“He would fire the next person that said that”

“HE WOULD FIRE THE NEXT PERSON THAT SAID THAT”….Today, via Orin Kerr, comes a remarkable interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, and one of the people with primary responsibility for war planning. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, he says, Donald Rumsfeld told his team to start planning for war in Iraq, but not to bother planning for a long stay:

“The secretary of defense continued to push on us … that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we’re going to take out the regime, and then we’re going to leave,” Scheid said. “We won’t stay.”

Scheid said the planners continued to try “to write what was called Phase 4,” or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn’t stay, “at least we have to plan for it,” Scheid said.

“I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that,” Scheid said. “We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

“He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war.”

….”In his own mind he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out. But a lot of us planners were having a real hard time with it because we were also thinking we can’t do this. Once you tear up a country you have to stay and rebuild it. It was very challenging.”

In a way, this is old news. As much as it beggars the imagination, there’s been plenty of evidence all along that Bush never took the idea of rebuilding Iraq seriously. The plan was to remove Saddam from power, claim victory, and get out.

However, this is the clearest evidence I’ve seen yet. The guy who was actually in charge of logistics has now directly confirmed that Rumsfeld not only didn’t intend to rebuild Iraq in any serious way, but threatened to fire anyone who wasted time on the idea. Needless to say, he wouldn’t have done this unless it reflected the wishes of the president.

And this also means that all of Bush’s talk about democracy was nothing but hot air. If you’re serious about planting democracy after a war, you don’t plan to simply topple a government and then leave.

So: the lack of postwar planning wasn’t merely the result of incompetence. It was deliberate policy. There was never any intention of rebuilding Iraq and there was never any intention of wasting time on democracy promotion. That was merely a post hoc explanation after we failed to find the promised WMD. Either that or BG Scheid is lying.

This is an astounding interview, all the more so for the apparently resigned tone that Scheid brings to it. It belongs on the front page of the New York Times, not the Hampton Roads Daily Press.

POSTSCRIPT: An alternative explanation, based on Rumsfeld’s admonition that “the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war,” is that Rumsfeld and Bush were planning to stay but simply lied about it in order to build support for the war. However, based on the rest of the interview with Scheid, as well as the other evidence that there was no plan to stay and rebuild in any serious way, that explanation seems unlikely. The bulk of the evidence continues to suggest that democracy and rebuilding were simply not on Bush’s radar.