From the “We Knew This, Now We Know It For a Fact” File

Your Sunday reading assignment, ladies and gentlemen:

Planning for after the war in Iraq non-existent

By WARREN P. STROBEL and JOHN WALCOTT

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON – In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration’s plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon’s plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners’ parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material – and for good reason.

The slide said: “To Be Provided.”

A Knight Ridder review of the administration’s Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.

In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq’s long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country’s widespread crime and unemployment and America’s sometimes heavy boots.

“We didn’t go in with a plan. We went in with a theory,” said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy.

The whole report is, in a word, heartbreaking. And it shows how this administration betrayed the military which performed so brilliantly during the invasion of Iraq by not having its back with a plan for the peace. Please do pass it along to any Bush supporter you know who clings to the idea that this adminstration has the slightest clue what it’s doing in Iraq. It really doesn’t. And as this report shows, it never really did. It hardly even bothered.

Our military people deserve better. The people in Iraq deserve better. We deserve better.

23 thoughts on “From the “We Knew This, Now We Know It For a Fact” File

  1. Three words:
    Stupid. Ignorant. Hypocritical.

    If one still support Bush’s war in Iraq, then you’re one of the three.

    K

  2. It’s easy to say that to a room of Kerry-supporters. I know Republicans who are not one of those three, and so does everyone who reads this blog. We just don’t want to admit it.

    Is it hyprocritical to think that Bush appropriately relied on his Secretary of Defense’s word that the peace would be won quickly and easily, that his Secretary of Defense failed him, and therefore Bush’s chief error is picking a bad Secretary of Defense? Then one has to decide subjectively whether Kerry would make better choices for his cabinet, and weigh in that Kerry will influence areas like abortion law and stem cell research, which do not divide along stupid or hypocritical lines.

  3. Adam: expect the best, plan for the worst.

    Clearly, that did not happen here–it’s not just that there were large-scale expectations, it’s that there was no plan for if those expectations were false.

  4. Adam Nelson says:

    “It’s easy to say that to a room of Kerry-supporters. I know Republicans who are not one of those three, and so does everyone who reads this blog. We just don’t want to admit it.”

    I didn’t say Republicans. I said Bush supporters. And don’t be too sure that everyone who read this site is a Kerry supporter. I know quite a few who do who are not.

    I think it’s reasonable for Bush to trust his Secretary of Defense; I don’t think it’s reasonable for that secretary to have no real plan for the peace. And I don’t think it’s reasonable for a president to keep on a secretary who has so obviously failed his job duties.

  5. “Then one has to decide subjectively whether Kerry would make better choices for his cabinet”

    He couldn’t do much worse on the Secretary of Defense front, could he?

    Bush’s first error, giving him as much credit as possible, was to trust Rumsfeld’s Blue Light Special approach to the war. His second, and worse, was to defend Rumsfeld and keep him on instead of replacing him with somebody competent.

  6. Adam Nelson said:
    “It’s easy to say that to a room of Kerry-supporters.”

    You’re right, it was, though I misspoke. What I should have said was, “If you believe that George W. Bush is even remotely capable of running this war, then you are either Stupid, Ignorant, or a Hypocrit.”

    I won’t debate the relative merits of deposing Saddam Hussein. That’s an argument for another day. I know that our host, for one, supoorted the idea of ridding the world of him. But if you can hold in your head the idea that this war was waged by our President as anything other than a half-baked war of reflex, then you are either stupid or ignorant. (I can’t work out how to fit hypocrit into there.)

    The fact is that our troops are engulfed in a morass because our President did not bother to take the time to figure out what to do if – against all odds!! – we actually beat Saddam. And it’s not as though this was a sudden threat that needed to be taken out as quickly as possible. Evidence shows that Bush’s people had been planning the attack since before the election, and they never thought to plan what to do when we won the battle.

    Bush failed to plan for the peace when he first had the chance. Why should we give him another chance to fail?

    K

  7. I’ve heard a lot of Bush supporters excuse his actions with the “trusting the secretary of defense” and “trusting the intelligence” arguement. But, first, they are acting as if we are voting for one man in isolation. You vote for his entire cabinet, which he has chosen and maintained. The buck has to stop somewhere.

    Second, regarding the intelligence. Yes the intelligence was flawed, but there were credible voices out there who warned of this during the war build-up. A president has to use good judgement to analyze critically ALL the information coming in to him and not choose to use sloppy information that supports his premise and go out of his way to hide evidence that questions it. Again, blaming the intelligence is a cop-out. The president needs to take responsibility for his actions and admit and correct when an error has been made.
    Will Kerry do these things? We can’t be 100% sure, but we do know that Bush has not and will not. This is the risk every corporate HR person has to take when firing an incompetent and hiring a new, unproven person. But they do it because keeping the incompetent is just not smart and will only do more harm. It is definitely worth the risk.

  8. The fact that Bush defended Rumsfeld does appear damning. I’ll run it by my conservative friends and see how they respond, but I suspect that that is a very good point.

    “But if you can hold in your head the idea that this war was waged by our President as anything other than a half-baked war of reflex, then you are either stupid or ignorant.”

    I believe it was half-baked, but there is at least one defensible motive: to establish a stable model of democracy in the Middle East. One cannot prove that Bush invaded Iraq for this reason, but neither can one prove that he invaded it reflexively. That is a conclusion which must be drawn from subjective analysis.

    “Evidence shows that Bush’s people had been planning the attack since before the election”

    Possibly, but if the evidence were so conclusive and credible, why doesn’t everyone know about it by now? I must suspect that the evidence is either not as black-and-white or not as credible as you claim.

  9. What good is decisiveness if the decisions are stupid? Why it is a virtue to make snap decisions and then stick to them long after they are shown to be harmful?

  10. I seem to remember reading something about this in the Slate. In that article, the writer compared the planning for the German occupation after WWII to the planning for the occupation in Iraq. Aparently the WWII planning was done by it’s own office in the Pentagon with a staff of about fifty who started work on their plans in 1942, a good three years before the Allies had actually set foot in Germany and two before D-Day.

    But this isn’t the US military’s fault, the KRN article meantions that Marine General Zinni had a full occupation contingency plan ready to go but never used call ‘Operation Desert Crossing’.

    From the Washington Post back in oh December 2003
    [quote=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A22922-2003Dec22&notFound=true]
    So early in 1999 he [Zinni] ordered that plans be devised for the possibility of the U.S. military having to occupy Iraq. Under the code name “Desert Crossing,” the resulting document called for a nationwide civilian occupation authority, with offices in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces. That plan contrasts sharply, he notes, with the reality of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation power, which for months this year had almost no presence outside Baghdad — an absence that some Army generals say has increased their burden in Iraq.

    Listening to the administration officials testify that day, Zinni began to suspect that his careful plans had been disregarded. Concerned, he later called a general at Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa and asked, “Are you guys looking at Desert Crossing?” The answer, he recalls, was, “What’s that?”[/quote]

    Typical of the Bush Administration to out onion theOnion.com (“Bush Campaign More Thought Out Than Iraq War”).

    Colm

  11. If you are going to be a leader who trusts the details to underlings, then you better be pretty damn good at picking those underlings!

    “I selected, trusted, and stuck with an incompetent person” is a bad excuse.

  12. To Be Provided

    Iraq sure is going well, huh? Just like we planned it. Or, um, didn’t plan it. Good thing the grown-ups are in charge. (Via Scalzi et. al.) Come join us in the Reality-Based Community, won’t you?…

  13. Apparently the plan was if they broke enough stuff and then put their corporate consituients first in line to fix it, it would all be worth the lives of the soldiers and civilians. It’s a sacrifice they were willing to make.

    Create a need, then satisfy the need for profit.

    It’s the new business model. I think it’s called “warmongering” if I am not mistaken.

    Here is their newsletter:

    http://wmi.blogspot.com/

  14. I’m sure it feels good to repeat the same argument over & over again to the same group of people, but at some point, logic needs to overcome the “I just can’t believe he did that” mantra. To wit:

    – How can it be that the war was “reflexive,” even though it occurred 18 months (and a whole other war) after 9/11?

    – How does the often argued “This was a war about oil, intended to line the pockets of Haliburton execs” line jive with the newly minted “He went to war without any plan to win the peace?”. I mean, which is it, people?

    – Based on nothing other than Occam’s razor, isn’t it much more likely that the war ended differently than we thought it would, leaving us flat-footed & forced to improvise in the aftermath? This strikes me as a much less grevious offense than “not having a plan to win the peace.”

    – What kinds of plans did we have to win the peace in other wars? What was the plan in Vietnam? Korea? Germany? If we’d won Vietnam with 1,000 lives lost instead of 50,000, would we have been prepared to run that country? If not, which president are you prepared to call stupid/ignorant/hypocritical?

  15. Brian Greenberg said:

    “Based on nothing other than Occam’s razor, isn’t it much more likely that the war ended differently than we thought it would, leaving us flat-footed & forced to improvise in the aftermath?”

    In that case, Bush’s error was failing to predict how the war would “end”. Colm Mac pointed out in this very thread that plenty of people at the top warned Bush that Iraq would turn out just as it has: a chaotic mess of insurgency and terrorism. John Kerry pointed out in the first debate that even George H. W. Bush had predicted that it would be so. George W. Bush decided that they were wrong and that his Secretary of Defense was right. and then, despite eventual proof on the ground that his Secretary of Defense was dead wrong, he continued to support his Secretary of Defense’s plan anyway.

    “What was the plan in Vietnam? Korea? Germany?”

    I don’t know enough about Vietnam and Korea, but Colm Mac pointed out in this very thread that

    “Aparently the WWII planning was done by it’s own office in the Pentagon with a staff of about fifty who started work on their plans in 1942, a good three years before the Allies had actually set foot in Germany and two before D-Day.”

  16. I personally think the war was a deliberate attempt to create revenue for US companies. Other “people” have different opinions. Lumping individuals into groups of “people” then blaming them for having different beliefs and opinions sounds like a very Republican thing to do. Get along now, go chase some Islamic extremeists at the mall or something and leave the talking to the grownups.

    Now what was I ranting about? Oh yeah- here’s another link. This outlines the 8 billion dollar gift we made to the Iraqi people then were so kind as to spend it for them.

    http://www.lucent.com/press/pdf/iraq_30mar04.pdf

  17. “Lumping individuals into groups of “people” then blaming them for having different beliefs and opinions sounds like a very Republican thing to do.”

    Apparently, lumping individuals into groups of “people” and then accusing them of various negative behaviors is done by Democrats as well.

  18. Brian,

    “- How does the often argued “This was a war about oil, intended to line the pockets of Haliburton execs” line jive with the newly minted “He went to war without any plan to win the peace?”. I mean, which is it, people?”

    That is a false dichotomy and a little strawman. It was a war about oil with a terrible plan to win the peace.

    He thought if we won fast and easy (remember shock and awe?) the Iraqi’s would welcome us with flowers and praise and the rest of the world would quickly fall in behind us.

    Haliburton would get its spoils and the Middle East would get a functioning tower of democracy, sending its warriors of compassion across the Middle East like some phrase that John Scalzi could think up better than I could.

  19. Tripp:
    “That is a false dichotomy and a little strawman. It was a war about oil with a terrible plan to win the peace.”

    So they went in figuring whatever happened, Haliburton would find a way to make money *somehow*? Sorry – I’m not buying it…

    This is another one of those instances where I find myself in the “defend Bush even though I disagree with him” position. I don’t think the post-war process has been handled well, but that doesn’t mean Bush was reckless or went in without a plan. Adam Nelson levelled the most accurate criticism above when he basically said Bush’s error was a lack of flexibility/responsiveness, not a lack of planning.

    I also don’t claim to know how to plan for peace after a war. It makes sense to me, though, that you can’t do too much planning too far in advance. What if we had a plan, and Saddam succeeded in burning all the oil wells before he lost? What if he not only had WMD but *used* them, and some portion of the country was uninhabitable? What if it took 18 months instead of just 3, and we lost 10,000 troops instead of 1,000? What if a third country got involved?

    I can’t imagine you can plan for every contingency. The point about the Pentagon planning the post-WWII Germany 3 years in advance strikes me as a serious waste of time (or at least, it would be today – maybe in the 40’s, it took that long to assess what we can see now with one spy plane mission – I just don’t know).

    The best you can do, I think, is setup a structure you think will work well under many scenarios (are we saying here, by the way, that the Provisional Authority was concocted the night the statue fell by some general on some white board?), and then try to react as best you can. If anyone with a military background can refute this point, I’d be very interested in hearing it…

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