Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Johnny Rumble:
James Fallows....

“The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a debacle not because the government did no planning but because a vast amount of expert planning was willfully ignored by the people in charge.” (Fallows, 2004)

No sentence in the history of journalism could be truer. Here James Fallows make the argument that the leaders of the United States (Rumsfeld mostly) did not listen too, and at points even ordered the ignorance, of his advisors and those around him. Here I will comment on and critique several issues of importance. So let’s get started shall we?

“Thomas Warrick, the State Department official who directed the Future of Iraq project…explained the importance of preparing for war by saying, "I'm nervous that they're actually going to do it-and the day after they'll turn to us and ask, "Now what?"" So he pushed ahead with the project, setting up numerous conferences and drafting sessions that would bring together teams of exiles…"Democratic Principles and Procedures" was the name of one of the groups, which was assigned to suggest the legal framework for a new government…The "Transitional Justice" group was supposed to work on reparations, amnesty, and de-Baathification laws. Groups studying economic matters included "Public Finance," "Oil and Energy," and "Water, Agriculture and Environment." (Fallows, 2004)

Mind you this was taking place in 2002, one year before the conflict began while America was still playing in the mountains of Afghanistan. I fully applaud what Warrick did. He stood up and got the ball rolling towards a free and self-governing Iraq. Sadly, the projects finding will go largely ignored by Rumsfeld and others. Why? Let’s press on.

“For their part, the Iraqi participants emphasized several points that ran through all the working groups' reports. A recurring theme was the urgency of restoring electricity and water supplies as soon as possible after regime change. The first item in the list of recommendations from the "Water, Agriculture and Environment" group read, "Fundamental importance of clean water supplies for Iraqis immediately after transition. Key to coalition/community relations." (Fallows, 2004)

Let’s repeat that…“Key to coalition/community relations.” Fact: Most Iraqis outside Baghdad do not have clean, running water. Fact: Collation Forces bombed water pumps and water purification facilities during the conflict. Opinion: Iraqi’s don’t trust U.S. troops

“One of the groups making economic recommendations wrote.”Stressed importance of getting electrical grid up and running immediately-key to water systems, jobs. Could go a long way to determining Iraqis attitudes toward Coalition forces… “(Fallows, 2004)

Fact: Due to Allied Bombing, in July 2002, power plants were only up to half of the pre-war level, and were working on an on/off schedule. Today, the power plants still are not up to 100%.

“A second theme was the need to plan carefully for the handling and demobilization of Iraq's very sizable military.”

And yet this crucial piece of advice was completely ignored, leaving thousands of gun-toting poor, at a time when looting was still going on. Smart move…

“Next the working groups emphasized how disorderly Iraq would be soon after liberation, and how difficult it would be to get the country on the path to democracy-though that was where it had to go.”The removal of Saddam's regime will provide a power vacuum and create popular anxieties about the viability of all Iraqi institutions…” (Fallows, 2004)

Fairly straight forward and yet startlingly accurate predictions, but everybody seemed really surprised when anarchy ensued in Iraq. Why? Because Ahmed Chalabi told everybody that governing post-war Iraq would be easy, and everybody believed him. No, what surprising is that Douglas Feith (Undersecretary of Defense for Policy) claims that “…one would really have to be a simpleton.” Some how, in some way, the government missed, or blissfully ignored, all the evidence that Iraq would be a long-term commitment, and trucked on without any advice on the aftermath. Gentlemen…the reports were right there. Why did you not see them?

“The CIA also considered whether a new Iraqi government could be put together through a process like the Bonn conference, which was then being used to devise a post-Taliban regime for Afghanistan… The CIA believed that rivalries in Iraq were so deep, and the political culture so shallow, that a similarly quick transfer of sovereignty would only invite chaos.” (Fallows, 2004)

The Central Intelligence Agency doesn’t seem to have intelligent people at the helm. Very few times in history has a prolonged occupation been successful. Most times, when a “liberated” country is given the reins to itself, peace, prosperity, and happiness is brought about much quicker and infinitely more smoothly.

“Because detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, and thus weakened the case for launching a "war of choice (the Washington term for a war not waged in immediate self-defense), it could be seen as an "antiwar" undertaking…during the months when the Administration was making its case for the war-successfully to Congress, less so to the United Nations-it acted as if the long run should be thought about only later on.” (Fallows, 2004)

Wars are lost or prolonged when people fail to think about the long term effects and long term logistics. To boot, it would seem that Bush and Rumsfeld wanted to go to war with Iraq. So the question has to be asked, “Is the rest of the world really that far off when they call the U.S. ‘War Mongering?’”

“In September, Lawrence Lindsay, then the chief White House economic adviser, broke discipline. He was asked by The Wall Street Journal how much a war and its aftermath might cost. He replied that it might end up at one to two percent of the gross domestic product, which would mean $100 billion to $200 billion…The Administration was further annoyed by a report a few days later from Democrats on the House Budget Committee, which estimated the cost of the war at $48 billion to $93 billion…by the end of the year he had been forced to resign. His comment "made it clear Larry just didn’t get it," an unnamed Administration official told The Washington Post when Lindsay left…no one who remained in the Administration offered a plausible cost estimate until months after the war began.” (Fallows, 2004)

The classic “you’re with us or you’re against us” issue. Lindsay provided some figures that the press and public were hungry to get, appeared to be an “anti-war” supporter, and got fired as a result, all because he was “subverting the government and spreading propaganda.” Lindsay, wherever you are, you have one supporter right here.

“When Administration officials talked about models for what would happen in Iraq, they almost always referred to the lasting success in Japan and Germany-or else to countries of the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe.” (Fallows, 2004)

Problem is that Iraq isn’t Germany, Japan, or the Eastern Bloc, or even anywhere near it. Iraq was filled, not to mention surrounded, by extreme Islamic fundamentalists. Also, in Germany, Japan, and the eastern block, the citizens were mostly left to themselves, to do what they wished, and to live normal lives. The Baaths in Iraq were constantly sticking their fingers into people’s lives, messing them up, and in a lot of cases, killing them. If people were suddenly free from that persecution, most would go absolutely nuts with the freedoms they had, which brings to me to…

On April 11, when asked why U.S. soldiers were not stopping the looting, Donald Rumsfeld said, "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." (Fallows, 2004)

What?!! So Rumsfeld is just going to let the riots and looting continue until the people have had enough? Is it just me, or does that seem like flawed logic? What he is saying makes about as much sense as “I’ll let the dog eat off the kitchen table until he has had enough.” If you do that the dog will never stop. Okay, let’s do a quick recap before we move on. So far we have determined that: 1.) the Government has ignored all post-war strategy. 2.) The Government was/is pro-war. 3.) Rumsfeld is an idiot that should be shot. Okay moving on…

The one success that Rumsfeld can be proud of is the lack of the mass number of refugees that were predicted. This can be attributed to the quick, precision aerial attacks on “key target,” along with the quick movement of ground troops, but once again he proves himself brainless…

“…again the question arose of whether what lay ahead in Iraq would be similar to the other "small wars" of the previous decade-plus or something new. If it was similar, the NGOs had their checklists ready. These included, significantly, the obligations placed on any "occupying power" by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was signed in 1949 and is mainly a commonsense list of duties-from protecting hospitals to minimizing postwar reprisals-that a victorious army must carry out. "But we were corrected when we raised this point." Sandra Mitchell says. "The American troops would be 'liberators' rather than Occupiers, so the obligations did not apply." (Fallows, 2004)

So American troops are not obligated to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Does Rumsfeld actually believe that the world will accept this? I’m sorry, but American troops may be liberators, but what are they after the war is over and they remain? I would have to say they are Occupiers, not because they invaded, but because they are occupying the country in the transition period of governments. Hopefully Rumsfeld, in retrospect, realized the mistake he made with that comment and corrected the issue at hand…but I doubt it. And then there’s the all time sin against the US Army…

“The newspapers were full of leaked anonymous complaints from military officials who thought that his efforts to streamline and "transform" the Pentagon were unrealistic and damaging. But with his dramatic metamorphosis from embattled Secretary of Defense to triumphant Secretary of War, Rumsfeld's reputation outside the Administration and his influence within it rose. He was operating from a position of great power when, in November, he decided to "cut the TPFDD." (Fallows, 2004)

And the all the Army’s planning goes down the toilet. For those of you who don’t know TPFDD, it is the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data. Acting as the Army’s “paper brains,” telling them who, what, when, where, and how to move troops and equipment in times of war or exercise, the Army is able to map out exactly what will happen over a period of time.

While the non-“tipfid” method worked in the short term for Afghanistan, it left much of the country to the legitimized warlords from the Northern Alliance. Rumsfeld was on a mission to cut the Army’s number to the lightest, most mobile, effective force acceptable. Unfortunately, this left the Army quite ready for the war, but not for the post-war security that need to occur. Rumsfeld, during the build up, was trying to the numbers of deployed troops to 75,000, while the Army’s simulations were pointing well north, up to 400,000. The one thing that Rumsfeld always seemed to forget about was the post-war operations.

If the world’s Armies learned something out of the Balkans conflict is that you can never have too many troops on the ground. There the numbers were something like 200,000 troops to five million civilians (1/25). Order was quickly restored and nary has a peep been heard out of the Balkans since. Here, Rumsfeld wanted to use 75,000 troops to 25 million (1/333.3)! Fortunately, the Army was able to 200,000 troops on the ground, but that still leaves one solider for every 125 people. These are disastrous numbers for a peace-keeping mission. In this writers opinion, Rumsfeld should have been fired, drawn and quartered, and left publicly humiliated after the first time he jerked the military around. As more evidence…

"In what I came to think of as Secretary Rumsfeld's style," an Army official who was involved in the process told me recently… Our people came back with the understanding that their numbers were far too big and they should be thinking more along the lines of Afghanistan"-that is, plan for a light, mobile attack featuring Special Forces soldiers. Another participant described Rumsfeld as looking line by line at the deployments proposed in the TPFDD and saying, "Can't we do this with one company?" or "Shouldn't we get rid of this unit?" Making detailed, last-minute adjustments to the TPFDD was, in the Army's view, like pulling cogs at random out of a machine. According to an observer, "The generals would say, Sir, these changes will ripple back to every railhead and every company." (Fallows, 2004)

I believe that it would have been more efficient for Rumsfeld to hold up the “tipfid” and rip it to shreds. Moving on…

One of the many things that Rumsfeld did too disregard the Army’s numbers was too effectively remove the biggest supports of those numbers, the then Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki. Rumsfeld was never a supporter of Shinseki, even going out of his way to humiliate Shinseki. Fourteen months before his term up, Rumsfeld announced Shinseki’s replacement, turning the incumbent into a lame-duck. This was just one of many cold, calculated slaps to the face. In the past, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), had told the military that they could not participate in war-games, meetings, and the sort relating to the upcoming war in Iraq.
“One man who was then working in the Pentagon told me of walking down a hallway a few months before the war and seeing Army General John Abizaid standing outside a door. Abizaid, who after the war succeeded Tommy Franks as commander of the Central Command, or CENTCOM, was then the director of the Joint Staff-the highest uniformed position in the Pentagon apart from the Joint Chiefs. A planning meeting for Iraq operations was under way. OSD officials told him he could not take part.” (Fallows, 2004)

Most people would find it important to include any and all organizations that were going to participate in upcoming operations. Not Rumsfeld. He, through past actions, has positioned himself as a person who zealously believes in absolute civilian control of the Department of Defense. What’s really funny about the whole thing is that this is Rumsfeld’s second tour of the OSD. His first came under the Ford Presidency. Didn’t anybody learn the first time?

“He (Shinseki) was scheduled to testify, with Thomas White, before the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 19..In a routine prep session before the hearing he asked his assistants what he should say about how much the operations in Iraq were going to cost. '"Well, it's impossible to predict," a briefer began, reminding him of the official line. Shinseki cut him off. "We don't know everything," he said, and then he went through a list of the many things the military already did know. "We know how many troops are there now, and the projected numbers. We know how much it costs to feed them every day. We know how much it cost to send the force there. We know what we have spent already to prepare the force and how much it would cost to bring them back. We have estimates of how much fuel and ammunition we would use per day of operations." In short, anyone who actually wanted to make an estimate had plenty of information on hand.” (Fallows, 2004)

The problem was that everybody was keeping mum, fearing they would lose their job. Rumsfeld was keeping everybody silent because of the potential for public backlash at the campaign. What I and certainly others want to know is, what else is Rumsfeld hiding from the public? Okay, because I am getting sick of writing this I will start the wrap up here. James Fallows article “Blind into Baghdad” is one of the most truthful and exposing pieces in the past 50 years. About the only issues I have with the entire article is at the end. Here Fallows issues out blame, and while certainly warranted, he does so in a fashion that seems to be a left wing attack on the Bush Administration. Other than that, about other quarrel I had was when my printer jammed printing out page 20 of “Blind into Baghdad.” While Fallows could have shortened the length, it wouldn’t have exposed all the wrongs committed from 2001 to the invasion. With all of that said, the entire Fallow article can be summed up with this…

“What David Halberstam said of Robert McNamara in The Best and the Brightest is true of those at OSD as well: they were brilliant, and they were fools.” (Fallows, 2004)

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