Iraq War news

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NPR : Fascinating New History of Iraq War

NPR : Fascinating New History of Iraq War: "Fascinating New History of Iraq War

March 14, 2006 · New York Times reporter Michael Gordon and former Marine Gen. Bernard Trainor have a fascinating new book: Cobra II : The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. It seems to be one of the first definitive histories of some of the ins and outs of the Iraq War. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but there are some fascinating excerpts published in three articles in The New York Times this week: on Saddam's secret strategy, on the debate among U.S. generals and on Zalmay Khalilzad.

Trainor and Gordon will be on Talk of the Nation today to talk about their book.

Part of Cobra II is based on a newly declassified official history of the war by the U.S. Joint Forces Command. The Command interviewed more than a hundred Iraqi officials after the war and had access to hundreds and hundreds of official documents. This excerpt in Foreign Affairs looks at Saddam's lack of a connection with reality:

As late as the end of March 2003, Saddam apparently still believed that the war was going the way he had expected. If Iraq was not actually winning it, neither was it losing -- or at least so it seemed to the dictator. Americans may have listened with amusement to the seemingly obvious fabrications of Muhammad Said al-Sahaf, Iraq's information minister (nicknamed "Baghdad Bob" by the media). But the evidence now clearly shows that Saddam and those around him believed virtually every word issued by their own propaganda machine.

Also, as Fred Kaplan points out in Slate, the report highlights why the United States was so convinced Iraq had WMD, and what turned out to be futile efforts of Saddam's regime to finally come clean. Fred begins by quoting some New York Times stories:

To ensure that Iraq would pass scrutiny by United Nations arms inspectors, Mr. Hussein ordered that they be given the access that they wanted. And he ordered a crash effort to scrub the country so the inspectors would not discover any vestiges of old unconventional weapons, no small concern in a nation that had once amassed an arsenal of chemical weapons, biological agents and Scud missiles.

The tragic irony is spelled out in Foreign Affairs' excerpt of the report:

U.S. analysts viewed [intercepts] through the prism of a decade of prior deceit. They had no way of knowing that this time the information reflected the regime's attempt to ensure it was in compliance with U.N. resolutions. What was meant to prevent suspicion thus ended up heightening it.

And in the British paper, the Guardian, a series of memos from British officials in Iraq laying out a number of mistakes the U.S. made, including:

"· A lack of interest by the U.S. commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase.

· The presence in the capital of the U.S. Third Infantry Division, which took a heavyhanded approach to security.

· Squandering the initial sympathy of Iraqis.

· Bechtel, the main U.S. civilian contractor, moving too slowly to reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water.

· Failure to deal with health hazards, such as 40% of Baghdad's sewage pouring into the Tigris and rubbish piling up in the streets.

· Sacking of many of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, even though many of them held relatively junior posts."

Perhaps the most poignant quote the Guardian cites comes from Maj. Gen. Albert who was the most senior Brit with the U.S. land forces.

"We may have been seduced into something we might be inclined to regret. Is strategic failure a possibility? The answer has to be 'yes.'"

Okay… that one goes into the Baghdad bag as well.

UPDATE: Here's the full British memo from John Sawer, Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq. (via Andrew Sullivan)


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