A Window On The "Snowflakes"

Peter Maer is a White House correspondent for CBS News.
A published report has opened a window on the world as Donald Rumsfeld saw it during his tenure as Defense Secretary. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld's memos were known as snowflakes. There was a blizzard of messages from his office. The Washington Post obtained some of the wartime defense secretary's 20,000 memos including one that drew sharp responses today from the White House and a leading Arab American group.

According to the Post, Rumsfeld contended that Muslims avoid "physical labor." He expressed the belief that oil wealth removed Muslims "from the reality of work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world." His memo said, "Too often Muslims are against physical labor, so they bring in Koreans and Pakistanis while their young people remain unemployed." Rumsfeld also warned, "An unemployed population is easy to recruit to radicalism."

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Rumsfeld's observations were "not in line with the president's views." She said she could understand why Arab Americans would be offended by the comments attributed to Rumsfeld.

The report brought a terse reaction from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Spokesman Kareem Shora told CBS News Radio, "It seems very clear from the quotes that Mr. Rumsfeld had a very stereotypical, negative pessimistic view of Muslims. He's labeling 2.2 billion people in the world as lazy and against physical labor. It's going to be very harmful to our efforts in the Middle East and to winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world." The White House Press Secretary said the White House is already aware "that we have a lot of work to do to win hearts and minds across the Arab world and the Muslim world."

The Post said the Rumsfeld memos were marked "for official use only." They were not classified. The paper quoted a Rumsfeld spokesman who complained that the story was "based off of selective quotations and gross mischaracterizations from a handful of memos."

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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.