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The Unknown Known (2013)

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Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.



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Cast overview:
Himself - Interviewer (voice)


Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images and brief nudity | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 January 2014 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$64,315 (USA) (4 April 2014)


$276,381 (USA) (27 June 2014)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Ivan & Boris See more »


Featured in De wereld draait door: Episode dated 7 April 2014 (2014) See more »


White Christmas
Written by Irving Berlin
Performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford
Courtesy of Capitol Records Nashville under license from Universal Music Enterprises
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User Reviews

Rumsfeld's lifetime of service to war plays out in The Unknown Known
28 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, and his Lifetime of Service to War

The Unknown Known is the latest documentary from Errol Morris. Like his interviews with Robert McNamara in his film Fog of War, he interviews another architect of war, this time the Second Iraq War.

Unlike former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who pushed a continuation of the Vietnam conflict when he was in office, Donald Rumsfeld is not apologetic about his role in sending Americans off to die overseas. In his book In Retrospect, McNamara states in Time Magazine, "We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."

Rumsfeld has no apologies to make, according to the man himself. And he learned no lesson from Vietnam except, as he would say, "it was a failure of imagination" that we lost in Vietnam.

Even Nixon apologized about his mistakes when talking to David Frost.

I am sure Director Morris was under legal contract not to ask tough, direct questions of Rumsfeld. Thus, he let Rumsfeld indict himself. Rumsfeld is narcissistic and unapologetic about the Second Iraq War. He sees no wrong in making the U.S. strong militarily regardless in how that strength is used. He does not, in The Unknown Known, see that the Second Iraq War was based on lies at all. He sees no lies. He submits that Saddam Hussein and Iraq did have WMDs, we just couldn't find them. He believes the U.N. weapons inspectors were duped and needed to keep looking. He does not agree that water boarding is torture, no matter what Human Rights Watch and others say. He sees know wrong except in our "failure of imagination."

Rumsfeld is a master of Newspeak, using phrases like "peace through strength", and "weakness is provocation." This all comes out in the movie, and it was no surprise to most of the audience. He lives in a world of lies, and the person he deludes the most is himself. Rating: Rent it. It is worth a view, and I would love to say that you should see it multiple times.

But there are no dramatic revelations in the movie, no sense of awaking. In fact, the lesson is that a beltway insider has many ways to deny the suffering of others, especially those we kill thousands of miles away for no cause. Rumsfeld sees war not as a destination, but a journey. As long as the U.S. stays on that journey, he is happy.

Peace, Tex Shelters

11 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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