Conceptualizing the Iraq war

  1. 1991: Why Bush I did not depose Saddam

  2. 1996: Bush, the Neocons, and “A Clean Break”

  3. 1998–2002: Project for the New American Century

  4. 2001-11: Bletchley II

  5. 2002-10: Schroeder: “The Case Against Preemptive War”

  6. 2003-01: Foreign Affairs Prewar Iraq Coverage

  7. 2003-01: What the Exiles Taught Bush

  8. 2003-02: Shinseki Alone

  9. 2003-02: Elie Wiesel: “How can we not intervene?”

  10. 2003-03: President’s Dream: Changing Not Just Regime but a Region

  11. 2003-04: Cheney and Friends Toast the War

  12. 2003-05: Paul Wolfowitz: “Why We Invaded Iraq”

  13. 2006: Woodward on JCS Council of Colonels review

  14. 2006-10: Schroeder: “The Bright Promise of Accepting Failure in Iraq”

  15. 2008-02: Michael Scheuer: Lessons Learned from Iraq

  16. 2008-03: Stephen Walt: Five Years and Counting

  17. 2008-04: LTG Wm. E. Odom: Senate Foreign Relations Comm. Testimony

Note: Further entries may be added in the future,
so the roman numerals may change.

Why Bush I did not depose Saddam

Strangely, even to this day (early 2007 as this is written)
some people express uncertainty as to why the first Bush administration
did not oust Saddam Hussein from power in 1991.
James A. Baker III, who was Secretary of State at the time and,
with Brent Scowcroft,
one of President George H. W. Bush’s closest personal friends
and strategic and diplomatic advisers,
has written what must be a definitive account
of the reasons for not ousting Saddam
in his 1995 account of his experience as secretary of state,
The Politics of Diplomacy.
What follows is Baker’s account, excerpted from pages 436–438 of his book.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis have been added by the current author.

Chapter 24
Saddam Stays in Power

Section 24.2
The Marching-to-Baghdad Canard

To this day [writing in 1995], controversy endures over
whether coalition forces should have continued their offensive
all the way to Baghdad and toppled Saddam’s regime.
I believe this idea is as nonsensical now as it was then,
and not merely for the narrow legalistic reason that
the U.N. resolutions did not authorize coalition forces
to undertake anything beyond the liberation of Kuwait.
The entire truth embodies
strategic, pragmatic, diplomatic, and political aspects
that prompted the President’s decision not to go to Baghdad—
an absolutely correct judgment on which there was virtually no debate.

Strategically, the real objective was
to eject Iraq from Kuwait in a manner which would
destroy Saddam’s offensive military capabilities and
make his fall from power likely.
By the time the cease-fire was announced on 1991-02-28,
the vast bulk of Iraq’s military machine,
including most of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs,
was destroyed.
Our core political and war aims having been achieved,
there was literally no reason to contemplate sending our forces further north.

We believed, moreover, that
marching on Baghdad was ridiculous from a practical standpoint.
At the very least, it would make a nationalist hero out of Saddam.
a coalition war to liberate Kuwait from a universally condemned invasion
could have been portrayed as a U.S. war of conquest.
In addition, even with our massive military superiority,
the odds of finding Saddam were quite improbable.
Even in Panama, a nation friendly to the United States,
where American troops have been stationed for most of this century,
it took U.S. invasion forces fifteen days
to find and capture General Manuel Noriega in 1989.
Unlike Panama, however,
where a democratically elected government was available to assume power,
there wasn’t even an organized opposition to Saddam.
More to the point,
Iraqi soldiers and civilians
could be expected to resist an enemy seizure of their country
with a ferocity not previously demonstrated on the battlefield of Kuwait.
Even if Saddam were captured and his regime toppled,
American forces would still be confronted with
the specter of a military occupation of indefinite duration
to pacify the country and sustain a new government in power.
The ensuring urban warfare
would surely result in more casualties to American GIs
than the war itself,

thus creating
a political firestorm at home,
criticism from many of our allies, and
the dissolution of the coalition.

Ironically, while Saddam was wrong in thinking
that America’s Vietnam and Lebanon hangovers would save him from a war,
the painful lessons learned by U.S. policy makers from those conflicts
may have actually saved Saddam himself from capture.

pressing on to Baghdad would have caused not just a rift
but an earthquake within the coalition.
As a matter of fact, had we opted for this approach,
we never would have been in a position to create a meaningful peace process
because we would have lost the Arab members of the coalition.
Furthermore, as much as Saddam’s neighbors wanted to see him gone,
they feared that
Iraq might fragment in unpredictable ways
that would play into the hands of the mullahs in Iran,
who could export their brand of Islamic fundamentalism
with the help of Iraq’s Shiites
and quickly transform themselves into the dominant regional power.

This was also a genuine concern of the Bush administration
and many of our allies as well.
Just as
fears of Iranian expansionism helped shape U.S. prewar policy toward Iraq,
this same phobia was a significant factor in our postwar decision making.

the success of the war was a powerful tonic for the American psyche.
In six short weeks,
the bitter legacy of Vietnam had been swept away by Desert Storm.
Euphoria permeated the country to a degree not seen since World War II.
Little wonder that the operative impulse,
from the President to the ordinary citizen in the street,
was a hearty “bring the boys home.”

There was no sentiment at senior levels of the U.S. government
for occupying even part of Iraq.
In addition, our military was adamantly opposed.
Prince Bandar had told me on 1991-02-27
that it was important to the Arab world
that the pullout occur quickly and in a visible way.
At the end of the war,
coalition forces controlled a huge swath of territory in southern Iraq,
roughly everything south and east of As-Samawah below the Euphrates River
almost to Basra.
This area was littered with mines and unexploded munitions,
and Schwarzkopf was worried about losing men needlessly.
When I met with him in Riyadh in March,
he said that no military purpose was served by occupying any territory.
“My men are living in foxholes.
They are in the middle of nowhere.
There is no enemy—we beat the enemy.
But it is a very dangerous area, full of land mines and cluster bombs.
It’s time to go,”
he insisted.
I told him President Bush had told me
he wanted to see our forces out as soon as possible.

[End of excerpt from James A. Baker’s The Politics of Diplomacy.]

Richard Cheney, Bush-41’s secretary of defense,
in 1994 gave a C-SPAN interview which echoed those views.
See the 1:30 minute interview here.

Bush, the Neocons, and “A Clean Break”

[The following is from pages 260–265 of James Bamford’s
A Pretext for War.]

[On 2001-01-30, ten days after his inauguration,] shortly after 1530,
the Bush national security team assembled around the polished wooden conference table of the Situation Room, down the stairs from the Oval Office.
As the ten brown leather chairs around the table filled,
place cards identified each of the players.
On one side of Bush, who occupied the seat at the head of the table,
was Vice President Dick Cheney,
and on the other side sat Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Opposite the President at the other end,
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice acted as stage manager.
“Condi will run these meetings,” said Bush.
“I’ll be seeing all of you regularly,
but I want you to debate things out here and then Condi will report to me.”

Then Bush addressed the sole items on the agenda
for his first high-level national security meeting.
The topics were not terrorism—
a subject he barely mentioned during the campaign—
or nervousness over China or Russia,
but Israel and Iraq.
From the very first moment,
the Bush foreign policy would focus on three key objectives:
  • get rid of Saddam Hussein,

  • end American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and

  • rearrange the dominoes in the Middle East.
A key to the policy shift would be the concept of “preemption.”

The blueprint for the new Bush policy
had actually been drawn up five years earlier
by three of his top national security advisors.
Soon to be appointed to senior administration positions,
they were Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser.
Ironically, the plan was originally intended not for Bush
but for another world leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the time, the three officials were out of government
and working for conservative pro-Israeli think tanks.
Perle and Feith had previously served in high-level Pentagon positions
during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
In a very unusual move, the former—and future—senior American officials
were acting as a sort of American privy council to the new Israeli prime minister.
The Perle task force to advise Netanyahu was set up by
the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies [cf.],
where Wurmser was working.

A key part of the plan was to get the United States to
pull out of peace negotiations and
simply let Israel take care of the Palestinians as it saw fit.
“Israel,” said the report, “can manage its own affairs.
Such self-reliance will
grant Israel greater freedom of action and
remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the past.”

But the centerpiece of their recommendations was
the removal of Saddam Hussein
as the first step in remaking the Middle East
into a region friendly, instead of hostile, to Israel.
Their plan, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,”
also signaled a radical departure from
the peace-oriented policies of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,
who was assassinated by a member of an extreme right-wing Israeli group.

As part of their “grand strategy,” they recommended that
once Iraq was conquered and Saddam Hussein overthrown,
he should be replaced by a puppet leader friendly to Israel
[hello, Ahmed Chalabi].
“Whoever inherits Iraq,” they wrote,
“dominates the entire Levant strategically.”
[This sentence is actually not in the 1996-06 Clean Break report,
but is in a 1996-12 IASPS report.
Both reports are listed in the IASPS series index
(which gives the authors as, respectively, Richard Perle and David Wurmser).]

Then they suggested that Syria would be the next county to be invaded.
“Israel can shape its strategic environment,” they said.

This would be done, they recommended to Netanyahu,
“by reestablishing the principle of preemption” and
by “rolling back” its Arab neighbors.
From then on, the principle would be to strike first and expand,
a dangerous and provocative change in philosophy.
They recommended launching
a major unprovoked regional war in the Middle East,
attacking Lebanon and Syria and ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Then, to gain the support of the American government and public,
a phony pretext would be used as the reason for the original invasion.

The recommendation of Feith, Perle, and Wurmser was
for Israel to once again invade Lebanon with air strikes [?].
But this time,
to counter potentially hostile reactions from the American government and public,
they suggested using a pretext.
They would claim that the purpose of the invasion was
to halt “Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure” located there.
They were subjects in which Israel had virtually no interest,
but they were ones, they said “with which America can sympathize.”

Another way to win American support for a preemptive war against Syria,
they suggested,
was by “drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program.”
The claim would be that Israel’s war was really all about
protecting Americans from drugs, counterfeit bills, and WMD—
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

It was rather extraordinary
for a trio of former, and potentially future,
high-ranking American government officials
to become advisors to a foreign government.
More unsettling still was the fact that they were recommending
acts of war in which Americans could be killed, and also
ways to masquerade the true purpose of the attacks from the American public.

Once inside Lebanon, Israel could let loose—
to begin “engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran,
as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.”
Then they would widen the war even further by using proxy forces—
Lebanese militia fighters acting on Israel’s behalf
(as Ariel Sharon had done in the 1980s)—
to invade Syria from Lebanon.
Thus, they noted, they could invade Syria
“by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune
to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.”

As soon as that fighting started, they advised,
Israel could begin “striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon,
and should that prove insufficient,
striking at select targets in Syria proper [emphasis in original].”

The Perle task force
even supplied Netanyahu with some text for a television address,
using the suggested pretext to justify the war.
Years later,
it would closely resemble speeches to justify their own Middle East war;
Iraq would simply replace Syria and the United States would replace Israel:
Negotiations with repressive regimes like Syria’s require cautious realism.
One cannot sensibly assume the other side’s good faith.
It is dangerous for Israel to deal naively with a regime
murderous of its own people,
openly aggressive toward its neighbors,
criminally involved with international drug traffickers and counterfeiters, and
supportive of the most deadly terrorist organizations.

The task force then suggested that
Israel open a second front in its expanding war,
with a “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq—
an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right—
as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambiotions.”

For years the killing of Saddam Hussein
had been among the highest, and most secret,
priorities of the Israeli government.
In one stroke it would pay Saddam Hussein back
for launching Scud missiles against Israel, killing several people,
during the Gulf War.
Redrawing the map of the Middle East would also help isolate Syria,
Iraq’s ally and Israel’s archenemy along its northern border.
Now Perle, Feith, and Wurmser were suggesting something far more daring—
not just an assassination but a bloody war
that would get rid of Saddam Hussein
and also change the face of Syria and Lebanon.
Perle felt their “Clean Break” recommendations were so important
that he personally hand-carried the report to Netanyahu.

Wisely, Netanyahu rejected the task force’s plan.
But now, with the election of a receptive George W. Bush,
they dusted off their preemptive war strategy
and began getting ready to put it to use.

“A Clean Break”

A search on the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies web site
for the phrase “clean break” (but without the quotation marks) finds,
not the “Clean Break” report, surprisingly,
(but one can find it, in the series of which it was the first, here)
but two brief notes correcting errors
in two columns by Arnaud de Borchgrave
in which “A Clean Break” was discussed:
2004-03-05, Zionism and Anti-Semitism and
2004-09-22, U.S., Israel — All in the Family.
These notes make some effort to clarify the authorship of “A Clean Break,”
and suggest that de Borchgrave, and probably Bamford as well,
have have in some ways misread the text of “A Clean Break”.
But if they have misread the text, they have much company.

Project for the New American Century

Willism Kristol’s Project for the New American Century
has written several letters and statements,
attempting to influence American foreign policy.
They seem to have been highly successful,
considering how closely American foreign policy models
that desired by the PNAC.
In particular, three letters called for
a policy towards Iraq and the Mideast
quite close to what has been implemented:
  1. 1998-01-26-PNAC:
    Letter to President Clinton on Iraq

  2. 2001-09-20-PNAC:
    Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism

  3. 2002-04-03-PNAC:
    Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat, and the War on Terrorism

Then there is a possible obituary for PNAC:


1998-01-26 Letter to President Clinton on Iraq
[An excerpt from the letter, with emphasis added:]

We are writing you because we are convinced that
current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding,
and that
we may soon face a threat in the Middle East
more serious than any we have known
since the end of the Cold War.
We urge you ... to enunciate a new strategy
that would secure the interests
of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world.
That strategy should aim, above all,
at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.
We stand ready to offer our full support
in this difficult but necessary endeavor.


The only acceptable strategy is one that
eliminates the possibility that
Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use
weapons of mass destruction.
In the near term, this means
a willingness to undertake military action
as diplomacy is clearly failing.
In the long term, it means
removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to
articulate this aim, and to
turn your Administration’s attention to
implementing a strategy for
removing Saddam's regime from power.
American policy cannot continue to be
crippled by a misguided insistence
on unanimity in the UN Security Council.


2001-09-20 Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism
[My comments on this letter:]

Writing nine days after 9/11,
Kristol’s PNAC began executing the same task that
his Weekly Standard was also executing—
“to divert America’s wrath
away from those who perpetrated the attack
turn it against those who did not,”
as Scott McConnell put it (but the emphasis is added).

To that end,
the PNAC letter contains five paragraphs with boldface headings.
Here are those headings,
with my comments on the contents of each paragraph:
  1. Osama bin Laden
    They devote only two sentences to the instigator of 9/11.

  2. Iraq
    Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
    But that doesn’t matter to the PNAC.
    They write:
    “[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly
    to the [9/11] attack,
    any strategy aiming at
    the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors
    must include a determined effort
    to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”

  3. Hezbollah
    Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11.
    That notwithstanding,
    in an attempt to tie Hezbollah to anti-American terrorism,
    the PNAC asserts that
    “[Hezbollah] is suspected of having been involved in the
    1998 bombings of the American embassies in Africa, and
    implicated in the
    bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.”

    This seems to be an attempt to confuse and mislead the reader:
    • As to the 1998 embassy bombings,
      Al Qaeda explicitly claimed responsibility for those.
      As well,
      Michael Scheuer, in describing these bombings,
      assigns responsibility to al Qaeda,
      and never mentions Hezbollah.

    • As to the issue of Hezbollah’s involvement with the
      1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut,
      that was clearly a reaction to
      American military involvement in Lebanon’s affairs
      (cf. Scheuer’s description of Hezbollah’s rationale).

    • As to the general issue of ties between
      • al Qaeda,

      • Hezbollah, and

      • “state sponsors of terrorism,”
      see these remarks by Scheuer.

  4. Israel and the Palestinian Authority
    Israel certainly was instrumental in 9/11,
    but Kristol and the PNAC won’t touch that
    very real link of Israel to 9/11 with a ten-foot pole;
    rather they just make their usual argument that
    the U.S. must stand by and with Israel
    and against the terrorists,
    while ignoring the extent to which Israel’s West Bank policies
    are the cause of the terrorism problem.

  5. U.S. Defense Budget
    They argue for an increase.
    Who, in that time frame, didn’t?
In sum,
three of their five highlighted issues, as they framed them,
had nothing to do with 9/11.
Nonetheless, they used 9/11 as an excuse
to argue for the policies that they already had been advocating.
Effectively, they hijacked America’s natural reactions to 9/11,
of anger and the desire for vengeance,
to their own ends.


2002-04-03 Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat, and the War on Terrorism
[My comments on this letter:]

This letter really deserves to be read in its entirety.
It so clearly states what America’s policies actually are,
for better or for worse.
If anyone wonders where America’s policies come from,
note how closely they follow the positions of this advocacy group.
(In a future post, I will speculate on
what the mechanism is that causes that agreement.)

Here are some excerpts from the letter,
with my comments added:

[W]e want to commend you for your strong stance
in support of the Israeli government
as it engages in the present campaign to fight terrorism.
As a liberal democracy under repeated attack
by murderers who target civilians,
Israel now needs and deserves steadfast support.
This support, moreover, is essential to Israel’s continued survival
as a free and democratic nation,
for only the United States has the power and influence
to provide meaningful assistance to our besieged ally.
[They completely ignore the fact that
a (possibly the) principal cause of terrorism against Israel is
Israel’s illegal, immoral, and unjustified (other than by the Torah)
occupation of the West Bank.
Returning to the 1949 borders would hardly harm
Israel’s status as “a free and democratic nation,”
but would materially reduce the terrorism against it.
Remember, the Intifadas only started
twenty years after Israel’s 1967 seizure of the West Bank
and after its subsequent settlement policies.]

No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy.
[That is only because of the misguided support
the United States gives to Israel’s misguided policies.]

Israel is targeted
in part because it is our friend, and
in part because it is an island of liberal, democratic principles -- American principles -- in a sea of tyranny, intolerance, and hatred.
[Again, absolute and willful deceit on why Israel is targeted.
Does anyone wonder what the true source is for
the lies that the Bush administration has been accused of telling?]


It is true that the United States has a leading role to play
in the Middle East and, potentially,
in resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
But it is critical that negotiations
not be the product of terrorism or
conducted under the threat of terrorist attack.

  1. Israel has, historically,
    been willing and able to provoke a “terrorist attack,”
    simply to obtain an excuse
    so that Israel can do what it already wanted to do.

  2. In real negotiations,
    each side must come to the table
    with something that the other wants.
    If the Palestinians give up even the threat of terrorism,
    than what bargaining chip
    do the Palestinians have to offer the Israelis?
    Without that,
    the meetings would not be negotiations,
    but simply Israel dictating terms.

‘New American Century’ Project Ends With a Whimper
by Jim Lobe

Bletchley II

[The following is from pages 85–87 of Bob Woodward’s
State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III.]

Well into the Afghanistan bombing campaign,
Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense,
called an old friend, Christopher DeMuth,
the longtime president of the American Enterprise Institute,
the conservative [actually, neoconservative] Washington think tank.
Just before coming to the Pentagon,
Wolfowitz had been the dean of
the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
at Johns Hopkins University in Washington,
known as SAIS.
AEI and SAIS, just blocks from each other,
were the forum for lots of intellectual cross-pollination.

The U.S. government, especially the Pentagon,
is incapable of producing the kinds of ideas and strategy
needed to deal with a crisis of the magnitude of 9/11,
Wolfowitz told DeMuth.
He needed to reach outside to tackle the biggest questions.
  • Who are the terrorists?

  • Where did this come from?

  • How does it relate to Islamic history, the history of the Middle East,
    and contemporary Middle East tensions?

  • What are we up against here?

Wolfowitz said he was thinking along the lines of Bletchley Park,
the team of mathematicians and cryptologists
the British set up during World War II
to break the Ultra German communications code.
Could DeMuth quickly put together a skilled group to produce a report
for the president, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and Tenet?

Asking a think tank
if it would be willing to strategize for the top policy-makers in a time of extraordinary crisis
was like asking General Motors
if they would be willing to sell a million more cars.
a smooth, debonair lawyer trained at the University of Chicago Law School
and expert on government regulation,
readily agreed.
AEI was practically the intellectual farm team and retirement home
for Washington conservatives [who follow the Zionist line].
Among its scholars and fellows were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
and Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president.
Cheney himself had been an AEI fellow
between his stints as secretary of defense
and president and CEO of the giant defense contractor Halliburton.

DeMuth recruited a dozen people.
He later said they agreed to serve only
“if I promised it would all be kept secret.”

[How stereotypical.]

Included in the group were
  • Bernard Lewis, a Cheney favorite and a scholar of Islam
    who had written extensively on Middle Eastern tensions with the West;

  • Mark Palmer, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary
    who specialized in dictatorships;

  • Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and a Newsweek columnist;

  • Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at SAIS;

  • James Q. Wilson, a professor and specialist in human morality and crime; and

  • Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East expert.

Rumsfeld assigned his consultant and general fix-it man, Steve Herbits,
to participate.
Herbits, who had devised the original idea and encouraged Wolfowitz to push it, called the group “Bletchley II.”
[Considering that, in the eyes of many,
the actions of Herbits serve the interests of Israel
more than those of the United States,
should not Woodward have pointed out that Herbits has served as
secretary-general of the powerful World Jewish Congress?]

On Thursday night, 2001-11-29,
DeMuth assembled the group at a secure conference center in Virginia
for a weekend of discussion.
They passed around some of the participants’ various writings.
DeMuth was surprised at the consensus among his group.
[Why? Weren’t they chosen for consensus?]
He stayed up date Sunday night distilling their thoughts into a seven-page, single-spaced document, called “Delta of Terrorism.”
“Delta” was used in the sense of the mouth of a river
from which everything flowed.
[Strange. A river flows into its delta, not out of it.]
In an interview, DeMuth declined to provide a copy of “Delta of Terrorism,”
but he agreed to describe its conclusions.

“What we saw on 9/11
and the less dramatic attacks of the ’90s like the USS Cole”
—which killed 17 Navy sailors—
“manifest that a war was going on within Islam—across the region.
It was a deep problem and
9/11 was not an isolated action that called for policing and crime fighting.”

It was a different kind of terrorism than the 1970s version,
with locally disaffected groups like the Red Brigades in Italy.
Overall, the report concluded,
the United States was likely in for a two-generation battle with radical Islam.

“The general analysis was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia,
where most of the hijackers came from,
were the key, but the problems there are intractable.
Iran is more important,
where they were confident and successful in setting up a radical government.”
But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with, he said.

But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable.
DeMuth said they had concluded that
Baathism is an Arab form of fascism transplanted to Iraq.”
[This is a controversial opinion.
Note, for example, that the word “fascism”
does not even appear in the Wikipedia article (as of 2007-01-02)
on the Baath Party.]

The Baath Party, controlled by Saddam Hussein, had ruled Iraq since 1968.

“We concluded that a confrontation with Saddam was inevitable.
He was a gathering threat—the most menacing, active and unavoidable threat.
We agreed that Saddam would have to leave the scene
before the problem would be addressed.”
That was the only way to transform the region.

Copies of the memo, straight from the neoconservative playbook
were hand-delivered to the war cabinet members.
In at least some cases, it was given a Secret classification.
Cheney was pleased with the memo,
and it had a strong impact on President Bush,
causing him to focus on the “malignancy” of the Middle East.
Rice found it “very, very persuasive.”

Rumsfeld later said he remembered the general plan
but didn’t recall the details of the memo.
His design, he said,
was to “bring together some very fine minds on a confidential basis
and provide intellectual content” for the post-9/11 era.

Herbits was very happy with the way Bletchley II had worked out,
although Rumsfeld decided not to make the group permanent.
Summarizing their conclusions, Herbits said,
“We’re facing a two-generation war.
And start with Iraq.”

2002: Schroeder: The Case Against Preemptive War

Iraq: The Case Against Preemptive War
The administration’s claim of a right to overthrow regimes it considers hostile
is extraordinary – and one the world will soon find intolerable.

by Paul W. Schroeder
The American Conservative, 2002-10-21

[This is an outstanding, but not well-known, article.
Here is the introduction and conclusion of the 8700-word article;
paragraph numbers and emphasis are added;
section headings are shown even for sections that are omitted.]

Most Americans seem little concerned [as of late 2002]
at the prospect of an American war on Iraq.
This is surprising considering that, of America’s friends and allies,
only Israel openly supports it,
while other states in the Middle East,
including longtime rivals and enemies of Iraq,
warn against it,
and the Europeans view it with alarm and growing frustration.
Those challenges to the planned war now being raised, moreover,
tend to center on prudential questions –
whether the proposed attack will work and
what short-term risks and collateral damage might be involved –
rather than on whether the war itself is a good idea.

The practical risks are indeed serious.
The attack would entail a new military campaign
while the so-called war against al-Qaeda and terrorism is far from over,
involving many thousands of American troops in ground fighting
with corresponding casualties,
fought with few allies or none and
paid for entirely by the United States in troubled economic times.
Across the Muslim world hostility toward America is already inflamed,
and radical Islamic movements are active.
The global economy – particularly the oil and stock markets –
is vulnerable to shock.
Such a war would also come at a time when
America’s alliances in Europe and the Middle East are strained,
certain fragile Middle Eastern and South Asian regimes are at risk,
and other international dangers
(tensions between
India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, and China and Taiwan,
and economic crisis in Latin America, to name a few)
are looming.

If the war succeeds in toppling Hussein,
the United States will be saddled with the new responsibilities of
occupying, administering, rebuilding, democratizing, and stabilizing Iraq
(beyond its existing responsibilities in Afghanistan),

tasks of unreckoned costs and manifold difficulties
for which neither the American public nor the administration
have demonstrated much understanding, skill, or stomach.

In the light of all this,
the enterprise merely on practical grounds looks remarkably rash.

Yet even these grave considerations should not take priority
over questions of principle:
Do we have a right to wage preemptive war against Iraq to overthrow its regime?
Would this be a necessary and just war?
What long-range effects would it have on the international system?
If the answers to these questions make this truly a necessary and just war,
Americans ought to be willing to make sacrifices and undergo risks for it.

On these critical issues the administration has so far won by default.
The assumption that a war to overthrow Hussein would be a just war
and one that, if it succeeded without excessive negative side effects,
would serve everyone’s interests
has gone largely unchallenged, at least in the mainstream.
The administration’s justification for preemptive war is the traditional one:
that the dangers and costs of inaction far outweigh those of acting now.
Saddam Hussein, an evil despot, a serial aggressor,
an implacable enemy of the United States, and a direct menace to his neighbors
must be deposed before he acquires weapons of mass destruction
that he might use or let others use against Americans or its allies and friends.
A few thousand Americans died in the last terrorist attack;
many millions could die in the next one.
Time is against us; once Hussein acquires such weapons,
he cannot be overthrown without enormous losses and dangers.
Persuasion, negotiation, and conciliation are worse than useless with him.
Sanctions and coercive diplomacy have failed.
Conventional deterrence is equally unreliable.
Preemptive action to remove him from power is the only effective remedy
and will promote durable peace in the region.

This essay proposes to confront this case for preemptive war on Iraq head on.
My argument stresses principles and long-term structural effects
rather than prudence and short-term results.
It rests not on
judgments and predictions about future military and political developments,
which I am not qualified to make,
but on a perspective missing from the current discussion, derived from history,
especially the history of European and world politics over the last four centuries.
Rather than criticizing the proposed preemptive war on prudential grounds,
it opposes the idea itself,
contending that an American campaign to overthrow Hussein by armed force
would be an unjust, aggressive, imperialist war
which even if it succeeded
(indeed, perhaps especially if it succeeded),
would have negative, potentially disastrous effects on
our alliances and friendships,
American leadership in the world,
the existing international system, and
the prospects for general peace, order, and stability.
In other words,
a preemptive war on Iraq would be not merely foolish and dangerous,
but wrong.

This essay attempts to build a case against the war on systemic grounds;
it cannot for reasons of space
hope to treat all-important aspects of that systemic case
or answer all possible questions and challenges.
It talks about
the damage a preemptive war would do to the existing international system,
but not about
the equally important impacts it could have in terms of side effects
on nascent changes in the international system
needed to meet new problems already looming on the horizon.
It draws on international history in regard to preemptive wars,
but will not take up
a legitimate though tricky question of counterfactual history, i.e.,
whether certain preemptive wars, had they been waged in the past,
might have averted disasters as the advocates of such a war against Iraq
claim a war will do now. (1)
While examining the official case for a war on Iraq,
it will not take up, except in passing fashion in the last footnote,
what is possibly the unacknowledged real reason and motive behind the policy –
security for Israel.

Even with these limits, this is a tall order for a short essay;
the argument must be highly compressed and asserted
rather than demonstrated here.
But it can be condensed into four fairly simple propositions:
that a preemptive war on Iraq would be
  1. Illegitimate,
    because it cannot be justified
    on any of the grounds by which preemptive wars are and should be judged
    and would represent and promote dangerous, lawless international behavior;

  2. Incompatible with the purpose, spirit, and aims
    of the worldwide military and political alliances which the United States leads,
    and therefore harmful both to these alliances and to American leadership;

  3. Incompatible also with the two central principles by which
    the international system has evolved over centuries, namely,
    the right of all states to be recognized and treated as independent, and
    the simultaneous and corresponding need and requirement for states
    to become part of associations for common purposes and to follow the rules;

  4. Unnecessary, unhelpful, and utopian (better, dystopian)
    because some of the goals
    the administration proposes to achieve by preemptive war
    are impossible to achieve by any means, and
    because the essential, legitimate American aims
    and the requirements of the international community vis-à-vis Iraq
    can be better realized by other means.

  1. Why Preemptive Wars Are Rarely Justified,
    And This One Cannot Be

  2. Why a Preemptive War
    Would Undermine Our Alliances and World Leadership

  3. Why This Preemptive War
    Would Attack the Foundations of the International System –
    and Why We Should Care

  4. Why A Preemptive War On Iraq
    Is Unnecessary And Unhelpful For Security

[In conclusion],
a preemptive war against Iraq would be unnecessary as well as wrong,
and would serve no useful purpose [4]
while doing us, the Iraqi people, the world, and the international system
great harm.
When the great American historian Charles A. Beard
was asked at the end of his career
what was the most important thing he had learned from history, he replied,
“That the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small,
and that chickens always come home to roost.”
He was an agnostic, and so presumably meant only that
this was the way history ultimately worked out,
and that
long-range systemic consequences were the most important.
He was right.
If we carry out what we are now planning, then
regardless of any short-term success we may have,
our chickens will ultimately come home to roost.

Footnote 4 — The Israeli Rationale
There is one possible (in my view, likely) motive for the planned war
that I will mention only in this footnote, not because it is unimportant
but because it involves too many delicate issues to be discussed adequately here.
Some have ascribed President Bush’s determination to oust Saddam Hussein
to certain personal or domestic political aims,
among them his desire both to emulate his father
and to surpass him while avoiding his mistakes,
especially the alleged mistake of
failing to finish the job of destroying Hussein’s regime in 1991 [cf.].
Without claiming any privileged sources of information,
I doubt that these are more than contributing factors.
Much more plausible is the suggestion that
this plan is being promoted in the interests of Israel.
Certainly it is being pushed very hard
by a number of influential supporters of Israel
of the hawkish neoconservative stripe
in and outside the administration
(Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and others),
and one could easily make the case that
a successful preventive war on Iraq
would promote particular Israeli security interests
more than general American ones.

If this is an important factor, then I would make just two comments.
it would represent something to my knowledge unique in history.
It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy,
getting smaller powers to fight for their interests.
This would be the first instance I know
where a great power (in fact, a superpower)
would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state.

Second, while Israel’s survival and security
certainly represent a vital interest for the United States,
the Middle East, and the world,
I am convinced that a preemptive war on Iraq
would be as counterproductive in the long run
as the Israeli occupation of Lebanon engineered by Ariel Sharon
or the current Sharon/Likud efforts
to destroy Palestinian resistance and terrorism
and abort any independent Palestinian state
by sheer military force.
There are better ways for America to insure Israel’s survival,
including, for example,
a full, formal military alliance and territorial guarantee.
But that is a separate though closely related topic
too vast and complex to open here.

Foreign Affairs Prewar Iraq Coverage

Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations,
is considered by many to be the voice of the mainstream
American academic/political/corporate establishment
when it comes to its title topic.
When one point of view is emphasized, and others are omitted, that is significant.

Consider then the pre-Iraq-war issue that focused on the coming conflict:
the January/February 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs,
its masthead showing James F. Hoge Jr. as Editor and
Gideon Rose as Managing Editor.
This issue contained a three article package titled unsubtly titled
“Middle East Countdown.”
(“Countdown to what?”, someone playing dumb might have asked.)

Here are links and summaries to two of the three articles in that package.

Iraq and the Arabs’ Future
by Fouad Ajami
Foreign Affairs, 2003-01-02

The driving motivation behind a new U.S. endeavor in Iraq
should be modernizing the Arab world.
Most Arabs will see such an expedition as an imperial reach into their world.
But in this case a reforming foreign power’s guidelines offer a better way
than the region’s age-old prohibitions, defects, and phobias.
No apologies ought to be made for America’s “unilateralism.”

Fouad Ajami is
Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the
School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

[The first two paragraphs of the article:]


There should be no illusions about
the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find
if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime.
There would be no “hearts and minds” to be won in the Arab world,
no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs
that this war would be a just war.
An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections
would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as
an imperial reach into their world,
a favor to Israel, or
a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq’s oil.
No hearing would be given to the great foreign power.

America ought to be able to live with this distrust and
discount a good deal of this anti-Americanism as
the “road rage” of a thwarted Arab world --
the congenital condition of a culture
yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds.
There is no need to pay excessive deference
to the political pieties and givens of the region.
Indeed, this is one of those settings
where a reforming foreign power’s simpler guidelines
offer a better way than the region’s age-old prohibitions and defects.

Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy
by Michael Scott Doran
Foreign Affairs, 2003-01/02

Many critics argue that the Bush administration
should put off a showdown with Saddam Hussein and focus instead
on achieving a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But they fail to understand that
although Palestine is central to the symbolism of Arab politics,
it is actually marginal to its substance.

Now, as in 1991,
if a road to a calmer situation in Palestine does in fact exist,
it runs through Baghdad.

Michael Scott Doran is
Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and
Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

[Those, primarily the deluded Democrats,
who argue that our tragically misguided war with Iraq
is entirely the fault of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld
might want to reflect on why the editors of Foreign Affairs
chose to run this equally misguided article
as part of its “Middle East Countdown” package
in the crucial January/February 2003 Foreign Affairs.]

What the Exiles Taught Bush

[Here are some excerpts from George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate.

The most significant excerpt is a description of a meeting between
top administration officials (Bush, Cheney, and Rice) and some Iraqi exiles,
but a little background on the key exile, Kanan Makiya,
precedes the description of the meeting.]

[pages 68–69]

[S]omewhere in the cortex of Kanan Makiya—not deeply buried, either—
was the name of Leon Trotsky, and alongside it
the Trotskyite idea of an intellectual vanguard leading from the front,
forcing history to move in the desired direction.
Makiya left Baghdad in 1967
to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
and in the summer after his freshman year
the most extreme faction of the Arab Arab Baath Socialist Party ...
came to power in a coup...
[F]or thirty-five years ... Makiya never returned to his native country.

He joined left-wing exile politics
at the most quixotic point along the spectrum—
as a revolutionary socialist from the Middle East.
The Six-Day War [in 1967] and the Palestinian cause galvanized him,
as it did a whole generation of young Arabs,
and for a time Makiya was a member of the PDFLP.
But according to his and his comrades’ Marxist analysis,
the conflict was in essence a class struggle.
the workers in Israeli factories and kibbutzim
would join hands with the oppressed Arab masses [!!!]
to throw off the yokes of imperialism, feudalism, and capitalism.
In Middle Eastern politics this was something of a minority view,
and it meant that Makiya pursued a tributary separate from
the great wave of Arab nationalism that surged in the 1960s.
(As for political Islam, the wave that came next
when the nationalist regimes showed themselves to be impotent and corrupt,
it had no appeal whatsoever for the resolutely secular and atheist Makiya.)

[A]t some point [during the 1970s and 80s] Makiya’s thinking changed.

“I could no longer blame it on the United States,” he said.
“[I]t was this sense that the malaise was principally in my world,
and not principally in the United States,
that was the seismic shift in my politics.”

Makiya became a liberal.

[page 74]

The arc of history had taken Makiya from radical leftist politics to liberalism,
to a belief that human rights, not nationalism or socialism,
was the supreme cause and, in his home region, the truly revolutionary one.
By political affiliation,
he identified with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
But as an Iraqi living at the start of the twenty-first century,
his cause made him the ally of American neoconservatives.

In the later months of 2002, he made frequent trips to Washington,
where he met with Paul Wolfowitz and other civilians at the Pentagon,
and then the hawkish top officials of the vice president’s staff,
and then Cheney himself and Condoleezza Rice.
In these meetings, Makiya and the American officials were courting each other
and sussing [??] each other out.
The Americans wanted the imprimatur of Iraq’s leading intellectual on their war,
and they wanted to know
what Makiya thought American soldiers would find in Iraq.

[pages 96–98]

[Note: The meeting described below was described directly by Makiya here,
including Makiya’s remarkable assertion that the American forces
“will be greeted with sweets and flowers”.]

The movement toward war kept rolling forward,
with or without democratic principles.
Makiya had antagonized a sizable part of the Iraqi opposition,
but he still had strong backers in Washington.
On 2003-01-10, Makiya, Rend Rahim,
and a doctor from a prominent Sunni family in Tikrit named Hatem Mukhlis
[for information on Rahim and Makiya together, click here]
were ushered into the Oval Office for a meeting with
the president, Cheney, Rice, and [Zalmay] Khalilzad.
Bush asked them for their personal stories
but the exiles also spent a good portion of the time explaining to Bush
that there were two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shia.
The very notion of an Iraqi opposition appeared to be new to him.
Bush struck Mukhlis as unfocused on the key policy questions of
the future of the Iraqi army, debaathification, and an interim government.
“But we saw in his eyes that we were going to war.”
Cheney kept his thoughts to himself, he seemed on edge.
It was clear that the administration still hadn’t settled on a postwar plan.

[Page 111 adds the following:]
At his meeting with the Iraqi exiles in early January,
when the problems of postwar Iraq came up,
Bush turned to Rice and said,
“A humanitarian army is going to follow our army into Iraq, right?”
Right, Rice affirmed, but she glanced down in a way that suggested
she knew how inadequate the answer was.

Makiya tried to push one into existence.
With Rahim, he urged the president
to announce a provisional government of Iraqi exiles before the war.
“The Iraqis on the inside have been brainwashed,” he said,
“and a government in exile would be prepared to take over when there’s change.”
Makiya told the president that
his actions would transform the image of America in the Arab world,
war could be a force for progress, for democracy.
“People will greet the troops with sweets and flowers,” he said.

Mukhlis agreed, but he added,
“If you don’t win their hearts at the start, if they don’t get benefits,
after two months you could see Mogadishu in Baghdad.”
Mukhlis gave the president other warnings:
A government of exiles would not be accepted by Iraqis inside the country, and dissolving the Iraqi army
would change the complexion of American forces there,
from the liberators Bush said he intended them to be into occupiers.
Bush asked whether Iraqis hated Israelis, and again Makiya and Mukhlis,
who had been schoolmates at Baghdad’s elite Jesuit high school
in the mid-1960s,
gave contradictory views:
Makiya said that Iraqis were too focused on their own opposition;
Mukhlis insisted that
they were brought up and educated in school to be anti-Zionists.
Makiya and Mukhlis also disagreed about the nature of Iraqi society.
It was still strongly tribal, Mukhlis said;
Makiya argued that over the past fifty or seventy-five years
Iraqis had become engineers, doctors, capable citizens of a modern state.
No one in the room pursued the obvious contradiction between this optimism
and Makiya’s vision of a nation of the brainwashed.

Both Iraqis left the meeting convinced that Bush saw things as they did.
“I thought Bush understood where I was coming from,”
Mukhlis later said.
“At that time I was absolutely certain Iraq was going to be paradise.”

Makiya emerged from the White House and declared himself
“deeply reassured” by the president’s dedication to Iraqi democracy.

Two months later, in mid-March,
Vice President Cheney appeared on Meet the Press
and told the country that
American troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.

“If your analysis is not correct,” Tim Russert pressed him,
“and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors,
and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad,
do you think the American people are prepared for
a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?”

Cheney wasn’t worried.
“Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim,”
the vice president said in his low-key, soothing way,
“because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.
I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself,
had them to the White House.
The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals,
people who have devoted their lives from the outside
to trying to change things inside Iraq.
And like Kanan Makiya, who’s a professor at Brandeis but an Iraqi,
he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately
[the last time Makiya had been in Iraq was 1967],
and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance.
The read we get on the people of Iraq is
there is no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein
they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”

Upon hearing these words, Feisal Istrabadi, the Chicago lawyer,
felt his heart sink.
“I knew nobody who spent four decades in exile
knew what was going on in Iraq.
I didn’t and Kanan didn’t.
The only difference was I was a hell of a lot more cautious.
He always made promises he knew he could not keep.”
Makiya knew that “sweets and flowers” were unlikely to be the response,
Istrabadi said.
“But he also knew Bush didn’t know any better.
He wanted Bush to go in.
We all did.”

Shinseki Alone

[The following is from pages 96–100 of Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.

As background for this debate,
note that the Army War College had published in 1995 a study,
“Force Requirements in Stability Operations” by James Quinlivan,
that was highly relevant,
and of which the Army staff, of which General Shinseki was chief,
would surely have been quite well aware.]

Shinseki breaks ranks
[The Army’s chief of staff,] General Eric K. Shinseki,
was less optimistic
[than Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz].
Worried by the possibility of
“a major influx of Islamic fighters” from elsewhere in the Middle East,

former Army secretary Thomas White said later,
Shinseki concluded that it would be necessary
“to size the postwar force bigger than the wartime force.”

The Army chief of staff prepared carefully
for the Capitol Hill appearance at which he would unveil that thought and
effectively go into public opposition
against the war plan being devised under Rumsfeld’s supervision.
A series of war games over the previous year
had strengthened his sense that
the U.S. military would need a larger force
than Rumsfeld was contemplating.
Shinseki had served in Bosnia,
and thought the U.S. military would need at least
the per capita representation of troops it had deployed there.
In Bosnia, said former defense secretary William Perry,
the Pentagon had used a formula of one soldier for every fifty Bosnians,
which would indicate a force for Iraq of about 300,000,
once the relatively peaceful Kurdish area in the north was subtracted.
“Shinseki knew there would be a tough Phase IV,
and who won that would win the second Gulf War,”
said Johnny Riggs, who is now retired but at the time
was a lieutenant general at the Army’s headquarters.
“He knew, from his experience,
that you need to dominate and control the environment.
If you’re so thin and small that you’re predictable in your movements,
then you are just treating the symptoms.”

Before heading to Capitol Hill on 2003-02-25,
the Army chief asked historians on the Army’s staff
to research the number of peacekeepers used in Germany and Japan after World War II and after other conflicts.
The data came back from the Army’s Center of Military History:
In Iraq
the postwar peacekeeping force should probably number about 260,000,
the researchers told him.
That was the number in the back of his mind
when he went to Capitol Hill and was pinned down on the issue.
“General Shinseki,
could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirement
for an occupation of Iraq
following a successful completion of the war?”
asked Senator Carl Levin,
the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“In specific numbers,
I would have to rely on the combatant commander’s exact requirements,”
Shinseki replied, obeying the military protocol
of deferring to the responsible commander—in this case,
CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks.
“But I think—”

“How about a range?” Levin interrupted.

“I would say that what’s mobilized to this point,
something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers,
are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.”
His reasoning, he added, was that
Iraq was a large country with multiple ethnic tensions,
“so it takes significant ground force presence
to maintain a safe and secure environment
to ensure
that people are fed,
that water is distributed,
all the normal responsibilities that go along with
administering a situation like this.”

Shinseki didn’t know it, but that exchange—
virtually the only discussion of Iraq
in a hearing that focused more on
mundane issues of military force structures and budgets—
would be the most remembered public moment
of his four years as chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
His comments were not greeted warmly
by his civilian overseers at the Pentagon.
White, the Army secretary, recalled being told by Wolfowitz that
Shinseki had been out of line.
“He was not happy that we had taken a position
that was opposed to what his thinking on the subject was.”

Wolfowitz told senior Army officers abound this time that
he thought that within a few months of the invasion
the U.S. troop level in Iraq would be thirty-four thousand,
recalled Riggs, the Army general then at Army headquarters.
[Where did that estimate come from?
What the **** does he know?
His academic credintials have no bearing on this matter.]

Likewise, another three-star general, still on active duty,
remembers being told to plan to have the U.S. occupation force
reduced to thirty thousand troops by August 2003.
An Army briefing a year later also noted that that number was the goal
“by the end of the summer of 2003.”

When Wolfowitz was on the Hill two days later
he slapped down Shinseki’s estimate.
“There has been a good deal of comment—some of it quite outlandish—
about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq,”
he told the House Budget Committee.
“Some of the higher end predictions that we have been hearing recently,
such as the notion that
it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops
to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq,
are wildly off the mark.”
His reasoning, he explained, was that
“it is hard to conceive that
it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq
than it would take to conduct the war itself
and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army—
hard to imagine.”

In an intellectually snide aside, he also said that
“one should at least pay attention to past experience.”
Bosnia, Wolfowitz maintained, wasn’t the proper precedent to study.
“There has been none of the record in Iraq
of ethnic militias fighting one another
that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia,”

he said.
Rather, one should look to the far more benign environment
of Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq.
At any rate, Wolfowitz said,
he had met with Iraqi Americans in Detroit a week earlier.
Based on what he had heard about Iraq from them, he said,
“I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators,

and that will help us keep requirements down.”
So, he concluded,
“we don’t know what the requirements will be.
But we can say with reasonable confidence that
the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.”

In keeping with this extraordinarily optimistic assessment,
Wolfowitz also would assert that same day that
oil exports likely would pay for much of Iraq’s postwar reconstruction.
“It’s got already, I believe,
on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports,
which can finally—might finally be—turned to a good use
instead of building Saddam’s palaces,”
he told the House Budget Committee.
“There is a lot of money there.”
He repeated the point a month later to another congressional committee,
saying that
Iraq “can really finance its own reconstruction.”
As for an administration official who had told the Washington Post that
the war and its aftermath could cost as much as $95 billion,
Wolfowitz said,
“I don’t think he or she knows what he is talking about.”
(By mid 2006, the cost of the war,
counting the expenditures in Iraq of all parts of the federal government,
would be close to triple that.)

The Army wasn’t buying the optimism.
Retired Army Major General William Nash,
who had led the U.S. peacekeeping forces into Bosnia,
forecast that spring that the occupation would take 200,000 troops—
almost exactly the troop total in much of 2004–5,
if to the 150,000 U.S. personnel there are added
20,000 private security contractors and 30,000 allied soldiers.

The debate was far more than a technical squabble about troop numbers.
Andrew Bacevich observed that
Shinseki’s comments amounted to a broad attack
on Wolfowitz’s entire approach to the Middle East.

“Given that the requisite additional troops simply did not exist,
Shinseki was implicitly arguing that
the U.S. armed services were inadequate for the enterprise,”

Bacevich wrote in the American Conservative.
“Further, he was implying that
invasion was likely to produce something other than
a crisp, tidy decision….
‘Liberation’ would leave loose ends.
Unexpected and costly complications would abound.
In effect, Shinseki was offering a last-ditch defense of the military tradition that Wolfowitz was intent on destroying,
a tradition
that saw armies as fragile,
that sought to husband military power, and
that classified force as an option of last resort.
The risks of action, Shinseki was suggesting,
were far, far greater than the advocates for war had let on.”

That subtext about the nature of military force and the wisdom of using it in Iraq
may have been one reason the effects of the exchange between Shinseki and Wolfowitz were so far reaching.
The message the top brass received in return was that
the Bush administration wasn’t interested in hearing about
their worries about Iraq.
“There were concerns both before we crossed the line of departure and after,”
said one four-star general, looking back much later.
“There was a conscious cutting off of advice and concerns,
so that the guy who ultimately had to make the decision, the president,
didn’t get the advice.
Well before the troops crossed the line of departure” —
that is, invaded Iraq on 2003-03-20 —
“concern was raised about what would happen in the postwar period,
how you would deal with this decapitated country.
It was blown off. [By whom?]
Concern about a long-term occupation—that was discounted.
The people around the president were so, frankly, intellectually arrogant,”
this general continued.
“They knew [original emphasis] that postwar Iraq would be easy
and a catalyst for change in the Middle East.
They were making simplistic assumptions and refused to put them to the test.
It’s the vice president, and the secretary of defense,
with the knowledge of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs [Myers]
and the vice chairman.
They did it because they already had the answer,
and they wouldn’t subject their hypothesis to examination.
These are educated men, they are smart men.
But they are not wise men.”

This senior general said he had come to believe that
this disinclination to listen to the doubters
would go on to help create the insurgency.
By refusing to consider worst-case scenarios,
the Pentagon’s civilian leaders didn’t develop answers to questions about how to conduct an occupation or what to do with the Iraqi army if it were dissolved.
“It’s almost as if, unintentionally,
we were working with Zarqawi to create the maximum amount of chaos possible,”
he said, referring to Abu Musab al Zarqawi,
the Jordanian terrorist who operated in Iraq and affiliated himself with al Qaeda.

At the time Pentagon officials [presumably the civilians]
publicly played down Shinseki’s comments,
claiming he had been mousetrapped into making them.
But a month later, when the Army chief was again on Capitol Hill,
he was asked about them again.
Yes, he told the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee,
he stood by his estimate of the occupation force
that could be necessary in postwar Iraq.
“It could be as high as several hundred thousand,” Shinseki said.
“We all hope it is something less.”

Wolfowitz’s slapdown of Shinseki echoed for months across the military,
said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
who as a young man had served in the 82nd Airborne.
“Not only was he honest, but he turned out to be right,”
Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, noted two years later.
“He was treated very poorly.
I think it’s had a chilling effect, very destructive, corrosive.”

Inside the uniformed military, officers kept quiet, at least publicly.
But their private unhappiness ran deep.
A few weeks before the war began,
one civilian deeply involved in Army affairs meditated on this sad situation.
“There is so much disdain in the services right now
for OSD [the Office of the Secretary of Defense]
that it has just been reduced to
‘Fuck you, whatever you want, we don’t.’
If OSD ordered the Navy to build another carrier,
the Navy would say it wanted sail power.”
It was not a healthy situation
for a military establishment to be in on the eve of war.

Elie Wiesel: “How can we not intervene?”

[The following is excerpted
from pages 320–321 of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, published in 2004.
Emphasis and comments are added.]

Elie Wiesel, writer, survivor of Auschwitz and Nobel Peace Prize Winner,
came to see [Condoleezza] Rice on 2003-02-27
[three weeks before the war with Iraq;
for Rice’s earlier, private advice to Bush click here]

and the president dropped by her office.
Rice moved to the couch so the president could take the chair closest to Wiesel.

Wiesel told the president that
Iraq was a terrorist state
and that
the moral imperative was for intervention.
If the West had intervened in Europe in 1938, he said,
World War II and the Holocaust could have been prevented.
“It’s a moral issue.
In the name of morality
how can we not intervene?”


Bush told Wiesel,
“If we don’t disarm Saddam Hussein,
he will put a weapon of mass destruction on Israel
and they will do what they think they have to do,
and we have to avoid that.”
[Israel has made it fairly clear
that any use of WMD against it will bring a nuclear response.]

The prospect of a military exchange between Iraq and Israel would be a disaster,
no doubt foreclosing any possibility
of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states
joining any effort against Saddam.

In the face of such evils, neutrality was impossible, Wiesel said.
Indecision only promoted and assisted the evil and the aggressor,
not the victims.

“I’m against silence.”

In the days after, Bush routinely repeated Wiesel’s comments.
“That was a meaningful moment for me,”
he recalled later,
“because it was a confirming moment.
I said to myself,
Gosh, if Elie Wiesel feels that way,
who knows the pain and suffering and agony of tyranny,
then others feel that way too.
And so
I am not alone.”

A New Mideast --
President’s Dream:
Changing Not Just Regime but a Region ---
A Pro-U.S., Democratic Area Is a Goal
That Has Israeli And Neoconservative Roots ---
Risk of Inflaming Palestinians

By Robert S. Greenberger and Karby Leggett
Wall Street Journal, 2003-03-21 (the first day of the Iraq War)

[This article gives an overview
of the reigning media depiction at the onset of war.
It is also of significance in countering (e.g., paragraphs 13 and 14)
the rewrite of history
attempted by such war advocates as Michael Gerson.

Paragraph numbers and emphasis have been added.]

As he sends American troops and planes into Iraq,
President Bush has in mind more than changing a country.

His dream is to make the entire Middle East a different place,
and one safer for American interests.

The vision is appealing:
a region that, after a regime change in Baghdad,
has pro-American governments
in the Arab world’s three most important countries,
Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In the long run, that changes the dynamic of the region,
making it more friendly to Washington and spreading democracy.
Reducing the influence of radicals
helps make Palestinians more amenable to an agreement with Israel.


It’s a dream that has grown slowly over the last half-dozen years,
seeds first sown by a small group of neoconservative thinkers
laboring in the quiet vineyards of policy think tanks

during the Clinton administration.
President Bush has come to embrace it
in the traumatic days since the Sept. 11 terror attacks,
so that he now sees disarming Iraq
as only the beginning of the good
that can come from ousting Saddam Hussein.

How realistic is the dream?
In the short run, it’s entirely possible
the attack on Iraq could produce trends that run in the opposite direction,
especially if the war doesn’t go well.
The influence of radicals may grow,
fertilized by anger at America’s intrusion onto Arab soil.
Friendly governments such as that in Egypt,
where demonstrators angry over the bombing of Iraq
clashed with police yesterday,
may pull back from the U.S. for a time.

And the impact of the war on the region’s intractable Palestinian problem --
the one that ultimately has to be resolved to truly calm the region’s waters --
is highly uncertain.
If the war goes well
and the elimination of a radical regime in the region
creates pressure on the Palestinians to move away from confrontation,
the path to peace with Israel might widen.
But the result could be a backlash
if Palestinians think increased U.S. dominance of the region means
any negotiations will come more on the terms of America’s staunch ally in Israel.
That might leave the problem further from resolution.

The story of how Mr. Bush came to embrace the vision
began with a family quarrel among Republicans.
It picked up strength in the late-1990s
with the failure of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and Palestinians,
which strengthened hawks in Israel and Washington
who were advocating more-muscular policies toward Arabs.
And finally it emerged as a centerpiece of American policy
with a president looking for a new theory of the region
after it gave rise to the most deadly attack ever on American soil.

One of the places the idea was born
was the Project for the New American Century,
which was a fledgling and unnoticed neoconservative think tank in 1998.
That’s when it told Mr. Clinton the time had come to depose Saddam Hussein.

In a letter to Mr. Clinton put together by the group’s director,
former intelligence official Gary Schmitt, the group declared:
“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility
that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.
In the near term this means a willingness to undertake military action . . . .
In the long term,
it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.”

It was an audacious declaration in many ways.
The group had only one full-time staffer and an intern.

But it managed to get its message signed by 18 national-security hawks.
Many of them focused on Iraq
because they viewed Mr. Hussein as a disruptive force who,
with a record of invading his neighbors,
intimidated moderate forces in the region.
[Saddam invaded, most prominently, Iran.]
They also saw his continued rule
as epitomizing all that was wrong
with the Clinton administration’s foreign policy:
a lack of clear purpose,
a willingness to act based on political expediency
rather than moral principles,
an unwillingness to use sufficient military power
to bend Mr. Hussein to America’s will.

Such messages usually are lost
in the din of the countless think tanks that reside in downtown Washington.
But in this case, the message grew --
and became especially important as, over the next few years,
more and more of the signers
moved into the foreign-policy camp of presidential contender George W. Bush.

Even before the 1998 letter to President Clinton,
the idea of using regime change in Baghdad
to foster Middle East stability was around.
In a 1996 memo to
then newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Richard Perle, a hard-liner from the Reagan administration,
proposed replacing Mr. Hussein with Jordan’s King Hussein
as part of an audacious plan to strengthen Israel.
Mr. Perle, who headed a study group,
was trying to produce a change
that would secure Israel’s “streets and borders”
by forcing significant change in the Arab world.
Mr. Perle later signed the letter to Mr. Clinton.

Through this same period,
some Israeli thinkers had begun examining what drove countries to war,
and moved toward similar conclusions about basic changes in the Arab world.
Uzi Arad,
director of Israel’s Institute of Policy and Strategy
and former adviser to Mr. Netanyahu,
followed the research closely.
The result was what he now refers to as the “Theory of Democratic Peace,”
where the checks and balances built into democratic systems
prevent a single individual
from pursuing a militaristic course that leads to war.
[America, Bush, and Iraq being Example A.]

Mr. Arad says
the research has had a fundamental impact
on the way the Bush administration views
the Middle East and its long history of violence.

“The evidence was irrefutable:
Democracies do not attack democracies,”
he says.
Though they don’t advertise the fact much,
U.S. officials share the view that
moves toward more democracy in the long run
would increase stability
in allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as in Iraq.

In the U.S., these issues brought to the surface
old splits among isolationists, pragmatists and globalists
in the Republican party.
A number of neoconservatives, nostalgic for the Reagan era,
were determined to reassert America’s strong presence in the world.
Though they advocated such stands as
higher defense spending and a tougher policy on China,
much of the debate centered on Iraq.

Two of them,
William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, and
Robert Kagan, who had worked in the Reagan administration,
wrote a 1996 article warning that “conservatives are adrift” and clamoring for an American “benevolent hegemony.”
The article, in Foreign Affairs magazine, didn’t focus on Iraq.

although Mr. Clinton’s presidency undertook limited military action against Iraq,
his term ended with
sanctions in place and no firm plans to get rid of Mr. Hussein.
To the neoconservatives,
the beginning of the Bush presidency promised only more of the same.
Mr. Bush had run a campaign against “nation building”
and focused on a domestic agenda.

But the statement calling for regime change in Iraq
had quietly moved to the center of U.S. foreign-policy thinking.
Of the 18 who signed it,
half took important jobs in the new Bush administration, including
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld;
his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz;
two top State Department officials, Richard Armitage and John Bolton;
Elliott Abrams, now the National Security Council’s top Mideast official.

There was no sign this thinking had deep impact on the new president,
who didn’t devote much thought to regime change in Iraq.
But soon after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
Iraq began to emerge as a terrorist threat
in the eyes of Mr. Bush and his top officials.
There were no concrete links between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden.
But U.S. officials knew that
al Qaeda wanted to acquire weapons of mass destruction to use against the U.S.
They figured Mr. Hussein had an ample inventory of them --
as well as reason to have a grudge against Mr. Bush,
whose father led the coalition that drove Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991.

To those in the administration who already had called for regime change,
eliminating Mr. Hussein was an idea whose time had come.
They began talking privately last spring about
the notion of creating democracy in Iraq as a model for the region.
President Bush came around to their views.

In the most detailed explanation of such a policy,
Mr. Bush said in a recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute that
a “liberated” Iraq
could “show the power of freedom
and transform that vital region”

by bringing hope and progress to millions.
It wouldn’t be easy, he added, but
“there was a time when many people said that
the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable”
of moving from dictatorship to democracy.

Yet seeking change in the Mideast through military action
poses vast challenges in the near term.
Some fear the campaign could deal a setback to regional security
and to efforts to cool the biggest flashpoint,
the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Among challenges Mr. Bush faces after the war will be
persuading Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians.

Though Mr. Sharon and the democracy he presides over
are viewed as a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to bring democracy to the region,
Mr. Sharon is widely reviled in the Arab world, viewed as
more interested in expanding Israel’s military control
than making peace.
One reason is his controversial policy of taking pre-emptive military action
against Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That policy, in place for more than two years,
has led to the death of dozens of militants as well as innocent civilians.
Now, if Mr. Bush emerges with a quick victory in Iraq,
it could embolden Mr. Sharon’s policy of pre-emptive action,
not just against Palestinian militants
but also in places such as the northern border with Lebanon,
where Israel is locked in slow-burning conflict with Hezbollah guerrillas.

If Mr. Sharon were to take action against Hezbollah,
it would likely breed new anger in the Arab world toward Israel and the U.S.
And while Mr. Sharon says he supports the idea of a separate Palestinian state,
his new government is packed with conservatives
opposed to any form of Palestinian statehood.

In addition,
the war in Iraq could make
the populace in the Palestinian territories more militant,
says Hisham Ahmed,
a professor at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah in the West Bank.
He has watched extremism grow there.
“I think this war will irrevocably radicalize the Arab world,” he says.
“There will be many Osama bin Ladens created.”

People such as George Saliba underline his point.
A 29-year-old student of mathematics with short hair and a thick mustache,
Mr. Saliba lives in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
He carries an Israeli ID card, votes and believes democracy is a good thing.
But after watching an Israeli military campaign
that has killed many Palestinians over the past two years,
he voices views that appear ripe for exploitation by groups such as al Qaeda.
Indeed, he says he would be supportive of Mr. Hussein
if he used chemical weapons against U.S. forces:
“The U.S. is the biggest terrorist in the world,
and I believe this is the last war it will fight.
Saddam is our hero.”

Such hostility toward the U.S.
will become the central argument Arab nations present
to the Bush administration in the months ahead:
If the U.S. hopes to avoid a lethal backlash in the Arab world,
it needs to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an even-handed manner.

But both the U.S. and Israel are betting
the removal of Mr. Hussein from power will pave the way for change.
Mr. Sharon said last night he hopes and believes
the uprooting of Mr. Hussein “will mark the beginning of a new era,
one that is better for our region and for the entire world.”

Cheney and Friends Toast the War

The following is from pages 409–412 of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack,
whose introductory note is dated 2004-03-01.

[On 2003-04-10, the day after the fall of Baghdad to the American army,]
Ken Adelman published an op-ed article in the Washington Post headlined,
“Cakewalk Revisited,”
more or less gloating over what appeared to be the quick victory,
and reminding readers that 14 months earlier
he had written that war would be a “cakewalk.”
He chastised those who had predicted disaster.
“Taking first prize among the many frightful forecasters” was Brent Scowcroft.
Adelman wrote that his own confidence came
from having worked for Rumsfeld three times and
“from knowing Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz for so many years.”

Cheney phoned Adelman, who was in Paris with his wife, Carol.
What a clever column, the vice president said.
You really demolished them.
He said he and Lynne were having a small private dinner Sunday night, April 13,
to talk and celebrate.
The only other guests would be [his chief of staff, I. Lewis] Libby and Wolfowitz.
Adelman realized it was Cheney’s way of saying thank you,
and he and his wife came back from Paris a day early to attend the dinner.

When Adelman walked into the vice president’s residence that Sunday night,
he was so happy he broke into tears.
He hugged Cheney for the first time in the 30 years he had known him.
There had been reports in recent days of mass graves and abundant, graphic evidence of torture by Saddam’s regime,
so there was a feeling that they had been part of a greater good,
liberating 25 million people.

“We’re all together.
There should be no protocol, let’s just talk,”
Cheney said when they sat down to dinner.

Wolfowitz embarked on a long review of the 1991 Gulf War
and what a mistake it had been
to allow the Iraqis to fly helicopters after the armistice.
Saddam had used them to put down uprisings.

Cheney said he had not realized then
what a trauma that time had been for the Iraqis, particularly the Shiites,
who felt the United States had abandoned them.
He said that experience had made the Iraqis worry that war this time
would not end Saddam’s rule.

“Hold it! Hold it!” Adelman interjected.
“Let’s talk about this Gulf War.
It’s so wonderful to celebrate.”
He said he was just an outside adviser,
someone who turned up the pressure in the public forum.
“It’s so easy for me to write an article saying do this.
It’s much tougher for Paul to advocate it.
Paul and Scooter, you give advice inside and the president listens.
Dick, your advice is the most important, the Cadillac.
It’s much more serious for you to advocate it.
But in the end, all of what we said was still only advice.
The president is the one who had to decide.
I have been blown away by how determined he is.”
The war had been awesome, Adelman said.
“So I just want to make a toast, without getting too cheesy.
To the president of the United States.”

They all raised their glasses, Hear! Hear!

Adelman said he had worried to death as time went on
and support seemed to wane
that there would be no war.

After 9/11, Cheney said, the president understood what had to be done.
He had to do Afghanistan first, sequence the attacks,
but after Afghanistan—“soon thereafter”—
the president knew he had to do Iraq.
Cheney said he was confident after 9/11 that it would come out okay.

Adelman said it was still a gutsy move.
When John Kennedy was elected by the narrowest of margins, Adelman said,
he told everyone in his administration that
the big-agenda items like civil rights would have to wait for a second term.
Certainly it was the opposite for Bush.

Yes, Cheney said.
And it began the first minutes of the presidency,
when Bush said they were going to go full steam ahead.
There is such a tendency, Cheney said,
to hold back when there is a close election,
to do what the New York Times and other pundits suggest and predict.
“This guy was just totally different.” Cheney said.
“He just decided here’s what I want to do and I’m going to do it.
He’s very directed.
He’s very focused.”

“I want you three guys to shut up,” Lynne Cheney said,
pointing at Cheney, Wolfowitz and Adelman.
“Let’s hear what Scooter thinks.”

Libby, smiling, just said he thought what had happened was just “wonderful.”

It was a pretty amazing accomplishment, they all agreed,
particularly given the opposition to war.
Here was Brent Scowcroft, the pillar of establishment foreign policy,
vocally on the other side,
widely seen as a surrogate for the president’s father.
There had been Jim Baker insisting on a larger coalition of nations.
And Lawrence Eagleburger,
secretary of state in the last half-year of Bush senior’s administration,
on television all the time saying
war was only justified
if there was evidence that Saddam was about to launch an attack on us.
Eagleburger had accused Cheney of “chest thumping.”

Someone mentioned [Secretary of State Colin] Powell,
and there were chuckle around the table.

Cheney and Wolfowitz remarked that
Powell was sure someone who followed his poll ratings
and bragged about his popularity.
Several weeks earlier in a National Public Radio interview, Powell had said,
“If you would consult any recent Gallup poll,
the American people seem to be quite satisfied
with the job I’m doing as secretary of state.”

He sure likes to be popular, Cheney said.

Wolfowitz said that Powell did bring credibility and that
his presentation to the United Nations on WMD intelligence had been important.
As soon as Powell had understood what the president wanted, Wolfowitz said,
he became a good loyal member of the team.

Cheney shook his head, no.
Powell was a problem.
“Colin always had major reservations about what we were trying to do.”

They turned to Rumsfeld, the missing brother.
Both Cheneys told some affectionate stories
going back to the late 1960s when they had hooked up with Rumsfeld.

Adelman recalled the torment of writing speeches for Rumsfeld
during his first sting as secretary of defense.
“I was working on one speech, the 12th version or something,
and getting back his rewrites—his chicken scratches—his printing,
he can barely write.
And I looked at it and took it to him and said,
‘Don, you can change what I write
and you can change what you yourself write or want to say,
but goddamn, I’ve given you a great Pericles quote.
You can’t change Pericles.’
Don then took the draft and put some more chicken scratches on it.
I looked at it, and he had retained his rewrite of the great Athenian general,
and penned in,
‘as Pericles should have said.’ ”

Cheney said he had just had lunch with the president.
“Democracy in the Middle East is just a big deal for him.
It’s what’s driving him.”

“Let me ask,” Adelman inquired, “before this turns into a love fest.
I was just stunned that we have not found weapons of mass destruction.”
There were several hundred thousand troops and others combing the country.

“We’ll find them,” Wolfowitz said.

“It’s only been four days really,” Cheney said.
“We’ll find them.”

Paul Wolfowitz: “Why We Invaded Iraq”

Below is an excerpt from
Sam Tanenhaus’s 2003-05-09 interview with Paul Wolfowitz
for Vanity Fair.

But first, to set the intellectual and conceptual context,
note how the center of Wolfowitz’s argument
is but an echo of that in the
1998 PNAC Letter to President Clinton,
which, among other things, said:

“The only acceptable strategy
is one that eliminates the possibility
that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use
weapons of mass destruction.
In the near term,
this means a willingness to undertake military action
as diplomacy is clearly failing.
In the long term,
it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.”

This point was echoed in the
2001-09-20 PNAC Letter to President Bush,
which remarkably asserted:

[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack,
any strategy aiming at
the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors
must include a determined effort
to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”
(Emphasis is added.)

The point that should be obvious is:
since the PNAC crowd (aka the “attack Iraq claque”) asserts that
whether Iraq was in fact linked to the 9/11 attack
is irrelevant to
their demand that Saddam be removed from power in Iraq,
then just what is the terrorism threat
that they are demanding that the United States eradicate?
I think the only substantial answer is:
the threat that they believed Iraq posed to Israel.

Okay, now for the Tanenhaus interview with Wolfowitz
(emphasis and comments are added).


Q [all questions are from Sam Tanenhaus]:
And then in the next few days [after 9/11],
then there was the statement
which now looks remarkably [prescient]
when you said this is a campaign.
At that point, I think it was the 13th,
at that point was Iraq sort of moving
into the scope, under the radar screen?
What was your thinking at that point?

I know my thinking at that point was that
the old approach to terrorism was not acceptable any longer.
The old approach being you treat it as
a law enforcement problem
rather than
a national security problem.
You pursue terrorists after they’ve done things
and bring them to justice,
and to the extent states are perhaps involved,
you retaliate against them
but you don't really expect
to get them out of the business
of supporting terrorism completely.

To me what September 11th meant was that
we just couldn't live with terrorism any longer.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s it was sort of,
I’ve never found quite the right words
because necessary evil doesn't describe it,
but a sort of an evil that you could manage
but you couldn’t eliminate.
And I think what September 11th to me said was
this is just the beginning of what these bastards can do
if they start getting access to so-called modern weapons,
and that it’s not something you can live with any longer.
So there needs to be a campaign, a strategy, a long-term effort,
to root out these networks and
to get governments out of the business of supporting them.
But that wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight.

So Iraq naturally came to the top of the list because of
its history and
the weapons of mass terror and
all the rest,
is that right?

plus the fact which seems to go unremarked in most places,
that Saddam Hussein was the only international figure
other than Osama bin Laden
who praised the attacks of September 11th.

So now there is the much-reported,
I just want to make sure I get it right,
famous meeting at --

It’s been reported in a couple of different ways, and
I’d like to get it in your words if I can,
the famous meetings that first weekend [after 9/11] in Camp David
where the question of Iraq came up.
I believe the President heard you discussing Iraq and
asked you to elaborate on it or speak more about it.
Can you give us a little sense of what that was like?

There was a long discussion during the day about
what place if any
Iraq should have
in a counterterrorist strategy.

On the surface of the debate
it at least appeared to be about
not whether but when.
There seemed to be
a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but
the disagreement was
whether it should be in the immediate response or
whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first.

There was a sort of undertow in that discussion I think
that was, the real issue was
whether Iraq should be part of the strategy at all and
whether we should have this large strategic objective
which is getting governments out of the business
of supporting terrorism, or
whether we should simply go after bin Laden and al Qaeda.

To the extent it was a debate about tactics and timing,
the President clearly came down on the side of Afghanistan first.
To the extent it was a debate about strategy and
what the larger goal was,
it is at least clear with 20/20 hindsight that
the President came down on the side of the larger goal.


And then the last question,
you’ve been very patient and generous.
That is what’s next?
Where do we stand now in the campaign
that you talked about right after September 11th?

I think the two most important things next
are the two most obvious.
One is
getting post-Saddam Iraq right.
Getting it right may take years,
but setting the conditions for getting it right in the next six months.
The next six months are going to be very important.

The other thing is
trying to get some progress
on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

I do think we have a better atmosphere for working on it now
than we did before in all kinds of ways.
Whether that’s enough to make a difference is not certain,
but I will be happy to go back and dig up
the things I said a long time ago which is,
while it undoubtedly was true that
if we could make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue
we would provide a better set of circumstances
to deal with Saddam Hussein,
but that it was equally true the other way around that
if we could deal with Saddam Hussein
it would provide a better set of circumstances
for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue.

That you had to move on both of them as best you could
when you could, but --

[The questions that the media should now pose to Wolfowitz,
based on his unambiguous assertion above, are:
“Did the Iraq war in fact yield
‘a better set of circumstances
for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue’?
If so, how can that be measured?
If not, why not?”
Wolfowitz is a public figure,
even if he is now an international civil servent,
not just a U.S. one.
His impact on our involvement in Iraq was so great,
the media can and should figure out a way
to force him to answer those questions.
At the very least,
op-ed columnists could ask those questions in their fora.
Or, that is, they could
if they were not all such servile toadies to the Israeli lobby.]

There are a lot of things that are different now,
and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that
by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government
we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia.
Their presence there over the last 12 years
has been a source of enormous difficulty
for a friendly government.
It’s been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda.
In fact if you look at bin Laden,
one of his principle grievances was
the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land,
Mecca and Medina.
I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis
is itself going to open the door
to other positive things.

I don’t want to speak in messianic terms.
It’s not going to change things overnight,
but it’s a huge improvement.

Was that one of the arguments
that was raised early on by you and others
that Iraq actually does connect,
not to connect the dots too much, but
the relationship between Saudi Arabia,
our troops being there, and
bin Laden’s rage about that,
which he’s built on so many years,
also connects the World Trade Center attacks,
that there’s a logic of motive or something like that?
[Bin Laden himself answered that question here,
connecting the 9/11 attacks,
not to “[U.S.] troops being [in Saudi Arabia],”
but to
“the oppression and tyranny
of the American/Israeli coalition
against our people in Palestine and Lebanon,”

a connection that American politicians and media
have conspicuously avoided discussing.]

Or does that read too much into --

No, I think it happens to be correct.
The truth is that
for reasons that have a lot to do
with the U.S. government bureaucracy
we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on
which was weapons of mass destruction
as the core reason,
-- hold on one second --


Sam there may be some value in clarity on the point
that it may take years to get post-Saddam Iraq right.
It can be easily misconstrued, especially when it comes to --

-- there have always been three fundamental concerns.
One is weapons of mass destruction,
the second is support for terrorism,
the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people.
Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is
the connection between the first two.

Sorry, hold on again.

By the way,
it’s probably the longest uninterrupted phone conversation
I've witnessed, so --

Q: This is extraordinary.

Kellems: You had good timing.

Q: I'm really grateful.

To wrap it up.

The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier,
is a reason to help the Iraqis but
it’s not a reason to put American kids’ lives at risk,
certainly not on the scale we did it.
That second issue about links to terrorism
is the one about which
there’s the most disagreement within the bureaucracy,

even though I think everyone agrees
that we killed 100 or so
of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around,
that we’ve arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad
who was connected to this guy Zarqawi
whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

So this notion then that
the strategic question was really a part of the equation,
that you were looking at Saudi Arabia --

I was.
It’s one of the reasons why
I took a very different view of
what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East.
I said on the record,
I don't understand how people can really believe that
removing this huge source of instability
is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.

I understand what they’re thinking about.
I’m not blind to the uncertainties of this situation,
but they just seem to be blind to the instability
that that son of a bitch was causing.
It’s as though the fact that
he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and
issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and
the long list of things

was of no account
and the only thing to think about was that
there might be some inter-communal violence
if he were removed.

The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting --
the implication was that
the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq
is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check --
I know no one ever said it that way
and if you pointed it out that way
they’d say that's not what I mean.
But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.

Which also makes you wonder about
how much faith there is
in spreading democracy and all the rest
among some of those who --

Wolfowitz: Probably not very much.
There is no question that
there’s a lot of instability that comes with democracy and
it's the nature of the beast that it's turbulent and uncertain.

The thing is, at a general level,
I’ve encountered this argument
from the defenders of Asian autocracies of various kinds.
Look how much better off Singapore is than Indonesia,
to pick a glaring contrast.
And Indonesia’s really struggling with democracy.
It sort of inherited democracy
under the worst possible conditions too, one might say.
But the thing that --
I’d actually say that a large part of Indonesia’s problems
come from the fact that
dictatorships are unstable in the one worst way
which is with respect to choosing the next regime.
Democracy, one could say, has solved, not solve perfectly,
but they represent one of the best solutions
to one of the most fundamental instabilities in politics and
that’s how to replace one regime with another.
It’s the only orderly way in the world for doing it
other than hereditary monarchy
which doesn't seem to have much of a future.

Thanks so much.

You’re very welcome.

Bob Woodward on the 2006 review of Iraq policy
by the JCS’s Council of Colonels

The following are some excerpts from the 2008 book
The War Within by Bob Woodward
which give one view of the review of Iraq policy conducted in Fall 2006
by a group of colonels and Navy captains, chosen by the JCS, to advise the JCS.
I have given some rather critical comments on Woodward's account.
(Of course, I have no inside information whatsoever on these matters.)

[pages 167–9]
On Friday afternoon, October 6 [2006],
the Council of Colonels headed to their first full session with the Joint Chiefs.

[JCS] Chairman [Peter] Pace and the service chiefs
were seated in dark leather chairs around a long wooden conference table.
The 12 colonels
[four from the Army, three from the Marines, five from the Air Force]
and four Navy captains
sat along the walls.

The day’s session was to focus on the so-called long war against terrorism.
Was the goal spreading democracy
or simply stabilizing a country or a region like the Middle East?
First up from the colonels was
“Issue 1: Stability vs. Democratization,”
an indirect shot at President Bush,
the most outspoken advocate for spreading democracy around the world.

[Note how Woodward singles out Bush, rather than noting that, to this observer,
Bush is merely carrying out a foolish and Quixotic plan
hatched by the neocons and the Russian-born Israeli Natan Sharansky.]

The chiefs took the bait.

“Some folks are frentic about
us shoving Jeffersonian democracy down people’s throats,”
said Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Mosely,
who had joined the Air Force in 1971 during the height of the Vietnam War.

Pace said he had told the president that
“ ‘democracy’ is not as effective a term or concept as
‘representative government.’ ”

Admiral Michael Mullen, the chief of naval operations,
a 1968 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, cautiously inquired,
“How far beyond military advice can we go on this point?”

“Can’t avoid it,” said General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff,
noting that they had to examine all elements of national power—
not just the military but diplomacy, and the economic and financial impact.

“I am comfortable taking anything to the president
that negatively impacts our troops on the ground,”
Pace said.

The agenda then called for a discussion of
America’s “strategic vulnerability.”

“We should be looking at how
our current preoccupation with insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq
reduces our ability to deter other potential hostile actors,”
General Schoomaker said.

“We have forgotten how to use the other elements of national power
except for the military,”
complained General Moseley.
“We have at least one arm tied behind our back.
That is why we are losing ground … and our military is coming apart.”

“We are not overstretched,” Pace shot back testily.
“Only a fraction of the nation has been mobilized, if that …
General Moseley, what do you mean we are coming apart?”

“By all standards of measurement we have lost standing in the world,”
Moseley replied.
“Politically, our reputation and stature,
the national treasure we are spending on the war … all of it …
we are in a downward spiral.
I attended a NATO conference recently where
they questioned our ability to sustain the fight and meet our global commitments.”
Then he added, trying to lighten the mood,
“On the bright side, I think the Poles are with us.”

There were a few muted chuckles.

“Our ground forces are stretched to the breaking point,”
Schoomaker added.

“We must be a learning organization,”
Pace said, falling back on an old military cliché.
They needed to adapt, he said, and the American public would adjust.
“We need to help them turn the corner.
They are waiting for us to do this.”

Some of the colonels were dismayed by the aimless discussion.
[Aimless or not,
the issues mentioned above were surely all of the greatest importance,
and well within what I would expect the JCS to be concerned about.]

Here were the senior military advisers to the president
[In theory, but as the rest of the book emphasizes, not in fact.
In fact retired Army General Jack Keane took a break from
his work with the Wall Street crowd
to usurp (that seems to be the accurate word) that function.]
, in the middle of wartime, more or less adrift.
It was clear the chiefs were angry [as they had every right to be]
and shockingly disconnected from policy making [not their fault].
Worse, they had no plan of their own
[that’s exactly what the Council of Colonels was formed to come up with]
and no unified voice [they sound pretty unified to me, aside from Chairman Pace,
who presumably felt compelled to keep repeating the company (i.e., from above) line]
It resembled a late night barroom chat.
[That is the sort of cheap shot that Woodward fairly consistently employs
against military men who have priorities different from those he supports.
(Another example is on page 10,
where he describes a view-graph (shown on page 11) as being
“a crazy quilt of circles, arrow, boxes, and phrases”.
One may or may not agree with the substance represented by the view-graph,
but to attack its form in this manner seems to have no valid basis.)
In contrast, when civilian policy makers have similar discussions,
he certainly doesn’t mock them.
And we can all recall how President Clinton, when he was in office,
was characterized as leading late-night discussions
that resembled college bull-sessions,
surely a more flattering analogy than a barroom chat.
But then it is, to the media,
admirable for the PC crowd to engage in conceptual thinking,
while military leaders are always suspect of being, well, you know,
definitely not PC.]

Liberating Ourselves
Failure to achieve the easy victory the hawks promised in Iraq
doesn’t mean that we must continue to lose.
by Paul W. Schroeder
The American Conservative, 2006-10-09

By frankly acknowledging failure in Iraq
and acting quickly, decisively, and prudently on that recognition,
the U.S. not only could avoid further disasters there
but might also achieve a kind of success.
Call it
The Bright Promise of Accepting Failure in Iraq.

Michael Scheuer on Lessons Learned from Iraq

Here is an excerpt from the 2008 book
Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq
by Michael Scheuer.
Section and paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
(Some of the original paragraphs have been broken up;
paragraph numbers reflect the original paragraphing.)

Chapter 4
Iraq—America Bled White by History Unlearned

Section 4.4
Taking the Right Lessons from Defeat

4.4.1: On a Mideast Marshall Plan
When the U.S. defeat in Iraq becomes clear and unquestionable,
it will be very important, as it is in Afghanistan,
that Americans do not permit the Republicans and Democrats,
and the punditry aligned with each,
to effectively sell the idea that
all would have been well in Iraq
if Washington had had
an extravagantly expensive and ready-to-roll reconstruction plan
to implement after Saddam’s regime was destroyed.

As defeat becomes obvious,
some in high places will step up this already loud assertion.
They will say,
if only we had stopped the looting;
if only we had a plan for restoring and expanding electricity production;
if only we had not disbanded the army;
if only we had quickly modernized the energy infrastructure;
and on and on, and louder it will get.
Most of this blather will emanate from the Democratic Party,
which will argue that
the use of military force against the Islamists has been unsuccessful
and then urge
the spending of untold billions of U.S. dollars
on a “New Deal” for the Middle East.

This, they will contend,
will deradicalize Muslims
and make them peaceful, moderate, prosperous democrats;
in short, al-Qaeda and its allies
will be made into a slightly more aggressive version of the Rotary Club.

Armed with the irrelevant Marshall Plan analogy,
officials from Mr. Clinton’s administration are already beating the drum
for vast increases in U.S. aid to the Muslim world.
“If we are to be serious about
promoting fundamental reform in pivotal [Islamic countries],”
Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon have written,
We need to do more than hector them
and sprinkle money on small-scale initiatives.
We must engage the societies deeply and dramatically.
We have done this before.
Decisive American action along these lines
helped preserve democracy in Western Europe
during the years after World War II,
thereby laying the groundwork for the NATO alliance
and eventually victory in the Cold War.
Our tools then were
the economic assistance of the Marshall Plan
and, of course,
military resolve in the face of a massive Soviet presence in Eastern Europe.
The differences between Europe in 1945 and the Middle East today are huge,
as are the differences between America then and now.
we did engage in a profound degree in other societies
whose political development was crucial to our national security,
and we were successful.
Democracy in Western Europe flowered
as voters rejected the future offered by the Soviet Union.
[The Next Attack, p. 225]

Beyond the always pervasive Democratic itch
to spend the taxes of Americans on things and people that do not benefit them,
this passage brings to mind Machiavelli’s warning that
history should be used creatively, not in a cookie-cutter fashion;
history provides lessons to be learned and adapted,
not opportunities for past experiences to be exactly duplicated.
The Marshall Plan analogy is often used
as a staple bipartisan justification
for U.S. involvement in Iraq and across the Middle East.

It provides a road map to disaster.
Europe in 1945 was economically devastated
and convinced that fascism was untenable;
the enemy states and their militaries were annihilated
[for some comments and facts concerning this, see my comments here];
and the continent as a whole was,
after witnessing the Red Army rape eastern Germany,
afraid to death of the USSR.
Perhaps more important,
the United States shared a common heritage with Europe;
both sides of the Atlantic were grounded in
the Classical experience, Christianity,
the Renaissance, the Reformation,
the several Enlightenments, and the Industrial Revolution.
Utter defeat, fear of Moscow,
and broad underlying cultural and religious commonalities
made the Marshall Plan work as much as did dollars.
In the Pacific,
the annihilation of Imperial Japan’s armed forces and the Japanese will-to-war
were complemented by
a culture willing to submit to its U.S. conqueror,
as well as by President Truman’s wisdom
in sending the self-imagined divinity General Douglas MacArthur
to deal with Emperor Hirohito.
Here truly was an instance when
the god America sent was bigger than the god sitting on Japan’s throne.

None of the conditions
that allowed the Marshall Plan and its Pacific counterpart to succeed
are present in the Muslim world.
  • That world is not defeated;
    it is America that is being beaten by that world’s youth in two locations.

  • In cultural terms, we share almost nothing with the Islamic world.

  • There are no historical commonalities on which to build;
    the historical experiences that the West shares with the Islamic world are
    crusades, colonialism, imperialism, and military intervention
    [Scheuer might have added Zionism]
    not exactly the stuff from which happy-ever-aftering is made.

  • In the area of religion, we could not be more dissimilar.
    Our faith is a barely tolerated, once-a-week duty;
    an as-needed and often cynical fillip to political rhetoric;
    and nothing worth fighting for.
    Their faith infuses all of life
    and is lived daily, treasured and taught as a proud history,
    and dutifully and even joyfully defended to the death.

    [Scheuer omits an obvious theological point:
    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
    are all monotheistic religions in the Abrahamic tradition.
    But in practical, applied, sociological terms,
    as applied to the opinion-leaders and trend-setters in Western society,
    those people who have, for example,
    replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”,
    he seems dead on.]
With this lack of positive cultural, historical and religious commonalities,
a Marshall Plan for the Muslim world
would be as successful as
pouring water on sand and hoping for a bumper crop of wheat.
it would be just as successful as has been
the many billions of dollars in aid
that the West has poured into the Muslim world since 1945.

4.4.2: On democratization
Americans also must reject any claim by their leaders
that does not acknowledge

the most important reason for U.S. defeat in Iraq—
Washington’s attempt
to build a secular democratic polity there.

We failed to replace Saddam’s regime with a functioning, durable government
precisely because
we tried to export our political model to Iraq.
Our subsequent bipartisan effort
to blame the Iraqis for
their failure to build the secular democracy we wanted
reveals a staggering level of ignorance and dishonesty.
The Iraqis
had no appreciable experience with a democratic system,
are deeply torn by sectarian differences, and
are divided among three major ethnic groups,
none of which had more than a modicum of interest
in sharing power with the others,
each fearing it would become the target of Saddam-like abuse
if one group finagled a way to come out on top.

Moreover, the great majority of Iraqis
saw secular democracy as anathema
to their Islamic faith.
To a people whose religion rejects as apostasy
the concept of deliberately separating church and state,
American advice suggesting that
Iraqis govern themselves on the basis of such a separation
is tantamount to
telling the advisees to turn their backs on God.
This reality was easily knowable before we invaded Iraq;
it is one of the first lessons drawn from
even a cursory reading of Islamic theology and history.

“If the Iraqi government,”
write the Iraq Study Group’s geriatric Cold Warriors to fix blame on Iraqis
for the catastrophe wrought by the elite to which the group belongs,
“does not make substantial progress
toward the achievement of milestones
on national reconciliation, security, and governance,
the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support
for the Iraqi government.”
[The Iraq Study Group Report,
page 8 in the above-linked PDF document, page xvii in the published one.]
In other words:
“You ungrateful little brown brothers better shape up
or the Yanks are going to ship out.”

The most important lesson for Americans to draw from defeat, however,
is that
our failure to install democracy in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan,
shows beyond question that

our current governing elite
is either
ignorant of U.S. history
holds that history and the people who have made it
in contempt.

[In other words, they have the same attitudes
as many of those teaching in America’s universities today.]

The bedrock ethos, political philosophy, and religious principles
on which the American republic and its democracy are based
go back many centuries,
with contributions dating as far back
as Aristotle and the republics of Rome and Sparta [also the Athenian Republic].
A plausible stating point
for the political evolution that would lead to the American polity
lies eight centuries back
at the time of the drafting and signing of the Magna Carta in 1215,
which circumscribed the arbitrary powers of England’s King John.
Then Americans, as Americans,
had 150 years of self-governing experience and reliable political stability
in North America before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Since the Declaration, Americans have battled through
bitter politics and elections;
westward expansion;
economic depressions;
slavery and civil war;
industrial strife;
segregation, Jim Crow and lynch mobs;
two world wars;
and the Cold War
in an ongoing communal effort to bring our society as close as possible
to the always unachievable targets of
perfect equity and equal opportunity for all citizens and
peace at home and with foreign nations.
The length, the difficulty, and the many miles still to go in this process
are starkly apparent in recalling that
the 1965 Voting Rights Act is only a bit more than forty years old,
and we remain engaged in wars, large and small, all around the world.


U.S. political leaders
with any knowledge of, pride in, or respect for
the political and social hardships and achievements
of the American people
could not possibly have expected to build
anything even faintly resembling it in Iraq.

The building blocks of the American republic—
the Glorious Revolution of 1688,
Calvinist Christianity,
Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence,
Madison’s Constitution,
Hamilton’s Federalist,
the New Deal,
the Voting Rights Act,
are simply absent from the Iraqi experience and that of Muslims generally.
The Iraqis and their Islamic brethren
have their own set of founding documents—
the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sunnah
but U.S. leaders want no truck with the sort of society and country
that would be built on them.

The American governing elite’s effort to blame the Iraqis
for failing to achieve in four years
what America has not fully achieved in eight hundred years
is the act of ill-informed, cynical, and utterly despicable villains.
This is surely a vital lesson about their bipartisan leaders
that Americans must keep foremost in their minds
when deciding if they believe any current U.S. leader of note
has any genuine desire to protect their families and their country’s interests.

[End of Chapter 4
of Marching Toward Hell.]

[The horizontal line in paragraph was added by the author of this blog.
What appears above it, I think,
any reasonably knowledgeable and honest American citizen would have to agree with.
The exceedingly strong condemnation of “the American governing elite”
which appears below it, in, seems to me to be excessive
based solely on the reasons that Scheuer gives here.
if one reads the rest of Scheuer’s book
(as I hope readers of this post will),
then the condemnation does appear appropriate,
based on the sum total of
“the American governing elite’s” prioritization of values
that Scheuer so astutely points out.

The real crime, in my opinion, of “America’s governing elite” is
their failure to acknowledge
the causes of Muslim anger with America,

a topic that Scheuer does discuss quite adequately
in other parts of his book.

But getting back to the Iraq situation,
what is keeping us in Iraq is not their problems with democracy.
Rather, America’s media/political elite
keeps finding other reasons for us to stay there, especially
to “fight terrorism” or “prevent chaos”,
all (as reasons to stay) as phony as a three dollar bill.
Perhaps most idiotic of all is the call from the hawks
to stay there until we achieve “victory.”
We have already achieved Bush’s two pre-war goals:
  • deposing Saddam, and

  • ensuring Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
Anything further amounts to moving the goal posts,
a fact which the media is pointedly ignoring.
Surely the reason the media ignores the mission creep that has occurred
is not due to the media’s being beholden to the oil industry
(if they were that,
we would be drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve now),
but rather to
their loyalty to Israel and its requests upon America.

For some ways to leave Iraq gracefully,
see the references here.]

Stephen Walt: Five Years and Counting

Five Years and Counting:
Ten Unpleasant Truths About the War in Iraq

by Stephen M. Walt
Huffington Post, 2008-03-19

[Emphasis is added.]

Full Disclosure:
I opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003,
because I was convinced that
war was unnecessary
and would result in a costly, open-ended occupation.
Along with several other scholars,
I made the case for containment
in a number of published articles, speeches, and media appearances
[e.g., 2003-01-Mearsheimer-Walt, 2003-02-02-Mearsheimer-Walt, 2003-02-12-Walt].
I also helped organize an advertisement opposing the war
that appeared in the New York Times in September 2002.
I wish we had been wrong; sadly, we turned out to be right.
On the 5th anniversary of the invasion,
here are ten unpleasant truths about
past errors, present circumstances, and future choices.


The invasion of Iraq may be
the greatest self-inflicted blunder
in the history of U.S. foreign policy.

[Compare Brzezinski.]

The case for war rested on
false information, dubious assumptions and mendacious analysis.
Neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration
persuaded the president, vice president, and the American people that
  • Saddam was an imminent threat,

  • war would be easy and pay for itself, and

  • ousting him would bring far-reaching benefits to the region.
They were wrong on all counts,
their responsibility for this catastrophe should not be forgotten.

2. A smarter occupation
would not have produced significantly better results.

The Bush administration failed to plan the post-war occupation
and compounded that error with numerous post-invasion blunders.
But the odds were against us from the start,
given Iraq’s internal divisions and social conditions.
Foreign occupiers rarely understand local conditions
and usually end up alienating the population,
and no society likes being governed by well-armed foreign invaders.
The key mistake was the initial decision to invade,
the subsequent errors merely made a bad situation worse.

3. The war has done enormous damage
to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

The invasion destabilized the region
and enhanced Iran’s influence and strategic position.
It also contributed to the unprecedented rise in oil prices,
discredited democracy,
and further tarnished America’s image in the Arab and Islamic world.
We cannot escape these consequences until we reverse course.
Civil war may occur after we withdraw,
but that danger exists whenever we leave.
Fortunately, fears of a regional war are exaggerated:
because many of Iraq’s neighbors depend on oil revenues
and have only modest power-projection capabilities,
they have good reasons to keep an internal conflict in bounds
and little capacity to spread it around the region.

4. The war has been a major setback
in the campaign against anti-American terrorism.

The war
diverted attention and resources from our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan,
thereby helping Al Qaeda and the Taliban recover their strength.
Iraq has become a new training ground for terrorists,
and events like Abu Ghraib have given anti-American elements
a potent new weapon in the struggle for hearts and minds.

5. The “surge” has failed as a strategy.
Increased U.S. troop strength
brought internal violence back down to 2005 levels,
but political reconciliation did not occur
and the level of violence is now rising.
Judged by the administration’s own criteria, the strategy has not worked.
Current force levels are not sustainable,
and prolonging the surge would damage our armed forces further
and weaken our global position even more.

6. The United States cannot win the war at an acceptable cost.
America’s ability to dictate political events in Iraq was never very great
and is steadily declining.
Iraqis will determine their country’s future, not us,
and prolonging the U.S. presence will not alter this fact.
Although Saddam is gone and Iraq will eventually recover,
that result will not have been worth
the enormous economic, diplomatic, and human costs we have incurred.

7. The search for scapegoats is already underway.
Civilians who now argue that the surge is “working”
are trying to pin failure
either on Bush’s successor,
or on those who have opposed the war from the beginning.

By claiming that things are improving and that victory is in sight,
they are preparing to blame defeat on whoever finally does get us out.

But if there is no prospect for a meaningful victory,
then staying in Iraq is strategically foolish
and a cavalier waste of American lives.

8. The war has done more damage to the armed forces
than we know,
and rebuilding them will be more difficult, costly, and time-consuming
than we realize.

U.S. troops have fought bravely and with dedication,
and they deserve our gratitude.
But the war has
undermined overall U.S. readiness,
degraded our equipment, and
crippled recruitment and retention.
The Bush administration has sustained domestic support for the war
by concealing the price the armed forces have paid,
but the bill will come due soon.

9. The next president faces a stark choice:
bring a misguided war to an end, or inherit responsibility for it.
For the next President, continuing the occupation means
taking ownership of Bush’s blunder.
If he or she does this,
the Iraq quagmire will dominate their presidency
and make it harder to focus on other looming challenges,
while the costs continue to mount.
By getting out quickly,
the next President can restore America’s freedom of action
and begin to rebuild our damaged international position.

10. The Iraq debacle
reflects a broader pattern of failure
among key American institutions.

Although primary responsibility for the war rests with
Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives who conceived and sold it,
other important U.S. institutions performed poorly as well.
Congress never debated the war in a serious way
and it continued to back Bush’s policies
long after their failure was apparent.
Mainstream media institutions like the New York Times and Washington Post
smoothed the path to war
by parroting the administration’s sales pitch
and giving abundant space to pro-war cheerleaders.
Even more remarkably,
mainstream media organizations continue to rely on
the same “talking heads” and inside-the-Beltway pundits
whose judgment has proven consistently wrong since 2002.

The implication is deeply troubling:
if Americans do not learn from this experience
and hold those responsible accountable,
the Iraq debacle will not be our last.

Testimony of Lt. Gen. (ret.) William E. Odom
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2008-04-02
(From this hearing.)

[Interesting cross between military and political analysis.
Includes a good bit of detail below the conceptual level,
but it is long enough and still conceptual enough
that it appears in this document.

Underlining is from the original; all other emphasis is added.]

By William E. Odom, LT General, USA, Ret.
2 April 2008

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
It is an honor to appear before you again.
The last occasion was in January 2007,
when the topic was the troop surge.
Today you are asking if it has worked.

Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy.
Rather, I said,
it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim,
political stability.
And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.

I see no reason to change my judgment now.
The surge is prolonging instability,
not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.

Last year, General Petraeus
wisely declined to promise a military solution to this political problem,
saying that he could lower the level of violence,
allowing a limited time for the Iraqi leaders to strike a political deal.
Violence has been temporarily reduced
but today there is credible evidence
that the political situation is far more fragmented.
And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra.
In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant
in several other parts of Iraq over the past year,
notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province.

More disturbing,
Prime Minister Maliki has initiated military action
and then dragged in US forces
to help his own troops destroy his Shiite competitors.
This is a political setback, not a political solution.
Such is the result of the surge tactic.

No less disturbing has been the steady violence in the Mosul area,
and the tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen.
A showdown over control of the oil fields there surely awaits us.
And the idea that some kind of a federal solution can cut this Gordian knot
strikes me as a wild fantasy,
wholly out of touch with Kurdish realities.

Also disturbing is
Turkey’s military incursion to destroy Kurdish PKK groups in the border region.
That confronted the US government with a choice:
either to support its NATO ally,
or to make good on its commitment to Kurdish leaders to insure their security.
It chose the former, and that makes it clear to the Kurds
that the United States will sacrifice their security
to its larger interests in Turkey.

Turning to the apparent success in Anbar province and a few other Sunni areas,
this is not the positive situation it is purported to be.
Certainly violence has declined
as local Sunni shieks have begun to cooperate with US forces.
But the surge tactic cannot be given full credit.
The decline started earlier on Sunni initiative.
What are their motives?
First, anger at al Qaeda operatives and
second, their financial plight.

Their break with al Qaeda should give us little comfort.
The Sunnis welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans [??],
including al Qaeda.
The concern we hear the president and his aides express
about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw
is utter nonsense.
The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq.

The Kurds do not allow them in their region,
and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda.
To understand why, one need only take note of
the al Qaeda public diplomacy campaign over the past year or so on internet blogs.
They implore the United States to bomb and invade Iran
and destroy this apostate Shiite regime.

As an aside,
it gives me pause to learn that
our vice president and some members of the Senate
are aligned with al Qaeda
on spreading the war to Iran.

Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends
insist on being paid for their loyalty.
I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that
the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day.
And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased.
You might want to find out the total costs for these deals
forecasted for the next several years,
because they are not small and they do not promise to end.
Remember, we do not own these people.
We merely rent them.
And they can break the lease at any moment.
At the same time, this deal protects them to some degree
from the government’s troops and police,
hardly a sign of political reconciliation.

Now let us consider the implications
of the proliferating deals with the Sunni strongmen.
They are far from unified among themselves.
Some remain with al Qaeda.
Many who break and join our forces are beholden to no one.
Thus the decline in violence reflects
a dispersion of power to dozens of local strong men
who distrust the government and occasionally fight among themselves.

[I.e., warlords.
Funny the MSM doesn’t use that term for them.]

Thus the basic military situation is far worse
because of the proliferation of armed groups under local military chiefs
who follow a proliferating number of political bosses.

This can hardly be called greater military stability,
much less progress toward political consolidation,
and to call it fragility that needs more time to become success
is to ignore its implications.
At the same time,
Prime Minister Maliki’s military actions in Basra and Baghdad,
indicate even wider political and military fragmentation.
We are witnessing is more accurately described as the road to
the Balkanization of Iraq,
that is, political fragmentation.
We are being asked by the president to believe that
this shift of so much power and finance
to so many local chieftains
is the road to political centralization.
He describes the process as building the state from the bottom up.

I challenge you to
press the administration’s witnesses this week
to explain this absurdity.

Ask them to name
a single historical case
where power has been aggregated successfully
from local strong men to a central government
except through bloody violence
leading to a single winner, most often a dictator.

That is the history of feudal Europe’s transformation
to the age of absolute monarchy.
It is the story of the American colonization of the west and our Civil War.
It took England 800 years to subdue clan rule
on what is now the English-Scottish border.
And it is the source of violence in Bosnia and Kosovo.

[Is the formation of the United States of America an example?
Of course Michael Scheuer has convincingly pointed out
the irrelevance of that example to Iraq.]

How can our leaders celebrate this diffusion of power
as effective state building?
More accurately described,
it has placed the United States astride several civil wars.
And it allows all sides
to consolidate, rearm, and refill their financial coffers
at the US expense.

To sum up,
we face a deteriorating political situation with an over extended army.
When the administration’s witnesses appear before you,
you should make them clarify
how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy.

The only sensible strategy is to withdraw rapidly but in good order.
Only that step can break
the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region.
The next step is to choose a new aim, regional stability,
not a meaningless victory in Iraq.

And progress toward that goal requires revising our policy toward Iran.
If the president merely renounced his threat of regime change by force,
that could prompt Iran to lessen its support to Taliban groups in Afghanistan.
Iran detests the Taliban and supports them
only because
they will kill more Americans in Afghanistan as retaliation
in event of a US attack on Iran.
Iran’s policy toward Iraq
would also have to change radically as we withdraw.
It cannot want instability there.
Iraqi Shiites are Arabs,
and they know that Persians look down on them.
Cooperation between them has its limits.

No quick reconciliation between the US and Iran is likely,
but US steps to make Iran feel more secure
make it far more conceivable
than a policy calculated to increase its insecurity.
The president’s policy
has reinforced Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons,
the very thing he purports to be trying to prevent.

Withdrawal from Iraq does not mean withdrawal from the region.
It must include a realignment and reassertion of US forces
and diplomacy that give us a better chance to achieve our aim.

A number of reasons are given for not withdrawing soon and completely.
I have refuted them repeatedly before but they have more lives than a cat.
Let try again me explain why they don’t make sense.

it is insisted that we must leave behind
military training element with no combat forces to secure them
This makes no sense at all.
The idea that US military trainers left alone in Iraq can be safe and effective
is flatly rejected by several NCOs and junior officers
I have heard describe their personal experiences.
training foreign forces
before they have a consolidated political authority to command their loyalty
is a windmill tilt.
Finally, Iraq is not short on military skills.

it is insisted that chaos will follow our withdrawal.
We heard that argument as the “domino theory” in Vietnam.
Even so,
the path to political stability will be bloody
regardless of whether we withdraw or not.
The idea that the United States has a moral responsibility to prevent this
ignores that reality.
We are certainly to blame for it,
but we do not have the physical means to prevent it.
American leaders who insist that it is in our power to do so
are misleading both the public and themselves
if they believe it.

The real moral question is whether to risk the lives of more Americans.
Unlike preventing chaos,
we have the physical means to stop sending more troops
where many will be killed or wounded.
That is the moral responsibility to our country
which no American leaders seems willing to assume.

nay sayers insist that our withdrawal will create regional instability.
This confuses cause with effect.
Our forces in Iraq and our threat to change Iran’s regime
are making the region unstable.
Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards.
Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq
has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest.

I implore you to reject these fallacious excuses
for prolonging the commitment of US forces to war in Iraq.

Thanks for this opportunity to testify today.

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