Awful Crap From Wolfowitz I Was

Awful Crap from Wolfowitz

I was looking at this rreport of Major Isaiah Wilson, official US army historian, which concluded that the US military lost control of Iraq by June, 2003, and has never regained control, and may well lose the guerrilla war. Then someone alerted me to an item about Paul Wolfowitz, who bears significant responsibility for the errors to which Wilson draws attention.

Eric Alterman tells the story of his conversation with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at a toney book party in New York. Among the tidbits:

7) Hold onto your underpants, Jeff Jarvis: When I asked Wolfowitz who he read outside of official channels that he found particularly profitable, he reeled off the names of a bunch of Iraqi blogs. I asked him if he read Juan Cole. He made a munched up face like his sushi had gone bad. He said that yes, he had read him, but did not do so much, because of all the—I forget his exact words, but I’m thinking “awful crap” –through which he had to slog in order to get the information that Cole presented. I said I thought it would be useful since even if one disagrees, Cole certainly knows what he’s talking about, and his view is closer to the rest of the world’s than are those published in the MSM. He made another bad sushi face.

It is a typical strategy of the Neoconservatives to smear those with whom they disagree as “unreliable” or “purveying crap” or morally inferior (“pond scum”), as a way of sidestepping issues of substance. I have nothing personally against Wolfowitz, whom I’ve never met. I just disagree profoundly with the man’s political philosophy, which appears to hold that the US and Israel should engage in naked military aggression to achieve foreign policy goals, and that it is permissible actively to mislead the public in order to convince them to go along with the aggression. Warmongering and lying have never been virtues in my political vocabulary. With regard to practical policy, I also think that he has all along grossly underestimated the threat from asymmetrical terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. And I think his stewardship of the Iraq debacle is among the more uninformed and incompetent pieces of military policy-making in American history.

So let us just look at a couple of pieces of rancid old sushi from Secretary Wolfowitz, 2001-2003:

Richard Clarke, the former terrorism czar in the first year of the George W. Bush administration, recounted his vain struggle to get administration figures like Wolfowitz interested in Bin Laden. It is clear that Wolfowitz had a fixation on Iraq, and ignored Bin Laden in favor of concentrating on Baghdad in the months before September 11:

‘ Rice’s deputy, Steve Hadley, began the meeting by asking me to brief the group. I turned immediately to the pending decisions needed to deal with al Qaeda. “We need to put pressure on both the Taliban and al Qaeda by arming the Northern Alliance and other groups in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, we need to target bin Laden and his leadership by reinitiating flights of the Predator.”

Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy at Defense, fidgeted and scowled. Hadley asked him if he was all right. “Well, I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,” Wolfowitz responded.

I answered as clearly and forcefully as I could: “We are talking about a network of terrorist organizations called al Qaeda, that happens to be led by bin Laden, and we are talking about that network because it and it alone poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States.”

“Well, there are others that do as well, as least as much. Iraqi terrorism, for example,” Wolfowitz replied, looking not at me but at Hadley.

“I am unaware of any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism directed at the United States, Paul, since 1993, and I think FBI and CIA concur in that judgment, right, John?” I pointed at CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who was obviously not eager to get in the middle of a debate between the White House and the Pentagon but nonetheless replied, “Yes, that is right, Dick. We have no evidence of any active Iraqi terrorist threat against the U.S.”

Finally, Wolfowitz turned to me. “You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don’t exist.”

I could hardly believe it, but Wolfowitz was actually spouting the totally discredited Laurie Mylroie theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center, a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue. ‘

Wolfowitz’s first reaction to September 11 was to attack Iraq. If we had carried through on this plan, leaving Bin Laden ensconced in Afghanistan as we mired ourselves in an Iraqi quagmire, al-Qaeda would have been excellently placed to continue to hit us, both in the Middle East and in the homeland. Richard Clarke was outraged that Wolfowitz and his Neoconservative circle were willing so cynically to use the tragedy that had befallen the American people to accomplish their pre-existing goals in Iraq.

Wolfowitz told the US Senate that Iraqis would greet the US troops as liberators and that the US would be back down to 20,000 troops or only a division by October of 2003.

When General Shinseki said that it would take several hundred thousand troops to pacify post-War Iraq, Wolfowitz the civilian bureaucrat openly ridiculed the career officer. Wolfowitz’s dismissive reply is often quoted in part, but it is worthwhile looking at more extended passages to see how badly he miscalculated. Astonishingly, Wolfowitz did not know about the Shiite Badr Corps militia that operated between Iran and Iraq, run by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He did not know about the Sadr movement militias, which Saddam had massacred during the 1999 uprising provoked by his assassination of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. He didn’t realize that Baath-on-Shiite and Baath-on-Kurdish violence had a strong ethnic-cleansing dimension, since the Baath was dominated at the upper echelons by Sunni Arabs. He didn’t realize that the Sunni Arabs, the managerial and officer class, would not go quietly if dethroned, but would mount a sustained guerrilla resistance. Wolfowitz mistakenly thought that Iraqi oil would pay for reconstruction, and did not foresee the substantial sabotage of the pipelines that has made that impossible. He also thought the oil would attract France to become involved in post-War Iraqi reconstruction. (This is the same man who insisted that France be “punished” for declining to support the war at the UN Security Council).


WOLFOWITZ: ‘ We are, however, doing everything possible in our planning now to make post-war recovery smoother and less expensive should the use of force become necessary. As in Afghanistan, we would seek and expect to get allied contributions, both in cash and in kind, particularly for the reconstruction effort in a post-Saddam Iraq.

If I might digress for a moment, Mr. Chairman, from my prepared testimony, because there’s been a good deal of comment, some of it quite outlandish, about what our post-war requirements might be in Iraq.

That great Yankee catcher and occasional philosopher Yogi Berra once observed that it’s dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future.

That piece of wise advice certainly applies to predictions about wars and their aftermath. And I am reluctant to try to predict anything about what the cost of a possible conflict in Iraq would be, or what the possible cost of reconstructing and stabilizing that country afterwards might be.

But some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark.

First, it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine . . .

There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests.

There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia, along with a continuing requirement for large peacekeeping forces to separate those militias.

And the horrors of Iraq are very different from the horrific ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by Serbs that took place in Kosovo and left scars that continue to require peacekeeping forces today in Kosovo.

The slaughter in Iraq — and it’s been substantial — has unfortunately been the slaughter of people of all ethnic and religious groups by the regime. It is equal opportunity terror.

Third, whatever numbers are required — and I emphasize I’m not trying to make a prediction, but I will say there is no reason — there is simply no reason to assume that the United States will or should supply all of those forces.

Many countries have already indicated to us — some of them privately — a desire to help reconstruction of post-Saddam Iraq, even though they may not want to be associated with Saddam’s forcible removal.

Indeed, remember that we’re talking about one of the most important countries in the Arab world, with not only enormous natural resources that we keep hearing about, but equally importantly, I would say more importantly, extraordinary human resources.

And I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq’s reconstruction.

Moreover, the Iraqis themselves can provide a good deal of whatever manpower is necessary. We are already training free Iraqi forces to perform functions of that kind, including command of Iraqis units once those units have been purged of their Baathist leadership.

But the fourth and most fundamental point is that we go back to Yogi Berra: We simply cannot predict. We have no idea whether weapons of mass terror will be used. We have no idea what kind of ethnic strife might appear in the future, although, as I’ve noted, it has not been the history of Iraq’s recent past. We do not know what kind of damage Saddam Hussein will wreck on Iraq’s oil fields or on its other infrastructure.

On the other side, we can’t be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators, although based on what Iraqi-Americans told me in Detroit a week ago, many of them — most of them with families in Iraq — I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down. ‘

Wolfowitz also plotted to turn Iraq over to corrupt expatriate financier Ahmad Chalabi, whom many of his Neoconservative friends still champion.

A California roll of this stuff, anyone? It would be tragicomic if it had not cost so many lives (40,000 Iraqis? Nearly 2000 Coalition. Nearly 12,000 US wounded.) That’s some set of mistakes there.

I was with General Anthony Zinni at the Camden Conference a couple of weeks ago, and someone asked him if there would ever have been a relatively successful guerrilla war if his plan, of putting several hundred thousand troops in the field for the war and its aftermath, had been followed. He replied, “Of course not.” Now that is someone who knows something serious about military affairs.