Monday, March 13, 2006

The Gang that Couldn't Talk Straight

Yesterday, six bombs exploded in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. An Interior Ministry official and other witnesses reported that the explosions killed 46 people and wounded more than 200 others. Shiite militiamen took to the streets.

The bombings took place after leaders of Iraq's major political blocs met to discuss forming a government for the first time.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, said at a news conference, "I think the situation is such that there's a degree of vacuum in authority."

Khalilzad makes big bucks to come up with gems like that.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, politicians and pundits invaded the Sunday talk shows to argue over whether Iraq has broken out into civil war.


Today, NYT's Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor describe the infighting among generals and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the initial "dash to Baghdad." From the sound of things, the operation had all the earmarks of a Mack Sennett production.

Tommy Franks, the general in charge of Central Command, got mad as a hatter when Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander of the Army's V Corps, told reporters he needed to delay his advance on Baghdad to suppress the threat of an attack from the rear by Fedayeen paramilitary forces. Franks called Lieutenant General David D. McKiernan, who commanded allied land forces, and warned that he might relieve Wallace from command of V Corps. McKiernan flew to meet Franks at his headquarters in Qatar and talked him out of firing Wallace.

Still, Franks couldn't see what Wallace was so worried about. The force to his rear was just the Fedayeen, after all. As far as Franks and Donald Rumsfeld were concerned, the Fedayeen were just "speed bumps on the way to Baghdad."

Wallace told reporters, " "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against, because of these paramilitary forces. We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight." Wallace stated that because of the paramilitary threat the war might take longer than military planners had forecast.

Wallace must have taken his crystal ball with him into combat.

Wallace's remarks to reporters put Franks through the roof again, because he had promised Rumsfeld that his forces might take Baghdad in a matter of a few weeks.

Rumsfeld and his advisers--who included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich--got bent out of shape, and sent out a memo criticizing Wallace and other Army generals for being "risk averse."

Franks flew to McKiernan's headquarters in Kuwait and chewed everybody out.

As U.S. forces closed on Baghdad, Rumsfeld decided not to deploy the First Cavalry Division.

McKiernan wasn't happy about the decision, but didn't protest.

Three years later, senior officers assert that canceling the division was a mistake. Retired Army General Jack Keane says, "The Baathist insurgency surprised us and we had not developed a comprehensive option for dealing with this possibility, one that would have included more military police, civil affairs units, interrogators, interpreters and Special Operations forces… If we had planned for an insurgency, we probably would have deployed the First Cavalry Division and it would have assisted greatly with the initial occupation."


Today, Mister Bush and other administration luminaries will launch yet another campaign to garner support for their woebegone war in Iraq. It's difficult to predict what they'll say, but you can bet dollars to donuts on the two things they definitely won't say: why we invaded Iraq and what we hoped to gain by it.

On January 26, 1998, Bill Kristol, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Francis Fukyama, Robert Kagan and other members of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC) delivered a letter to President Clinton urging him to use military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Their stated purpose for the proposed action was to protect "… our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil…"

Two days later, Kristol and Kagan published an article in the New York Times titled "Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough." The piece challenged Clinton to oust Hussein "…using air power and ground forces, and finishing the task left undone in 1991."

In September of 2000, the PNAC published Rebuilding America's Defenses, a manifesto that became the template for the Bush administration's foreign policy. As the document reveals, the neoconservatives' ambitions in the middle east really had little to do with Saddam Hussein at all.
[T]he United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the regime of Saddam Hussein.

But the neocons realized the road to fulfilling their ambitions was "…likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor."

On September 11, 2001, they got their "Pearl Harbor," and the rest, as they say, is history.


The results of a Zogby Poll released on February 28, 2006 indicate that 85 percent of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. mission there is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks.” That perception was most likely formed by a non-stop bombardment from the overseas armed forces broadcast networks.

We can't know the exact nature of the pro-war programming our troops in Iraq are listening to, but it probably sounds a lot like what we'll hear from the Bush crew over the next few days.


  1. Blather, rinse, repeat.

  2. Yep. I should start a pool on how many times Bush says nine eleven this week.

  3. I don't know about "9-11," but I'm getting tired of hearing any variation on the phrase "brought to justice." He seems to say that more than anything.

  4. Yeah, he likes that one. Sounds like a line from a Gary Cooper movie.

  5. Joffan12:44 PM

    Question: how often has Bush's "brought to justice" involved a verdict in a courtroom in front of a judge?

  6. Joffan:

    I think about none is the number of times it has involved that.

    Well, maybe not quite none. There is always Zacharias Mousawi. Of course, it looks like the government broke the rules in that trial....

  7. Sounds like the government team screwed that case up but good.

  8. Doug and Scott,

    Should we call that sort of thing a "Berto Burp?"

  9. I'm reminded more and more of Harvey Korman's goon squad in Blazing Saddles:

    "I want rustlers, cutthroats, murders, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull-dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, sh**-kickers, and Methodists!"

  10. Yeah.

    "F*** you, I'm workin' for MEL BROOKS!"