Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 18, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

POSTWAR IRAQ....EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK.....Over the weekend, Knight Ridder's Warren Strobel and John Walcott continued their top notch reporting on Iraq with a long story about the Bush administration's lack of planning for postwar rebuilding. It opens with an anecdote about a presentation given shortly before the war started:

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

I confess that I still find it almost impossible to believe that the administration did such a lousy job of postwar planning. Did they really think they'd be greeted with rose petals and then triumphantly exit a happy and democratic Iraq within a few months? It beggars the imagination to think so, but it appears to be true and certainly gives the lie to hawks who think George Bush truly understands the nature of the threat we're up against. Obviously he doesn't.

Here's the heart of the KR story:

The U.S. intelligence community had been divided about the state of Saddam's weapons programs, but there was little disagreement among experts throughout the government that winning the peace in Iraq could be much harder than winning a war.

"The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious," warned an Army War College report that was completed in February 2003, a month before the invasion. Without an "overwhelming" effort to prepare for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the report warned: "The United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."

A half-dozen intelligence reports also warned that American troops could face significant postwar resistance. This foot-high stack of material was distributed at White House meetings of Bush's top foreign policy advisers, but there's no evidence that anyone ever acted on it.

"It was disseminated. And ignored," said a former senior intelligence official.

The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency was particularly aggressive in its forecasts, officials said. One briefing occurred in January 2003. Another, in April 2003, weeks after the war began, discussed Saddam's plans for attacking U.S. forces after his troops had been defeated on the battlefield.

Similar warnings came from the Pentagon's Joint Staff, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the CIA's National Intelligence Council. The council produced reports in January 2003 titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq."

Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which Iraqi troops were trying to maintain their grip on Kuwait, "they are now defending their country," said a senior defense official, summarizing the Joint Staff's warnings. "You are going to get serious resistance. This idea that everyone will join you is baloney. But it was dismissed."

The Army War College. A half dozen intelligence reports. The DIA. The Pentagon. The State Department. There was plenty of warning. The Bushies just chose not to believe it because....why? Because they just didn't want to, apparently.

Reality based community indeed.

Kevin Drum 1:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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