Plan of Attack
April 18, 2004 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Behind Diplomatic Moves, Military Plan Was Launched. An excerpt from the new book "Plan of Attack" by Bob Woodward. Amongst its claims are that Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar was informed of the plans for Iraq before Colin Powell, and that $700 million designated by Congress for the war in Afghanistan was used to prepare for the war in Iraq.
posted by homunculus (74 comments total)
WaPo Logins.
posted by homunculus at 12:03 PM on April 18, 2004

funny how the Post got scooped on Woodward's book


Real focus of Bush meeting in '01 was on Iraq plan, not Afghanistan

just in, good stuff from Rice on Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about the book, Bob Woodward's account of the lead-up to the war in Iraq.
According to Woodward, the president asked Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, in November of 2001, 72 days after 9/11, to come up with plans for a possible war against Iraq. This is at a time when we were still heavily engaged in Afghanistan.

RICE: The president apparently did talk to Don Rumsfeld and say to him, you know, "I need to know what my options might be concerning Iraq."
The president, on September the 15th at Camp David, decided that our response to September 11th was going to be against Afghanistan. We planned for Afghanistan; we fought the war in Afghanistan.
By the end of November, things are starting to wind down in Afghanistan, and I do think the president's mind was beginning to move to what else he would have to do to deal with the blow, with the threat that had emerged as a result of 9/11.
And Saddam Hussein and Iraq was, of course — this was the most hostile relationship that we had in the Middle East. It's not at all surprising that the president wanted to know what his options were before he began a course of diplomatic activity, of going to the United Nations, of trying to figure out how to carry out, by the way, a regime-change policy that had been the law of the land in the United States since 1998.

WALLACE: The book also reports that after the CIA briefed the president in December of 2002 on the evidence that it had about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Mr. Bush said this, and let's put it up: "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we've got?" And CIA Director Tenet answered the president, "Don't worry. It's a slam dunk."
Did that happen?

RICE: It did happen. The fact is that we all thought that the intelligence case against Iraq was very strong — not just the United States intelligence agencies...

WALLACE: But that's not what he's saying there. He seems to be saying, "That's all you've got?"

RICE: Well, the presentation, let's say, was not, I think, overwhelming to people. But let's review what we knew about Saddam Hussein. We knew that this was somebody who has used weapons of mass destruction, who was still deceiving the international community about weapons of mass destruction, who had a kind of association with them that was...

WALLACE: Dr. Rice...

RICE: ... well-, well-known.

WALLACE: But all I want to ask you about, how could the presentation to the president of the United States not be overwhelming?

RICE: That's what the president wanted to know. But the intelligence underlying the National Intelligence Estimate, which was the basis for the president's — the intelligence basis — not, by any means, the entire basis for or against Iraq, but the intelligence basis, was pretty categorical.
At that particular moment in time, the presentation was not that categorical. But it did say — the National Intelligence Estimate said he has chemical and biological weapons, he's been improving his capability, and by the end of the decade, if something's not done, he could have a nuclear weapon. That was the assessment.
Chris, even since David Kay has been there and Charlie Duelfer has been there, we are learning that the Iraqis did have an active program. They were seeking capabilities beyond those that they already had. And this was, after all, a state that had already succeeded in making weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was in violation, material breach of Resolution 1441.
The president went to war on a total picture about Iraq. And he went to war on an intelligence basis that was sound.

WALLACE: And what about Woodward's contention that Cheney and — the vice president, Cheney, and Secretary of State Powell are so estranged on policy that they don't talk?

RICE: Well, first of all, I haven't read Bob's book. And I'm really looking forward to it because he's a great reporter, he's a wonderful writer. And I think it will be a good read.
He's explaining a complex set of arrangements in which we, of course, were trying to manage diplomacy and military issues and so forth. But I can tell you, I've had lunch on a number of occasions with Vice President Cheney and with Colin Powell, and they're more than on speaking terms. They're friendly.

WALLACE: You don't have to pass notes between the two of them?


RICE: No, no, of course not. They're very friendly.

also of interest:

The Gospel According to George
The press wanted contrition. Maybe they don't understand the man. Bush's faith will guide him—in Iraq and at the polls

Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., dean, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
posted by matteo at 12:25 PM on April 18, 2004

By the end of November, things are starting to wind down in Afghanistan, and I do think the president's mind was beginning to move to what else he would have to do to deal with the blow, with the threat that had emerged as a result of 9/11.
What a crock of shit--did they mistake the Taliban for Al Qaeda? Had they caught Osama? Are they imbeciles?
posted by amberglow at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2004

House of Broken Toys

Just as the Democratic president ducked behind the parsed line, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," so the Republican president ducked behind the parsed line,
"I have no war plans on my desk."

posted by y2karl at 12:52 PM on April 18, 2004

Let me be the first (of many) to say:
"I have no war plans on my desk... and no 'The Buck Stops Here' sign"

...and no telephone with more than one button."

...but I do have one of those cool things with the metal balls that bang back and forth..."
posted by wendell at 12:59 PM on April 18, 2004

Iraq War More Serious Than Vietnam-EU's Patten

The comparison... that Iraq could become as difficult an issue as Vietnam is misplaced, because I think it is arguably much more serious," Chris Patten told a news conference after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Ireland.

"If things go wrong in Iraq we will be living with the consequences for a very, very long time," he added.

posted by y2karl at 1:09 PM on April 18, 2004

Non-registration link. The trick, BTW, is to find it through Google News.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:19 PM on April 18, 2004

Never mind -- it checks the referrer. Go this way instead. (Reminds self to verify links during preview.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:21 PM on April 18, 2004

"Kerry voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq." /everyone is guilty.
posted by tomplus2 at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2004

Yes, everyone.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:30 PM on April 18, 2004

tomplus2 -- and that vote, along with practically everyone else's, was made on the basis of false claims from the Administration.

But hey, Clinton lied to Congress about consensual sex, so lying to Congress about a casus belli and subsequently killing or crippling thousands of Americans, destroying our international credibility and costing the taxpayers hundreds of billions during a recession-- that's, like, just as bad, eh? So when's the impeachment going to be?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:32 PM on April 18, 2004

that's, like, just as bad, eh? So when's the impeachment going to be?

ssshhhh... user 1 just deleted a Bush Impeachment thread...
posted by matteo at 1:35 PM on April 18, 2004

"... The end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ... Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

I wonder what effects this will have.
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on April 18, 2004

Err Why isn't there more comments on the 'taking funds from Afganistan and using them on Iraq'?

As El Jefe of the USofA, can you just use funds for 'whatever'?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:37 PM on April 18, 2004

As El Jefe of the USofA, can you just use funds for 'whatever'?

When your party controls every branch of government, you can--it's sad, but true.
posted by amberglow at 1:45 PM on April 18, 2004

$700 million designated by Congress for the war in Afghanistan was used to prepare for the war in Iraq.

Surely the War for Resources on Terror is broad enough to cover many different countries.
posted by the fire you left me at 2:48 PM on April 18, 2004

But I distinctly remember Bush saying that every possible effort was being made to find a peaceful solution!!
posted by cell divide at 4:29 PM on April 18, 2004

"Kerry voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq." /everyone is guilty.

Kerry voted to give Bush the power to go to war. It was only supposed to be used as a last resort. Bush chose not to wait that long.
posted by wsg at 4:43 PM on April 18, 2004

Well I think a bit too much spin is being put on Kerry's vote. The war was popular, and he is a politician who didn't want to appear unpatriotic. That was the marketing behind the war, you're either for it or you're against America. Kerry, like any smart politician on the national stage, voted for the authorization, unlike the last Gulf War where the tenor of the debate wasn't so polarized.

IN any case it was probably a good move from the political standpoint, there is no way that America would vote for someone who was against the idea of war with Iraq, it remains a very popular concept. Now Kerry can (and is saying) say that he was for the war, but not the way GW is running it. That's a move towards the center, which is key for him.
posted by cell divide at 5:06 PM on April 18, 2004

So...would anyone here like to take a stab at justifying the Congress-bypassing transfer of funds designated for Afghanistan to Iraq?
posted by rushmc at 5:07 PM on April 18, 2004

Actually, the most shocking and outrageous thing in the book, even to a cynical fellow like me, was the following:

Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election -- to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day... Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: "They're [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."

From Woodward Shares War Secrets at
posted by tranquileye at 5:31 PM on April 18, 2004

Portugals next
posted by clavdivs at 6:24 PM on April 18, 2004

I was wondering, tranquileye, when someone was going to mention that. (reuters story)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:24 PM on April 18, 2004

Did anyone else see the 60 Minutes interview with Woodward tonight? Holy shit dude. The religious crap from Bush scared the bejesus out of me. For the first time in my life I'm actually terrified of the end of the world.
posted by AstroGuy at 6:29 PM on April 18, 2004

It was creepy, Astro--and it reinforces the view of many Muslims and others that he's on a crusade--which is horrendous.
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on April 18, 2004

I haven't read Bob Woodward's books, I've just been following them kind of lazily, peripherally, through media reports. I seem to remember the last one on Bush was overall very positive, to the dismay of those who had thought of Woodward as an executive-branch pit bull. But this one obviously has a lot of choice stuff in it revealing the most cynical, sinister machinations imaginable by this administration. Is it just my conspiracy-theory bent that suggests Woodward may actually have invested an entire book into the long-term project of winning the trust of enough WH insiders to get the crucial dope for this one?
posted by soyjoy at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2004

We'll see if the attack machine swings into action tomorrow against him, soyjoy.

rush, he never goes to them anyway, except to order them to do something (or help attack someone)--Why would he go to them about redirecting money? He's actually made a big mistake in that--he doesn't really have their loyalty nor has he tried to work with them at all, and they'll be around long after he's gone.
posted by amberglow at 7:18 PM on April 18, 2004

I thought the same thing, Astro and Amberglow.

I am interested in the Bush Cabal's relationship to Woodward. I didn't read Bush at War (it sounded liked ass-kissing to me), but I understand that it ended up airing a fair amount of information that has been harmful to Bush's cause.

I can see that much of the less flattering material about Tenet might have been leaked to discredit him (if that needs to be done at all), but Woodward had scads of very damning comments that must have seemed impolitic to the most clueless and zealous suv-driving Kristian Kooalition Krusader. Given the emphasis on loyalty that seems to characterize this White House, how could this happen. Is Woodward smarter than I thought? Shouldn't there be some bitterness about what he did to Nixon?

That interview creeped me out in a serious way.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:25 PM on April 18, 2004

and it reinforces the view of many Muslims and others that he's on a crusade

So does this.
posted by homunculus at 7:41 PM on April 18, 2004

"So...would anyone here like to take a stab at justifying the Congress-bypassing transfer of funds designated for Afghanistan to Iraq."

rushmc, why do you hate freedom so much?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:03 PM on April 18, 2004

Well I know what's next on my reading list. I'm reading Dick Clarke's book right now and that has been interesting, but this is over the top.

Creepy, yes. That's how I felt. My wife and I watched that interview in creeped out shock. I've never been a fan of Bush. I've always thought he was a bit slow, but know I'm convinced he's utterly apeshit fucking insane. I told my wife I don't think the US will survive another 4 years of Bush.

y2carl: Interesting. I think I see a Powell resignation before the election.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:12 PM on April 18, 2004

60 Minutes transcript: Woodward Shares War Secrets

“After the second interview with him on Dec. 11, we got up and walked over to one of the doors. There are all of these doors in the Oval Office that lead outside. And he had his hands in his pocket, and I just asked, ‘Well, how is history likely to judge your Iraq war,’” says Woodward.

“And he said, ‘History,’ and then he took his hands out of his pocket and kind of shrugged and extended his hands as if this is a way off. And then he said, ‘History, we don’t know. We’ll all be dead.’”

posted by y2karl at 8:47 PM on April 18, 2004

D'oh! Missed your link, tranquileye. Well, mine's printable, anyways...
posted by y2karl at 8:49 PM on April 18, 2004

Wow, great links guys, I'm still working my way through them...and yes, I too am starting to feel a little chilled about the future. Now, granted, I've always been one of the *tin foil beanie - the government is evil* matter who was in charge...but woof, this regime just defies logic, it does.
posted by dejah420 at 8:58 PM on April 18, 2004

ot, but well, since people are worried already: New Reports on U.S. Planting WMDs in Iraq
posted by amberglow at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2004

Re "new reports": this next seven months is going to be one helluvah festival of pain. Old Shrub's really done enough damage in these three years, that the last one could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:42 PM on April 18, 2004

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "New Reports" article is a complete lie. Just cruising around Mehr News Agency's website I get other gems like:

“RAPE.COM” website includes a section named “RAPE IN IRAQ” in which gory pictures of the atrocities committed by U.S. armed forces against Iraqi women and children are proudly displayed for all to see. is even safe for work. (At least as much as Metafilter.) There's plenty of truth in the article, but the stuff I'm hearing from other sources is not news, and anything new they present has no credibility now.

You've got to be extra careful of the sources that don't ever challenge your views.
posted by betaray at 12:25 AM on April 19, 2004

a few random notes:

1) This is going to get big. Unlike Clarke, Woodward is untouchable. The administration can't get away with slamming him in the press for a week -- this is the man who helped bring down Nixon. His reputation means any attempt to discredit him will look far worse than the Clarke situation.

2) $700 million diverted from an Afghani war recovery appropriation approved by congress seems very unconstitutional to me. Check the specific clause and its revisions here for context.

3) Woodward reveals the regime change planning began two months after 9-11, and it seems we were planning some Iraq actions two WEEKS after the 9-11 attacks.

4) We showed our "for domestic eyes only" war plan to Saudi ambassador Bandar bin Sultan two days before we showed it to Colin Powell.

5) Watch for announcements this week of increased terrorist threat, as the administration tries to dodge this real quick. Homeland security has already stolen the headline on this morning.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:07 AM on April 19, 2004

Watch for announcements this week of increased terrorist threat...

How prescient.
posted by wsg at 5:23 AM on April 19, 2004

I don't know, betaray--the story's been around for a while in the foreign press. It does fit in this admin's m.o. and what we'd expect them to do.

And Bush himself said that WMDs may still be there during his press conf. I think that if they're suddenly discovered, we'll know if this story is true or not.
posted by amberglow at 5:32 AM on April 19, 2004

And, it puts Tenet's words from the Woodward book in a whole new light, no?
posted by amberglow at 5:43 AM on April 19, 2004

Woodward on Larry King tonight (Monday) FYI.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:15 AM on April 19, 2004

And in the not as off topic as it might look at first dept:

NY Mag reports that Condi Rice, at a dinner with high level NYT DC muckety mucks, said:

"Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” "
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:20 AM on April 19, 2004

Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close.

I understand the need for diplomatic relations, but I just can't imagine being friendly on a personal level with the (royal) Saudis. What kind of people are these Bushes?
posted by callmejay at 9:36 AM on April 19, 2004

*holds hand up, thrice rubs fingers up and down thumb*
posted by y2karl at 9:47 AM on April 19, 2004

What kind of people are these Bushes?

According to Kevin Phillips, they're an American Dynasty.
posted by homunculus at 9:47 AM on April 19, 2004

Cunning, I saw that this morning--hysterical (and very psycho)
posted by amberglow at 10:24 AM on April 19, 2004

In the first excerpt from the Woodward book appearing in the WaPo today, there's a mention of "Saul," head of the Iraq Operations Group at the Pentagon.

Is "Saul" Bill Bruner, mentioned in this story from Salon? (Special version, no reg. required.) I may be confusing my shadowy military intelligence agency figures. When the Woodward piece mentioned the Iraq Operations Group, that made me think of the Kwiatkowski piece.
posted by emelenjr at 10:26 AM on April 19, 2004

I just can't imagine being friendly on a personal level with the (royal) Saudis.

The House of Bush and the House of Saud have been very close for some time now.
posted by homunculus at 11:08 AM on April 19, 2004

Interesting. That Salon link got screwed up somehow. Here's the link again.

And if it's a referrer issue, here's the address:
posted by emelenjr at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2004

yeah, but the Commander In Chief, the President of the United States, the elected representative of our great country, El Hefe de Pantalones...he wouldn't LIE, would he? not to us, right?

posted by NationalKato at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2004

It's kind of interesting how in the book they say it was basically Cheney and Rumsfeld vs. Powell and Armitage. The former two avoided viet nam, while the latter two served valiently there and with distinction. likewise the presidential campaign is between a guy who didn't serve overseas and one who did, with the former launching the war and latter most likely wouldn't have. Why is there this divide between viet nam era hawks?
posted by chaz at 4:05 PM on April 19, 2004

The next excerpt: Cheney Was Unwavering in Desire to Go to War
posted by homunculus at 7:47 PM on April 19, 2004

and Poland's out
posted by amberglow at 8:43 PM on April 19, 2004

early transcript of Woodward and Bandar sparring on Larry King

WOODWARD: [in all the] years going back to Nixon. I've heard all of them.... I mean, that goes in the hall of fame of dodges and fishy explanations. I think it should get an Academy Award.
posted by roboto at 10:49 PM on April 19, 2004

Clarke's vindication
posted by homunculus at 11:38 PM on April 19, 2004

Bush comes across as more intelligent than I've ever given him credit for being. He's clearly in charge. He clearly believed that Iraq had WMD and links to terrorists, but also clearly wanted to liberate the Iraqi people from oppression. I also notice that the word "oil" is conspicuously absent from all the discussions pertaining to Iraq, which should lay to rest one of the loudest objections that was being tossed around since day one. "No War For Oil," the rallying cry of the protesters, here thoroughly debunked by the "untouchable" Bob Woodward. Nice.

These articles actually make Bush look pretty good as a determined leader with a vision. Contrast that with Kerry, who consistently looks bad as a waffler with no vision, and the choice becomes pretty clear. After reading these excerpts, I'm actually more confident that Bush will be re-elected in November. Thanks, homunculus.

Everyone here is all up in arms that shortly after 9/11, Iraq came back onto the radar. I'm going to link to Right Wing News, so brace yourselves.

David Frum: The idea that overthrowing Saddam Hussein sprung out of the minds of a few people in Washington forgets an awful lot of history. In the 2000 election, both candidates spoke openly about the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Al Gore was actually more emphatic on the topic than George Bush was. In 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Just to show how conspiratorial they were, they put it in the Congressional record. In 1995, the CIA tried to organize a coup against Saddam Hussein and it failed. The coup was secret, but it has been written about in 5 or 6 books that I know of. In 1991, representatives of President George H. W. Bush went on the radio and urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. So America's policy on Saddam has been consistent. What we have been arguing about for years are the methods. First, we tried to encourage a rebellion in Iraq, that didn't work. Then we tried coups; that didn't work. Then in 1998, we tried funding Iraqi opposition. That might have worked, but the money never actually got appropriated. Then, ultimately we tried direct military power. The idea that Saddam should go has been the policy of the United States since 1991.

The WMD intelligence and links to terror organizations put Iraq squarely into the State Sponsor of Terror category. Now why would anyone be shocked that the Secretary of Defense drew up a war plan for the possibility of overthrowing Saddam Hussein? Preparing for conflict is his job, after all. It's all well and good to make every possible effort to find a peaceful solution, but only a fool waits until plan A fails to begin brainstorming for plan B.

They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ... Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress.

You do see the glaring contradiction without the added emphasis, do you not? How does this sound unconstitutional to anyone? Even Woodward is wobbly on the specifics, in the excerpts and when Larry King questions him about it in the CNN transcript.

KING: Help me with this $700 million spent without the Congress knowing, and today, the Pentagon, I think, admitted $200 million was spent. How did they do this without our elected officials knowing?

WOODWARD: There's a lot of money they were given...

KING: For Afghanistan.

WOODWARD: For Afghanistan, but Tommy Franks is the commander, central commander...

KING: And he can move it around?

WOODWARD: Well, he had the war in Afghanistan and the planning in Iraq. And I went through this with White House people in some detail, and the president again confirmed that they -- he approved this $700 million and that it was from the Afghan appropriation. And there were people in the White House who felt, you know, Let's not disturb Congress with this.

KING: But some in Congress today are calling for an investigation of that.


KING: Should they?

WOODWARD: It's always better to know. And the issue of spending money in preparing for a war, under the Constitution, they shouldn't spend money unless Congress appropriates it. It's that simple.

Well, actually it's not that simple, because that's not really the issue. The money was appropriated by Congress, the question is, what for? Have any of you stopped to read any of the Appropriations since 9/11? They are in no way specific as to what the funds are to be used for, but are general provisions usually stipulating that a small amount of money be set aside for definitive uses and the rest simply maintains that proper committees be notified after the fact. If they filled out the proper forms and handed in their receipts, then it was legal.

Kerry voted to give Bush the power to go to war. It was only supposed to be used as a last resort. Bush chose not to wait that long.

How many resorts have to fail before you're allowed to use the last one, wsg? Let me get this straight. The plans were on his desk November, 2001, and the invasion took place in March, 2003. That's a year and a half of failed diplomacy, on top of a decade of failed diplomacy. That's a long time.

Again, let's go to Woodward.

WOODWARD: What it -- what it shows is that before 9/11 -- remember, Bush and Cheney, et al, came into office and we were engaged in a low-grade undeclared war with Iraq. We were bombing Iraq, often daily, and they were sensitive to this. They had lots of meetings. They came up with what was called the "liberation strategy," but it was more long-term. It was not a military invasion plan that was developed after 9/11. So there was a focus on it, but it was a reasonable focus. And people have said, Well, it seemed to be an obsession. I think it was an obsession with some people and became much more so after 9/11, but what they were doing, I think, if Gore had been in the White House, might have done the same thing, to review this ongoing war.

Here's an interesting analysis of Bush's options post-Afghanistan.

Powell comments.
posted by David Dark at 1:07 AM on April 20, 2004

Pollyanna, Pollyanna, men have named you
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile...

Soon to be a front page--be my guest--post:

Fables of the Reconstruction

By and large, the March memo validates many points raised by career military, diplomatic, and intelligence officers before the war. For them, lack of planning for post-war stabilization was a primary matter of deep concern, which cannot be said for the Bush administration’s hawkish advocates of “regime change.” ...

Despite repeated assurances over the past year from CPA chief L. Paul Bremer that Iraq’s electricity situation has vastly improved, the memo says otherwise, reporting that there is “no consistency” in power flows. “Street lights function irregularly and traffic lights not at all.... Electricity in Baghdad fluctuating between three hours, on and off, in rotation, and four hours on and off.”

“I continue to get very upset about the electricity issue,” Gardiner said last week after reviewing the memo. “I said in my briefing that the electrical system was going to be damaged, and damaged for a long time, and that we had to find a way to keep key people at their posts and give them what they need so there wouldn’t be unnatural surges that cause systems to burn out. Frankly, if we had just given the Iraqis some baling wire and a little bit of space to keep things running, it would have been better. But instead we’ve let big US companies go in with plans for major overhauls.”...

The CPA memo also validates key points of the exceptionally perceptive February 2003 US Army War College report, “Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario.” (PDF) Critical of the US government’s insufficient post-war planning, the War College report asserted that “the possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace is real and serious.” It also cautioned that insufficient attention had been given to the political complexities likely to crop up in post-Saddam Iraq, a scene in which religious and ethnic blocs supported by militias would further complicate a transition to functional democracy in a nation bereft of any pluralistic history.

According to a Washington, DC–based senior military official whose responsibilities include Iraq, CPA now estimates there are at least 30 separate militias active in Iraq, and “essentially, [CPA] doesn’t know what to do with regard to them — which is frightening, because CPA’s authority essentially ends on June 30, and any Iraqi incentive to get rid of the militias is likely to go away after that date, as sending US troops around Iraq against Iraqis isn’t likely to endear the new Iraqi government to its citizens.”

And then there is the problem of Iran. According to the memo, “Iranian money is pouring in” to occupied Iraq — particularly the area under British control — and it asserts it is “a mistake” to stick to a policy of “not rock[ing] the boat” with the Iranians, as “the Iranian actors with which the State Department likes to do business . . . lack the power to deliver on promises” to exercise restraint in Iraq. According to senior US intelligence and military officials queried on this point, the Iranian influence in Iraq is both real and formidable, and the US is, as one put it, at best “catching up” in the battle for influence. But the officials also added that pushing the point with Iran too hard — either through diplomatic channels or on the ground in Iraq — would likely be more troubled than the current course of action, possibly resulting in armed conflict with Iran or a proxy war in Iraq that the US isn’t ready to fight.

Famously, Lord Cromer once described Great Britain’s approach to the Land of the Nile: “We do not rule Egypt; we rule those who rule Egypt.” Compare that with several statements made by the US official who wrote the memo considered here. Of one senior Iraqi official, whose name is redacted, he states that “it is better to keep [him] a happy drunk than an angry drunk.” And he says of two other Iraqi leaders that they are “much more compliant when their checks are delayed or fail to appear,” adding that “the same is true with other Governing Council members.” The attitudes aren’t much different, are they? And yet sometimes, the most true and heartbreaking view is afforded from the wheel of the mighty ship of state.

Things do not sound well inside the Green Line.
posted by y2karl at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2004

David, Why didn't we finish the job in Afghanistan? Why 2003 for Iraq? Why not after Afghanistan and Osama and Al Qaeda were dealt with? Why were resources (money and soldiers) diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq?

Iraq, while not a paradise under Saddam, was far more stable than it is now, and far less of a threat before we invaded and occupied than it is now.
posted by amberglow at 11:10 AM on April 20, 2004

Not true. We had gone as far as we could in the Afghan campaign, and it still hasn't ended, it's ongoing. However, most of our targets had been scattered and fled the country to Pakistan.

I'm going to borrow from Joe Katzman , which I linked to once already.

Actually, I was going to cut and past a large amount of text a la y2karl, but nobody ever reads that too small type anyway, so just go read it if you're truly interested. It answers the Iraq question as well.
posted by David Dark at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2004

Here, from April 2003, is Can Iraq Become a Democracy? by Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and of late an advisor to Coalition Provisional Authority.

Rebuilding Iraq into a responsible and lawful state will be the most financially costly and politically formidable task the United States has assumed internationally in decades. It is both an awesome challenge and, in Makiya’s words, “a historic opportunity . . . as large as anything that has happened in the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the entry of British troops into Iraq in 1917.” We have very little margin for error. If we do not act quickly to relieve the suffering of the Iraq people, to establish order on the ground, and to generate a legitimate transitional government that clearly conveys Iraqis’ ownership over their own future, we will face mounting protest and resistance that could undermine the entire post-war project and nullify a huge investment of blood and treasure. If we do not allow the Iraqi people to design and choose their own government—knowing full well that democracy in Iraq, as in Turkey, will make decisions that will not please us—we will squander a historic opportunity for regional transformation. If we do not stay the course through to a rebuilt nation—a task that may take the better part of a decade—early successes may later unravel. If we fail in post-war Iraq, all the opponents of American intervention will claim vindication, and our credibility and standing in the world will be gravely damaged, along with our national security.

He was interviewed by Alex Chadwick on NPR's Day To Day Take a listen--there's a part where Chadwick asks Diamond, "Is this a war we could lose ? " and Diamond begins with "Well, it's not inevitable yet but..." Diamond talks of the possiblity of Iraq becoming a Lebanon on steroids. You can practically hear Chadwick's jaw drop.
posted by y2karl at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2004

Growing worry in D.C. -- What if U.S. fails in Iraq?
ANALYSIS: 'We need a Plan B, and I'm not sure we yet have a Plan B,' says one expert

"The risks are far higher than the president suggested," said Anthony Cordesman, a senior military strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We really do face a much more challenging struggle than we heard (Tuesday) night," Cordesman said, referring to Bush's news conference.

Most of the problems stem from two broad, early failures, an array of analysts say: the inability to provide security, beginning with the looting after the invasion more than a year ago, and the lack of international political, financial and troop support.

Few analysts are prepared to declare failure, but the recent violence proves that a political vacuum has opened in Iraq in the year since coalition forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Some political entity that carries credibility and authority inside Iraq is needed to fill that vacuum, they say. It cannot be filled by military force alone.

posted by y2karl at 6:45 PM on April 20, 2004

The next excerpt: Blair Steady in Support
posted by homunculus at 7:52 PM on April 20, 2004

Re: Winds of Change:

Paul Berman has an oped up in the New York Times that summarizes my position on the election and the current situation in Iraq brilliantly. His concluding sentence:
This is not a project for after the election ... this is a project for right now. America needs allies. Today, and not just tomorrow. And America needs leaders. If the Bush administration cannot rally support around the world, let other people give it a try.
Meet my blogging theme for the next month.

It really is a good site.
posted by y2karl at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2004

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