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How the Iraq War Got off on the Wrong Foot

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  • How the Iraq War Got off on the Wrong Foot

    if it were a more just world, people would be spitting on Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz today for their abject role in the Iraq War. bolded parts mine for emphasis.

    How the Iraq War Got Off on the Wrong Foot |

    It’s always fascinating to listen to an eyewitness to history recount what was happening when the rest of us were relying on press releases and government spin. That’s what makes the comments from a retired Army colonel about the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. bracing.

    A 1977 West Point graduate and armor officer, Kevin Benson was serving as the joint strategic plans and policy officer – the J-5 — at the Combined Forces Land Component Command – “see-lick” – as the war unfolded. That meant he was a key player in the ground war. He offered this full-bird-colonel’s-eye-view of how the U.S. military prepared for, and carried out, the invasion in this March interview with the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Excerpts:

    "We were to invade Iraq and remove the regime. There were subordinate tasks of, let’s see — you know I used to have all these memorized — remove the Saddam regime; collect any weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), we truly did expect to find; release any prisoners that were held since the First Gulf War, which were primarily Kuwaitis; and then ensure, for CFLCC, ensure conditions were established to a smooth transition ultimately back to Iraqi civilian control of their country…

    The political guidance that we got was also contained in the 1003-Victor US Central Command (CENTCOM) campaign plan. Those were directly in accord, because those were more in the purpose of the campaign, if you will, the ultimate policy purpose was to by example, my words, put the “Fear of God” in other regimes. Ones that were mentioned were the Assad regime in Jordan, Kaddafi in Libya, even to a lesser extent this was sending a message to the Iranians as well. So, I think, well, I think, I know, because that’s what we were focused on, was that the very simple stated policy objectives, such as they were, were definitely what guided us in the construct of the campaign and then the subsequent major operations plan that I put together for the land component.

    Q: You said Assad in Jordan, but you met Assad in Syria.

    I beg your pardon, Assad in Syria…

    Q: Did you feel the campaign that you planned was properly resourced, at the time, to support achieving those objectives?

    [Laughs] There’s a very good question. The apportioned forces and I don’t mean to split hairs, but for a major war plan within the Department of Defense and if you know this please tell me, there are forces apportioned to that plan. US Marine, US Army, Navy, Air Force and the apportioned forces, I think, were sufficient to accomplish the campaign objectives.

    Now, break, the Secretary of Defense did not send all of the apportioned forces.

    So, while on paper I think we had sufficient forces to accomplish all the objectives that we set out that would support obtaining policy objectives, in practical effect, with the rush to get the 3d Infantry Division (ID) home and the haste with which 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) withdrew and then the delay in the deployment, well, the 1st Cavalry Division (CAV) not being deployed, I think we planted the seeds of our own tough years, by the haste which all of us wanted to get the hell out of Iraq…

    Here’s the story that I have told over and over and over again. It doesn’t get any better with the telling and it’s still true. When I arrived at Third US Army, the CFLCC, in July of 2002, the first question I asked my lead planner — well, the guy I was going to relieve — was, “What are we doing about after we get to Baghdad?” Phase V, I thought, because the phasing construct that I been most familiar with when I was an operation planner had a fifth phase. I did not know that we’d shrunk it to four.

    First of all, my first response was, “There is no Phase V.”

    “Okay, well whatever.”

    “So what do we do after we get to Baghdad?”

    The guy I was relieving said, “Let me have the lead planner come in.” So the lead planner was a lieutenant colonel, Tom Reilley, and so I asked Tom. “Who is working on what we do after we get to Baghdad?”

    And he said, “Sir, we’re not working on that.”

    “Okay, what are we working on?”

    And he handed a piece of paper to me and it was the first snowflake that I had ever seen.

    It had one sentence and one interrogatory.

    The sentence was, “We have a brigade on the ground. Why can’t we go [invade] now?” and it was signed [Paul] Wolfowitz.

    At first, I thought it was a joke.

    I thought, “What a great outfit I’m joining. My lead planner looks like he’s been rode hard put up wet, but he busting his colonel’s ass right away.” I loved it. “This was my kind of outfit.”

    But, he wasn’t kidding. That is what they were working on. So, there was an expectation from the start that the Iraqi regime was a house of cards and all it would take was one stiff wind and it would fall…democracy would break out…

    What I felt, at least perhaps better stated, what I rationalized for myself was, “None of these civilians have any experience in war, save Afghanistan.”

    At the time, what was the dominant picture?

    It was bearded Special Forces guys riding horses with laser designators and B-1s and B-2s dropping bombs all over the place. That was the war experience of the civilian leadership and so the carryover was, well, we’ll do the same thing here.

    So, it was constant give and take of, “Folks getting to Baghdad is the easy part, what do we do after we get to Baghdad? We’re going to be de facto, de jure occupying power, because we’re signatories of Geneva/Hague. You haven’t told us to break things and leave. You told us to go in remove the regime, establish conditions for a new regime. That’s going to take time. That’s going to take troops and we will have to be in charge.”

    That was not well received. It wasn’t. There was give and take. The only pressure, so to speak, was in the form of, “You must find evidence of WMD. You must find it. We know it’s there.”

    What we got was a list of some 300 plus grid coordinates that was from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that, “There’s WMD. Here’s where we think it is.”

    “Can you prioritize that for us?”


    “So one place isn’t more likely than another?”


    At the root of cliché is wisdom, so clichés that we’ve heard, “No plan can look with certainty beyond initial contact with the enemy main body.” That is a truism as far as I am concerned. As LTG [William] Wallace said, and he almost got fired for it, “The enemy we’re fighting wasn’t the enemy we war-gamed.”

    Absolutely true.

    GEN Wallace is the commanding general of V Corps. He had his embeds with him, Rick Atkinson and one other guy and I can’t remember the other guy’s name. Both of whom reported that comment. It got back in the papers in the US and the Secretary of Defense was asking, “Why is this guy Wallace in command of V Corps? I want him fired.”

    In the middle of the unfolding fight, my general, [Coalition Forces Land Component Commander David] McKiernan, really had to fly to Qatar to convince GEN [Tommy] Franks not to fire GEN Wallace….In the middle of the God damn fight."
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  • #2
    I share your sentiments.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain


    • #3
      To put it succinctly, there was no thought expended whatsoever in regards to Phase IV (Occupation). The arrogance of Rumsfeld is both stunning and appalling.


      • #4
        it wasn't just phase IV that rumsfeld screwed the pooch.

        he interfered with force planning because he wanted to test his RMA/network centric warfare theories. then during phase III he wanted to remove a general for wholly political reasons (see above).

        the boneheadedness of the whole deal was illustrated with that wolfowitz snowflake, which i didn't know about earlier. that type of thing should have ended up with wolfowitz being led into a straitjacket. IIRC wolfowitz was also a big proponent of having the US armed forces just up and invade syria or iran next, now that they were already there in the general neighborhood.

        well, actually, i can think of one time when it'd be OK not to spit on wolfowitz or rumsfeld. if they were on fire.
        There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


        • #5
          Originally posted by astralis View Post
          it wasn't just phase IV that rumsfeld screwed the pooch.
          Indeed. The spectrum of Rumsfeld & Co mismanagement and malfeasance is... legion.


          • #6
            A friend of mine (John Agoglia) was at ARCENT as one of the planners on the OPLAN mentioned and was stunned when Franks would bend over flail-ex to every snowflake.

            He recalled one day sitting in the ops center when the word came down stripping units off the apportioned list.

            He said the room grew silent and then a BG said... Those pinheads are out of their tiny fucking minds!!!

            I believe Tom Ricks tells about that in his book Fiasco.

            The legs on the Stool of Fools are labelled Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Franks.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain


            • #7
              This article dovetails nicely with the first. Whether you were for or against the Iraq war, you can be angry with the direction it took after we toppled Saddam. Col Spain said he could tell we were losing the support of Iraqis by the dwindling number of them who waved as his troops passed by them in the streets.

              At War - Notes From the Front Lines
              April 10, 2013, 1:00 pm64 Comments
              10 Mistakes of the Iraq War
              By HANNAH C. MURPHY

              In 2003, Col. Ted Spain was deployed to Iraq as the commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade. His task was to rebuild the Iraqi police force, establish a detention system and forge a new model for law and order in the country. But on the ground, he says, this task was made impossible by a lack of manpower, limited resources and the rising animosity of the Iraqi people. When he retired in 2004, the military police were still struggling to put these systems in place, and law and order seemed a distant goal.
              Colonel Ted SpainRobert Aulicino Colonel Ted Spain

              Ten years after the start of the war, Colonel Spain and Terry Turchie, the former deputy assistant director of the terrorist division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have co-written “Breaking Iraq,” published by the History Publishing Company. The book is an assessment of 10 decisions made by the American military and government that derailed the effort to rebuild Iraq after the ground war. An interview with Col. Spain, edited for brevity and clarity, follows.

              You started writing “Breaking Iraq” just a few years after you retired. When you began, what did you hope would come of it?

              I address the law-and-order side of both the invasion, and more importantly, the occupation of Iraq. I was hoping to help people understand how important law and order is in a society. In Iraq, we had a great plan for taking the country; we just didn’t have a great plan for what to do once we took it.

              In short, what are the 10 mistakes that you address in your book?

              I break the mistakes up chapter-by-chapter.

              Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s deployment plans. They didn’t include an adequate number of military police to control the routes during the ground war, and then we didn’t have sufficient military police to control the streets after the ground war.
              Law and order was not given sufficient attention in the pre-war planning. This failed to provide a police system to provide security to the Iraqi citizenry and to instill a sense of trust in our Army.
              The issue of detainees. There was really was no clear guidance on the categorization of them. It was really important to me to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, but I really had to make it all up as I went.
              The flaws in collecting intelligence.
              Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer who commanded the military police unit at the Abu Ghraib prison. I actually opened Abu Ghraib prison and handed it over to her in 2003. And I explain that she was the wrong leader at the wrong place at the wrong time.
              Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who was the top commander in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004 and replaced Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace. General Sanchez was in over his head, and he continued fighting the ground war long after it was over.
              The Coalition Provisional Authority, under the leadership of L. Paul Bremer III, dismantled the Iraqi Army, and the highest level of the Baath Party. Under Saddam Hussein, the highest ranks could only belong to Baath Party members, so we lost some of the most experienced personnel that were so vital in putting Iraq back together again.
              The mistakes of the former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. He was focused on padding his résumé and getting as much camera time as he could.
              The Iraqi police and the fact that I was pressured to focus more on quantity as opposed to quality.
              President George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing. The fact is, those countries had less than 50 people in there. There really was not a coalition other than the United Kingdom.


              You point to a lot of individuals in these chapters. Do you think there’s one person who could be seen as the perpetrator in this story?

              Just about everybody there were well-intentioned people. There were, perhaps, people there who were taking advantage of the situation, but I still wouldn’t call those villains.

              But anyone who reads that book is going to say that a lot of this is my fault. My personal biggest regret: the Battle of Baghdad. All of my focus was on the ground war, and helping to take the country. And I really thought that during the Battle of Baghdad, I’d be able to plan out how to deal with the Iraqi police based on how the Iraqi police responded to our actions. But in hindsight, I was just dead wrong.

              The first general infantry commander in Iraq asked me right after we took the country, “Why is the Iraqi police so screwed up?” I said, “Sir, they don’t have any vehicles, they don’t have any weapons, they don’t have any radios, they have no uniforms, but other than that, they’re a great police department.” Think about any police department in the United States that didn’t have radios, vehicles, weapons and uniforms — you don’t have a police force.

              I wish I had pushed more to learn more about the Iraqi police. I wish I’d studied something about the Iraqi police before hand, but I didn’t.

              Did you find that cultural differences played a part in that?

              The uniforms. People were in Kuwait making decisions about what the Iraqi police were going to be wearing for their uniforms, and they were offended. I remember receiving, if I’m not mistaken, about 10,000 Iraqi police hats, but they were like baseball hats, like the New York Yankees would wear. And that was offensive to their culture. They wanted berets, so we got them berets. That may sound like a small thing, but the baseball caps really offended them. Those were just cultural things that I could have never anticipated.

              One of your chapters was about managing detainees. What challenges did that present?

              The categories for the detainees were never clear, so I ended up making it up myself. I categorized some as the enemy, some as the terrorists and some as criminals. And I did that based on their motivation. The enemy was former military members. I referred to the terrorists as the folks that were outside Iraq that came into Iraq just to kill Americans. And then I was just shocked by the number of criminals who were taking advantage of the situation.

              Tell me about opening Abu Ghraib prison, and the scandal that followed.

              I’d set up several other enemy prisoner-of-war camps, but once we moved into Baghdad, it quickly overwhelmed my resources. So I had all of my subordinate units looking for anything that we could put detainees in — stadiums, big gymnasiums, anything like that. And I distinctly remember my command major telling me one night, early on, “Hey Sarge, there’s this huge prison right outside Baghdad.”

              When we rolled in there, a lot of the walls had been destroyed, a lot of the stuff had been looted. There were two looters in there, and they told me that they used to be prisoners, and they actually took me through a tour of Abu Ghraib prison — took me to the execution chamber, took me to the cell blocks, so I saw this whole area. And it was a no-brainer that we were going to have to get this prepared and get this open, because it was huge. I would be able to put thousands of detainees in there.

              General Karpinski took over at the end of June, and I was out of there. And the abuse, I get asked about that all the time. I don’t know why they did what they did. Terrible things happen in prisons at night here in the United States where guards sometimes abuse detainees. There’s absolutely no excuse for that. What I can’t get clear in my mind as I’ve studied this over the years, is whether they were told to conduct any of that abuse or not. I just can’t come to that conclusion.

              Do you think that there was ever a time during that first year when United States officials could have changed their approach and seen a different outcome?

              I can’t say that it would have turned things around, but it would have been different if Secretary Rumsfeld hadn’t pulled General Wallace out. Because General Wallace understood that the ground war was over, and that we were now into the stage of “winning the hearts and minds.”

              The infantry — they fight war and they destroy the enemy. And they are quite good at it. They are taught to violently execute their missions. Every time they take an Iraqi and throw them down on the ground, they’re creating a possible future enemy.

              When we entered that country, we were heroes to everybody from the 70-year-olds to the 7-year-olds. As the weeks and the months came, the way that I personally judged our success was by the number of people that waved at us and as the people waving got younger and younger, I would say to my security guys, “We’re losing these people.”

              When you released the book on March 19th, what criticism were you most worried about?

              I wait every day to see if I’m going to hear from General Sanchez, or General Karpinski. And of course Bernie Kerik’s sitting up in federal prison somewhere, but he’s not going to be happy about it.
              10 Mistakes of the Iraq War -
              To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato


              • #8
                Where did it go wrong?

                "We were to invade Iraq and remove the regime.
                Lack of pressing national interest.

                the ultimate policy purpose was to by example, my words, put the “Fear of God” in other regimes.
                Lack of pressing national interest.

                “We have a brigade on the ground. Why can’t we go [invade] now?” and it was signed [Paul] Wolfowitz.
                The Paul Wolfowitz mindset: we have the political cover (9/11), therefore we don’t need to ask if this is something we SHOULD do, but only HOW to do it.

                “None of these civilians have any experience in war, save Afghanistan.”
                The least military experienced civilian leadership, ever.

                “You must find evidence of WMD. You must find it. We know it’s there.”
                Pressuring the intelligence community for the politically necessary answers, rather than the right ones, and when those answers didn’t come, lying to congress, our allies and the American public for the purpose of launching an unnecessary war of aggression.

                . . . . .

                I’m not a military man, but I do pay attention.
                Trust me?
                I'm an economist!


                • #9
                  I remember when I heard the 4th Infantry Division's deployment through Turkey had been cancelled.
                  My heart sank because I figured they were already planning the operation with far too few troops to begin with.

                  People who knew me and my interest in the military would ask me how I thought things would go.

                  I predicted the U.S. would blow through the Iraqi Army like a tornado...and then get bogged down in an occupation.

                  This required no great insight on my part. I simply recalled an interview (with Cheney? of all people...or maybe it was Powell) some years after Desert Storm.
                  He said "You know why we didn't continue on to Baghdad in '91? Because we'd still be garrisoning it today"

                  Prescient indeed.
                  “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                  • #10
                    Where my heart fell was when they didn't order the Iraqi Army back to barracks and the civil service back to work. "It's Monday. You've got a new boss. Get used to it."
                    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.



                    • #11

                      Concur 100%. The ground war was over. The US infantry should not have been tasked with manning the streets. The Iraqi Army and the Police force should have been tasked with that and the civil servants should have been ordered to do what they were supposed to do anyways. That the numbers weren't adequate becomes irrelevant if the Iraqi military, police and bureaucracy wasn't disbanded imo.

                      I personally have read very less about the Iraqi occupation, request you Gentlemen to pour in a bit more.
                      sigpicAnd on the sixth day, God created the Field Artillery...


                      • #12

                        Army should not, I repeat, should not man the streets. It's police work everywhere. But Israel, but that's not the point.
                        No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

                        To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doktor View Post

                          Army should not, I repeat, should not man the streets. It's police work everywhere. But Israel, but that's not the point.

                          The Army shouldn't, I agree. However, in the context of Iraq as I was reading the above posts, the Iraqi Police wasn't equipped with even the basic amenities. In such times the Iraqi Army could have been tasked to maintain the law and order in tandem with the Police force, more so because in a post war, war ravaged state, the first things people look forward to, are security, peace and freedom of movement. They would have better acceptance among the Iraqi people. In any case, the same task ideally should not be given to the occupational force. It creates unnecessary mistrust and a feeling of subjugation.
                          sigpicAnd on the sixth day, God created the Field Artillery...


                          • #14
                            I don't know what to think. It was a very long and hard decision for me to support the war, as it was for MGen MacKenzie. A lot of us debated over the merits and over individual points. A lot cannot support the war and I cannot fault them for their decision but for those of us who reached our own conclusions, and even with this revelation, I cannot see how I would change my mind in supporting the war, I feel betrayed.

                            My reasons, as are MGen MacKenzie's, are still very valid. Saddam was going for chemical weapons and a nuclear domant program. However, learning that our carefully researched decisions were not the basis for this war ... well, this is not the first time the civilian leadership fucked us over.


                            • #15
                              I have to say I feel very, very betrayed. I spent months deciding and eventually, it took one man to convince me, MGen MacKenzie. His words and I'm paraphrasing. There's a lot more evidence of Saddam's WMDs than there were of the Serb's genocide in Kosovo.

                              There were a lot more evidence. Modified SA-2 rockets, chemical artillery shells, military remote control crop dusters.

                              But none of these were the decision points. Our points are right and it was still the right war.

                              But we went to war on ego and not on facts ... and that disturbs me to no end.