Chapter 6 The Iraq War: American Decision-Making



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The Weekly Standard, November 24, 2003, www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/378fmxyz.asp. A declassified copy of the briefing slides used by the PCTEG to brief Administration officials can be found at www.fas.org/irp/news/2007/04/feithslides.pdf. See slide 7 for the quote.

110Senate Intelligence Committee Report, pp. 321-33; Senator Carl Levin, “Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship,” October 21, 2004, p. 16, www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2004/102104inquiryreport.pdf.

111 Slide 19, www.fas.org/irp/news/2007/04/feithslides.pdf.

112 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, p. 340. As early as September 21, 2001 DCI Tenet told President Bush that the intelligence community was “skeptical” about the reported meeting between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine, p. 23.

113 The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 228-29.

114 See slide 16 on the link between al-Zarqawi and the Iraqi regime and slide 17 for the links between Ansar al-Islam and the regime. The briefing also asserted that al-Qaeda elements had received training at Iraqi facilities and that there were indications of Iraq-al-Qaeda cooperation on biological and chemical weapons development. www.fas.org/irp/news/2007/04/feithslides.pdf.

115 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, pp. 334-38; quote in p. 338.

116 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, p. 323.

117 Dana Priest, “Al Qaeda-Iraq Link Recanted,” Washington Post, August 2, 2004. Isikoff and Corn report that al-Libi originally told his FBI interrogators that al-Qaeda had no links to Saddam, but that after the CIA had transferred al-Libi to Egyptian authorities he told his Egyptian captors that there was an al-Qaeda-Iraq link. When he was returned to FBI custody, he recanted the story he told the Egyptians. When asked why he had told the Egyptians there was a link, he said, “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.” Hubris, pp. 119-124.

118 Walter Pincus, “Newly Released Data Undercut Prewar Claims,” Washington Post, November 6, 2005.

119 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, p. 325.

120 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, p. 310.

121 Senator Levin, “Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship,” pp. 15-16.

122 Douglas Jehl, “CIA Chief Says He’s Corrected Cheney Privately,” New York Times, March 10, 2004.

123 Inspector General United States Department of Defense, Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence, “Review of the Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy,” Report No. 07-INTEL-04, February 9, 2007. www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/ig020907-decl.pdf. Quotes from pp. 15-16

124 The Senate Intelligence Committee subsequently concluded that the intelligence community’s assessment of the lack of linkage between Saddam and al-Qaeda was accurate. “Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa’ida to provide material or operational support.” U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, “Postwar Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments,” 109th Congress, 2nd Session, September 8, 2006, quote from p. 105. http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf.

125 See the series of quotations collected in Senator Levin, “Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship,” pp. 30-41.

126 Poll result cited in Dana Milbank and Claudia Deane, “Hussein Link to 9/11 Lingers in Many Minds,” Washington Post, September 6, 2003.

127 Yet some of them do. George Tenet says “What never happened, as far as I can tell, was a serious consideration of the implications of a U.S. invasion…In looking back, there seemed to be a lack of curiosity in asking these kinds of questions, and the lack of a disciplined process to get the answers before committing the country to war.” At the Center of the Storm, p. 308.

128 Lawrence Freedman cogently notes: “Yet while worst-case analysis was rampant on the subject of Iraq, WMD and terrorism, best-case analysis was equally dominant as to what would follow Saddam.” “War in Iraq: Selling the Threat,” p. 34. This sentiment is echoed by Thomas Ricks: “It [the war] was made possible only through the intellectual acrobatics of simultaneously ‘worst-casing’ the threat presented by Iraq while ‘best-casing’ the subsequent cost and difficulty of occupying the country.” Fiasco, p. 4. Douglas Feith presents a number of memos that he wrote in the lead-up to the war in which he mentions potential post-war problems. He blames others for not heeding his warnings. War and Decision, pp. 363-66.

129 Ricks, Fiasco, p. 104.

130 Michael Gordon, “The Strategy to Secure Iraq Did Not Foresee a 2nd War,” New York Times, October 19, 2004.

131 Peter Slevin and Dana Priest, “Wolfowitz Concedes Iraq Errors,” Washington Post, July 24, 2003: “In addition to believing that Iraqi soldiers and police officers would help secure the country, they [Bush Administration] thought that Iraqis would embrace the American invaders and a future marked by representative government, civil liberties and a free market economy, and that Iraqi bureaucrats, minus a top layer of Baath Party officials who would quit or be fired, would stay on the job. Within weeks, if all went well, Iraqis would begin taking control of their own affairs and the exit of U.S. troops would be well under way.”

132 George Packer, “Letter from Baghdad: War After the War,” The New Yorker, November 24, 2003, p. 62.

133 Gordon, “The Strategy to Secure Iraq Did Not Foresee a 2nd War.” For more detail, see Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II, pp. 458-63.

134 George Packer writes: “The number of American soldiers in Iraq, which hovered around 135,000, sometimes spiking or dropping by ten or twenty thousand in response to events, reflected nothing other than Rumsfeld’s fixed idea of military transformation.” The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), p. 245.

135 Woodward, Plan of Attack, pp. 36-37, 40-41, 54-58, 75-76. See also Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II, pp. 4-5, 28-30, 36-37.

136 Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II, pp. 151-52.

137 Barbara Slavin and Dave Moniz, “How Peace in Iraq Became Elusive,” USA Today, July 22, 2003.

138 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on the Budget, “Department of Defense Budget Priorities for Fiscal Year 2004,” 108th Congress, 1st Session, February 27, 2003, p. 8.

139 Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, “Off the Mark on Cost of War, Reception by Iraqis,” Washington Post, March 19, 2004.

140 James Fallows, “Blind Into Baghdad,” Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2004. See also Packer, Assassins’ Gate, pp. 132-33.

141 Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger, “Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions,” New York Times, September 28, 2004. See also Peter Slevin and Dana Priest, “Wolfowitz Concedes Iraqi Errors,” Washington Post, July 24, 2003.

142 Fallows, “Blind Into Baghdad.” I participated in one of them. If the chaos of the simulation was any indication, the intelligence community should have been well prepared for the chaos of post-war Iraq.

143 Mark Fineman, Robin Wright and Doyle McManus, “Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace,” Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2003. Paul Pillar, the national intelligence officer for the Middle East, subsequently wrote that the intelligence community in the lead-up to the war “presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult and turbulent transition” including “a significant chance that the groups [in Iraq] would engage in violent conflict…and it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks.” “Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 2 (March/April 2006), p. 18.

144 Eric Schmitt and Joel Brinkley, “State Department Study Foresaw Trouble Now Plaguing Iraq,” New York Times, October 19, 2003; Fallows, “Blind Into Baghdad.” Feith contends that the Defense Department cooperated with the Future of Iraq Project and argues that it did not produce operational plans for post-war Iraq. War and Decision, pp. 375-78.

145 U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, “Hearings to Examine Threats, Responses and Regional Considerations Surrounding Iraq,” 107th Congress, 2nd Session, July 31-August 1, 2002, p. 179.

146 “Hearings to Examine Threats,” p. 171.

147 Council on Foreign Relations, “Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq,” January 1, 2003, www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Post-War_Iraq.pdf.

148 Barbara Slavin and Dave Moniz, “How Peace in Iraq Became So Elusive,” USA Today, July 22, 2003. See also Fallows, “Blind into Baghdad,” for reference to the Central Command exercise. Gordon and Trainor report that CENTCOM’s 1998 plan for occupying Iraq in the wake of a collapse of Saddam’s regime and central authority called for over 400,000 troops. Cobra II, p. 26.

149 Eric Schmitt, “Army Chief Raises Estimate of GI’s Needed in Postwar Iraq,” New York Times, February 25, 2003.

150 “Department of Defense Budget Priorities for Fiscal Year 2004,” p. 8.

151 “Administration Fends Off Demands for War Estimates,” CNN.com, March 3, 2003, www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/02/27/sprj.irq.war.cost/.

152 Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, “Off the Mark on Cost of War, Reception by Iraqis,” Washington Post, March 19, 2004.

153 Jeff Gerth, “Report Offered Bleak Outlook About Iraqi Oil,” New York Times, October 5, 2003.

154 Fineman et al., “Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace.”

155 Quoted in William D. Nordhaus, “The Economic Consequences of a War with Iraq,” October 29, 2002, www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/iraq.pdf. Published in The New York Review of Books, December 5, 2002.

156 Nordhaus, “The Economic Consequences of a War,” p. 37.

157 Council on Foreign Relations, “Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq,” p. 22.

158 Packer, Assassins’ Gate, p. 111.

159 Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II, p. 457.

160 This conclusion is shared by Freedman, “War in Iraq: Selling the Threat,” pp. 38-39.

161 Silberman-Robb Commission, p. 11.

162 “My confidential interviews with CIA officials at several levels of the hierarchy did not find anyone excusing his or her errors as resulting from political pressure.” Jervis, “Reports, Politics and Intelligence Failures: The Case of Iraq,” p. 35.

163 Siblerman-Robb Commission, p. 11. James Risen disagrees, arguing that CIA analysts’ doubts about the existence of Iraqi WMD programs “were stifled because of the enormous pressure that officials at the CIA and other agencies felt to support the administration.” State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, (New York: Free Press, 2006), p. 109.

164 Burroughs et al., “The Path to War,” p. 242.

165 “But when policymakers repeatedly urge the intelligence community to turn over only certain rocks, the process becomes biased.” Pillar, “Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq,” p. 23. Analysts who presented views contrary to Administration desires “were subjected to barrages of questions and requests for additional information. They were asked to justify their work sentence by sentence…[A]t a certain point, curiosity and diligence become a form of pressure.” Kenneth Pollack, “Spies, Lies and Weapons,” Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2004. Richard Kerr, a retired CIA agent brought back in to assess the intelligence failures leading up to the war, said: “There was a lot of pressure, no question…Not that they [analysts] were being asked to change their judgments, but they were being asked again and again to restate their judgments, do another paper on this, repetitive pressures. Do it again.” Burroughs et al., “The Path to War,” p. 244. See also Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine, pp. 189-91, for a telling anecdote.

166 Pillar, “Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq,” particularly pp. 20-21, 23-24.

167 Burroughs et al., “The Path to War,” p. 244.

168 Silberman-Robb Commission, p. 75, see also p. 190.

169 Jervis, “Reports, Politics and Intelligence Failures: The Case of Iraq,” p. 37.

170 Jervis, “Reports, Politics and Intelligence Failures: The Case of Iraq,” p. 36.

171 Quote from the Key Judgments section of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction,” www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/iraq-wmd.html.

172 “The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war.” Kenneth Pollack, “Spies, Lies and Weapons.”

173 “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction,” www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/iraq-wmd.html.

174 Packer, Assassins’ Gate, p. 120. See Chapter 4, “Special Plans,” for an extended discussion of the problems in planning for post-war Iraq.

175 Packer, Assassins’ Gate, p. 114.

176 Fallows, “Blind into Baghdad.”

177 Packer, Assassins’ Gate, p. 125.

178 Packer, Assassins’ Gate, p. 124. See also Ricks, Fiasco, pp. 103-04.

179 Mark Fineman, Robin Wright and Doyle McManus, “Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace,” Lost Angeles Times, July 18, 2003.

180 Among the earliest post-war statements of this new American emphasis on spreading democracy in the Middle East are an article by then NSA Rice, “Transforming the Middle East,” Washington Post, August 7, 2003; and the October 6, 2003 speech by President Bush before the National Endowment for Democracy, www.presidentialrhetoric.com/speeches/10.06.05.html.

181 CIA Director Tenet ultimately concluded that the transformation of the Middle East was a central, though not the only, motivation for the war: “The United States did not go to war in Iraq solely because of WMD. In my view, that was not even the principal cause. Yet it was the public face that was put on it. The leaders of a country decide to go to war because of core beliefs, larger geostrategic calculations, ideology and, in the case of Iraq, because of the administration’s largely unarticulated view that the democratic transformation of the Middle East through regime change in Iraq would be worth the price.” At the Center of the Storm, p. 321.

182 www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/consequences/2003/0226bushspeech.htm.

183 Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, pp. 134-36, 351-52.

184 Sam Tanenhaus, “Bush’ Brain Trust,” Vanity Fair, July 2003, p. 114.

185 One cogent statement of the argument is Lawrence F. Kaplan and William Kristol, The War over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission, (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003).

186 Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, pp. 326-27.

187 Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II, pp. 72-73.

188 www.newamericancentury.org/iraq-082602.htm.

189 The intellectual ballast for this kind of analysis was supplied by the eminent Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis, who advised the Administration in the post-9/11 period and was frequently quoted by Administration officials. See his What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

190 In an interview with National Public Radio in February 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz responded to a question about the possibility that Iraqis would oppose an American military presence: “The Iraqis are among the most educated people in the Arab world. They are by and large quite secular… We're seeing today how much the people of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe appreciate what the United States did to help liberate them from the tyranny of the Soviet Union. I think you're going to see even more of that sentiment in Iraq.” www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/t02202003_t0219npr.html.

191 For an similar argument about the centrality of ideas of transformation, democracy and American power in explaining the American war decision, see Andrew Flibbert, “The Road to Baghdad: Ideas and Intellectuals in Explanations of the Iraq War,” Security Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2 (April-June 2006).

192 One Cheney aide, after the war, said: “The imminence of the threat from Iraq’s WMD was never the real issue [for us]. WMD were on our minds, but they weren’t the key thing. What was really driving us was our overall view of terrorism and the strategic conditions of the Middle East.” Burroughs et al., “The Path to War,” Vanity Fair, May 2004, p. 283.

193 Ricks, Fiasco, p. 48.

194 For my critical assessment of the linkage, see “Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 84, No. 5 (September/October 2005).

195 Woodward, Plan of Attack, p. 323.

196 Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Economic Overhaul for Iraq, Only Oil Excluded from Foreign Ownership,” Washington Post, September 22, 2003.

197 Warren Vieth, “Privatization of Oil Suggested for Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2003.

198 Klare, Blood and Oil, Chapter 4.

199 Klare, Blood and Oil, pp. 78-84. Quotes from pp. 82, 83-84.

200 Klare, Blood and Oil, pp. 82-83.

201 Klare, Blood and Oil, pp. 78, 82.

202 Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2001. Full copy of the report available at www.pppl.gov/common_pages/national_energy_policy.html.

203 Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, chapter 8, p. 5.

204 Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, chapter 8, pp. 6-14.

205 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Monthly Energy Review,” December 2008, Table 11.1a, www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec11_4.pdf.

206 Amit R. Paley, “Iraq and China Sign $3 Billion Oil Contract,” Washington Post, August 29, 2008.

207 After the war, Deputy Secretary of State Wolfowitz told a reporter that an “almost unnoticed but huge” benefit of the war was that it allowed the US to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where there presence was a destabilizing element and a spur to al-Qaeda’s hostility. Sam Tanenhaus, “Bush’s Brain Trust,” Vanity Fair, July 2003.

208 See the argument made by Sheila Carapico and Chris Toensing, “The Strategic Logic of the Iraq Blunder,” Middle East Report, No. 239 (Summer 2006).



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