Sunday, March 09, 2008

Doug Feith speaks on how Iraq went wrong

Douglas Feith is telling his side of why the Iraq war went bad, and Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post provide a preview of what the book is going to say. Feith defends his use of alleged "Intelligence" that was supposed to link Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda after the Intelligence Community dismissed it as unreliable and unsupported. In the article Feith is described as still certain that the invasion of Iraq was needed, although he does not set out what America was going to gain from the invasion.
Feith defends the intelligence activities on grounds that the CIA was "politicizing" intelligence by ignoring evidence in its own reports of ties between Hussein and international terrorists. [Snip]

...the book does not address some of the basic facts of the war, such as the widespread skepticism inside the top of the U.S. military about invading Iraq, with some generals arguing that doing so would distract attention from the war against global terrorists. Nor does Feith touch on the assertion of his fellow war architect, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, that Iraq would be able to pay for its reconstruction with oil revenue.

Feith says surprisingly little new about the conduct of the war on the ground, instead focusing on the policy battles in Washington and asserting that most accounts thus far have been written from the point of view of the State Department and the CIA. He attacks those criticisms as "fear-mongering" that serves the interests of certain officials and journalists.

Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, are described as repeatedly working behind the scenes to undercut sound proposals by Feith and other Pentagon officials and to undermine decisions Bush had made. Feith criticizes Powell's failure to persuade France and Germany to support U.S. war policy at the United Nations, and to gain Turkey's approval for U.S. troop movements in its territory, as failures of effort and commitment. Feith also asks what would have happened if Powell had argued with Bush against overthrowing Hussein. Powell might have persuaded the president, Feith writes, or, if not, could have resigned.

Feith's disdain for Armitage, with whom he sparred at NSC deputies meetings, is palpable. Powell's deputy, he says, "reflexively opposed any idea originating at the Pentagon."
Feith's major focus in the book is on the failures in Iraq during the post-war period.
He argues, as have other Iraq hawks such as Richard Perle -- a former Reagan administration Pentagon official and outside Rumsfeld adviser -- that the administration's careful approach to Iraq, including a swift transition to Iraqi control, was prevented from succeeding by ill-informed or disloyal subordinates.

The idea to which Feith appears most attached, and to which he repeatedly returns in the book, is the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority. Feith's office drew up a plan for the body -- to be made up of U.S.-appointed Iraqis who would share some decision-making with U.S. occupation forces -- in the months before the invasion. But while he says that Bush approved it, he charges that Bremer refused to implement it.
As the man responsible for Pentagon planning for the invasion and occupation of Iraq you would hope that his book would provide insights into the reasons and mechanisms behind those operations. That doesn't seem to be the case. Mr. Feith makes the point that Bush presented the decision to invade Iraq in a December 18, 2001 meeting of the National Security Council as a "done deal" . This statement by Doug Feith provides confirmation of that views stated later in the Downing Street Memo .

The Downing Street Memo reported the view of senior British Labor government, defense and intelligence leaders at a July 2002 meeting in which the American intent to invade Iraq was similarly characterized as a "done deal." The American policy was already established, and the Intelligence was being "fixed" to implement the policy. Mr. Feith appears to simply accept the decision to invade Iraq without question, and according to Ricks and DeYoung Feith does not bother to defend that decision.

Mr. Feith' book has the primary goal of placing the blame for the failure of the Iraq invasion and occupation on his bureaucratic opponents and deflecting blame from himself. That says a lot about the invasion. Although he does not admit that it was a mistake, his book appears to be primarily an effort to place the blame for the Iraqi failure on someone, almost anyone, other than himself and the other war hawks such as George Bush, Richard Perle and Don Rumsfeld.

The list of who Feith thinks is at fault for the failure of the Iraqi adventure is long. He blames the CIA and the Intelligence Community, Gen. Tommy Franks, Condaleza Rice, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Jerry Bremer and a cast of hundreds. The leader did not fail, he was ill-served by his subordinates (not including the ever-loyal Doug Feith.)

Feith particularly blames the failure of the post attack occupation on the failure of then CentCom Commander Gen Tommy Franks to attend to planning for the post-war period and on the complete failure of Jerry Bremer to carry out the intended hand-off of the Iraqi government to Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. Feith still thinks that he Intelligence he was using from Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress should have been the basis of decision making for the post war installation of a new Iraqi government.

In short, it appears from the Ricks - DeGrass article that Feith's book is an effort by Feith to exculpate himself from the disaster than Iraq has become. He wants to place the blame somewhere - anywhere - other than on himself. I doubt that it will work, but the book - still the editing process - is not scheduled to be published until June. The article describes Feith as very much the kind of small person of limited ability and restricted views - a conservative apparatchik - that has been his reputation. I'd be very surprised if the final version of the book offers anything different.

Addendum 2:54 PM
Neat! Emptywheel points to the apparent politics behind the publication of the Ricks - DeYoung article.

The book Feith is going to publish will take after Colin Powell, Jerry Bremer and Tommy Franks big time. It really is interesting how somehow Ricks and DeYoung were able to obtain an advance copy in time to read it and then interview Powell, Franks, and Bremer, all major targets of the book.

Purely coincidence, I am sure. Just good journalism there.

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