THE MASTER OF DISASTER….In Slate, Fred Kaplan takes a crack at figuring out just who it was that ordered the disastrous policy of disbanding the Iraqi army shortly after the invasion. His piece includes this fascinating tidbit, which as far as I know has never been reported before:
On March 10, 2003, a week before the invasion, the National Security Council held a principals’ meeting, attended by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, the Joints Chiefs of Staff, and the top aides to all these officials. They decided that after the war, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be set up — similar to such panels in post-apartheid South Africa and post-Communist Eastern Europe — to ferret out the undesirable Baathists from those who could reliably work for a post-Saddam regime. Most Baathists were ordinary, even apolitical, people whose jobs required them to join the party. A rough calculation by NSC staffers and intelligence analysts was that only about 5 percent of the party — the leaders — would have to be removed, and even they would have the right to appeal.
On March 12, at another principals’ meeting, on what to do about the Iraqi military, these same top U.S. officials decided to disband the Republican Guard — Saddam’s elite corps and bodyguards — but to call the regular army’s soldiers back to duty and to reconstitute their units after a proper vetting of their loyalties.
Both of these decisions were unanimous. NSC staff members had briefed officials on these plans before the meetings, up and down the chain of command, and they encountered no substantive dissent.
Unanimous! And yet, the army was disbanded. But who’s powerful enought to quietly overturn the unanimous decision of an NSC principals’ meeting? Not Bremer. Not Powell. Not the Joint Chiefs. Not Bush. Not Rumsfeld. So who? Kaplan connects the dots:
My guess is it came from Vice President Dick Cheney, if only because his is one of the most leakproof offices in Washington. Had the order originated someplace else, that fact would have leaked by now. It’s like the dog that didn’t bark in the Sherlock Holmes story; unbarking dogs in this administration, especially at this late date of decrepitude, tend to be the hounds in Cheney’s kennel.
But where did Cheney get the idea? A good guess here is that it came from that familiar meddler of the era: the Iraqi exile, chief neocon guru, and suave banker-mathematician, Ahmad Chalabi.
In a way, this is almost comforting. Cheney has been making disastrous decisions ever since he entered the West Wing, and it only makes sense that he’d be responsible for the ur-disaster of disbanding the Iraqi army too. Read the rest to get the whole story.