Iraq: A Military Inquest

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Iraq in rearview mirror

Looking back at Iraq [Jdraiders / Flickr]

After the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations (and Rumsfeld was ousted and President Bush “agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon”), before the Pentagon and NSC finalize their own reports, and on the day when President Bush is set to convene his own panel of commanders in Iraq, we’re wondering what former and current members of the officer corps have to say about how we got here. Think of it as a sort of ad-hoc military inquest.

We’d like to tackle the famous “way forward” as its own hour, but the heart of this inquest is a deceptively simple question: How do members of the officer corps explain what went wrong? The questions fan out from there: Does the major fault lie with the civilian military leadership or the offices of the Joint Chiefs? Is this a problem of conception or execution? What are the major “lessons learned?”

And a question for Open Source‘s civilian and military commenters: How would you teach the Iraq War to West Point cadets in twenty years?

Andrew Bacevich

Professor of International Relations and History, Boston University

Author, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

Robert Killebrew

Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Instructor in Military Strategy and Operations, US Army War College (l992-94)

Lawrence Korb

Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Senior Adviser, Center for Defense Information

Assistant Secretary of Defense, 1981 to 1985

Related Content


  • rc21

    I believe Rumsfeld resigned. He was not ousted as you are telling us. Journalism 101. Get the facts correct before letting your bias come into play.

  • enhabit

    i believe that our failure in irag can be traced to three early mistakes.

    1-starting the war at all. how could we ever have suspected that the mood in the middle east was supportive of us? our own president publicly called the “war on terror” a crusade. that wound is still raw over there and that comment clearly indicated how insensitive and ignorant our leadership was and is. a yale grad? heaven help us!

    2-dismissing the state department. a great deal of work had been done by the state department in preparation for the post-invasion climate. the defense department decided that they knew better. where did they get the authority to do this?

    3-dismissing the (mostly sunni) baathist bureaucracy. note that the insurgency ramped up promptly after that event. now the sunnis are left with nothing but there rage. the kurds have what they want, a de facto homeland with a (bonus) sizable oilfield. they have secured their borders and have no reason to see iraq succeed. the shia have there own richly endowed territory, complete with access to the sea. why would they care what happens to iraq or the sunnis?

    someone once said that diplomacy is the understanding of motivations, well here is a casebook example. what were ours?

  • Sutter

    RC21, here in DC, people in positions like that almost never get “ousted” — they ALWAYS “resign.” Which means that sometimes, when they purport to “resign,” they were in fact ousted. It’s sometimes hard to tell which is which, but when it occurs the day after one’s party is trounced in the polls by huge margins, and there is much reason to believe that yout area of responsibility was the main cause for the thumpin’, it becomes a little bit easier to make an assessment…

  • plnelson

    rc21 says I believe Rumsfeld resigned. He was not ousted as you are telling us.

    Rummy “resigned” the same way that CEO’s of failing corporations “resign” – under pressure and to maintain a fig-leaf of dignity. No one has any doubt that if Iraq was going well and the GOP did well in the elections that his “choice” would have been different. You are the only person I have ever heard suggest that GWB didn’t call him into the Oval Office and present him with the equivalent of a resignation letter and a pen.

  • Let’s get away from Rumsfeld’s ouster resignation and back to his and the officer corps’s decisions.

  • sana

    Who said that you’re either for us or against us?

    Who said ‘we were hit on 9/11 and we can’t put our security in the hands of a madman like Saddam’?

    Who broadcast this message day after day, month after month?

    Who thought that the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqii?

    Who named ‘old’ Europe?

    Who claimed that post-WWII Germany and Japan were models for building a democratic Iraq?

    Who said that to ask these questions was to undermine our unity and would help the terrorists?

    Who embraced Chalaby and dismissed ElBaradei and the IAEA?

    Who said they knew where Saddam’s weapons were?

    Who didn’t institute a new, innovative and efficiency-aimed energy policy?

    Who abdicated the right and responsibility to declare war?

    Who said it was necessary to invade Iraq but not pay for it now?

    Who prayed for the Iraqii children who might become victims of US bombs?

    Who remembers ‘shock and awe’?

    Who was told that the US public wouldn’t tolerate high US casualties or a long conflict and said that there would be no need to ask them to do so?

    Who is now saying that nation building is not so easy and the American people shouldn’t be impatient?

    Who is now saying we should engage other countries in helping us?

    Who knew????????

  • plnelson

    I’m an engineer. Iraq failed for the same reason some engineering projects fail.

    Fuzzy, vague, inconsistent, poorly defined goals and objectives.

    Fuzzy, vague, poorly defined metrics and definitions. (what EXACTLY is “victory”, how is it measured, how do we know when we have it?)

    Making assumptions without any clear, logical, factual basis for them. (assumptions about stability democracy, relations between ethnic groups, etc)

    Any good high tech corporation would have killed such a poorly-conceived project in its earliest proposals. It never would have gotten off the ground. These problems were clear BEFORE the invasion – if you asked 4 different supporters of the invasion you’d get 4 different reasons for it. If you pointed out some logical flaw or inconsistency they would switch.

  • rc21

    I’m not supporting Rummy, and readers like ourselves can determine if Rummy was ousted or resigned, But Journalists should start the conversation with the facts as we know them,not the facts they wish to be true but have no evidence of.

    Now on to the crux of the matter. Iraq is in turmoil for many reasons. Rummy will take much of the blame. I believe his arrogance and failure to react to the events as they unfolded,have not helped the situation.

    We will now see if the new Sof D can do better.

  • Tom B

    Just a reminder about what’s at the top of this ‘response log’… some VERY interesting questions: QUOTE — How do members of the officer corps explain what went wrong? The questions fan out from there: Does the major fault lie with the civilian military leadership or the offices of the Joint Chiefs? Is this a problem of conception or execution? What are the major “lessons learned?” END QUOTE. I look forward to seeing postings here from military officers (and enlisted men) regarding these fascinating questions! They deserve serious answers!

  • Sutter

    I think PLN and Enhabit both provide a great start for assessing why things went wrong. Consistent with both PLN’s comment re: the assumptions made and Enhabit’s comment re: the State Department’s own ouster from the process here, I’d suggest that part of the military failure resulted from a failure to consider the critical role of cultural and political factors in this operation. From the deep misunderstanding that American invaders would be “greeted as liberators” to the inability to anticipate the postwar sectarian divide to an apparent failure by some in the party I support to understand — even as we approach 2007 — the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Islam, we have been stymied at every step by the arrogant assumption that history and culture do not matter.

  • JJWFromME

    I think George Packer nailed the issue in The Assasin’s Gate. (Remember Col Wilkerson’s statement that George Packer got it right?)

    The planning office for the Iraq War was Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans. It was in charge of both the propaganda for the Iraq war, and largely responsible for the construction. Just look at Bush’s order NPSD # 24. It put planning under the Pentagon, with heavy involvement by Doug Feith. The State Department, as well as all other agencies were cut out. Why? Secrecy. You don’t want to let reconstruction issues (read: reality-based bureaucrats) get in the way of the propaganda in favor of going to war.

  • JJWFromME

    Here’s the quote from Wilkerson that I mentioned above:

    Read George Packer’s book The Assassin’s [inaudible] if you haven’t already. George Packer, a New Yorker, reporter for The New Yorker, has got it right. I just finished it and I usually put marginalia in a book but, let me tell you, I had to get extra pages to write on. … And I wish, I wish I had been able to help George Packer write that book. In some places I could have given him a hell of a lot more specifics than he’s got. But if you want to read how the Cheney Rumsfeld cabal flummoxed the process, read that book. And, of course, there are other names in there, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas [Feith], whom most of you probably know Tommy Frank said was stupidest blankety blank man in the world. He was. Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c925a686-40f4-11da-b3f9-00000e2511c8.html

  • Sutter

    JJWFromME reminds me of another mistake. Nobody paid enough heed to this quote:

    “Promoting democracy requires attention to specific circumstances and to the limitations of U.S. leverage. Both because of what the United States is, and because of what is possible, we cannot engage either in promoting democracy or in nation-building as an exercise of will. We must proceed by interaction and indirection, not imposition. In this respect, post-World War II experiences with Germany and Japan offer misleading guides to what is possible now, even in a period of American primacy.”

    Who was this author, who could have warned the neocons in 2002 and 2003 that they were headed toward disaster? Why, it was none other than — get this — leading neocon Paul Wolfowitz, writing in 2000. Another gem from “The Assassins’ Gate.”

  • Given that we had made it clear that Iran was next on our agenda and Iran’s ability to make infinite mischief for us, how could anyone have thought that our Iraq project even remotely reasonable–and that is after they had already set aside the very serious moral and legal objections to the enterprise.

  • Potter

    Good series of questions Sana.

    Sutter says…. I’d suggest that part of the military failure resulted from a failure to consider the critical role of cultural and political factors in this operation…..

    ……we have been stymied at every step by the arrogant assumption that history and culture do not matter

    I agree. As well no mind seems to have been paid to psychological factors – how traumatized so many already were before the “shock and awe” invasion from decades of Saddam’s terror such that there was limited to little resilience to the urge to settle scores on one side, and on the other, how difficult it would be for the dominant minority to let go of power. This would have been so even with the most perfect of plans and execution.

    When all the forces pulling things apart are matched against weaker forces that would hold things together, the forces of destruction win in Iraq.

    This was a very risky plan. But the risks were discounted such was the urgency at the top, the impulse to go to war. For that original sin, the civilian military leadership, starting with the Commander in Chief, and all who urged or supported him are to be held accountable. Were lies told about imminent danger in order to go to war, to use war as a tool for such a risky project? If so, we were betrayed.

    We can’t just go forward without a formal accounting. If it was not understood that we as a nation do not go to war unless it’s absolutely necessary, only reluctantly, impeachment hearings become very necessary to make that clear.

  • enhabit

    i knew that this discussion would be hot. fantastic thread everybody. i’m sorry that i have to miss most of the show tonight.

    one more point…

    washington’s inter-agency rivalries have brought great confusion to the field leading up to both 9/11 and iraq.

    and we now have the dept of homeland security adding its own stream to the confusion. the pentagon is so angry with and jealous of the cia (esp. after afghanistan) that it has devoted more resources and attention to its own military intelligence. suspicions abound. too many agencies..too many agendas.

    even if you disagree with what they did, one has to admire the cia’s performance early in afghanistan and they were essentially on their own…. the donald R saw to that.

  • plnelson

    But the risks were discounted such was the urgency at the top, the impulse to go to war. For that original sin, the civilian military leadership, starting with the Commander in Chief, and all who urged or supported him are to be held accountable. Were lies told about imminent danger in order to go to war, to use war as a tool for such a risky project? If so, we were betrayed.

    Oh, nonsense. That’s like saying that if someone tries to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and you buy it only one of you is guilty of anything.

    The flaws, inconsistencies, illogic and nonsequiturs in the Iraq invasion proposal were plainly obvious for anyone who cared to look. Outside the US people who had a lot less insight into our leadership than Americans did thought it was stupid by a wide majority.

    The American People are the ones who are responsible for this debacle. Not only did the elect (and RE-elect) the clowns tha devised this, but they supported the invasion by a wide margin. It is fitting and right that they should suffer the consequences on this. If anyone should be impeached it should be the American voters.

  • JJWFromME

    The American People are the ones who are responsible for this debacle.

    I was shocked myself that W got the votes he got in 2000 (and then was re-elected). But what about the news media? We had a media that was too easily cowed after 9/11. The so-called liberal media had no spine to cover important stories with any prominence. And the NYT even had a mouthpiece working with the neocons (Judy Miller).

    On top of that we have cable news outlets like Fox News, which is obviously quasi propagandist and gets its well thought out talking points from conservative “think” tanks, etc. (Fox and Rush are so frequently parrot the same lines.)

    Remember Ollie North running around in Iraq saying “Does Fox rock? Does Fox rock” during the invasion? This is obviously not a serious news organization in any sense of the word. The other cable news outfits are better, but only marginally. Remember MSNBC’s dismissing Phil Donahue even with high ratings? I think if we’re going to improve, we have to re-establish some standards in media. Maybe they should do something like bring back the fairness doctrine. And the downsizing trend in newsgathering organizations is worrysome…

    (But this is a whole other issue…)

  • loki

    Resignation in some Western Democracies can be honerable. Colin Powell might have resigned(as did Cyrus Vance?) because of conscience or disagreement with policy.

    Willie Brandt resigned because of the discover of a soviet mole as his personal secretary therefore taking personal responsibility.

    Some resign due to deiscrace like profumo.

  • loki

    We needed a “Mayor” like Richard Dailey or Menino in Bagdad paying attention to the infra-structure,pot-holes,electricity, hospitals and schools.

    Why has not Blair learned from the “occupation”in Northern Ireland:the need to end sectarian conflict and to develop a fair police force.

  • plnelson

    “We had a media that was too easily cowed after 9/11. The so-called liberal media had no spine to cover important stories with any prominence. And the NYT even had a mouthpiece working with the neocons (Judy Miller).

    On top of that we have cable news outlets like Fox News, which is obviously quasi propagandist and gets its well thought out talking points from conservative “think” tanks, etc. (Fox and Rush are so frequently parrot the same lines.)”

    Sorry, that dog don’t hunt. Those excuses don’t wash.

    No one holds a gun to anyone’s head and forces them to get their news from Fox, and any other news outlet. People are free to CHOOSE where to get their news from, how much digging to do, how much to think about the issues, etc. We are all responsible for our CHOICES.

    PLENTY of people from all walks of life saw through this nonsense, so it’s not as if you needed a degree in geopolitics or mideast history to think it through.

    And who cares what’s on cable? Fast-food double-bacon cheeseburgers are not the healthiest food in the world, so if someone makes a steady diet of them and has a heart attack, whose fault is that? If you make a steady diet of TV news you deserve what you get. I don’t watch ANY TV. It’s easy. I own a TV so my wife and I can sometimes rent DVDs, but somehow I’m able to walk right by it for MONTHS on end without turning it on. You make it sound like this is the equivalent of bending steel rails with my bare teeth.

  • loki

    Richard Clark sugested we learn from the French Experience in Algeria!(not only Viet Nahm.)

  • loki

    Richard Clark sugested we learn from the French Experience in Algeria!(not only Viet Nam) The Frenc were defeated in Algeria.

  • loki

    In terms of time span-did we begin the Iraq war in 1991-which continued throught the Clinton Administration and intesnfied under BushII

  • Sir Otto

    How can one say Saddam was the number one foreign policy problem that had to be dealt with? Kim Jong Il is not far from delivering a nuclear device to the west coast. Oil makes the difference.

  • Peter Bradley

    I am not an internationl specialist but I did send this e-mail to my congressional delegation prior to this god forsaken war.

    I just finished listening to the United Nations Inspectors on television. What I heard them say is that they not only could not find weapons of mass destruction, they could not find evidence of manufacture!

    The nuclear inspector guy (I can’t think of his name right now) even said that “THE PRECISION MACHINES, THE MILLS AND LATHES AND DRILLS AND POLISHERS ARE RUSTY!!!

    He didn’t think they had been used in the 10 years since he saw them last!

    Attack Iraq? WHY???

    We blew our chance when we didn’t send even one C-17 full of anti air and anti-armor weapons to the Kurds and swamp sheites after the Gulf War.

    We didn’t do it because we knew that if we did, the Kurds would have formed Kurdistan and been invaded by Turkey, Iran and probably Russa.

    We didn’t do it because the swamp sheites would have been annexed by Iran and then everyone would be fighting everyone else, including the USA

    Sadam Hussein may be a threat to UAE or Kuwait but not to us! All this will do is save the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country that stood up to the USSR and won!

    Please, I beg of you, Do Not Give War Powers To George Bush!

    To do so in my opinion would be no different from giving any other redneck an axe handle, a pickup and a six pack.

    Please vote No!

    Peter E Bradley

    21 Azalea Road

    Narragansett, RI 02882

    Kind of speaks for itself

  • Potter

    plNelson: “PLENTY of people from all walks of life saw through this nonsense, so it’s not as if you needed a degree in geopolitics or mideast history to think it through.”

    I believe you are correct. And I believe people did not want to go to war. I need to check the polls at the time, but this is what I remember. It did not make a darn bit of difference. The demogoging was relentless. Before I blame the people for being demogogued, I am blaming too many who had the responsibility of office, appointed or elected ( or selected) who betrayed us, let us down. Who ever dreamt of such a confluence of meekness, weakness and ineptitude?

  • jazzman

    What went wrong in Iraq was that the premise that it is JUSTIFIED for the US Military to unilaterally invade a sovereign nation and topple the existing government for ANY pretext when that nation had done nothing whatsoever to the USA.

    The specter of WMDs was used to whip up FEAR in the populace and a large majority of their representatives who voted for the authority to invade (NOT to invade but the authority to if necessary.)

    After the invasion when WMDs turned out to be largely a figment of Saddam’s, Neocon’s and scared people’s imagination, the mission was changed to “spreading the seeds of democracy and freedom.” This was the end that justified the means – by attempting to impose an IDEA on a group of human beings by force which has resulted to date the killing of almost 3000 American Service Personnel (many National Guardsmen who signed up to help our country), the wounding of 30000, and an order of magnitude of the number of indigenous persons killed and wounded.

    This sort of rationale resulted in the Nuremburg Trials after WW2 – it’s the same principle, the difference is just one of magnitude. This is “the end justifies my means” behavior of a fanatic. A fanatic is one who believes that he/she knows what is right for whatever situation and rather than working peacefully to achieve their goal, does whatever they think is necessary to make it happen ASAP (preferably while they’re alive so their ego can reap the benefits.)

    Ideal ends NEVER justify less than ideal means to accomplish them and history is replete with the fallout of such attempts.

    Peace to ALL,

    Jazzman

  • Potter

    Before impeaching the public ( I agree we should have been out in the streets) you might remember that there was much emotion from 9/11 that was whipped up into fear and then rumor about war on Iraq. There was uncertainty through the summer of 2002 about actually going to war amidst much denial at the top. I suspect that plans were a lot firmer than we or even our representatives were allowed to know about. By Fall 2002, it looked more serious and the serious discussion began in earnest. People are reluctant to go to war- but w/o a draft it was a more distant concern. STILL there was ambivalence even with intense demagoguing, until the numbers were finally nudged to more solidly behind the “leadership” by the time of invasion in March of 2003 I believe.

    Here are PEW surveys:

    September 2002

    Bush Engages and Persuades Public on Iraq

    With his speech to the United Nations, President Bush took an important step in making the public case for military action against Iraq. A 52% majority now says Bush has explained clearly what’s at stake for the United States in Iraq. Less than a month ago, just 37% felt the president had laid out a case for military action.

    By October ‘02 a Pew Report says that support for war had slipped to 55%

    January 16, 2003:

    Public Wants Proof of Iraqi Weapons Programs 
Majority Says Bush Has Yet to Make the Case

    January 31, 2003:

    Confidence in Country’s Course at Lowest Ebb Since Bush Took Office

    February 20, 2003:

    U.S. Needs More International Backing 
Post-Blix: Public Favors Force in Iraq, But…

  • Bicoaster

    I think that we make a big mistake by asking the question of the Officer Corps – “How do members of the officer corps explain what went wrong?” They can’t because they were neither the architects of nor the decision-makers in the present conflict. They were just pieces in a chess match that went horribly wrong.

    The real question came up during the broadcast: “If we believe that this is a global war against terror perpetrated by fundamentalist Islamiscists, then how do we win it?” The answer is the same now as it was when other global threats loomed – we work together with other nations and those who share our values and beliefs in creating both the political coalitions and strong strategic and tactical alliances that are required to meet and defeat the enemy.

    If we believe that this is indeed a “war” and that there is an “Axis of Evil” or, in the current context of the conflicts we perceive as driven by “radical” Islam, then we need to take a page or two from the history books. What made the generations that fought in the 20th century’s global conflicts so successful – in their own time, but especially in the hindsight of history (as we are so fond of positioning questions for esteemed guests on this and other media quests for current insight)? I think that the answer lies in their willingness to join in a carefully structured, highly coordinated and broadly cast alliance of nations and peoples who shared a common goal and were willing to put meaningful and profound amount of their national treasure and personal welfare at stake. Certainly, the allied forces in the Second World War were not always on the same page (Roosevelt, Churchill and, famously, De Gaulle, were never in complete agreement. And , as we all understand, our alliances with the then Soviet Union and the compromises made with that regime set in motion a conflict that lasted far beyond the horizons of the hot war of the 1940s.

    But, the point is that only through a carefully and cooperatively configured alliance of our friends and those with whom we can make common cause (and read, here, those regimes closest to the “action” but who may, culturally if not politically, have fundamental disagreements) can we hope to prevail.

    Do we believe that this is a global war against terror and a system to thought that is, in the near term and long term, a threat to both the Western systems of life and liberty and the source of potential tragedy and ultimate ruin and disaster to those who fall under it’s sway? Are there people and nations that would tend to agree with us if we would only stop and listen to their concerns and points of view? Can we develop the kind of alliances and true partnerships of equals that are required to sustain us all through what many thinking people believe are the darkening days to come? These are the questions we must ask and to which we must seek answers that are realistic and upon which we can base our future decisions and collective course of action. Then, perhaps one day we can have a discussion in which we ask our Officer Corps or anyone else with an interest and understanding of the outcome of the conflict, “What was it about the decisions and strategies we made that helped a coalition of free, democratic and independent peoples to meet the challenges of a serious global threat and become “the Greatest Generation” in the 21st Century?”

  • Potter

    My above was in response to plNelson’s:

    The American People are the ones who are responsible for this debacle. Not only did the elect (and RE-elect) the clowns tha devised this, but they supported the invasion by a wide margin. It is fitting and right that they should suffer the consequences on this. If anyone should be impeached it should be the American voters.

    BYW- I don’t believe the American people actually elected GWBush on either occasion. It was way too close nevertheless. The 2000 SCOTUS decision made all the difference.

  • TheSandro

    Generals are not expected to fall on their swords when they disagree with civilian leadership, nor should they be expected to rise up en masse and resign but the fact that Pentagon leadership caved in to Rumsfeld gives lie to words like: duty, honor, country, valor, etc. We do hold top military leaders to a higher standard…at least we did. Identify and oust the yes top level leaders.

    Unless the American public buys in to the seriousness of the “war” and participates more fully with compulsory military service that makes no exceptions among the able bodied and national service for those not meeting physical standards, we could be doomed to a volunteer armed force out of sight and garrisoned in military outposts removed from the general populace.

  • Jon Clarke

    Mr. Lydon and his three guests made a huge STRATEGIC mistake in their discussion of the military and political problems in Iraq. It is almost as huge as the strategic failure of the military and the administration to realize the obvious in the run up to the war: that Sadaam Hussein would do a “rope-a-dope” when the US invaded and set up an insurgency led by his paramilitary forces after the sure defeat of the Iraqi army.

    The Open Source panel’s strategic mistake in its discussion of the military failures in Iraq was to avoid virtually any discussion or blame for the Commander-In-Chief, George W. Bush, “The Decider.” Yet he’s a person who has refused to admit mistakes, always personally refers to “My Administration” for personal aggrandizement and to emphasize that he is in charge, scapegoated Donald Rumsfeld just the day after the election, and currently is orchestrating political cover for his failures in Iraq by convening multiple advisory panels to short-circuit the report of the Iraq Study Group — a commission he touted just weeks ago in the campaign as a example of his openness to alternate views on the war. It is as though the Open Source panel failed to see that the Emperor Has No Clothes! Our society’s election of a person as President of the United States conveys power, but it does not confer wisdom. A first step to correct this problem perhaps should be to establish a Boot Camp for politicians before we give them the keys to the Pentagon.

  • David Weinstein

    I think Bob Kilebrew is right on with his four points from the larger prespective.

    But what I think is screaming to be said here in a show about the military is “intellligence, intelligence, intellligence.” Ever since Alexander The Great or before, generals know that the fate of battles and the fate of wars rests on realiable intelligence.

    Iraq is bristling with arms now and probably was before we ever got there. Arms in the hands of militias and tribal groups large and small. No doubt arms, supplies and funds are pouring in across Iraq’s hundreds of miles of borders with Iran and Syria, nations that are not exactly friendly to us.

    Didn’t anybody look at a map of the region before we marched in there? Didn’t anybody at least have a inkling that we were walking into a territory that makes the wild west look tame? These militias didn’t spring up over night. What force would it have taken to secure the borders, to crush the militias?

    And, yesre, intelligence is also a grasp of the mindset of the people. I don’t think one needs to be a gat expert on Middle-Eastern mentality to understand that at first the population would lrok at our troops with the ambivalence of a people who saw a bloody dictator overtrhteown but wondering what our intentions are in the context of a long history of European colonialism and conflict with the west going back to the crusades. I don’t think we had years of good faith on the part of the Iraqi but months. And we had to deliver the goods within those crucial months: security so people could go about their business without fear of being killed or wounded, and an acceptable level of infrastructure and services such as electricity amd medical care.

    And this was before whoever blew the top of the volcano or centuries old enmity between shia and Sunni.

    Shouldn’t the defense establishment, yes, in concert with the state department, have studied this before we sent the best and bravest among us to war in Iraq?

    So who is to blame? I don’t blame the generals in so much as there was a rush to war before adeqaute military/strategic/sociatal intelligence was gathered and formed into a coherant plan for the invasion and occupation. I blame Bush and Cheny and Rumsfled. Cheney was the one who pushed for this war, pulling all the levers available to him, manipulating intelligece from aa speical intlligence unit under Douglas Feith in the Pentagon, misleding our admittedly gullible and weak legislators after 9/11. Bush let him get away with and gave him political cover. Rumsfeld rammed this war through the defense department with his ego and petulance.

    And fianlly I blame the neo-cons who were the ideological driving force behind Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. The neo-cons waho put ideology before geo-political-military reality. And idelogy of fear and ruthlessness and overreach that good, old intelligence wold have debunked as not based in the reality on the ground where our soldiers are fighting and dying as I have the leisure to write this.

    All this tragic run-up to the war, the lying, skulduggery and criminal ideology that did not allow the armed forces to do its due diligence in terms of intelligence is increasingly becoming a matter of record and hopefuly will send shudders across any future military or political historian of this obscene misuse of power.

    How we got into this war and its danger to our democracy and national security is certainly a topic for a show or two. I hope the media will examine it and give the American people to benefit of the doubt that they will be interested and understand it. Certainly military and political historains will shudder for American and the world when they delve into this years from now. Let’s hope and pray that our military and political establishments will undersatnd and reform themselves so this deeply tragic mistake will not be allowed to happen again.

  • Potter

    Bicoaster says: Do we believe that this is a global war against terror and a system to thought that is, in the near term and long term, a threat to both the Western systems of life and liberty and the source of potential tragedy and ultimate ruin and disaster to those who fall under it’s sway?

    We made a mountain and are making a bigger mountain out of the original molehill/hill.

    Al Qaeda was surely not the biggest threat to our country. But if it were so, then why wasn’t our dependence on oil considered enough of a national security issue? Instead we were told to keep consuming.

    Was the decision to sacrifice so many more lives than were taken that day in 2001, to invade, to break Iraq apart without a plan other than to protect the oil fields, not the worse crime. Isn’t this indicative of what really threatens us?

    What happened to that investigation of how intelligence was gathered and “cherry-picked” and pushed? Let it come out in hearings. Did Bush Rumsfeld Cheney Rice and loyal staffers in their ideological zeal ( hubris and arrogance) misuse the goodwill and trust of the people as well as their power over the military? Did they abuse the trust that comes with the offices they occupy?

  • JJWFromME

    Robert Killebrew said (paraphrasing): “Understand the political problem first, and have a solution for that.” (A no brainer, isn’t it? If you take out a country’s government, you better have a good plan to replace it.)

    The problem is that Tommy Franks was never given an adequate phase IV plan.

    Office of Special Plans (brought to you by Cheney/Rumsfeld/Doug Feith) left planning the political aspects of the problem until the last minute. There was some planning that had gone on inside think tanks (which never penetrated the Pentagon or the Oval Office) but that’s it.

    The reason why planning had to be left to the last minute was to preserve secrecy. The Office of Special Plans wanted complete control over information about the war, and to keep things all inside the Pentagon.

    From Packer’s book: “The senior leadership at the Pentagon was very worried about the realities of the postconflict phase being known… Because if you are Feith or you are Wolfowitz, your primary concern is to achieve the war.” (I think that says it all.)

  • David Weinstein

    It looks like Bush will not be impeached by this Congresss for the fiasco in Iraq. As part of his repentence for his disasterous military adventurism, I suggest that he watch a half hour daily of Combat Hospital from Iraq on the military channel. He must invite vice-president Dick Cheney periodicaqlly along with D. Feith, Wolfowitz and other neo-con heavies. An hour daily when at his Texas compound. He is allowed to order pizza in at both venues.

  • Potter

    Dave Weinstein, you assume these people have a consciences that are not buried.

    George Packer has an interesting article in the current New Yorker Magazine ( that is not online) “Knowing the Enemy:The Anthropology of Insurgency”.

    This article gathers some of the key points U.S. Losing Information War Against Muslims Jihadists

  • Potter

    The George Packer articel is now online: Knowing the Enemy

    Here are three paragraphs ( Kilcullen was a captain in the Australian Army in the early 90’s and then worked for Australian intelligence (04), lectured and wrote on his subject when Wolfowitz noticed him)

    ……In 2004, Kilcullen’s writings and lectures brought him to the attention of an official working for Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Wolfowitz asked him to help write the section on “irregular warfare” in the Pentagon’s “Quadrennial Defense Review,” a statement of department policy and priorities, which was published earlier this year. Under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned in November, the Pentagon had embraced a narrow “shock-and-awe” approach to war-fighting, emphasizing technology, long-range firepower, and spectacular displays of force. The new document declared that activities such as “long-duration unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and military support for stabilization and reconstruction efforts” needed to become a more important component of the war on terror. Kilcullen was partly responsible for the inclusion of the phrase “the long war,” which has become the preferred term among many military officers to describe the current conflict. In the end, the Rumsfeld Pentagon was unwilling to make the cuts in expensive weapons systems that would have allowed it to create new combat units and other resources necessary for a proper counterinsurgency strategy…….

    …………..One night earlier this year, Kilcullen sat down with a bottle of single-malt Scotch and wrote out a series of tips for company commanders about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an energetic writer who avoids military and social-science jargon, and he addressed himself intimately to young captains who have had to become familiar with exotica such as “The Battle of Algiers,” the 1966 film documenting the insurgency against French colonists. “What does all the theory mean, at the company level?” he asked. “How do the principles translate into action—at night, with the G.P.S. down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don’t understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen? There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect.” The first tip is “Know Your Turf”: “Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.” “Twenty-eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency”—the title riffs on a T. E. Lawrence insurgency manual from the First World War—was disseminated via e-mail to junior officers in the field, and was avidly read.

    Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared. “It’s really important that we define the enemy in narrow terms,” Crumpton said. “The thing we should not do is let our fears grow and then inflate the threat. The threat is big enough without us having to exaggerate it.”…………