Postwar Iraq

POSTWAR IRAQ….Let’s continue our look at the Downing Street Memos. Tonight I want to summarize what they say about the Bush administration’s postwar plans:

  • David Manning Memo: “From what [Condoleezza Rice] said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions…what happens on the morning after?

    ….I think there is a real risk that the Administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.”

  • Straw Memo: “We have also to answer the big question ? what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything.”

  • Downing Street Memo: “There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

The message from these memos is is pretty clear: the administration didn’t have any postwar plans. They figured they’d invade, mop up, and then leave.

Of course, the memos were written in 2002, so normally we’d simply assume that serious planning was done at a later date. However, the evidence indicates that the Bush administration never took postwar planning seriously, and the Downing Street Memos provide yet another data point to back this up.

Here’s the timeline: in March 2002 no one had thought about the aftermath. Four months later, in July, postwar planning was still nonexistent. In August, General Tommy Franks “essentially shrugged his shoulders at what to do once Baghdad fell” ? and Donald Rumsfeld shrugged along with him.

Six months later, on February 28, 2003, Paul Wolfowitz gave his infamous testimony to Congress in which he suggested that postwar Iraq would be relatively peaceful and wouldn’t need very many troops for very long. On March 16, just before the war started, Tim Russert asked Dick Cheney, “Do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?” Cheney said no: “I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.” Four days later the war began.

On May 2, one day after George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, senior military planners in Baghdad said cheerily that they figured they could draw down American troop levels to 30,000 by fall. That same month, 400,000 Iraqi troops were disbanded with no thought given to what should be done with them. By summer the insurgency was in full swing and the administration had nothing but a wildly shifting set of ad hoc plans to deal with it.

The Bush administration never seriously considered what to do with Iraq after the war, and never had a clue that they would be facing a long, difficult insurgency. All along, they just figured they’d install some kind of friendly government and then get out.

This was criminal neglect. The Downing Street Memos are just one more piece of primary evidence that this neglect started at the very beginning.

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