, obfuscate, or control history, are contradicted by the facts. The Unknown Known is an illumination of the mystery of Donald Rumsfeld, an unknown known.