Bob Woodward

Here are some excerpts from The War Within by Bob Woodward,
published in August 2008.
Emphasis is added.

[pages 297–99]

Several days later [i.e., around Christmas 2006], a two-star general who worked in the operations directorate (J-3) of the Joint Staff called [retired Army General Jack] Keane.

“We’ve got [the U.S. commanding general in Iraq, Army General George] Casey’s plan in here,” the general said.
“It’s two and two.”

“What do you mean?” Keane asked.
“Two brigades of Army and two battalions of Marines?”
That would amount to about 7,000 Army soldiers and 4,000 Marines.

“Yes,” the J-3 general said.

“What’s your view of that?”

“Our collective view on the staff here is that this is failing.
[That statement should be compared to what Woodward reported on pages 309–10:
“[Casey] was opposed to the surge of five brigades, as were most commanders on the ground.”]

It’ll be just Together Forward III.”
That was about as damning a comparison as could be made because the first two Together Forward operations had failed completely and Casey’s command had publicly acknowledged the failure.

“God, that is just awful!” Keane said.

“We’re taking it to [JCS Chairman Marine General Peter] Pace,” the general said.

“You’ve got to tell Pace it just can’t succeed, just like you told me,”
Keane said.
This was the moment to step up and speak truth to power—a very difficult task considering the head of the J-3, Lieutenant General Doug Lute, opposed the surge.

The two-star general called Keane back to report.
“We took it to Pace.
We said,
‘It’s two and two.
This plan won’t work.’ ”

So what did Pace say? Keane asked.

The general reported Pace’s words as follows:
“I don’t want to know that.
I don’t want to hear it won’t work.
I want you to tell me how to sell this at Crawford.”
The president was meeting with the NSC at his ranch on December 28 [2006].

“Holy shit,” Keane said.
He had always considered Pace a sycophant, but this, in his opinion, was letting down the people wearing the uniform and fighting in combat.
He concluded that it would be futile to call Pace, who clearly did not want to contradict Abizaid and Casey [all four-star generals, all far more responsible for what was happening in Iraq than Keane], even though they were going to be replaced.
Such a challenge to the ground commanders would be inside the danger zone for a chairman.
The senior military leader, the chairman was only an adviser and not technically in the chain of command.
Keane figured that Pace was making the safe move, in effect hiding behind Abizaid and Casey’s recommendation.
“He takes refuge among them,” Keane said,
“and uses them as protection for himself.”

Keane made another call, this one to John Hannah, Cheney’s national security adviser.
Hannah and the vice president were headed to the Crawford meeting.

“It’s two and two,” Keane told Hannah.
“It’s wholly inadequate.
It cannot be executed militarily.
If that’s the case, we should not do because we’re raising the risk of more violence.”
It was another Together Forward, an operation destined to fail.
“It would put more troops at risk, without the capacity to bring down the level of violence.”

Keane spoke with Hadley again and told him the president or the vice president should ask a single question of Pace:
Is this a decisive force?
“Now, the answer to that is a resounding no, and he will know it’s a resounding no.
He’ll probably tell you, he’ll stammer over it and say,
‘General Abizaid and General Casey—this is their recommendation.’ ”
If you press him, Keane said, he’ll say something like
“Well, I have not asked that question of them.
I’m assuming they think it is, or they wouldn’t have given us the recommendation.”
Keane said the president had to demand an answer about whether the recommendation was a “decisive force.”
If the answer was no, he said, the president would have to overrule his military advisers.

[pages 300–01]
The president later told me [Woodward],
“The military, I can remember well, said,
‘Okay, fine. More troops. Two brigades.’
And I turned to Steve and said,
‘Steve, from you analysis, what do you think?’
He, being the cautious and thorough man he is, went back, checked, came back to me and said,
‘Mr. President, I would recommend that you consider five. Not two.’
And I said, ‘Why?’
He said,
‘Because it is the considered judgment of people who I trust and you trust, that we need five in order to be able to clear, hold, and build.’ ”

Those trusted people, of course, came largely through back channels.
Ray Odierno telling Petraeus [my reading of page 296 says Odierno told Keane, not Petraeus] he needed five brigades.
Petraeus telling Meghan O’Sullivan he wanted all the force he could get, and Jack Keane telling Hadley and Cheney that a minimum of five brigades was necessary.

Hadley maintained that the number “comes out of my discussions with Pete Pace.”

“Okay, I don’t know this,” Bush said, interrupting.
“I’m not in these meetings, you’ll be happy to hear, because I’ve got other things to do.”

Despite Hadley’s characterization,
Pace had told the Joint Chiefs weeks earlier that it was actually the White House that had come asking what could be done with five extra brigades.

[page 358]

A week earlier [in May 2007],

the president had forced Congress
to fund the war for three more months
with no timelines for withdrawal attached.

[This is either an absurd exaggeration or simplification
of what is possible under our constitutional system.
If Bush were extremely popular,
he could rouse public opinion to get Congress to obey his wishes.
But of course that was not the case in 2007.
If the issue were one on which the public agreed with him but not with Congress,
again he could pressure Congress.
But again the public was hardly in favor of staying in Iraq.

So how did George Bush “force” Congress to obey his wishes, Mr. Woodward?
Or is this just another one of your big lies
to conceal who really has the power in Washington,
and how they obtained and wield it?
(Hint to the answer: Look at who controls the media,
and what happened to the father of this president Bush.)

For an explanation of why Bush gets sole blame so often,
see "the Single Gunman Theory" by Philip Weiss.]

[page 371]

General [George] Casey [now Army Chief of Staff] went for a routine physical
inside the sprawling grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center
in northwest Washington.
He spotted retired General Jack Keane standing in line at the radiology desk.

The two generals locked eyes for a moment, then Keane turned away,
as if he hadn’t recognized Casey.

“Hi Jack, how are you?” Casey said, extending his hand.
He had been waiting for a moment like this.
“Has the chairman called you yet?:

“No, why?” Keane asked.

“Because we feel—the chiefs feel—that you are way too out in front
advocating a policy for which you’re not accountable.
We’re accountable.
You’re not accountable, Jack.
And that’s a problem.”

Keane said he’d taken action
as a member of the secretary of defense’s policy board,
whose members are supposed to offer their independent advice
[to the secretary of defense!].
All he was trying to do was help Petraeus, he said.
He had supported the Rumsfeld-Casey strategy for three years.
“And at some point, I no longer could support it.
I’m not operating as some kind of Lone Ranger.”

“It’s not appropriate for a retired general to be so far forward
advocating a policy that he is not responsible or accountable for,”

Casey said again.

“I’ll take your counsel,” said Keane,
but he didn’t suggest he would act any differently.

[pages 399–401]

Jack Keane heard through the Pentagon grapevine that Admiral Michael Mullen, the newly appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [replacing Peter Pace], had told colleagues that one of his first plans was to
“get Keane back in the box.”
Keane called and arranged an appointment with Mullen.

“This is a difficult session for me,” Mullen said,
“but I don’t want you going to Iraq anymore and helping Petraeus.”

“What the hell? What are you talking about?” Keane asked.

“You’ve diminished the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,” Mullen said.
It wasn’t clear to the American people who was actually in charge of the military.

“C’mon, stop it,” Keane said.
“The American people don’t even know who the hell I am.
This is Washington, D.C. stuff.
You can’t be serious.”

“Yeah, I am,” Mullen said.

Keane tried to tell him how in late 2006 he had gone to Rumsfeld and Pace with his complaints about the Iraq War strategy.
He had wound up meeting with the president on December 11, 2006 because General Pace had recommended him.

“You probably resent the fact that I’ve been support Petraeus and the execution of the policy and tried to insulate him and protect him from some of the stuff that’s going on in this town and in this building,” Keane said.
“I don’t make any apologies for that.”

Mullen said that he had become acutely aware of the strains on the Army and the Marine Corps.
Military families were shouldering the strain, and the military was losing quality officers.

“Mike, all of that’s true,” Keane said.
“But this is true every time we fight a war of any consequence.”
Wars break armies, and they have to be put back together.
That’s the price of war.
But the price was worth it.
“You’ve not talked one time about winning here, Mike.
Not one time, have you mentioned … ‘I want to win in Iraq.’
I mean, do you?”

It was an insulting question to put to a fellow military man.

“Of course, I want to win,” Mullen said.

“I assume you do,” Keane replied,
“but to the degree that you’re putting pressure on Petraeus to reduce forces, you’re taking far too much risk, and that risk is in losing and not winning.”

“Well,” Mullen said, “we’re just going to disagree.”

“You really don’t want me to help Petraeus?” Keane asked.
“Dave Petraeus, no matter who he wants to talk to over there, no matter what size he is, shape he is, what his views are, given Petraeus’s responsibility—he’s got the toughest job anybody in uniform has—why wouldn’t you let him have that?”

“No,” Mullen sais,
“I don’t want to take the chance.
I don’t want you to do it.”

End of meeting.

Afterward, when Keane couldn’t get clearance to go to Iraq, he called Petraeus, who told him that he had met with Mullen in Iraq before he had taken over as chairman and that Mullen had told he didn’t want Keane coming again.
“I was really surprised,” Petraeus said.

Petraeus told Mullen that he could understand how the chairman could not appreciate Keane’s involvement.
But it wasn’t meddling.
Keane was providing military advice to the president, the vice president, and Petraeus himself.
“Perhaps you could consider embracing him and trying to draw on that over time.”

“No,” Mullen said.
It was too soon in his tenure, and he was trying to reestablish the authority of the chairman’s office.

Keane called John Hannah in Cheney’s office to report what had happened.
Shortly afterward,
Keane received a call from Army Lieutenant General Skip Sharp, the director of Mullen’s Joint Staff.

:”We have an unusual request,” Sharp said.
“We have a request from the White House to provide assurances that General Keane will be able to visit Iraq and assist General Petraeus as he has been doing in the past.”
Sharp was apparently doing some staff work before passing the request to Admiral Mullen.
“This is really bizarre.
Do you have any idea why this would be happening?”

“Yeah, of course,” Keane said.
“I’ve been told I can’t go.”

“Who told you that?”

“The chairman.”
There was a long silence as Sharp realized it was his boss.
“Skip, are you there?”

“I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on here.”

Keane later spoke with Lieutenant General Chiarelli, Gate’s military assistant.

“The secretary has received some notes,” Chiarelli said, so now the secretary and his office are telling everyone,
“General Keane, as in the past, as well as in the future, can go into Iraq to assist General Petraeus whenever they want it to happen.
We have no problem with any of that.”

Vice President Cheney had notice Admiral Mullen putting the hammer down on Keane.
He didn’t agree, so he had sent a note and talked to Gates about how important Keane’s assistance had been.
The president had also requested that Keane be allowed back in Iraq.

[page 410]

During [a] visit to Iraq, Keane talked to Petraeus about the future.
Petraeus’s next assignment as NATO commander seemed set.

NATO was important, Keane said, but its time had passed.
The international center of gravity had moved to the Middle East.
“We’re going to be here for 50 years mimimum, most of the time hopefully preventing wars, and on occasion having to fight one, dealing with radical Islam, our economic interests in the region and trying to achieve stability.”
We should be thinking strategically from the military perspective about how to support a national strategy for the region.
“Where should we have bases?
Where should we have prepositioned equipment?
Where should we forward industrial bases?
Because it doesn’t make any sense to keep sending that stuff home.”

This shift would have huge implications for how the U.S. military would be educated and trained, as well as how the Army would deal with other organizations.
“We’re going to do it anyway because we don’t have a choice,” Keane said.
“So the issue is:
Get over it.
Come to grips with it.”
The Army didn’t want that.
“It wants to end a war and go home.
But that’s not going to happen.”