Military foresaw Iraq problems, insurgency, need for more troops, and all the rest

Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 03:05 PM

Countless shills for the administration keep harping on the "who could have known" song whenever they are taken to task for screwing up Iraq this badly.

Who knew there'd be an insurgency?  Who knew the Sunnis would act like this?  Who knew that we didn't have enough troops to occupy/pacify the country that we just "liberated" from Saddam who was worse than Clinton?

Well, the U.S. military knew, that's who. Probably some of the less irrational people in the administration, too, but definitely the military, in the form of Generals Zinni and Shinseki.

You want to talk about the media not reporting "good news" from Iraq?  Well how come they haven't exactly plastered the airwaves and newspapers with this speech by General Zinni at the Center for Defense Information in May of 2004?

Excerpts below.

Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC, (Ret.) Remarks at Center for Defense Information (CDI) Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004:

...The third mistake, I think was one we repeated from Vietnam, we had to create a false rationale for going in to get public support.  The books were cooked, in my mind.  The intelligence was not there.  I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one month before the war, and Senator Lugar asked me: "General Zinni, do you feel the threat from Saddam Hussein is imminent?"  I said: "No, not at all.  It was not an imminent threat.  Not even close.  Not grave, gathering, imminent, serious, severe, mildly upsetting, none of those."

I predicted that the fighting would be over, the organized resistance in three weeks.  To Tommy Franks' credit, he did it in 19 days.  He beat my prediction.  He did a magnificent job, as did our troops.  But the rationale that we faced an imminent threat, or a serious threat, was ridiculous.  Now, wherever history lays that, whether the intelligence was flawed or it was exaggerated, remains to be seen.  I have my own opinions.
I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task.  And I think those of us that knew that region, former commanders in chief, I guess we can't use that term anymore - part of transformation is to change the lexicon -  but former combatant commanders of U.S. Central Command, beginning with Gen. Schwarzkopf, have said you don't understand what you're getting into. You are not going to go through Edelman's "cakewalk;" you are not going to go through Chalabi's dancing in the streets to receive you.  You are about to go into a problem that you don't know the dimensions and the depth of, and are going to cause you a great deal of pain, time, expenditure of resources and casualties down the road.

I can't understand why there was an underestimation when you look at a country that has never known democracy, that has been in the condition it's been in, that has the natural fault lines that it has, and the issues it has.  And to look at the  task of reconstructing this country, not only reconstructing it, but the idea of creating Jeffersonian democracy almost overnight, is almost ridiculous, in concept, in the kind of time and effort that was given as an estimate as to what it would take.

The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground. There were a lot more troops in my military plan for operations in Iraq.  I know when that plan was presented, the secretary of defense said it was "old and stale."  It sounded pretty new and fresh to me, and looking back at it, now because there were a hell of a lot more troops.  It was more the (Eric) Shinseki model that I think might have been a hell of a lot more effective to freeze the situation.  Those extra divisions we had in there were not to defeat the Republican Guard, they were in there to freeze the security situation because we knew the chaos that would result once we uprooted an authoritarian regime like Saddam's.

Disbanding the Army, this is one I'll never understand because when I arrived at CENTCOM as the commander, there was an on-going program started by my predecessors to run a psychological operations campaign against the regular Army. Every time we struck Iraq, we dropped leaflets on regular Army formations and garrisons saying "If you don't fight when the time comes, we'll take care of you."  We sent messages to them to this affect through people in the region.  When I did interviews on Al Jazeera TV and other Arab networks, I would always mention the poor Iraqi soldiers of the regular Army - victims of Saddam. We had always intended if they didn't fight, we'd get rid of the leadership, we'd keep them in tact, we'd provide for some of their training, and we would have the basis for a ready-made force to pick up some of the security requirements.  But they were disbanded.  And on and on and on, we've had this series of mistakes.  Lack of a dialogue or identification of the leadership in the Sunni and the Shia areas.  The inability to connect with the leadership down there.  Somebody like Sistani who doesn't even talk to Jerry Bremer - I don't think they've ever had a conversation, he refuses to see him.  We have now found ourselves in a position to date for these series of mistakes and many, many more, where we are.  Which I think is clearly evident.

Almost every week, somebody calls me up, if it's not Mark Thompson it's somebody else, and says "What would you do now?"  You know, there's a rule that if you find yourself in hole, stop digging.  The first thing I would say is we need to stop digging.  We have dug this hole so deep now that you see many serious people, Jack Murtha, General Odom, and others beginning to say it's time to just pull out, cut your losses.  I'm not of that camp.  Not yet. But I certainly think we've come pretty close to that.

I would do several things now.  But clearly the first and most important thing you need is that UN resolution. That's been the model since the end of the Cold War, that has given us the basis and has given our allies the basis for joining us and helping us and provided the legitimacy we need.

We can't keep dropping paper on the UN, it's time for a group of adults, called the Perm Five, the permanent five members of the Security Council, to sit down and come up with some agreeable, mutually developed UN resolution that would allow other countries now to participate.  And I think there are many out there at different levels, especially in the region, that would want to participate and help and before it comes too tough and too costly, we need to get them in.  It will probably mean some of these Perm Five members and others will want to have a say in the political reconstruction and economic reconstruction, but so what?

If we create a free economy in Iraq, someday, probably sooner that later, some oil minister is going to cut a contract with the French.  Guess what?  That's inevitable. So why not start up front, admitting that.  We need the UN resolution, that's the number one priority.

LARRY KORB: General, Larry Korb. Under Goldwater-Nickles, the military are supposed to be able to talk to the president and the Congress, to tell them that. You're quite right to talk about Gen. Shinseki. Where were the other chiefs when this planning for the war with all the optimistic scenarios were going? Don't you think if they all have spoken out, it would have been harder for the administration to just push it along?

ZINNI: First of all, I'm not going to speak for the chiefs. And, I'm not going to speak against them in any way. I will tell you this. When I was a commander at U.S. Central Command, and Hugh Shelton was the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton sent us the book Dereliction of Duty. He required all of us 17 four-star General Commanders to read the book. And we all reported to Washington, I believe it was (the) 28th of January, 1998, for a breakfast meeting.

At that meeting was a then young  Army Maj. McMaster who wrote the book. Dereliction of Duty describes the dereliction on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War, who had strong feelings about all the mistakes that were being made, but didn't speak their minds, and didn't speak up, with the exception of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, David Shoup. The message to us, after we heard this, from Hugh Shelton is, that will never happen here. And the message to us from Secretary Cohen at that time, too, is that door is always open, and your obligation to the Congress, which is an obligation to the American people to tell them what you think, still stands strong. And that's the expectation that we have.

They did not ever want to hear that we had a problem, something sticking our craw, that we didn't bring up to them, and we didn't honestly express if we felt it had to be expressed. I can tell you there were times when I disagreed with the policy and I can tell you one time in particular that I was taken, personally, to a principals meeting, because the secretary and the chairman wanted to be sure that my views, which were different, were heard by the President.

Now, I think there is an obligation to speak the truth that when you're confirmed, and when you raise your right hand in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and in front of whoever the administers that oath for your appointment. You answer to those many bosses. One is the secretary of defense and the president, another boss is the Congress, who represents the people. And you're going to have to speak the truth, like (Eric) Rich Shinseki did. It's painful at times. Believe me. I've been down that road. But it is an obligation that comes with the uniform. And I think if there are those, and I don't know this one way or another, I don't ask, if there are those wearing that uniform that have concerns and doubts about this or objections, and didn't voice it, there is going to be a second edition of Dereliction of Duty down the road.
RACHEL FREEDMAN: Thank you.  We're consistently hearing what's going wrong in Iraq.    In your opinion, is anything going right?

ZINNI: Well, I'm sure that you're going to find anecdotal evidence of good news stories out there.  And, I agree to a certain extent, much of that doesn't make news.   You probably have a lot of efforts at the local level, where schools are rehabilitated, where local village councils are functioning and cooperating with US forces, where local little market economies are starting to move.

But, it's a matter of relevant news, good versus bad.  Is the good news, of which I'm sure there's a lot of, sufficient enough to say you've tipped it in the right direction, versus the bad news?  

On the bad side, I see an insurgency that is about in its mid-life.  You know what happens, this is a classic Maoist insurgency. It's not uniquely Islamist, it's classically Maoist.  You begin by disabling the infrastructure; frightening the people; attacking the outside interveners; attacking those that cooperate with them.  Show them that the local authorities are ineffective.  You do this by a series of violent acts, terrorist activities.  We saw this in Vietnam.  You saw it in classic insurgencies.  

You then move to convince people that the government is powerless and corrupt;  that the outside intervention forces are there as powers to dominate colonial powers.  And you try to make the case that you are the only viable representative they have.  And eventually you move that to civil war.  Unless the insurgency completes itself and succeeds, you'll move it to civil war.

The civil war will be between whoever, ethnic groups, more likely between those that support the good news, the change, the cooperation with the U.S. or whoever, and those that now reject it, that side with the other side.

When I was in Vietnam, my first tour of duty, I was an advisor with the Vietnamese Marines. So, I went to Vietnamese language school.  And, I lived, I wore the uniform of the Vietnamese Marines and we lived in the villages. They had a quartering act.  And I remember one time I was in the house of a family in northern part of South Vietnam and after dinner, the mother of the house said, "Do you have any pictures of your family?"  And I showed them to her in her house.  And she said, "Why are you here?"
[end excerpt]

Can we drop the absurd act now, and just admit that this administration, as it always does, blocked out any experienced person with a message they didn't like, and plowed ahead with their own ideas based on ideology and wishful thinking?