Tuesday, November 28, 2006

US News on Who Lost Iraq

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley and even Congress all played critical roles in creating the Iraq quagmire. Although Rumsfeld's blunders have often been covered, Chitra Ragavan of US News has a long article that puts the spotlight on Bush's two national security advisers, Rice and Hadley, and their role in the fiasco:
President Bush's acceptance of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation was intended to signal a change in course on Iraq. But many national security experts say that Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser at the time of the invasion, and the National Security Council share much of the blame for the problems in Iraq. "She did not perceive, and the National Security Council did not assess, what is in the United States' interests and what is in the interests of our enemies," says retired Lt. Gen. William Odom, an outspoken critic of the war who served as military assistant to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser. "Once you make that basic mistake, there isn't any way to make the war come out good. It's all over."

With her ardent support for the invasion, Odom and others say, Rice was unable to play the traditional role of national security adviser-impartial broker in the rough-and-tumble of interagency government. That was further complicated by the fact that Rumsfeld all but ignored the input of other agencies, then never took responsibility for postwar reconstruction, leaving Rice to try to manage the Iraq rebuilding effort from the White House. "The people who took responsibility for the rebuilding of Iraq-that is, the office of the secretary of defense-expressed no interest in solving problems as problems appeared," says Franklin Miller, one of Rice's principal aides handling the reconstruction effort. "They never brought any issues to the table, and they never took any taskings away."
Although the article focuses more on Rice than Hadley, I don't think enough has been said about Hadley's role, particularly since Rice left for the State Department. I've noticed some mild inaccuracies in the story and those inaccuracies seem to be a function of relying on NSC staff members for the story. Even Cheney's role manages to be minimized in the debacle.

The only question I have about Rice's role in Iraq is whether she knew about Abu Ghraib since the beginning. I have no doubt that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld implemented the new interrogation regime and Rumsfeld specifically added Abu Ghraib to the interrogation centers that already existed but Rice's specific role in fostering democracy would have been ironic if she had known about Abu Ghraib. But it would not surprise me. In the US News article, the military comes in for a share of the blame but it should be remembered that generals who pointed out things that Rumsfeld did not want to hear were soon left out of the decision-making process.

The more one reads about all this stuff, the more amazing it is how little anyone seemed to know what they were doing (Bush is the poster boy in that department though Douglas Feith in the Pentagon is a close second) and how unwilling others were to protest if they understood the facts (Powell, for one, comes to mind). The fiasco in Iraq isn't just a function of incompetence, though; many blunders were made because of rigid ideological assumptions and just sheer hubris and cussedness on the part of the Bush inner circle. If the full story on Iraq ever comes out, Bush may well have destroyed the neoconservatives and the Republican radical right for the next generation or two. The neoconservatives and radical right will continue to make noise, but it's time for the media to stop taking them seriously.


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