Monday, July 14, 2003

Well, with the continued fracas over the State of the Union address, it's now clear that Dubya's crew isn't terribly big on absorbing news that they don't want to hear. Even, it seems, from other factions within the administration:

The brief term of retired Gen. Jay Garner, the administration's first director of reconstruction in Iraq, was dominated by the incessant feud between State Department diplomats and Defense Department hawks. Garner, a close friend of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's, felt obliged to ignore reports that had been prepared by Iraqi exiles at the State Department's request -- and the lack of that knowledge did not help the reconstruction effort. [Emphasis added.]

And the non-communication went the other way as well. Defense, expecting the Iraqi army to surrender en masse, had planned to put them to work afterwards as a reconstruction corps. When Bremer, from State, got in, he instead formally disbanded the army, flooding the country in a stroke with young men with guns, no institutional restraints, no jobs, and no means of support. This has subsequently been acknowledged by just about everyone as an incredibly dumb move.

But getting back to Defense, let's remember that Rummy's neocon faction had its own Iraqi exiles -- the group headed by Ahmed Chalabi. And as this Knight-Ridder report recounts, their only real plan for postwar government of Iraq was to install Chalabi into power, and let him sort things out:

The Pentagon planners were convinced that Iraqis would warmly welcome the American-led coalition and that Chalabi, who boasted of having a secret network inside and outside the regime, and his supporters would replace Saddam and impose order.

In fact, the neocons were so wedded to the siren song of Chalabi -- who was, let us not forget, convicted in absentia for fraud in Jordan and is currently on the lam from a ten-year sentence -- that Richard Perle still thinks that the only thing we really did wrong was not to put him in charge:

Referring to the Chalabi scenario, Perle said: "The Department of Defense proposed a plan that would have resulted in a substantial number of Iraqis available to assist in the immediate postwar period." Had it been accepted, "we'd be in much better shape today," he said.

And indeed, the otherwise incoherent statements coming out of the American government in the postwar environment -- simultaneously talking about the quick transfer of power to an Iraqi government and discussing the policies that government would follow in some detail -- suddenly start to make sense if you understand them as referring to (their expectations of) Chalabi's policies after the groundswell of support orchestrated by his (fictitious) "secret network [of supporters] inside and outside the regime" smoothed his inevitable (not) accession to power. As Knight-Ridder makes plain, this is how they could be so sure that a future Iraqi government would be, say, friendly to Israel -- they'd been talking to Chalabi for years...

But, as the Knight-Ridder article makes plain, there were plenty of reasona to doubt Chalabi would deliver even if he got into power:

The Chalabi scheme was dealt another major blow in February, a month before the war started, when U.S. intelligence agencies monitored him conferring with hard-line Islamic leaders in Tehran, Iran, a State Department official said. About the same time, an Iraqi Shiite militia that was based in Iran and known as the Badr Brigade began moving into northern Iraq, setting off alarm bells in Washington.

At the State Department, officials drafted a memo, titled "The Perfect Storm," warning of a confluence of catastrophic developments that would endanger the goals of the coming U.S. invasion.

Cheney, once a strong Chalabi backer, ordered the Pentagon to curb its support for the exiles, the official said.

But he sent the troops in anyway, pursuing a postwar plan that had already fallen apart.

Lastly, it isn't really fair to attribute all this nonsense to "Defense". The Army War College, after all, predicted pretty much the current scenario before the war, in some detail. It's the small crew at the top, who believed Chalabi had given them the Truth, and wouldn't let anyone else bother them with mere facts.

(Links via The Agonist and comments at The Daily Kos).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home