[A] Knight Ridder review of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that the president and many of his advisers ignored repeated warnings that rebuilding Iraq would be harder than ousting Hussein, committed less than two-thirds of the troops the military originally requested to secure Iraq, tossed out years of planning about how to rebuild Iraq and thought pro-American Iraqi exiles could quickly pick up the pieces.In other words, reporters Warren Strobel and John Walcott have another excellent national security story for readers of Knight-Ridder newspapers, "Winning war vs. winning peace."
The Bush administration never provided a plan for postwar Iraq, nor did it provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.Their reporting seems to be about as fully informed as it could be, given that this is a security issue inflamed by partisanship.
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.
This report is based on official documents and on interviews with more than three dozen current and former civilian and military officials who participated directly in planning for the war and its aftermath. Most still support the decision to go to war but say many of the subsequent problems could have been avoided.The report blames US failings in Iraq on similar problems that quite apparently distorted the case for war in the first place: wishful thinking, reliance upon untruthful Iraqi exiles, and contempt for dissent.
Some senior officials spoke up about their concerns for the first time for this report. President Bush and top officials in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office didn't respond to repeated requests for interviews....Every effort was made to get those who were interviewed to speak for the record, but many officials requested anonymity.
That's not the way to conduct a debate.
The reporters make clear that there was much, much less internal dissent about the need to plan for post-war Iraq and the difficulty of the task. They cite a public War College report and note the existence of numerous intelligence reports from various agencies (DIA, CIA, etc.).
Some internal experts have expressed criticism on the record:
Longstanding Army doctrine calls for beginning reconstruction in freed areas of a country while fighting rages elsewhere. It also calls for a shift in military forces from combat troops to civil affairs, military police and the like.Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks emerge as McNamara-like micromanaging technocrats -- and that's not a good thing in the post-Vietnam era:
"Unfortunately, this did not occur despite clear guidance to the contrary," Army Col. Paul F. Dicker wrote in an assessment.
...three top officials who served with Franks at the time said the plan was the product of a lengthy and sometimes heated negotiation between Central Command and the Pentagon in which Rumsfeld constantly pressed Franks and other senior officers to commit fewer troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom.I hope this story has some legs.
Central Command originally proposed a force of 380,000 to attack and occupy Iraq. Bush and his top advisers approved the 250,000 troops the commanders requested to launch the invasion. But additional troops that the military wanted to secure Iraq after Hussein's regime fell were either delayed or never sent.
Four senior officers who were directly involved said Rumsfeld and Franks micromanaged the complex process of deciding when and how the troops and their equipment would be sent to Iraq, called the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data, canceling some units, rescheduling others and even moving equipment from one ship to another.
As a result, two Army divisions that Centcom wanted to help secure the country were delayed, and a third, the 1st Cavalry from Fort Hood, Texas, fell so far behind schedule that Franks and Rumsfeld dropped it from the plan.
Civilian officials in the Pentagon were so convinced that these "follow-on forces" -wouldn't be needed that they thought they could withdraw 50,000 troops from Iraq in June 2003; 50,000 more in July; and a final 50,000 in August. By September 2003, Rumsfeld and his aides thought, there would be very few U.S. troops left in Iraq.
It's time for some public accountability.