Saturday, January 08, 2005


Making Sense of a Senseless Mess

In my last post, I outlined three contradictory views on the US post-invasion plans:

 Major Wilson, official historian of the campaign: "There was no Phase IV plan"…. "There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."

 General Tommy Franks, chief of the Central Command: "I was confident in the Phase IV plan."

 Naomi Klein, activist-journalist: "…the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.”

To add more confusion to all this… in trying to research the subject, only two days ago I came across an excellent article by Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. It offers a no-conspiracy-theory assessment of this very matter. O’Hanlon reaches a conclusion that there was a plan… but it was a bad one: “The war plan was seriously flawed and incomplete.”

I have already stated that all this can be rather confusing. Can anyone call any of these people a liar or even incompetent? In honesty, I don't think that any responsible person should! So? What if all these people are right? Is this possible? Consider the following:


1. There is no conspiracy. Neocon literature is out there in the open for anyone to read. They are in fact quite active in promoting their vision of America, of the world and of this century. They are not shy about it. They are fond of their “creative destruction” doctrine.

2. To put it mildly, neocons have considerable influence in the present administration, to the extent that the sober and influential “Economist” advised European governments not to take them lightly: “… demonising them will merely marginalise their critics.”

3. We also know that the neocons, since 2000, have almost total political control of the Department of Defense.

4. We also know that the State Department had been working hard on its own post-invasion plans. Numerous committees produced that 13-volume study. We also know that these plans were never seriously considered for implementation. They were simply ignored.

An attempt to make some sense of it all!

Based on the above premises, consider the following possible scenario. I must add that this is just a conjecture to try and make some sense out of things and explain events:

1. The army in the US, as everybody knows, does not directly initiate or has much of a say in "political or economic" plans.

2. They were given the task of invading and occupying Iraq – which they prepared for, and did, successfully.

3. There was a neocon post-invasion plan. We now know that there was. Evidently, that plan was fermented by people close to the supreme decision-making corner and was therefore not debated within other (hostile) echelons of power in Washington or elsewhere. Hence, the mystery.

4. The military people were given the task of securing the country in terms that would allow the "political and economic" plan to be implemented – which they did “unsuccessfully” because there was inherent incompatibility with the military objectives.

5. They were given only "need to know" guidelines. They acted within that fragment of a plan. The assumptions and premises of the plan were basically "civilian" (in this case, neocon). For some reason, army planners did not subject those premises to sufficient scrutiny! This certainly explains those post-invasion "militarily stupid" mistakes. The army people do what they are told, but they are not stupid.

What happened in Iraq after the invasion fits so well with the neocon doctrine and visions. If we do not assume incompetence to an unbelievably criminal degree, then that philosophy is the only thing that offers anything like a plausible explanation.

So, my own conclusions regarding these incompatibilities are…

 Naomi Klein is correct. All those ‘mistakes’ actually fit well within such a plan.

 General Franks was correct. He had an operational partial plan. He had a specific task… and planned for it. He was "blinded" to the "civilian" aspects of the plan and its “social” assumptions, or “accepted “ them (which doesn't really absolve him from responsibility for the loss of at least the America soldier blood).

 Major Wilson is right. There was no all-encompassing, comprehensive plan that he was looking for as an army historian.

Whether that disaster was intentional or due to faulty underlying assumptions or to unforeseen factors that were not considered… is another matter that may or may not be debated within the States. It certainly is being intensely debated in Iraq and elsewhere, and will be debated for a long time. [I feel exceptionally generous this morning. I am even accommodating conspiracy theorists here. You’re welcome]

The important conclusion is that the link between the military plan and the political-economic plan are the civilian (political) controllers at the Pentagon, chiefly: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. These people are to a large extent responsible, directly or indirectly, for much of the Iraqi and the American blood that was needlessly shed and is being shed since the "Mission Accomplished" announcement.



1. I am grateful to an anonymous comment poster for the following tip:
Intel-Dump, a blog by a former Army officer, journalist and a recent UCLA law student, links directly to Dr. Wilson's 64 page report. [which is an excellent piece of professional workmanship… although I would take issue with some of his assumptions regarding the “other side”.]
I am also grateful to “em dash” of for the link to an overview of neoconservatives in Wikipedia.

2. My arguments above cover events up to April 2004. I have come to believe that between April and May 2004 there was a shift of policy.

3. Michael O’Hanlon is a bit more “liberal” than I am in distributing the blame for the plan / fiasco under discussion. The following excerpts from his article may be of interest:

“The problem was simply this: The war plan was seriously flawed and incomplete. Invading another country with the intention of destroying its existing government yet without a serious strategy for providing security thereafter defies logic and falls short of proper professional military standards of competence. It was in fact unconscionable.

"Many basic tasks that should have been seen as necessary in Iraq—policing the streets, guarding huge weapons depots, protecting key infrastructure, maintaining public order—were simply not planned for. Instead, such planning as there was, conducted largely out of the office of Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, was reportedly unfocused, shallow, and too dependent on optimistic scenarios…

"Even as it became apparent that the initial assumptions were wrong, the Pentagon was unresponsive. The initial post-invasion chaos was famously attributed by Donald Rumsfeld to the fact that "freedom's untidy." In fact, only the U.S.-led coalition military forces were in a position to stabilize the anarchic conditions."

Whose responsibility?

The mistake here was primarily of the Bush administration's making. Indeed, much of the prevalent view within the uniformed military is that the Rumsfeld / Wolfowitz/ Cheney vision of modern warfare, as well as their strong preconceptions about how easy it would be to depose Saddam, deserve the blame for CENTCOM's lack of readiness to handle the challenges that began to present themselves in Iraq on April 9, 2003 when Saddam's statue fell in Baghdad. This perspective is mostly right. It is also too simple.

The uniformed military in fact shares some of the blame for the mistakes made in planning the Iraq stabilization mission. That is partly because General Tommy Franks in the end was the author of the plan. Even if he was under pressure from Secretary Rumsfeld to produce a certain concept, he had every opportunity to voice his objections. It is also because the joint chiefs of staff, with the apparent exception of Army Chief of Staff Shinseki, reportedly blessed the plan as well. It is also because no member of the armed forces of the United States went public with his objections or resigned in protest even though the plan was the military equivalent of medical malpractice.


O.K., quick annoying thought to get the ball rolling: isn’t this a bit like conducting a post-mortem before the victim is actually dead? I mean, the US hasn’t officially lost yet. (Though my bet remains that they will depart with their tail between their legs, probably at Sistani’s request, within a year.)
And with all due respect to the liberal dissenting voices in the US, this was definitely a matter of one state invading another. Isn’t attributing blame to only a few individuals giving the country as a whole a bit of an easy out?
Generally, you don’t hear of Roosevelt, Eisenhower and King winning WWII, you hear of the USA doing it. But in Vietnam it was all Johnson’s and Westmoreland’s fault?
When we win, it’s us. When we lose, it was our leaders?
Fire at will.

I think the problem is that we fundamentally did not understand the nature of the beast. I just read an interesting article in “Best Science Stories of 2004”, called the Iraq Conundrum. It states in the article that more than 50 percent of the married population is married to their first or second cousin.

In the US we consider ourselves Americans first, religion second, job third, family fourth. In Iraq it is family first, tribe second, religion third, nationality fourth. Democracy to Iraq is like finding our family shield here in America.

Loyalty and identity is within the family not the nation.

Hello Abu Khaleel,
How did the US get into this mess(i.e. Iraq(?))? May I venture a guess....'greed and personal revenge'. As Clarke says in his book, from the beginning it was 'Iraq..Iraq'. Bush wanted to repair his father's 'mistake' in not taking out Saddam in 1991. After 2 disasterous wars and 10 years of sanctions, the neo-con 'Vulcans'-Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney saw an easy target, Iraq with huge oil riches, a push-over, run by an evil tyrant(good storyline). When the CIA came back with the answers on 9/11, AL-Qaeda is in Afghanistan, the bosses said 'Wrong answer! Iraq..Iraq and WMD..WMD and AL-Qaeda..Al-Qaeda'. Then came the war and the occupation. Iraqis were pretty quiet for the first few months, waiting patiently for promised aid, reconstruction--instead they got phoney reconstruction and Green Zone meddling in their politics and warnings of a 10 year US presence and the largest embassy in the world, etc. Now we are in the last act of the failed 'plan', giving Iraq to the Iraqis in a terrible mess. But as in life, the big bosses will never be punished for their blind arrogant incompetence. Bush is the sole architect of the disaster with technical support by 'I-love-a good riot' Rumsfeld and terror-consultant Alberto Gonzalez.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but if you think the US would tolerate a stable, prosperous Iraq not under the control of a US asset, you're a little too naive to interact with nations such as the US.

When the death squads get there, they'll clean up this mess.

"you're a little too naive to interact with nations such as the US."
Could you please supply a list of "nations such as the US?"

Allright, there is no plan, we're flying by the seat of our pants. We share the same goal, you want to send us home, we want to come home and come back as tourists.

Only there's this outstanding item to be tackled, Saddam's odious regime remains to be defeated.

Can't we be Marghana to your Ali Baba?

I've been reading about the Soviet/Afghan conflict so excuse the second reference, but it's relevent.

While a Congreeman Wilson and his Afghan CIA team were executing their plan to help the Afghans to a victory over the Soviets (offering guerilla warfare training, weapons that killed tanks, helicopters and fighter bombers, and even satellite maps rendered to look like an afghan's handrawn map) Wilson and crew were approached by the 1980s version of the neocons which included Richard Pearle and Oliver North. These guys had this great idea of bringing Captured Russian soldiers to America as defectors where they would live great American lives. Pearl and North thought that the word of the defector's freedom in the US would spread back to the Afghan battlefield inspiring defections across the ranks of the Russian military.

Sounds kind of familliar doesn't it. Guys convinced that the meer exposure to American freedom would cause opposing armies and resistance to just disapear. So the "freedom" is the only thing they need to win a war.

Well back in the 1980s Congressman Wilson let Pearl and North have a shot with their defectors plan so they flew some Afghan captured Russians back to the US. These Russian POWs were full tilt shell shocked. the Afghan's usually didn't take prisoners. The POWs had been repeatedly beaten and raped by their Afghan captors and were not in a mental state to be "transformed" by America's freedom. Of the handful of Russians they brought over one of them became a pedofile, another became a murderer and most of them ended up in jail on drugs etc. Pearl and North were shut out of the Afghan program and became a kind of a laughing stock in that crew.

Fast forward 20 years and those laughing stocks neocons are in charge of Iraq and having the same hir brained ideas (just more of them) with even more optimism and even more tragic unintended consequences.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



Have you seen our new intelligence chief’s statements on the size of the “insurgency? Remember my “guesstimates”? Google “Mohammed Shahwani”. Tell you what… my estimates were too conservative!

That gentleman now wants to punish the population to make “sympathizing” with the “insurgents” unattractive. More punishment than this??

American Saddamists,

I know that you are there!

Just today, one of you commented anonymously on my “US Mistakes” blog. I quote:

“This blog really is a negative piece of garbage and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so”

No argument or counter-argument, no rationalization, no defense… just “garbage”!

There has been a conspicuous absence of you lot on my last posts of painstakingly trying to make sense of the mess people like you have caused. You have been exceptionally quiet. I wondered why you didn't come out and defend yourselves. Like your Iraqi counterparts, you are apparently weak on “defense”. You can only “attack” and then only when they feel strong enough to come safely on top through other people’s blood or sacrifice. Like any herd, you seek safety in numbers. Otherwise, you lurch in the dark bubbling with those venom-soaked one-liners that you think constitute intellectual arguments.

Even many of your own lot have been shyly and grudgingly admitting those mistakes. Instead of being grateful for someone who has been doing you the service of pointing them out quietly for months or feeling ashamed, all you can think of is “garbage”.

From Circular
Coincidentally, Abu, only yesterday I posted your guesstimate in the Comments section at There’s been discussion there and at Chris Allbritton’s site about what was really said. Hope you don’t mind.
News of the week, I would have thought, was the sending of yet another retired general to report on the situation in Iraq, specifically the degree of preparedness of the ING. Isn’t this where we came in - remember Garner? What’s wrong with serving generals? Couple this with Bush’s optimistic and naturally unrealistic statement about the elections, and I still maintain that a face-saving "bug-out" is in the wind.
One problem would seem to be that the ING, as I understand it, has few heavy weapons or armoured vehicles, which are apparently the essential insurgency-fighting tools nowadays. And I can’t see the US handing them over very happily, just to have them turned over to the rebels!
Perhaps the intended strategy is to withdraw US troops as much as possible from "front-line" duties into their fortresses, have the ING lure the rebels into large scale battles, and have the US forces provide air and armoured column support?
Trouble is, of course, if stupid old me can think of that, presumably your average rebel can figure it out too, even if he is only an Iraqi.
Regarding your second post, addressed to the American Saddamists - reflex Republicans would be another name - remember Barry? - there do seem possibly to be fewer of them infesting the Blogosphere lately. I don’t know what the significance of this might be. Certainly you don’t seem to have drawn any posts saying "hey there was no conspiracy, hey there was a plan, it's all under control."
Can you write anything about the pre-election mood in Baghdad, particularly in mixed areas? Riverbend and Rose seem very pessimistic.

Sorry, further to above, what I wanted to say was that in the absence of much close-up Western reporting from the ground, because of the security situation for reporters, information from Iraqi Bloggers on the spot, such as yourself, is very valuable. I mean, even Allbritton seems unable to venture out these days, Dahr Jamail seems to be able do so only at great risk.

I can't say I feel like I get a good sense of what's going on "on the ground" from Abu's posts. I have a clearer picture of what Abu thinks about the US then I do of Abu on Iraq. Which always seems odd to me that he doesn't go into local facts. Sure there are bits here and there but not much.

The non-stop cynicism gets dry. In my everyday life I don't spend much time listening to people who complain all the time. When people complain so much, they're complaints lose credence and they are dissmised. But here I'm like a moth to the flame I suppose. I get so tired of the cynicism that I keep coming back hoping to see someone making an effort to stand for something instead of against everything. I want to see Abu hope for something positive instead of crapping on everything all the time. And that goes for you fellow commenters as well. One day I know it will happen.

And as for Abu's surprise that no one is popping up and defending themselves from his provocations. All I have to say is if I were walking down the street and some guy jumped out and spat "You Sadamist!" at me I'd throw some spare change in his hat and keep walking and hope that he has a better day down the road or maybe I'd call the men in white coats to let them know there's a nutcase harassing folks down on main street.

All of you cynical folks, surely there are things you can do that would be more productive then complaining about the US in blogs all day.

Hello fathom,
'Victory has a thousand father, but defeat is an orphan.'
As a 'fellow-investor'(albeit a reluctant one)in the Iraq enterprise(i.e. US taxpayer), believe me I sympathise. Had Iraq been a brilliant spectacular success with rapid reconstructions, elections, no crime wave,etc., who would object except on purely ethical grounds(pre-emptive war). From the Iraqi ( not American) perspective I imagine they can think of many US mistakes,topped the empty promises of rebuilding and excessive interference in their politics(Najaf, Fallujah). So some of us, gloomy Cassandras must sound a bit repetitious. So let's look at a brighter picture, the Palestinian election, whose message seems to be get the occupier out of the way and let the Palestinian people determine their own future. how can we apply this to Iraq?

Seems to me the faultiest part of the equation was the fact that everyone assumed the Iraqi's would step up to the plate.

I don't mean that many haven't. What I mean is that the majority of Iraqi's are watching by the sidelines, ready to swallow and ideological garbage that gives them an excuse not to take a stand.

Can't say as I blame them. The situation is pretty hairy over there. And there isn't a culture of political activism that they could draw upon. No culture of democracy that would act as a balance. The world media and arab media are against them. The UN is against them. They are buried in empty historical rhetoric and slander, but its all they know.

It seems clear to ME that the people who murder civilians, saw heads off, terrorize any and all who would support elections, and destroy IRAQI infrastructure would be the one's the PEOPLE would oppose. They would turn them in or simply pay a late night visit...

But somehow there rhetoric of being 'freedom fighters' is not questioned.

Alas. The words are true - its just a tragic symantic misunderstanding. They are fighting freedom.

But shouldn't people with common sence (and we all have that), be able to see the difference?

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