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« What we knew | Main | Defense »

Feb 26, 2006


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Wolfe Blitzer asked Bremer about the discrepancies between what he was telling congress and the American public about the limited need for post-invasion troops and his observations in his book about how those numbers were woefully deficient in reality. Bremer's explanation was that when he was in the administration, he thought it was his job to toe the administration's line -- in essence, he was saying he thought it was his job to shill for Bush's policies, regardless of the facts.

This is just one more symptom of a problem that should be crystal clear by now to anybody who is paying attention. From health information, to the science on global warming; from information about WMD to the requirements for occupying Iraq, the guiding force in this government is not a full examination of the facts, but allegiance to ideology. Dumb.

David Boyd

Let's talk motive. Ed said in earlier comments at that post:

"We" were so wrong because the political considerations outweighed the intelligence.

What political considerations are you talking about?

Let's say they were massaging WMD evidence? Why? If they didn't think they'd find WMD, why make that their central argument? Perhaps you might think they wanted to invade, but they didn't think any other reasons would get them support. WMD was the only sure thing. If so, what was the real reason for invading? The democracy experiment in the Middle East? If so, and they knew we wouldn't be received well from all the intelligence that was available, why gamble? They wouldn't have thought things would be worse with Saddam gone and a vacuum in Iraq? Is it so simple as incompetence or getting Cheney's friends at Halliburton rich?

I don't know how Bush is behind closed doors. Maybe he's a lousy leader and these guys are just getting carried along by events, but Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld are all smart people regardless of how you feel about their politics. Surely they wouldn't want to get us into a situation in Iraq where we waste years, lives and hundreds of millions of dollars to be worse off than we were when they had the very evidence that predicts that's what would happen. Would they?

Ed Cone

What political considerations? Putting a happy face on the cost and length of the occupation, the job of nation building -- not very sexy stuff when you are trying to sell a war.

Fallows: "Because detailed planning for the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, it weakened the case for a 'war of choice,' and was seen by the war's proponents as an 'antiwar' undertaking."

Sometimes smart people make bad decisions. At some point, they should be held accountable for those decisions.



Regarding the "real reasons" for the invasion... you and Michele asked me the same question (on my blog) long ago during our epic discussion (on your blog) about Iraqi WMDs. My response, which I think is still a valid one was this:

"Well, it’s possible that WMD really were the reason for the war, and the administration was just horribly mistaken in evaluating that threat. However, if it is the case that they were just over-hyping WMD as an excuse to go to war for some other reason, there are probably many motivations that could have been the real reason for the war. Pick and choose, mix and match:

- Putting a friendlier government in charge of all that oil
- Creating a playground to run unregulated experiments in unfettered capitalism
- Serving up a cash cow for American contractors
- So Bush could one-up his Daddy
- Prime real estate for American military bases
- Revenge - Saddam tried to kill Bush’s Daddy
- People in the administration may have been mad that Saddam was no longer a friendly pet tyrant that could be used for their own purposes
- Because Bush is a War President. YeeHaw!

Keep in mind that there are likely many people in the administration who advised Bush on Iraq, and they each could have had their own individual purposes. I’m not saying that any particular person definitely did harbor any of these justifications as their main motivations for the war, I’m only trying to show that there are plenty of potential reasons other than WMD, since that’s what was asked."

David Boyd

So why sell the war in the first place by minimizing cost and length? What did they hope to accomplish when they knew we wouldn't find WMD and they knew the people wouldn't want us there? They'd have known it was going to be a bad decision at that point. Why would these smart people throw caution to the wind to do this thing?

David Boyd

Nice memory, PS. There's probably a lot to that. Although, I'll assign a little higher motivations than 'YeeHaw.' Chalabi (the anti-Saddam), Bush (Bush doctrine - going after potential state sponsors of terrorism), Rumsfeld (speed war), Wolfowitz and others (democracy/capitalism experiment to lessen the threat of terrorism), etc. All and more influenced the decision I'm sure, but if they knew they wouldn't find WMD, that this would cost way more and take longer than anyone knew and that the people wouldn't receive us as liberators are any of those good enough?

I suppose the simplest explanation is groupthink, but geez if the evidence was as clear as Ed and Fallows are suggesting, you'd think that would have changed the equation.

John D. Young

As Sen. Murtha has clearly said the occupation has created the strong insurgency. The US occupation cannot solve the problem -- it is the problem. Over 100 very diverse groups have been unified by their hatred of the US occupation. We are finding that there is simply no such thing as a conventional military war against terrorism. Iraq has created significantly more "terrorists."

Excellent New York Review of Books article at

Ed Cone

I've always assumed that one primary reason for the war was what I call the David Banner argument: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

In other words, a message to any government that might sponsor terror about how the US deals with its enemies in the post-9/11 world.

But my posts are not about motives for the war, but about execution, planning, and accountability.

The occupation has not gone according to plan, to say the least.

The consequences have been dire -- in loss of life, in terms of our ability to project power elsewhere, and for Iraq itself. Even if things right themselves -- and I hope they do -- this has been bad on a level that can't be dismissed with a shrug and the sense that wars are messy.

So let's put aside the question of why we invaded. I think there is plenty of scandal here on HOW we've managed things since then, some interesting questions about why it's unfolded this way.


Yes, David. It is nearly incomprehensible, isn't it?
It's an ideological view of the world that drove their decisions. A view that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, it was now the role of the United States to establish a "Pax Americana," and ironic name for a notion that the US was in a position to use its military to have its way in the world without serious consequences. It is a view shaped and signed on to by many of those "smart" people you mention above before Bush even took office -- and one which was specific in its designs on Iraq, Iran and North Korea. It championed the idea of extending America's influence as far as possible through military means and acknowledged that such a radical shift in American policy would happen very slowly, at best, "absent some catastrophic and cataclysmic event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."

One cannot seriously defend Bush foreign policy or ask rhetorical questions about this administration's decisions without recognizing that its playbook is straight from The Project for A New American Century, a think tank that published a paper in September of 2000 advocating what I describe above and which had on board eventual administration players such as Stephen Cambone, I. Lewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Other participants include William J. Bennett and Jeb Bush, William Kristol.

What happened, David, is that a policy was imagined prior to Bush taking office. Many of the architects of the policy ascended to power with Bush appointments after his election. Their boldest of actions, however, needed a cataclysmic event - it came. They jumped.


Ed, et al:

Where would you suggest we look for a proper exit strategy? What is a proper exit strategy?
In my view, no matter which side you are on about why we went to war, I feel it is very clear that we need a proper military exit strategy.

So instead of arguing, again, about whether it was a bad decision or not, how do we end this and get back to the domestic agenda and the future of this country?

David Boyd

...this has been bad on a level that can't be dismissed with a shrug and the sense that wars are messy.

You can't answer this and your other questions of how without the answer to why. Understanding the motives (at the least the motives in the minds of the architects) is essential to understanding the tactics that were adopted or not adopted.

For example, if the main players truly believed we'd be seen as liberators, but were mistaken, that answers a whole lot of the how.


A good summary - follow the links within.

David Boyd

OK, Roch. I'm going to read this paper. I swear to God if I get to page 90 and the conspiracy isn't evident and I've got to infer a bunch of stuff, I'm going to be pissed.


David, in your example, it may answer it in the sense of providing an immediate cause for the tactics, but it doesn't address the question of whether they were *justified* in believing that we'd be seen as liberators. In other words, even if they did truly believe this, the questioning can't end there.

As you mentioned, groupthink may have been a possibility that caused them to ignore reasoning that should have made them second guess their course. I think there are many other lines of evidence that converge to suggest that contrary evidence could have been ignored - for instance, the various reports of this administration's manipulation and suppression of scientific data for the sake of ideology suggest that they are not readily swayed by facts that don't fit their agenda.


LOL, David. I'm not saying it's a conspiracy. It's there for all to read -- it's what really happened: how Bush's foreign policy came to fruition. It explained a lot for me. Let me know what you think.


I find it interesting that no one wants to talk about the information that may be contain in the documents refered to here.

The implications are large.


Talk, Bubba. We're listenting.

me blog

My guess is that the blow up has already taken new real barbs from the what? Continue to help is the only alternative IMHO. Only in the press is the US dead wrong to be there. hmmm....Ed...grin

If the US leaves how many hours before Iran attacks what is left of Iraq? Who is the largest threat to Israel? Who is barking at the US?

If you want to stir the pot...why don't we talk about when will the US attack Iran as they are now the "real crystal clear" enemy...aren't they? I mean by crystal clear that hindsight will reveal at a later date what really happened.


Danny Wright


What do YOU think of what may be in those documents? I read the article, and I gather two things -- first, we seemed to have no idea that Saddam might be clever enough to plan for his own defeat and unleash a planned insurgency against us after his downfall, and second, some of these jihadists may very well be from Saudi Arabia, or at least the logistics of their movement into Iraq may have been planned there.

Both of these things are damning to the Bush Administration. The first is damning on the level that, once again, this administration lags two or three steps behind when it comes to thinking like our enemy in order to understand it better and defeat it (too dogmatic), and this is borne out by our performance against the insurgents. I don't buy the argument that our military cannot defeat the insurgency, but Rumsfeld et al have not given our soldiers the chance to be fully successful -- and "fully successful" should be the only alternative we allow ourselves, not some half-assed exit strategy. Bush deserves blame for not having the courage to fire Rumsfeld.

The second is damning on the level of Bush's overprotective tendencies towards (or blind support of) the Saudis. Once again, there seems to be some evidence that there are Saudis who not only would love to kick us in the balls, but will actually make every effort to do so. Yet Bush is utterly incapable of being firm with them.

Is that what you meant by talking about the documents?

Where is your neocon silver lining in there?


My my, Danny! Seems like We're a little defensive against anything that tends to show that your version of things just might not be. Otherwise, how to explain your quick response to declare that the article was STILL damning to Bush?

Go back and read it again. This time, look at it objectively, and don't just look for your "neocon silver lining" angle.

When you're finished, come back and discuss it without the partisan potshots your last post contained.

Roch: Think about "plasma separation". Think about all the things people said about secular Iraq being incompatible in an alliance with Islamic Jihad.


Bubba: You did this over at the Chairman's blog too (and Marcus tends to do it as well, now that I think of it). Why the vagueness and riddles? Be specific and come out and say what point you think the article makes. Don't waste time and posts having people guess at what you're getting at. I'm not saying this to attack you, so please don't think of it that way. You seem like you actually want to discuss these issues, and I think it would be more informative and pleasant for everyone if you spoke a little more plainly and directly, instead of pretending your points should be obvious with no explanation.

Danny Wright

Bubba, okay, I read it again. And again I see the same thing -- a lack of foresight concerning what Saddam MIGHT do. A potential tie to Saudi Arabia.

And I figure, since you are probably the most partisan poster I have seen on this blog over the last month or so, that you must have some neocon cheerleading angle on this whole thing. So I just thought I'd tell you that it's just one more thing that makes the Bush Administration look incompetent.

And I was even more surprised that you would offer it up for people.

Ed Cone

It seems to me that we are stuck there for a while.

It also seems to me that the people who got us to this point have some 'splainin' to do.

David Boyd

Roch, I read it. My conclusion is at my site. I wasn't slogging through 90 pages of something this wonkish without getting at least a post out of it.

Ed Cone

Me, I think I figured out your somewhat abstract comment -- are you saying only the press is calling for the US to withdraw?

If so, you are incorrect -- Murtha made rather big news by doing so, Jones and Coble have asked for a plan...and I'm not hearing a lot from the press about it, actually. Certainly nothing you've read from me suggests that, don't know what the hell we should do.


I am trying to get some participation in a discussion by use of the Socratic method. I guess that technique is far too simple for some folks who participate here. Let me try again.

For starters, let's talk about this.

Key point:

"In short, let us repeat: President Bush was right. We had to invade to disarm Saddam — otherwise, he would have completely reconstituted his chemical, nuclear and bio-weapons programs when inspectors left."

Danny, stop looking for only the material you want to see.

This information comes from only the first few that were analyzed. We can only speculate on the content of the rest


Myths regarding the war in Iraq.,filter.all/pub_detail.asp

Ed Cone

I love the false-premise arguments in the AEI report. "Peace will return to Iraq as Americans leave." That's not a myth, that's a straw man. Also, the blanket assertion that we have no plans for long-term bases in Iraq -- really? Is that a fact?

Anyway, y'all are free to discuss what you want here, but the thread I started was about the competence and accountability of the Bush admin in planning and executing the occupation and aftermath.

I can see why some of you would rather change the subject.


"'Peace will return to Iraq as Americans leave.' That's not a myth, that's a straw man."

Really? Share with us how you arrive at that moral certainty, Ed.

"......since you are probably the most partisan poster I have seen on this blog over the last month or so......"


Really? Share with us how you arrive at that moral certainty, Danny.

Could it be that those who have opposing viewpoints generally don't even bother to post here?

Ed Cone

Bubba, it's not a "moral certainty," it's an analysis of both the statement and the facts as I understand them.

I mean he sets it up as a "myth" to be exploded by his cool and rational thinking, but it's just not something I hear a lot of people saying, certainly at this stage of the game.

It is, in other words, a straw man -- a false argument advanced in order to be overturned.

"Partisans" of all stripes post here, and are welcome to do so. Some make their points more effectively than others. Bubba is pretty new, I like the way he brings in clips to support his POV, even when he's WRONG WRONG WRONG.

A note on tone: I like to have fun (see end of previous sentence), I try to be respectful but also to be funny and hit hard on ideas.

Sometimes I miss -- I can be too harsh on people who aren't used to that style of argument. Other times (telling Boyd he was drinking Kool aid and wanking to Fox News) I think the target gets the joke and the point at the same time.

But really, folks, the stuff we're talking about is important, and it's great that we are talking about it, but from time to time we all just need to...chillax.

Joel Gillespie

Wow. Interesting. I've been trying for two years to sort through the fog and figure this stuff out, and am still trying. Here's where I am, and please, don't laugh too loudly.

1. I think Bush and team really believed in WMD's in Iraq, and I believe that WMD's were there, and that they were moved. Yes, as I said, don't laugh too loudly.

2. I think Saddam outsmarted us completely by planning our invasion, and the subsequent insurgency.

3. I think Rumsfield and team totally screwed up the game plan by under estaimating the enemy and the numbers required to defeat the post invasion insergency.

4. I think they have been hiding that reality, and many other post invasion realities from us.

5. I think the MSM (bow to PS) has also been intentionally hiding by under reporting the good things our guys have been doing over there.

6. Now that we're stuck there, the real enemy has shifted to Iran. Perhaps Saddam miscalculated as did we. The big boogyman now is an Iranian supported Shi-ite takeover of southern Iraq, and a Shi-ite Crescent.

7. The cost now of leaving and leaving a vacuum is much greater even than our departure from Vietnam (that is, in terms of lives to be lost, and general world instability). We just can't walk away. But we can't stay as things are.

8. So, what do we do? It seems that we have almost no choice but to escalate our engagement, possibly to include taking out Iran's nuclear capabilities (Oh, we don't have to worry about that now, right, the Russians are going to over see that).

9. I'd fire Rumsfeld first thing.

10. Then I'd find a person who both is and seems credible, maybe a Democrat who supports our efforts there, and I'd have them deleiver a very long address with the President about the state of affairs, and why escalation is necessary, and put an end to all the bravado BS.

Ed Cone

The problem I have with the idea that the WMD were moved is that the stated reason for invading involved serious weapons programs -- first nukes, then when that didn't look like it was going to pan out, chem and bio. So even before we invaded, we shifted the rationale. The supposed stocks of weapons we were looking for wouldn't just be a truckload, but large amounts that would have been tough to transport secretly under the view our satellites and planes and spies on the ground. Now, maybe some small amounts of such weaponry was hidden, or transported -- but that isn't what we were promised, from the beginning ("mushroom clouds") or even as the justification changed. In short, barring some truly startling reversal, the WMD argument is dead.

Joel Gillespie


I know you think in that direction. I am not convinced. But that's a horse that's "done been beat." Sorry I missed you at the pro Denmark rally. I mentioned Denmark to a friend yesterday and he reminded me of a WWII story I had long forgotten, and that was the efforts taken by the Danish people to hide and protect the Danish Jews from the Nazi's. It is a great story that needs to be retold these days give the present uproar. Anyway, that made me even more desirous of standing up for Denmark! I thought the reader comments in the N&R were very good Sunday on the issue.

Ed Cone

Joel, not to belabor this point -- but when you say I "think in that direction," aren't there facts involved here, not just thoughts?

Didn't the WMD story unfold in a verifiable way -- in fact, the way I described it above?

If you "believe" differently on what the admin said in the months before the war, can you document that?

If you "think" that the WMD were moved and hidden, what are you defining as WMD, in substance and scale?


This is a link to a report from Brookings Inst. as published by the Atlantic online.

It goes to the heart of what is an exit strategy, as opposed to beating a dead horse.

Ed Cone

I'm trying to ride a live horse that people seem not to want to talk about: How should the Bush admin be held to account for its failings in Iraq?

This seems relevant to me, because there has been a can-do aura around this White House that seems to me to be highly undeserved. This is the lesson of the occupation, and Katrina, and the Medicare drug plan, and the Social Security reform plan.

This is critically important stuff, and not just for Democrats -- Republicans don't like incompetence, either, and they need to get out in front of some of these issues before they bring them down.

Jim Caserta

The reason the Bush administration downplayed the costs (lives and $) was so they could get enough support to start it. Many of the most strident "pull-em-out-now" folks were some of the most strident supporters of the war before it started. If Bush gave the pessimists view of how events would unfold, those people would not have supported his efforts, no Congressional approval, no invasion.

Even though we deposed an evil dictator, many Iraqis view the Americans as oppressors. Look at what happened to Saddam's many palaces - they became HQ's for the US. How did life change for the average Iraqi on the street? OK, so you get some freedoms, but you lost the freedom to go to the supermarket without being assaulted by militias. Assuming that we were going to be universally greeted as liberators is extremely naive.

"Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld are all smart people regardless of how you feel about their politics" They may be smart, but they aren't without pre-conceived notions, and smart people can make some terrible mistakes. How many had any experience in nation-building? The tired arguments about how we rebuilt Germany and Japan after WWII don't hold, because we STILL have bases there! Who supported having bases in Iraq 50 years from now???

I think that Bush looked at the war/sanctions argument as an action vs. inaction argument. He knew there was a probability that Iraq didn't have WMD's, and that they would never invade. I think he imagined the horror and backlash he would feel if Saddam were involved in wmd terrorist attack on the US. He rightly felt that the US let Osama run free in Afghanistan, and in hindsight, should have invaded/conducted special ops. Given the choice between possible problems from invading Iraq, and getting stung by a problem that should have been fixed, we know what he chose.

Jim Caserta

great link sykes

Joel Gillespie


Also not to belabor the point, but I think there are facts, interpretations of facts, guesses, hints at other facts, lots of smoke and mirrors, actions and decisions which require interpretation, and we make judgments as best as we can. Hence "think in that direction." No, I don't think all the important facts are in and the case is closed. But that's just me. I'm just sitting back and trying to make sense of the data as best as I can.

Doug H

As far as causes for the war, I think Roch is on the right track with the PNAC angle. As such, I wonder if the Bush administration will ever BE held accountable. I have a concern for whoever wins the next presidential election. I think the PNAC members won't want to let go of the power to fulfill their mission, and that they are insinuating themselves high enough into the government that the next administration wont't, by virtue of the changes to cabinet positions, etc, be able to remove them.

From the perspective of our political system really representing one face (I've heard the term "demopublican" recently), and it being the extension of the corporations that buy the politicians, I also worry that the partisian bickering is a distraction from the real event, which is the establishment of the neoconservatives as the real power behind the country.

Ed Cone

Joel, I'm asking a direct and specific question: What do you mean when you write, "I believe that WMD's were there, and that they were moved."

The early talk about a close-to-fruition nuclear project fizzled -- didn't it?



I feel that the current administration is guilty of being shortsighted and overly beneficial to special interests. I was not happy with Bush's election in 2000, but I had no other options then or in 2004.

My concern, as has matured over the last year, is more about the country’s future and domestic issues (I became a father in 2005). I voted for Clinton in 1992 because I was unhappy with GHWB.

I think the Bush administration will be held accountable at the polls this year, and history will judge them on whether they got us out of Iraq leaving a stable government in place, or failed.

I just feel that the nation's reputation is on the line. To me that is more important than political capital.


Something to lighten the mood:

Bush Fails To Prevent East Coast Blizzard

Minorities Hit Hardest
by Brian Williams NBC 02/12/06

As President Bush and his staff cowered in the White House, the snow continued to pile up on the many poor and African-American victims who could not afford to get out of town or to safety in Florida.

Crucial supplies of blankets, hot cocoa, popcorn and dark rum, so essential to surviving the stress of any major snowstorm, lay in stores undelivered.

"Where is the government? I need my sidewalk shoveled so I can get out to buy my danged lottery tickets!" said one D.C. resident from his living room.
"Why are we wasting money in Iraq when we could be spending it here on

Progressive blogs blasted the President for his inaction. "We find the timing terribly suspicious, just as the Domestic Spying hearings kick into high gear, what happens? A major northeast blizzard. Why now?" wrote one blogger.

Hearings into the blizzards' effect on hearings are almost a certainty.

Howard Dean has suggested he will call for an investigation once his new medications kick in and John Kerry took a break from the sporting activities of the glamorous super-rich in some exotic locale (random choice: Ice Sailing in Finland) to call for new legislation outlawing snowstorms. "The Republican Congress has dropped the ball once again. I have always been a staunch supporter of anti-snow legislation, except for certain locations where I ski. Snow has no business on our roads and the President and Congress know that."

Calls for impeachment over "SnowGate" as some are calling it already are mounting as deeply as the snow itself, and what will be discovered underneath will prove to have a truly chilling effect on the Republicans, as the inevitable thaw proceeds. Or something like that.

More breaking news......

Al Sharpton wants an investigation as to why snow is ALWAYS white.

"Cheney has stock in Tru-Value Hardware. Do you have any idea how many SNOW SHOVELS they sold today to the unsuspecting consumer?
I demand to know why FEMA has been so late in reacting to this storm. THEY KNEW IT WAS COMING! And yet they failed to have crews in place to fix the electricity as soon as it went off. It just shows that Bush and the Republicans just don't care about the people in the N.E. The Senate needs to investigate this with administration people under oath. I'll bet that the great junior senator from N.Y. has opened the doors of her home to all of the heatless poor of her neighborhood and is busy baking cookies for them while her husband applies body heat to the nearly frozen teen-aged girls."

Ed Cone

Thanks for telling us a little about yourself, JC.

Here's an actual news article about NOLA.


I'm sorry you didnt think it was funny.

Lighten up and quit blaming all of the worlds problems on W.

Doesn't the Mayor and Governor have to be held accountable, too?

Joel Gillespie


When I wrote, "I believe that WMD's were there, and that they were moved," what I meant was "I believe that WMD's were there, and that they were moved."

Ed Cone

Your humor is roughly on par with your grammar.

I'm blaming Bush for some very specific problems, not all the problems in the world.

I can see why you might want to change the subject.

Ed Cone

Right, Joel, but as we've discussed, "WMD" turned out to be a rather flexible term in the hands of the Bush administration. We went from mushroom clouds to weapons-related program activities. And after three years in-country, and an ongoing, longterm program of aerial and satellite observation, we have not found these weapons.

This is your stated belief. I'm asking what it is that you believe in. What is it that you are calling "WMD" in this case?

Joel Gillespie


Thanks for the clarification (seriously, not playing dumb - may be dumb, not playing dumb) I didn't know what you were asking. Unfortunately I have 10 minutes to get to the post office before 5:00. I'll try to answer tomorrow. I agree about Roy W. My daddy would be so proud. Hey my daughter was there down behind the goal the night the big guy got his 40 - oops 9 minutes, got to go.

Ed Cone

Thanks, Joel. As always, I appreciate the dialog. I'm really interested in what we as Americans know, and what we believe, about something this important.

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