by Walter Uhler
29 June 2007
Part Two, below, examines the disasters that could have been avoided, except for the gross incompetence with which the invasion was conducted. Part Three, next week, will examine the desperation, which now compels various political actors to contemplate drastic action before the Bush/Cheney regime leaves office.)
Part Two: Incompetence
Last month — more than four years after the Bush/Cheney regime’s criminal and immoral invasion — oil rich Iraq was able to produce only 2 million barrels of oil per day, some 500,000 barrels per day less than it produced on the eve of the U.S. invasion. It also produced but an average of 3,700 megawatts of electricity, or some 300 megawatts less than it produced on the eve of the U.S. invasion. [Jason Campbell, Michael O’Hanlon and Amy Unikewicz, “The State of Iraq: An Update,” New York Times, June 10, 2007]
Such sobering facts highlight the incompetence of the ideologue who most fervently argued in favor of undertaking the regime’s criminal invasion, Paul Wolfowitz. Speaking to Congress about Iraq’s oil just one week after the invasion began, Wolfowitz asserted: “We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”
In fact, as the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported just last month, “From fiscal years 2003 through 2006, the United States spent about $5.1 billion to rebuild the oil and electricity sectors. The United States also spent an additional $3.8 billion in Iraqi funds on these sectors. However, Iraq will need billions of additional dollars to rebuild these sectors.” [GAO Report No. 07-677, “Rebuilding Iraq: Integrated Strategic Plan Needed to Help Restore Iraq’s Oil and Electricity Sectors,” May 2007]
Moreover, as the Chicago Tribune reported four days ago, “Across the country, most provinces get electricity 10 to 12 hours a day. Baghdad usually had been getting about two hours, and when sabotage attacks destroyed all but one transmission line to the city in late May, many city residents got just one hour.” [James Janega, “After 4 Years, Electricity Still Luxury,” Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2007]
The GAO report blamed “poor security conditions” for slowing reconstruction and rising costs. By “poor security conditions,” the report means looting, sabotage, insurgency and civil war. Yet, all these ills are direct and predictable consequences of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s failure to dispatch a military force to Iraq that was large enough to secure the peace.
Notably, it was Rumsfeld’s deputy, Wolfowitz, who ridiculed General Shinseki’s (strikingly prescient) prewar estimate that peacekeeping in Iraq would require “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers.” Calling it, “widely off the mark,” Wolfowitz added: “It’s 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.” [George Packer, The Assassins’ Gate, pp. 114-15]
Lacking such imagination, the ideologues running the Pentagon failed to plan for an insurgency. But, worse, they adamantly refused to do any planning at all for post-invasion Iraq, lest they be required to inform Congress about the potential problems that might arise. As one Defense official told George Packer, “The senior leadership in the Pentagon was very worried about the realities of the postconflict phase being known, because if you are [Douglas] Feith or if you are Wolfowitz, your primary concern is to achieve the war.” [Ibid, p. 114]
Two erroneous assumptions permitted Rumsfeld and the neoconservatives in the Pentagon to justify their politically inspired negligence: (1) the war would be a “cakewalk,” because Iraqis would greet American troops as liberators and (2) the technological superiority of America’s forces, thanks to the “revolution in military affairs,” was a force multiplier that rendered a huge invading force and post-invasion plans unnecessary.
Eager for war, the Bush/Cheney regime spent much of 2002 planning for the invasion – Phase I (the buildup of troops), Phase II (covert operations) and Phase III (air and ground assaults). In fact, by early 2002 military resources had been diverted from Afghanistan to support the invasion of Iraq. On February 19, 2002 General Tommy Franks admitted as much when he confidentially told Florida’s Senator, Bob Graham: “Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan” because “military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.” [Graham, Intelligence Matters p. 125]
(According to Graham, “[O]nce America turned to Iraq, al Qaeda was able to regroup, refocus, and begin carrying out attacks again. From September 2002 until the train bombings in Spain in 2004, al Qaeda carried out twelve attacks that took, in all, more than 600 lives.” [Graham, p. 218])
Eager for war, the Bush/Cheney regime also ignored two Intelligence Community Assessments issued in January 2003 that warned about the numerous potential problems that might result from an invasion of Iraq. These reports warned about the difficulty of establishing democracy in Iraq, about the opportunities that the invasion would provide for al Qaeda, about the possibility of unleashing violent conflict in a divided society (e.g., civil war), about fueling a heightened terrorist threat, a surge in political Islam and increased funding of terrorist groups, and about how Iran might profit from the whole ordeal. [“Report on Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq,” Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate, May 25, 2007, pp. 6-12]
(Note the total abuse of intelligence: First, the Bush/Cheney regime pressured the intelligence community (IC) to produce conclusions that supported its own preconceptions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda. Then, it embellished or lied about the IC’s WMD intelligence while fabricating damning intelligence about Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda, when the IC found none. Finally, it ignored the IC’s quite accurate assessments about potential problems resulting from an invasion.)
Consequently, “by March 2003, the planning for Phase IV [postwar operations] was barely under way.” [Packer, p. 119] Moreover, when General Franks — the man responsible for Phases 1 through 3 – was asked about Phase IV, he replied: “Mr. Wolfowitz is taking care of that.” [Packer, p. 120]
Wolfowitz assigned responsibility for postwar planning to his subordinate, Douglas Feith. In mid-January 2003, Feith asked retired lieutenant general Jay Garner to take the job. Garner eventually accepted and commenced work. But when he asked Feith for copies of planning documents, “Feith told him nothing useful existed.” [Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, p. 31]
And, thus, the Bush/Cheney regime started a war without having a plan to win the peace. Not only did it field too few troops, it gave them no orders about how to handle the looters who ravaged Iraq after the invasion. According to Noah Feldman, an adviser in Iraq, “The key to it all was the looting. That was when it was clear that there was no order. There’s an Arab proverb: Better forty years of dictatorship than one day of anarchy.” The looting “told them that they could fight against us and we were not a serious force.” [Packer, p.138]
Or, as former Reagan administration official, Fred Ikle, characterized the American response to the looting: “America lost most of its prestige and respect in that episode. To pacify a conquered country, the victor’s prestige and dignity is absolutely critical.” [Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco, p. 136]
The invasion also answered the prayers of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorists. For, as bin Laden’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, asserted in late 2003: “We thank God for appeasing us with the dilemma in Iraq after Afghanistan…If they [the Americans] withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.” [Michael Scheuer, Imperial Hubris, p. xxi]
By its failure to plan to prevent looting, which “caused far more damage to Iraq’s infrastructure than the bombing campaign” [Chandrasekaran, p. 46] and reached into the depths of Iraq’s (and the world’s) cultural treasures, the Bush/Cheney regime not only proved that it was riddled with barbarians, it also violated international law. As noted in a very significant June 2007 report, “War and Occupation in Iraq,” issued by the Global Policy Forum, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict “specifies that an occupying power must take necessary measures to safeguard and preserve the cultural property of the occupied country and must prevent or put a stop to ‘any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against cultural property.” [‘War and Occupation in Iraq,” p. 20]
Yet, when, on April 11, 2003, Rumsfeld was asked about the looting in Iraq, he responded, “Stuff happens!” Perhaps he simply was unaware that even the Nazis felt compelled to protect the Louvre.
The insurgency born of the looting picked up steam in mid-May 2003 with the arrival of L. Paul Bremmer in Baghdad to replace Garner and to head the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). On May 16 Bremmer issued his “De-Baathification” order, which threw some 85,000 members of Saddam’s Baath Party out of work. Doctors, professors and other professionals – the kind of people “‘that you can’t do without’ in running a society” [Ricks, p. 161] – were out of work.
On May 23, 2003, Bremmer issued the order, which dissolved the Iraqi armed services, the staff of the Ministry of Interior and the presidential security units. As one expert observed: “Abruptly terminating the livelihoods of these [720,000] men created a vast pool of humiliated, antagonized and politicized men.” [Ricks, p. 162] And, as Army Colonel John Agoglia subsequently observed: That was the day “that we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and created an insurgency.” [Ibid, p. 163]
But the incompetence didn’t end there. As Rajiv Chandrasekaran detailed in his book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone the CPA was teeming with incompetents. “One 24-year old official with no background in finance was given the job of resurrecting the Baghdad stock exchange. Another aide, tasked with devising new traffic regulations, down-loaded those of Maryland from the internet. A 21-year old charged with helping to rehabilitate the interior ministry boasted that his most meaningful job to date had been as an ice cream truck driver.” [Chandrasekaran, “Lords of misrule still in charge at the Baghdad bubble,” TIMESONLINE, June 24, 2007]
Ignorant of what he had wrought, as well as the implications of Bremmer’s incompetent acts, a complacent Wolfowitz told Congress, in June 2003, that the insurgency was the “remnants of the old regime…I think these people are the last remnants of a dying cause.” [Ricks, p. 170] Rumsfeld called the insurgents “dead-enders,” not knowing that he would be politically dead long before the insurgency. Predictably, Bush uttered the dumbest statement of them all. On July 2, 2003, from the safety of the White House, our brave president observed: “There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring ’em on.” [Ricks, p. 172]
And “Bring ’em on” they did! When Bush opened his big mouth in July 2003, insurgent attacks already averaged 16 per day. Moreover, while Bush attempted to bamboozle Americans with one bogus “turning point” after another, the insurgents increasingly brought ’em on.
Thus, when Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003, the insurgents were averaging 19 attacks per day. When L. Paul Bremmer signed the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45. When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61. Notwithstanding these mounting daily attacks, Cheney seized a moment in June to make yet another asinine assertion: the insurgency is “in the last throes.”
Yet, in December 2005, six months into its “last throes” when Iraqis voted for a permanent government, the daily attack rate had reached 75. And when terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in June 2006, it was up to 90. [See Tom Lasseter, Miami Herald, Aug. 16, 2006] Worse, in October 2006 attacks surged to a record high of 176 per day.
Even in the teeth of Bush’s so-called “surge,” attacks averaged 164 per day in February 2007, 157 in March and 163 in April. Thus, enemy attacks for the entire month of April totaled approximately 4,900. “Bring ’em on,” indeed!
In addition to nurturing an ever-growing insurgency and civil war, the Bush/Cheney regime’s criminal, immoral and incompetent invasion and occupation of Iraq “has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism” that “has metastasized and spread across the globe.”
That’s the conclusion reached in the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate titled: “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.” Moreover, thanks to the regime’s incompetence, “the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.” [Mark Mazzetti, “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat,” New York Times , 24 Sept. 2006]
And while the attacks increase in Iraq and the terrorist threat grows around the world, the U.S. Army, to quote retired General Colin Powell, is “about broken.” As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich has observed: “President Bush has nickeled and dimed the nation’s fighting forces to the verge of collapse. Even today he remains oblivious to the basic problem that his administration has confronted for the past four years – too much war and too few soldiers.” [Bacevich, “Bushed Army,” The American Conservative June 4, 2007]
Finally, one cannot complete an examination of the gross incompetence of the Bush/Cheney regime without noting the perverse results of its objective to reshape the Middle East. Not only did it fail to increase Israel’s security and leverage the region’s oil, it inadvertently fostered Iran’s emergence as a regional force to be reckoned with.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).