Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mission Unaccomplished

"OK, we're in Baghdad, what next?"

Before the invasion, an Army commander asked that question and never got an answer, according to a new 700-page study by the Army itself based on 200 interviews by military historians with active or recently retired officers on what went wrong in Iraq after the man in a flight jacket stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier to declare victory.

In what amounts to the non-Rumsfeld story of the disaster, we finally get first-hand accounts of the making of a quagmire, and it is not a pretty picture.

“The Army, as the service primarily responsible for ground operations, should have insisted on better Phase IV [postwar] planning and preparations through its voice on the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the study notes. “The military means employed were sufficient to destroy the Saddam regime; they were not sufficient to replace it with the type of nation-state the United States wished to see in its place."

The Bush Administration, the Pentagon and its Iraq commander, Gen. Tommy Franks were plentifully supplied with wishes but short of methods to realize them. Disregarding one proposal that called for 300,000 soldiers to secure postwar Iraq, they deployed half as many and were in a rush to reduce even that number during “an abbreviated period of stability operations."

“In line with the prewar planning and general euphoria at the rapid crumbling of the Saddam regime," the report says, "Franks continued to plan for a very limited role for U.S. ground forces in Iraq.”

Behind all this was the genius of Defense Secretary Don Rumseld who kept smugly assuring Americans that it would all be fine. "As you know," he told the troops, "you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want."

Meanwhile, we now learn, the Army itself was finding out otherwise. Maybe when Rumsfeld gets around to publishing his memoirs, he'll tell them how they got it all wrong.

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