Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE MASTER OF DISASTER....In Slate, Fred Kaplan takes a crack at figuring out just who it was that ordered the disastrous policy of disbanding the Iraqi army shortly after the invasion. His piece includes this fascinating tidbit, which as far as I know has never been reported before:

On March 10, 2003, a week before the invasion, the National Security Council held a principals' meeting, attended by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, the Joints Chiefs of Staff, and the top aides to all these officials. They decided that after the war, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be set up — similar to such panels in post-apartheid South Africa and post-Communist Eastern Europe — to ferret out the undesirable Baathists from those who could reliably work for a post-Saddam regime. Most Baathists were ordinary, even apolitical, people whose jobs required them to join the party. A rough calculation by NSC staffers and intelligence analysts was that only about 5 percent of the party — the leaders — would have to be removed, and even they would have the right to appeal.

On March 12, at another principals' meeting, on what to do about the Iraqi military, these same top U.S. officials decided to disband the Republican Guard — Saddam's elite corps and bodyguards — but to call the regular army's soldiers back to duty and to reconstitute their units after a proper vetting of their loyalties.

Both of these decisions were unanimous. NSC staff members had briefed officials on these plans before the meetings, up and down the chain of command, and they encountered no substantive dissent.

Unanimous! And yet, the army was disbanded. But who's powerful enought to quietly overturn the unanimous decision of an NSC principals' meeting? Not Bremer. Not Powell. Not the Joint Chiefs. Not Bush. Not Rumsfeld. So who? Kaplan connects the dots:

My guess is it came from Vice President Dick Cheney, if only because his is one of the most leakproof offices in Washington. Had the order originated someplace else, that fact would have leaked by now. It's like the dog that didn't bark in the Sherlock Holmes story; unbarking dogs in this administration, especially at this late date of decrepitude, tend to be the hounds in Cheney's kennel.

But where did Cheney get the idea? A good guess here is that it came from that familiar meddler of the era: the Iraqi exile, chief neocon guru, and suave banker-mathematician, Ahmad Chalabi.

In a way, this is almost comforting. Cheney has been making disastrous decisions ever since he entered the West Wing, and it only makes sense that he'd be responsible for the ur-disaster of disbanding the Iraqi army too. Read the rest to get the whole story.

Kevin Drum 10:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Guess first is easier on Saturdays.

It is truly stunning how thoroughly Dick "I choose myself" Cheney has been able to ignore the laws and processes of government over the last 6 1/2 years. That he's been wrong every time just adds an extra twist.

Posted by: just sayin on September 8, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Shocked, shocked I tell you. Who would have thought that a singularly bad decision like disbanding the Iraqi army would have come from Dick Cheney on the advice of Ahmad Chalabi?

It is clear that early on the rest of the administration didn't know the profoundly flawed nature of Dead Eye's thinking process. That he continues to enjoy power this far along is evidence that no one in the current administration is much brighter.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 8, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK



During the first few months of 2007 the Bush Administration’s answer to Congress when asked when are we going to start withdrawing American troops from Iraq was “wait until September.” Wait for the report from General David Petraeus, the general selected by the President to run the war in Iraq. The general who will tell America whether or not the surge of additional troops sent to Iraq was working. The obvious implication was that General Petraeus would faithfully and accurately report the whole truth about the success or failure of President Bush’s decision to send in additional combat troops to secure Iraq. The message from the President was that after the general gave his report, the Democrats who now run Congress would then be able to decide whether to continue to support the President’s strategy or whether to start a withdrawal of our troops.

That directive from the Bush Administration- to hold off criticism until September, to hold off taking meaningful actions to end the war and just give the surge a chance to secure the peace in Iraq- that directive was the beginning of a shell game being played on America. I say “shell game” because the last few months, as every objective measure has indicated that violence is on the increase, that Iraq’s political situation- which is essential to a peaceful solution to the country’s problems- is disintegrating, that security is non-existent in most of the country while the infrastructure is still a shambles-- as all that has occurred even with the “surge,” the Presidential rhetoric has shifted once again.

Recently, the President has suggested that Iraq is just like Vietnam, but not in the way that most rational people would assume. He says we shouldn’t pull out of Iraq when all indications are that the surge is working– just like those defeatist Democrats did in Vietnam when we were on the cusp of victory. When asked in Australia at the APEC meeting how things were going in Iraq, his surrealistic response was “we’re kicking ass!” President Bush neglected to mention, as Bill Maher astutely pointed out, that if we really were kicking ass and the surge had worked, he wouldn’t have had to fly into the country secretly, spend every minute of his time in Iraq on our most secure air base, Al Asad, nicknamed “Camp Cupcake” by the Marines who serve there, and he wouldn’t have needed Iraq’s President al Maliki to secretly fly from Baghdad to meet him there.

Notwithstanding the mountain of objective evidence that the stated goals of the surge- the “18 benchmarks”-- have not been met (supposedly three were, but none of them involved the most critical- such as having movement forward on a political reconciliation and having the security situation improve so that ordinary Iraqis can safely live in their homes and drive on the streets), the spineless crapweasel Democrats will continue to hem and haw and avoid making an actual decision to pull the plug. They could end the war tomorrow if they so chose by cutting off the cash flow which is the necessity for the continuation of a war which has killed several hundred thousand Iraqis-- no one knows the actual number because the Bush Administration refuses to count-- over 4,000 Americans in uniform, and wounded and maimed tens of thousands of Americans, while costing the nation upwards of $500 billion, with $4 billion thrown down the sewer every week.

So as a public service to the nation, I have some suggested questions for Democrats in Congress to ask General Petraeus when he appears before them and gives them two self-contradictory messages: the surge is working, violence is down, and victory is in sight-- but if we stage an orderly withdrawal over the next 12 months, Iraq is so fragile it will immediately descend into chaos, overt civil war, genocide, and become a failed state and a haven for international terrorism targeting America.

The questions are easy to ask, and any competent commanding general should have made it his business to know the answers:

General Petraeus, what was the population of Iraq before we invaded in March of 2003?

What is Iraq’s population now?

How many Iraqis have fled the country since we invaded it in 2003, toppled their government, and occupied the country?

How many of the remaining Iraqis are involved in acts of violence, including the insurgency and sectarian violence between and within religious sects?

What are the names of each organization which has engaged in acts of violence against United States troops in Iraq in the last 12 months?

How many insurgents are members of the Al Qaida organization which takes direct orders from Osama Bin Laden?

What is/are the name of the top leader(s) of the Al Qaida organization in Iraq?

How many members of Al Qaida in Iraq are Iraqis?

Of those members of Al Qaida in Iraq who are Iraqi, how many of them were members of Al Qaida before we invaded in 2003?

How many members of Al Qaida in Iraq are foreign nationals?

What foreign countries do they come from, and what are the numbers who come from each of those countries?

Of those members of Al Qaida in Iraq who are foreign nationals, how many of them were members of Al Qaida before we invaded in 2003?

How many insurgents are nationalities other than Iraqi?

What is the breakdown in numbers by religion of the insurgents in Iraq (i.e. how many are Sunni, how many are Shia, how many are other)?

What is the geographic breakdown of the insurgents in Iraq, as in how many are there in each province?

General, are all Iraqis found dead from gunshot wounds counted by the American military when compiling statistics as to the effects of the surge?

General, are all Iraqis killed by explosives counted by the American military when compiling statistics as to the effects of the surge?

What provinces have experienced acts of violence committed by insurgents against American or coalition forces in the last 12 months?

What provinces have not experienced acts of violence committed by insurgents against American or coalition forces in the last 12 months?

How many of the insurgents who exist in 2007 were actively involved in violence against Americans before we invaded in March of 2003?

How many Iraqis oppose retaining America’s military presence there?

How many Iraqis, while not actively involved in violence towards America’s troops, do not object to attacks on American troops?

How many billions of dollars in cash did the United States government airlift or otherwise sent to Iraq after our invasion in 2003?

How much of that is missing?

Who got the missing cash?

How much of that missing cash has been used to fuel the insurgency and to attack and kill American troops?

How many weapons that were handed out to Iraq’s police forces and Iraq’s army have gone missing? How many of those missing weapons have been used to attack American troops or kill Iraqis in sectarian violence?

What is the total number of Iraq’s police forces?

How many of Iraq’s police have been killed in 2007? In 2006? In 2005? 2004? 2003? 2002 (before we invaded)?

How many Iraqi police officers can be counted on to impartially enforce the law rather than participating in the insurgency, in sectarian violence, or in criminal acts?

What is the total number of Iraq’s combat forces?

How many of Iraq’s combat forces can be counted on to impartially enforce the law rather than participating in the insurgency, in sectarian violence, or in criminal acts?

In the last six months, how many of Iraq’s combat troops have been “stand alone” and have carried out missions without active American troop support or American military advisors accompanying them?

What was the civilian population in Baghdad in August of 2007?

What is the average high daytime temperature in Baghdad in August?

How do Baghdad’s Iraqi civilians cool their homes?

General, during the month of August of 2007, how many hours a day on the average was electricity on in homes in Baghdad? In August of 2006? 2005? 2004? 2003? 2002 (before we invaded)?

How many hours a day is electricity on in your headquarters?

How many acts of sabotage were committed against Iraq’s electrical grid in the last 12 months?

Who was guarding Iraq’s electrical generators and grid systems in those 12 months?

How many acts of sabotage were committed against Iraq’s oil pipelines in the last 12 months?

Who was guarding Iraq’s oil pipelines in those 12 months?

Is the drinking water in homes in Baghdad safe to drink?

Would you advise Americans to drink the tap water from civilian homes in Baghdad?

General, my friend’s daughter is planning on visiting Iraq next month. Can you tell me what hotel you recommend she stay in outside the Green Zone and the names of some stores where she can shop without needing a security detail of U.S. Marines and attack helicopters?

General, if an American tourist wishes to take his family to Iraq, wearing clothing adorned with American flags, and without bodyguards or a military escort, which cities would you recommend they not visit, not stay in, and not go shopping in?

What would an American tourist’s life expectancy be in minutes if he walked the streets of Baghdad during the daytime?

Can you name any member of the Iraqi Parliament who can walk on the streets in Baghdad, wearing some insignia identifying himself as a member of the Parliament, without body guards, who has more than a 50 percent chance of returning alive?

Name every city in Iraq in which the mayor and city council members may walk the streets safely in the daytime without body guards?

Name every city where it is not safe for the mayor and city council members to walk the streets safely in the daytime without body guards.

Are Iraqi women who are not dressed in traditional Muslim clothing safer walking the streets today, or were they safer on March 19, 2003, before we invaded?

What percentage of your patrol vehicles have armor that will withstand improvised explosive devices planted in the street?

How many more IED resistant vehicles do you need?

How many have you ordered?

How many were delivered?

How many citizens of Iraq died from acts of violence there in 2000? 2001? 2002? 2003? 2004? 2005? 2006? 2007? What were the numbers who died from disease or hunger during each of those years?

How many Iraqis left their homes in 2000? 2001? 2002? 2003? 2004? 2005? 2006? 2007?

How many Iraqis left the country in 2000? 2001? 2002? 2003? 2004? 2005? 2006? 2007?

Are American troops in Iraq to provide democracy to the country?

Are the people of Iraq are free to choose their own fate or is their future being dictated by American military and civilian authorities?

Do you have any objection to asking Iraq’s government to schedule an election to allow the Iraqi people to vote: American troops are to leave within 12 months, or stay in Iraq for years to come?

What is America’s mission in Iraq?

When will that mission be accomplished so that all American troops may come home?

General Petraeus, how many nuclear weapons have American forces discovered in Iraq?

How many facilities capable of making nuclear weapons were discovered by American forces in Iraq?

One final question, General Petraeus: how many of the 20 9-11 hijackers were Iraqis?

Posted by: James Finkelstein on September 8, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please check Informed Comment this morning - Juan Cole also covers this question.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 8, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

People often beat up on dubya for being, shall we say, a man of limited capacity. And of course, he is. But it takes someone with intelligence and force of personality to perpetrate real evil. Without Deadeye in the background, these past 6+ years would not have been pleasant, but they wouldn't have been a catastrophe. Credit where due.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 8, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

dear mr. finkelstein:

stop bugging gen. petraeus!

nobody cares about what you want to know about!

as far as i am concerned you can go shit in your shoe---show more respect for your great war leaders like me and david!

george w. bush

Posted by: ezimmer on September 8, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

You know, seems like everytime Bush's polls start to go south out comes OBL with a tape vowing to destroy America or calling them chicken and UP go his polls. When I combine that with other info such as Bush's cozy relationship with the BL family before 9/11, the letting of members of his family out of the country after 9/11, Bush's statement a few years back that finding BL is not important etc. I just have to wonder if maybe they are actually IN LEAGUE together to keep this war going. I mean for example Bush wants ANOTHER $200 Billion for the war. SOMEBODY'S getting awfully rich here (and it ain't the troops). Maybe this will be one of those huge scandals that histroy will record (like the fall of the WTC).

Posted by: Just Wonderin' on September 8, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on September 8, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Now mhr gets 3 ***! Is this a new code like telling jokes by a number?....No. 1 HaHaHa........* Stupid comment.....No.2 HaHaHa.....**Very stupid comment etc.

Posted by: R.L. on September 8, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, what should have been set up was a Nuremberg Trial, to try and convict the war criminals named Bush and Cheney, who launched a war of aggression (which is the exact reason many of the Nazis were sent to the gallows). Oh, by the way, the Iraqi oil and electricity sector is a massive failure that needs at least $50 billion more to reconstruct, as you can read here. Although I doubt you hear anything about that from General Betrayus.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 8, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, great list, James Finkelstein!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 8, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

There is one Democratic presidential candidate who has identified VP Cheney for removal of office by impeachment, but he is considered unelectable by the people who recognize VP Cheney is the chief architect of America's war crimes.

Posted by: Brojo on September 8, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Master of Disaster -- Love the John Hiatt reference. Perfect for Cheney.

"Now he's just a mean old bastard
When he plays the blues"

Posted by: zenger on September 8, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it was funny to hear of 7 U.S. deaths reported recently. Maybe I just don't tune into the news too much, but it seemed the news doesn't really report on deaths in Iraq, and I was wondering why the mention. It's almost as if it makes it sounds as if deaths haven't occurred in a while, because you haven't heard of them in a while. Just for all those who may read this blog, but don't have a good idea of how well the surge is working you can check out these two websites:

As you can see, there were 84 US deaths in August and 18 so far in September. View the graph at the side of the page.

Here are some recent deaths of Iraqis: as you can see from the bottom of the page, there were 2,575 total civillian deaths in August.

Posted by: Swan on September 8, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

You know, one question that I've always had regarding the secrecy imposed by Cheney and the Bush WH is this: how much of it must remain secret even when another President comes to office?

The point is, how much will we be able in retrospect to reconstruct what actually went on under the Bush administration, and how much will they be able to coverup? How does this work? Can they destroy documents, or impose secrecy on them after their departure?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 8, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney continues apace with plans for war with Iran.

Posted by: meanwhile on September 8, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez Louise guys! Stop with the negativity. The only news on the TV about Iraq is about how divided the Democrats are about how well it's going. It's not like we've actually heard about any bad news. Iraq is now a democracy, safer than an Indiana farmer's market. It's so successful there, that the only thing keeping our troops there is Democrat vacillation. Why do you Democrats hate the troops?

Posted by: anonymous on September 8, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

kaplan: My guess is it came from Vice President Dick Cheney


what are you going to do about it?

Posted by: dick cheney on September 8, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Still pointing fingers, eh Drum?

While the liberals just kick back in their hash bars and whine about how the world is passing them by, the rest of America is rolling up its fingers and getting to the work of winning this thing. It's not pretty, it's not easy, and sure as h*ll there are lots of setbacks. But the surge by all accounts is working, and a majority of Americans in a recent Zigby poll believe America can still win.

But you go ahead and drag the name of Cheney through the mud if it makes you feel better. G*d knows that's all you can do.

Posted by: egbert on September 8, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Cheney theory is plausible. I'm not sure about the Chalabi connection.

It's possible Chalabi planted the idea of disbanding the army some time before the invasion. But by the time CPA No. 2 was issued widespread disorder and the looting of most government agencies had already happened, and Chalabi's militia -- few in number to begin with -- had dispersed. Regular Iraqi army units would have been the only hope of establishing the authority of any kind of Iraqi government, so if Chalabi were serious about running the country he would have needed them as much as anyone.

I suppose it's possible he overestimated the capacity of the American military to start from scratch, or that he viewed Iraqi army commanders as potential rivals down the road. I'm not drawing any conclusions here, only pointing out that disbanding the army was not unambiguously in Chalabi's own interest at the time it was done, and that Chalabi is smart enough to have figured that out.

Posted by: Zathras on September 8, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Does Cheney write an investment blog? Because I want to read it and then do the exact opposite. I'll be rich in days!

Posted by: craigie on September 8, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Actually if I remember correctly Saddams army pretty much disbanded itself. Of course we didn't re-band it back together again. But then it was an emblem of Saddams oppression and probably would not have contributed to peace between the factions anyway and I doubt that it would have any more effective than the present army.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on September 8, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

For some excellent background on the veep's lifelong track record of terrible decisions read this:


Posted by: dweb on September 8, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

What an interesting question FranklyO. From what I have read the answer is no, the Bushies have no way to keep this stuff under wraps after they leave office. This sort of secrecy order is decided by executive order, and it's the current executive who decides. So unless the next President decides to continue the cover up, it will be opened up.

Now the Bushies can try to destroy records now, but that sort of thing is much harder to pull off than it used to be. There's always another copy somewhere.

Posted by: Emma Anne on September 8, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a new code like telling jokes by a number?....

MHR: ***

Moderator: "Son, you need more than to know a joke; ya gots ta know how to TELLS it!"

Posted by: ThresherK on September 8, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Adding to Emma Anne's answer to frankly0: Chuck Colson once told a reporter that if the American people thought Watergate, the Ellsberg psychiatrist break-in, wiretapping reporters and the various other crimes of the Nixon administration were bad, we should have seen the things that were never found out by the public.

No, Bush can't seal things by executive order after he leaves (although succeeding presidents do make deals/observe "professional courtesy" about these sorts of things, especially regarding foreign policy), but I suspect that a lot of Bush stuff won't ever see the light of day simply because no one on the outside will know the right questions to ask. Just as the only criminals we know about are the ones who get caught, the only Bushco crimes that can be investigated are the ones that left a piece hanging out in the open to be noticed and followed up upon. As many of those as there are, I suspect there may be many more--particularly surveillance and spying activities which the intelligence agencies share an interest in hiding--that will never come out because no one will talk and no damning documents will be left around to start the questioning process.

Posted by: shortstop on September 8, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it was funny to hear of 7 U.S. deaths reported recently. Maybe I just don't tune into the news too much, but it seemed the news doesn't really report on deaths in Iraq, and I was wondering why the mention.

You really could have done better with that opening sentence.

Posted by: Not Sure on September 8, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

"In a way, this is almost comforting. Cheney has been making disastrous decisions ever since he entered the West Wing, and it only makes sense that he'd be responsible for the ur-disaster of disbanding the Iraqi army too." - Kevin Drum

Since 1972? No argument from me. Kevin nails it once again.

Posted by: slanted tom on September 8, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

What about Laurence Kotlikoff's suggestion? Here is his plan:

The Iraqi government should institute a draft of all Iraqi men between the ages of 18 and 35. This is the demographic most responsible for the violence. The removal of these 3 million men from the cities and countryside to army barracks would likely bring an immediate end to Iraq's horrific nightmare. Any men older than 35 suspected of involvement in terrorist or insurgent acts would also be enlisted in the Iraqi army.

The role of the enlarged Iraqi army would not involve bearing arms or training in the use of arms. Rather the role would be to reconstruct the country. All army units would be assigned specific reconstruction tasks and be jointly commanded by a Shia, a Sunni, and a Kurd who would make unanimous decisions. If any threesome can't agree, they would be replaced by a threesome that can.

Have you thought about it before, Kevin? I ask because it seems pretty reasonable and even distinctly workable.

Posted by: Brian on September 8, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0, if the next administration subscribes to the unitary executive THEORY then I would assume they could do anything they desire with the records and behaviors of the prior administration. The new administration could even decide some had acted as "domestic enemies" and jail them. Poetic justice.

Of course I do not recall one instance of anything like this ever happening. It's always just let the past stay in the past and let's move forward... etc.

Has any of the serious presidential candidates even breathed a word of an investigation into the Cheney Bush white house? Or for that matter are any of them talking about undoing the damage being done with the implementaton of the crack-pot theories of the neocons and theocons. Have they even identified these radical legal ideas as dangerous?

Don't think so. It's like Gore Vidal has said, we have one party with two wings.

Posted by: whois on September 8, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bremer claims that it's a myth that they were disbanded at all, or that there were really any options there:

Posted by: plunge on September 8, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Let's assume that Cheney is the one who ordered the Iraqi Army disbanded, how is this of any interest to anyone other than future historians? You can be certain that Reid/Pelosi aren't going to pursue any of these decisions as an investigation of criminal activity. Neither is it likely that the next President will.
This post and Kaplan's article are more filler than substance. Keep your focus on the Petraeus report, there's a vital issue there and your posts have been worthwhile reading. This is junk food.

Posted by: TJM on September 8, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Eggie, old chap,

A majority of Ann Arborites still believe that Michigan can still win against the Quackers. If only the Ducks would stay and fight, instead of flying west.

Hell, I doubt if Michigan would prevail against the Quakers or even the Shakers.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 8, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they wanted ro disband them because they wanted to draw in as many insurgents as possible.

The neo-cons do some really bizarre things. Lets not forget the goal, according to Fukuyama, was to create a clash of the civilizations that was actually proposed by Samuel P Huntington.

Posted by: Ya Know...... on September 8, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney has been making disastrous decisions ever since he entered the West Wing

Quite so. Cheney is one of those people born without any "common sense." Fortunately this handicap is relatively rare although I do think that government, and especially this administration, have more such people in decision making positions. It's not that such "sense-blind" individuals do not exist elsewhere, but they usually get shunted aside into fancy sounding, non-policy, although often publicly prominent, posts where the harm they can do is limited. (cf. The Peter Principle)

Unfortunately, rigid governmental bureaucracy often prevents that, and in this administration the fact that those appointing top policy makers cannot recognize incompetence, being as they are completely incompetent themselves, compounds the problem.

I have taught people with this no-common-sense problem. It is not, I have become convinced after many years and lots of effort, a handicap that can be overcome. If the person recognizes that they do not and cannot make good decisions they can be taught some coping strategies to get help with or to avoid final decisions, and then the damage that they do is reduced or eliminated.

Cheney, however, is one of those who do not see the problem as being in their decision making, but in the fact that they do not have enough control to have their decisions unquestioningly implemented.

Put one of these people in a position where oversight or accountability is lacking, and disaster is inevitable. If we had a strong president Cheney could have been contained as he was when he was Ford's chief of staff. Of course, had we a strong president Cheney would never had a chance to become vice president.

Talk about an American tragedy...

Posted by: clio on September 8, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

egbert: "the rest of America is rolling up its fingers..."

And smoking them, apparently.

Posted by: Kenji on September 8, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Says Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times:

"Iraq has been a disaster, an illegal act crassly perpetrated by supposedly honourable powers. It shows what happens when crackpot idealism breaks from the realm of think tanks and journalism and penetrates the body politic. It validates the remark of the philosopher John Gray that 'modern politics is really a chapter in the history of religion'."

You folks at The Washington Monthly, who so enjoy flirting with grand plans put forth by obscure college professors and special-interest think tanks of your own choosing, might well take this advice to heart.


Posted by: takesomeadvice on September 8, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Money talks.

And since Arabs are people like all the rest of us, all the Bush administration had to do after preemptively attacking Iraq, and putting Saddam Hussein and his sons on the run, was offer enough "cash incentives" to Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, and what happened in Afghanistan would have similarly happened in Iraq.

Remember Afghanistan?

After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Special Forces, Army Rangers and CIA field operatives arrived in Afghanistan carrying briefcases filled with money and literally started buying the allegiances of Afghani warlords. Many switched sides and immediately started cooperating with U.S. forces against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Money talks.

So, the same scenario could have unfolded in Iraq. It would have probably taken tens of billions of dollars, but hardly would have cost the hundreds of billions spent in Iraq since March 2003, as well as wouldn't have cost so many of our soldiers' lives nor the lives of so many Iraqis.

All BushCo would have had to do was promise all members of the Iraqi military and police forces, as well as even Iraqis in the Republican Guard, a wage and benefit increase, as long as they upheld the law equally for everyone and basically "played nice." After reestablishing these forces (which would have still been primarily Sunni), then BushCo could have started recruiting Iraqi Shia citizens for these forces, preferably the more secular, non-religious-fanatic Shia Iraqis being integrated slowly into the more secular, post-Saddam-era Sunni security forces.

Al Qaeda in Iraq would have been stopped in its tracks. Also, any Iranian ayatollah influence among the Iraqi Shia population might have been blunted, if not stopped altogether, too.

After watching what happened so successfully in Afghanistan (at least initially), I wondered why BushCo didn't apply the same process to post-Saddam Iraq. Just recently, we learned that BushCo has been paying "incentive" money to Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar Province to get these Sunni tribes to turn against any al-Qaeda in Iraq in their tribal areas (the very same method used in Afghanistan!!!).

Of course, it's understandable.

Paying money directly to the Iraqis wasn't part of BushCo's post-invasion plans for Iraq. How could BushCo and all their crony Republican corporate "middle-men" pals possibly make any money that way? How could Ahmed Chalabi and all the Iraqi exiles make a buck if they were bypassed and money was just doled out directly to Iraqi citizens?

Money talks. And after watching Republicans for so long and how "money talks" to them (sorry, it's not God who talks to them nor to whom they're listening), I still have a hard time understanding why BushCo didn't apply what was used in Afghanistan to at least try and keep Iraq together, and try to stop Sunni and Shia (and even the Kurds) from tearing out the throats of one another.

Obviously, Republicans don't learn much from either their successes or failures. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 9, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC, (Ret.) Remarks at CDI Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004

"And that ad hoc organization has failed, leading to the tenth mistake, and that's a series of bad decisions on the ground....Disbanding the Army, this is one I'll never understand because when I arrived at CENTCOM as the commander, there was an on-going program started by my predecessors to run a psychological operations campaign against the regular Army. Every time we struck Iraq, we dropped leaflets on regular Army formations and garrisons saying "If you don't fight when the time comes, we'll take care of you." We sent messages to them to this affect through people in the region. When I did interviews on Al Jazeera TV and other Arab networks, I would always mention the poor Iraqi soldiers of the regular Army - victims of Saddam. We had always intended if they didn't fight, we'd get rid of the leadership, we'd keep them in tact, we'd provide for some of their training, and we would have the basis for a ready-made force to pick up some of the security requirements. But they were disbanded. And on and on and on, we've had this series of mistakes."


Posted by: Michael Robinson on September 9, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Iraq: The War of the Imagination
By Mark Danner

The following day, Bremer's second in Iraq, the hapless Garner was handed another draft order. This, Woodward tells us, was Order Number 2, disbanding the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior, the entire Iraqi military, and all of Saddam's bodyguard and special paramilitary organizations:

Garner was stunned. The de-Baathification order was dumb, but this was a disaster. Garner had told the president and the whole National Security Council explicitly that they planned to use the Iraqi military�at least 200,000 to 300,000 troops�as the backbone of the corps to rebuild the country and provide security. And he'd been giving regular secure video reports to Rumsfeld and Washington on the plan.

An American colonel and a number of CIA officers had been meeting regularly with Iraqi officers in order to reconstitute the army. They had lists of soldiers, had promised emergency payments. "The former Iraqi military," according to Garner, "was making more and more overtures, just waiting to come back in some form." Again, Garner rushed off to see Bremer:

"We have always made plans to bring the army back," he insisted. This new plan was just coming out of the blue, subverting months of work.

"Well, the plans have changed," Bremer replied. "The thought is that we don't want the residuals of the old army. We want a new and fresh army."

"Jerry, you can get rid of an army in a day, but it takes years to build one."

Again Bremer tells Garner that he has his orders. The discussion attains a certain unintended comedy when the proconsuls go on to discuss the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, which Bremer has also announced he will abolish:

"You can't get rid of the Ministry of the Interior," Garner said.

"Why not?"

"You just made a speech yesterday and told everybody how important the police force is."

"It is important."

"All the police are in the Ministry of the Interior," Garner said. "If you put this out, they'll all go home today."

On hearing this bit of information, we are told, Bremer looked "surprised" �an expression similar, no doubt, to Rice's when she and the President learned from the secretary of state that the civilian occupation authority would not be reporting to the White House but to the Pentagon. Unfortunately, within the Pentagon there coexisted at least two visions of what the occupation of Iraq was to be: the quick victory, quick departure view of Rumsfeld, and the broader, ideologically driven democratic transformation of Iraqi society championed by the neoconservatives. The two views had uneasily intersected, for a time, in the alluring person of Ahmad Chalabi, who seemed to make both visions possible. With a Chalabi coronation taken off the table by President Bush, however, determined officials with a direct line to Bremer were transforming the Iraq adventure into a long-term, highly ambitious occupation. Presumably as Garner woke up on May 17, reflecting that "the US now had at least 350,000 more enemies than it had the day before�the 50,000 Baathists [and] the 300,000 officially unemployed soldiers," he could take satisfaction in having managed, by his last-minute efforts, to persuade Bremer to "excise the Ministry of Interior from the draft so the police could stay."


Posted by: Michael Robinson on September 9, 2007 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

White House and Pentagon aides have told reporters that both Bush and Rumsfeld appeared to be surprised when Bremer made his announcements of DeBa'athication and disbanding the entire Iraqi army.

As Michael Robinson (above) reported, whenever astonished American officials asked Bremer why this sudden and unexpected reversal, his only answer was "I have my orders."

To this day, he has not acknowledged from whom his marching orders came. Since it seems at least reasonable to accept the reports that Bush and Rumsfeld were clearly surprised at the announcements, the only person in the administration who had the power to go over the President's head - and regularly did - was Cheney.


Posted by: Blue Sun on September 9, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

whois posted:

Of course I do not recall one instance of anything like this ever happening. It's always just let the past stay in the past and let's move forward... etc.

That only works one way. The Republicans always want it both ways and the Democrats are always backing down. In the early '90s, the Republicans successfully opposed Clinton judicial nominations by using filibusters and threats of filibuster.

More recently, with Republicans in the majority and Democrats threatening filibusters against Bush judicial appointments, the Republicans denounced the filibuster tactic as if it were the worst abuse of Democracy since Bush v Gore.

The Democrats dutifully backed down and abandoned the only effective weapon they had as a minority party. Now that the Democrats are in control, the Republicans have used filibusters and threats of filibuster routinely to thwart the "powerless" Democratic majority.

Meanwhile. Pelosi et al., have dutifully backed down under Republican denunciations, and abandoned the only two effective tactics they have as a majority party, Impeachment proceedings and the power of the purse to cut off funding for the Iraq war.

Again, the Republicans get to have it both ways and the Democrats cower and tremble, fearful that doing their jobs (and their duty) might lose them a vote here and there in 2008.

Posted by: Blue Sun on September 9, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Impeach him now.

Get your Representative to cosponsor H.R.333.

Posted by: Nell on September 10, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK



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