Friday, February 16, 2007

Pre-war planning failure for Iraq

Newly declassified documents for pre-war planning now shows that General Tommy Franks, President Bush's touted hero, used the most optimistic planning assumptions in planning the war and aftermath. For example, one estimate was that 4 years after the invasion we would have only 5,000 troops in Iraq versus the 160,000 we still have there now. Good planning General Franks! I wouldn't read your book if it was given to me free.

Back on October 20th, 2006 I wrote the following post on who to blame for the lost war in Iraq. Here's what I said back then:

"Who lost the Iraq war? U.S. Generals!

There is much blame to go around on this topic and some still naively believe we can still win this war. Most of the blame seems to be placed squarely on Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Some place blame up at the top with President Bush. Certainly both have their share of the blame. I would like to focus on some who have never been blamed. But first, here's an examination of the conditions leading up to where we find ourselves today.

When we first invaded Iraq, it was the fastest charge a country has made in history to conquer a territory. The military was praised for their rapid deployment and march to Baghdad with few casualties. As documented by the Center for American Progress, "In the march to war, Wolfowitz took the unusual step of publicly rebuking Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki for his estimate that "several hundred thousand troops" would be necessary to provide security in post-war Iraq. At the time, Wolfowitz dismissed Shinseki's estimate as "wildly off the mark" and said "the notion that it would take several hundred thousand American troops just seems outlandish."

The only General to give honest opinions as to the needed level of troops required for success in Iraq was forced into retirement or, as most of us have learned since, was fired. So much for the lies from President Bush that "whatever our military leaders need they will get from this Administration". With that single act of firing a General who told this Administration what they didn't want to hear, the President and the Civilian leadership of the Military sent a shot across the bow of all other Generals from speaking their mind, for fear of losing their lifelong careers in the service of their country. Rumsfeld's message to his Generals was clear.

When General Tommy Franks marched to Baghdad in record-breaking time, we were all both surprised and gratified to see that it was done with minimal loss of life. We were all happy that the Iraq forces decided not to fight but to retreat into the shadows of the population. We were all happy that there was no biological or chemical attack on our troops and that they were safe. However, what wasn't done was to secure all the weapons caches that were found along the way. Those weapons caches numbered in the thousands. We were too busy looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction to realize that the weapons caches were going to be used against us in an insurgency and in the resistance movement to follow. These weapons caches were used as IED's that have killed over 2,700 of our finest and wounded another 21,000. Who is to blame for this?

The seeds of the loss of the Iraq war were sown even before a shot was fired. It was with the Civilian leadership of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and yes President Bush. And while we must not loose sight of this fact, there is another fact, which has not been a focus of our disappointment and anger. It is with the Generals who lead our armed forces of the Army and Marines and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their lack of courage to stand up for what they believed was needed- more troops from the very beginning. These are men who swore to give their lives to this country but haven't the guts to stand up and take on the Civilian leadership when they are and have been wrong. It is only in retirement that most have spoken out. They have been before Congress speaking out. They have been before the news media often CNN and various news programs. Or they have written books on the war. I dare say that they have not served their country well. But their brave men and women who serve under them can be proud of their service.

It is too late for more troops. We have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and justifiably so. There is no turning back now. We must retreat and learn from this experience. One significant question that this war has raised for me is the following. Does the model of Civilian leadership of our Military really work? In the past 2 memorable wars in my lifetime, Vietnam and Iraq, I wonder whether it really works. Maybe it is time to reconsider every assumption we have made. Maybe we need to examine whether the Military should report directly to the President or to the Congress. The Congress is the only branch of Government authorized to declare war and to fund the wars. What do you think?"

Little did I contemplate back in October that this President would be wanting to "surge" another 20,000 plus soldiers into the Civil war there and that the Democrats would be discussing a Non-Binding Resolution in opposition.

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