Monday, June 30, 2008

Army Report: Big Mistakes in Iraq!

The American Army released "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003–January 2005" today: a copy has been available on the Pentagon website since the weekend.

(It's a hefty document: a 104 MB *.pdf file - 720 sheets of not particularly light reading.)

Mild, Muted Reactions

Reactions were much more muted than what I expected:
  • "Army Did Not Plan for Post-Invasion Iraq? What About Bush?" (June 30, 2008)
    • "The latest non-news news about Iraq comes from a nearly 700-page Army study that notes that the Army--including General Tommy Franks--did not prepare adequately for the post-invasion phase in Iraq. The bottom-line quote: "The military means employed [in Iraq] were sufficient to destroy the Saddam regime; they were not sufficient to replace it with the type of nation-state the United States wished to see in its place." But this failure does not belong only to Franks and the Army. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld...."
  • "US Army's Report ---- Bush (cheney)ed Up"
    TwoPuttTommy's blog (June 29, 2008)
    • "Ladies and Gentlemen, two years ago the Pioneer Press asked the 22 major party candidates for congress three questions, one of which was: 'Did the U.S. do the right thing sending troops to Iraq?' John Kline answered, and I quote: 'Second guessing is for Monday morning quarterbacks and not the way to decide foreign policy. The point is our troops are in Iraq now, so the real question is how do we support our troops and the new Iraqi government?' Ladies and Gentlemen, that was a bullshit answer then, and it still is...."
  • "Generalship and Iraq"
    HG's WORLD (June 28, 2008)
    • "...They all have the same thing in common. They were in charge of either winning or commanding, the decisive battle in a war. Everyone of this men justly earned the accolades of their nation and in the case all save one, continued to serve until the job was done...."
(There were many more 'blog' posts than these. I selected posts that expressed opinion or offered commentary, rather than just parroting news reports (my own parrot squawks are mostly at the end of this post).)

Big Iraq Mistakes Report Creates Big Dilemma

I suspect that the reasons we aren't seeing more triumphant whoops from the out-now people is that this Army report is a long, tedious read - and doesn't quite say the right things.

For example, there's the report's handling of President Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner:
"...This stunning victory led President Bush, with the encouragement of his top military leaders, to announce the end to major combat operations on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. While viewed by some as tantamount to a declaration of victory, in reality, this announcement merely marked the point where the campaign transitioned from combat to the next phase of operations focused on the reconstruction of Iraq...."
("On Point II," Prologue, page 19, continuing a topic raised on page 9)
That "Mission Accomplished" banner story took on a life of its own: and I doubt that those who prefer to see it as an example of ignorant arrogance appreciate the facts being brought up again.1

Too Many Facts

It must be difficult for those dedicated to seeing American involvement in Iraq as an unmitigated failure, to have a major military 'admission' be so annoyingly filled with facts.

Contrary to what it's like in what I'll call the World According to Berkeley, the American military is not made up of sadistic; power-mad rulers; bent on oppressing the hapless losers they command; and through them, the world.

The American military in the real world is made up of fallible human beings: but human beings who are smart, professional, and who want to learn from past mistakes. As the Commanding General of US Army Training and Doctrine Command, General William S. Wallace, wrote in the forward:
"...One of the great, and least understood, qualities of the United States Army is its culture of introspection and self-examination. American Soldiers, whether it is the squad leader conducting a hasty after action review of a training event or the senior leader studying great campaigns from the past, are part of a vibrant, learning organization. The CSI motto—The Past is Prologue—neatly captures the need for this study. Publishing the recent history of the United States Army's operations is a key part of the TRADOC mission to develop adaptive, innovative leaders who are flexible, culturally astute experts in the art and science of the profession of arms, and who are able to quickly adapt to the contemporary operating environment...."
("On Point II," Prologue, page iii)

"The Past is Prologue" - Learn From It!

This report is part of the American Army's efforts to learn what has gone right in Iraq, and what's gone wrong. The long range goal: to repeat past successes, and avoid past blunders.

There's no doubt about it: the report shows some very serious problems in the Pentagon, like Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay Garner and his ORHA team, and chain of command.
"...General Keane had similar concerns about Garner's authority in the spring of 2003 when DOD formed ORHA. After a briefing from Garner at the Pentagon, Keane recounted, 'I asked him who he was working for and he said that he was working for Secretary Rumsfeld. I said, goddamn it, Jay, that is the wrong answer. Every damn time we don't have unity of command. You should be working for one guy and one guy only, and that is Franks.' ..."
("On Point II," page 150)
And, there are problems in the matter of getting enough troops and the right equipment to the right places.
"...[former Ambassador] Bremer remembered that the al-Sadr uprising and Sunni attacks of April 2004 conclusively demonstrated to him that Coalition troops were stretched too thin and that led him to send a written request for one or two more divisions.... According to Bremer, he never received an official response to his request...."2
("On Point II," page 168)
Successes are in the report, too. But, from some points of view, they're the wrong sort of successes.
"...Neither mission accomplishment nor the integrity of the media was compromised. . . . Embedded media had a more realistic understanding and were more optimistic in their accounts than media who were reporting from the Pentagon, from (CENTCOM) in Qatar, or from Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) in Kuwait. . . . In sum, the embedded media balanced the negative press from reporters outside Iraq...."
("On Point II," page 294, quoting from 3d ID, AAR, Lessons Learned, Chapter 6: Embedded Media, 40–44.)

The 'Big Mistakes in Iraq' Report is Out - Now What?

I think that awareness of this report will fade away, as the truth sinks in. "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign" describes eighteen months of an imperfect, flawed, campaign to put Iraq on its feet as a free democracy - while terrorists did their best to ruin the process.

Here's the last entry in the chronology:
"Iraq holds its first free national elections in 50 years. Voter turnout is higher than projected, but most Sunnis boycott.

"Nine suicide bombers and insurgents firing mortars kill 26 Iraqis and wound over 100 in election-related violence."
("On Point II," pages 641-648)
Here's one way to look at the facts:
  • Sunnis Boycott Iraqi Election
  • Election Violence Kills 26 Iraqis
Here's another:
  • Iraq: First Free Elections in Over 50 Years
    • Sunnis Boycott Election
    • 26 Iraqis Dead, Over 100 wounded in Election-Related Violence
I'm inclined to see free elections as a good thing. I know that the situation in Iraq is not everything it should - and can - be. But, I don't see it as hopeless.

Let's remember what has been accomplished.

(CENTCOM Photo, from "On Point II," page 421, used w/o permission)
"Figure 106. Iraqi woman voter."

American Army report on the Iraq campaign, in the news:
  • "US army blames 'flawed' Iraq plan "
    Al Jazeera English (June 30, 2008)
    • "An official US army account of the US-led Iraqi invasion and occupation has admitted that planning for the operation was flawed.
    • "The 700-page report, released on Monday, concludes that military and civilian leaders failed to prepare adequately for the post-war mission.
    • "It says the rapid military defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces led US policymakers to believe its post-war military scenario would prove equally easy...."
  • "Army criticizes itself in Iraq invasion report"
    CNN (June 30, 2008)
    • "(CNN) -- The U.S. Army's official history of the Iraq war shows military chiefs made mistake after mistake in the early months of the conflict.
    • "Failures to recognize the chaos engulfing the country and to send in enough troops to restore order after the 2003 invasion have long been highlighted by critics, but a new report shows the Army assessing itself.
    • "Frank opinions from officers serving in the 18 months from the start of war to Iraqi elections in January 2005 reveal there were concerns at the time, not just about assumptions made by planners but at decisions taken once U.S.-led coalition forces had control of Iraq...."
  • "Army study: Iraq occupation was understaffed"
    International Herald Tribune (June 30, 2008)
    • "DENVER: A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that 'in the euphoria of early 2003,' U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.
    • "President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.
    • "It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Contemporary Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.
  • "New Public Military History Criticizes Pentagon on Post-Invasion Planning for Iraq"
    FOXNews (June 29, 2008)
    • "WASHINGTON — A new report by Army historians levels heavy, unvarnished criticism against Pentagon leadership for its failure to plan beyond the initial invasion of Iraq.
    • " 'On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign' - which outlines the 18 months following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime - said too much focus was placed on a military victory, and not enough on post-war planning, due in part to optimism by the White House and the Pentagon that civilian agencies would take care much of the country's post war rebuilding...."
  • "US army blames leaders over post-war Iraq"
    Guardian (UK) (June 29, 2008)
    "Military historians single out Rumsfeld and Franks
    "Too much focus on getting rid of Saddam, says study
    • "The US army has told of errors, poor planning and complacency among its own top commanders in a warts-and-all official history of the steep descent into violence that followed the Iraq war.
    • "In a 696-page account, army historians fault military and political leaders for focusing excessively on toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 without looking towards a broader transition towards a stable society. Actions by the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the top US commander during the Iraq invasion, Tommy Franks, are singled out in the study, which was delayed for six months to allow senior army figures to review drafts.
    • " 'The transition to a new campaign was not well thought out, planned for and prepared for before it began,' says the history, On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign, published by an internal army thinktank called the contemporary operations study team. 'The assumptions about the nature of the post-Saddam Iraq on which the transition was planned proved to be largely incorrect.'..."

1 It's quite probable that the idea of that "Mission Accomplished" banner came from "Navy officials on the carrier." (CNN, "White House pressed on 'mission accomplished' sign - Navy suggested it, White House made it, both sides say" (October 29, 2003))

And, the statement was correct. The mission, to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq, had been accomplished.

As the President said that day,
  • "...Our mission continues. Al Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations, and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people...."
  • "...The war on terror is not over; yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory...."
That statement, "while viewed by some as tantamount to a declaration of victory," is, I think, rather mild. I remember how, almost five years ago, the stupidity, the arrogance, of the bad cowboy president was discussed in connection with that banner. What the president actually said on the deck of the Lincoln didn't match the 'stupid, arrogant Bush' model, so those details were largely forgotten.

The "Mission Accomplished" banner was, in retrospect, a mistake. Bush's visit to the USS Lincoln might have been better received, if the banner had read, "We're Sorry."

I can't help thinking that, if the self-defined best people in America had their way, Washington would have been criticized for claiming the mission of securing Yorktown as a victory, because the mission of promoting "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" had not been fully completed. (And it hasn't, to date: it's a sort of ongoing mission.)

2 This, and a general impression I get from some of what I skimmed, make me concerned that America is close to repeating a mistake from Vietnam: inept 'experts' in Washington micro-managing field commanders.


Brigid said...

William Wallace??

Any relation to the original?

Brian H. Gill said...


That's a good question.

The William Wallace over in the old country had a pretty good proverb connected with his name:

"This is the truth I tell you:
of all things freedom's most fine.
Never submit to live, my son,
in the bonds of slavery entwined."

(Good call - more about William Wallace of Scotland at BBC.

Anonymous said...

US can never get out of Iraq . They have made mess of it .

Brian H. Gill said...

webdesign brno,

I doubt that America will be "out" of Iraq - or Germany - or Japan - for quite some time.

As for making a mess of it, in fairness I think Iraq's former leader, the late Mr. Hussein, deserves some of the credit.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.