Friday, March 28, 2008

How the Iraq invasion became such a disaster

In my previous post, The Battle for Basra, I concluded that Iraq is presently a disaster and that the disaster is
... a direct result of the idiocy of invading Iraq in the first place, followed by Jerry Bremer's compounding of the idiocy when he disbanded the Iraqi government and military forces. Removing Saddam might have been a reasonable goal (although the cost of the invasion certainly was not justified by that one goal) but Bremer's idea that Baathists were the same as Nazis after WW II and that he was going to deBaathify Iraq the way the allied occupiers of Germany did that country was a fantasy. The occupation of Iraq was not planned and without such an occupation, the destruction of the local government and military was simply the creation of the chaos that is Iraq today.

What used to be the nation of Iraq has been shattered and destroyed, and American troops are now fighting on one side of an Iraqi civil war in which we have no real interest beyond the protection of the prestige of George Bush and the Republican Party prior to the November 2008 Presidential election.

American troops are also in the unenviable position of protecting the Sunni militias and tribes in Anbar Province from the Shiite government of al Maliki, as well as protecting the Kurds in the North from the Shiite government.

So, having destroyed Iraq as a nation, the American military is currently preventing two civil wars from occurring and actively being sucked into taking sides in the third between the two major Shia factions.
The recently aired Frontline Series Bush's War shows why the invasion became such a disaster. While there is a lot of blame to go around with many people in the Bush administration responsible for a variety of blunders, the most significant blame is that of Bush himself. Blunders occur in war, but in this case the utter lack of leadership from Bush encouraged and created blunders and failed to recognize and correct them. Bush's failures as a leader are quite obvious.

Bush failed to provide direction, coordination and control to Rumsfeld (DoD), Powell DoS), and the Intelligence Community. Worse, Bush took the job of post-invasion planning and operation away from the experts in the Department of State and gave it to Rumsfeld who did not perform the job. The overall coordination job should have been Bush's through the National Security Council, and Bush simply walked off and failed to act when Rumsfeld cut the State Department out of planning the post-invasion operations. Then Bush stupidly let Rumsfeld cut the Intelligence Community out of the operation and replaced their analysis with incompetent material from Doug Feith and his Office of Special Plans (OSP) at the Pentagon.

You'd think the conservatives around Bush would have been ready to invade Iraq competently. They had more than enough time to prepare. It's clear that the top members of the Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq on the day Bush was sworn in, and they were simply looking for an excuse. The events of 9/11 gave them the excuse. It was not a very good excuse, but they forced the invasion of Iraq on America as a response to the al Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11.

The invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and too expensive for any possible realistic gain. Then, in addition to being essentially rationally purposeless, as the Frontline show clearly demonstrates the invasion was bungled terribly.

Donald Rumsfeld wanted to conduct the invasion, and he wanted no interference. So he went to Bush and got Bush to give the Pentagon responsibility for both the invasion and for the post-invasion planning and occupation. This meant that the State Department was shut out of the planning for the occupation. Then Rumsfeld ignored his Generals when they told him the occupation could not be done on the cheap. Instead Rumsfeld apparently planned to simply turn Iraq over to Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress and get the Americans out. The news reports from 2003 stated that Rumsfeld planned to have no more than about 30,000 troops in Iraq by early 2004.

In short, Bush gave total control of the invasion to Rumsfeld and offered no oversight. He also removed Colin Powell and the State Department from any significant input.

When the Iraqis failed to respond favorably to having Chalabi imposed on them, Rumsfeld and Bush installed Jerry Bremer as leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority. This was a hip pocket decision based on the utter failure of Rumsfeld to permit adequate planning for the post-invasion Iraq. It followed Bush's pattern. Choose someone with impeccable conservative credentials, preferable someone with a business back ground, hand him the job and then ignore him and how he performed it.

Bremer saw himself as the Viceroy of Iraq. A Viceroy has total control of both civilian and military administration of the country, something that members of the Bush administration felt had been lacking in Vietnam. So he showed up in Iraq, took control on May 11, 2003, and on May 23, 2003 issued the order dissolving the Iraqi Army. This was done with so little coordination that many of the principle members of the President National Security Council - the body responsible for ensuring proper coordination of major critical decisions like this - were surprised when he informed them May 22 that he was issuing the order the next day.

Again, bush had chosen an individual, given him a task and failed to direct coordination between him and the other effected parts of the U.S. government. Whether Bremer was freelancing when he dissolved the Iraqi Army (something there were no plans for in Rumsfeld's invasion orders and something which obviously required a much larger U.S. Army in Iraq than existed then or at any time since to deal with) or whether Bremer went to Iraq with instructions to perform the deBaathification as he claims, is not at this time known. But the fact that he could issue such an order with no coordination and no preparation is a total failure of both George Bush as President and of Condi Rice as his National Security Adviser responsible for such intragovernmental coordination.

Then, shortly after Bremer created the Coalition Provisional Authority, Rumsfeld informed him that he had no control over military operations in Iraq. Here are two separate individuals given overlapping authority by President Bush, and although Jerry Bremer was under the impression taht he was in Iraq as America's Viceroy, Rumsfeld simply refused to cooperate. This shows that Bush never gave Rumsfeld and Bremer a clear vision of how the Iraq invasion and occupation was supposed to work, and then when conflicts occurred between those two who he had each given independent authority over the same operation, Bush and Rice failed to coordinate and work out how they would work together. Since Rumsfeld had the power of the Pentagon, all he had to do was refuse to cooperate with Bremer and Bremer was neutered - unless Rice worked out a system of coordination (she didn't) or Bush himself brought the two together and told them how they would work together (he didn't.)

Then, there is Dick Cheney. Cheney made himself the most powerful man in the federal government when, as self-selected vice-President elect chose the people who were loyal to him to put into key federal government jobs. And why was Cheney self-selected as Veep? Because of Bush's failure to control who was Vice President - he delegated that decision to Cheney, who, surprise, surprise, chose himself.

The Pattern of Bush's utter failure as President is clear. He has been a figurehead, with no interest in what actually got done or even what was attempted. He has chosen people who often were incapable of doing the job he assigned them (Rumsfeld is the prime example) and then failed to give them clear guidance regarding what job was to be done. Then he failed to ensure coordination between the various individuals when their jobs should have been mutually supportive (Rumsfeld, Powell and Tenet of the CIA), and failed to make them coordinate their actions when required (particularly Bremer and Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld and the CIA.)

On coordination, that was the job of the National Security Director, Condeleeza Rice, during the invasion and early occupation of Iraq. With Bush's refusal to get involved in government activities and his adverse attitude for telling someone he was failing or - god Forbid - firing someone, Rice was not able to do the job at all. We'll never know if she was capable of it. She clearly failed, but the blame for that failure rests with her boss, George Bush.

So while the Bush administration has failed utterly in every matter of importance, and while a lot of people contributed to that failure, the greatest failure is the failure of leadership and vision that George Bush refused to contribute. He ran a shop that amounted to anarchy among the most powerful members of government, and never stepped in to take control.

Why? Why did Bush fail so abjectly?

As far as I can tell, he has never understood the job of manager or leader, and has no aptitude for such a job, nor interest in putting in the effort to accomplish such a job. He was a passive individual chosen to be made President, and while he seems to enjoy the perks of the job, he has not bothered to exert himself to perform it beyond reading speeches someone else has written for him and accepting the adulation of crowds of carefully selected supporters. Even in public he has been protected from those who would confront him with his many failures.

How did Iraq become such a disaster? It was conducted by the single poorest excuse for a President America has ever endured.

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