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.
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
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
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).