The National Security Archive now reveals that the Pentagon knew from 1999 on that invasion and occupation of Iraq would entail disaster.
Through a FOIA request, the National Security Archive has obtained documents of “Desert Crossing” war games conducted by CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) in April 1999 to assess outcomes of invading Iraq. Outcomes were not rosy.
As the NSArchive introduction observes, “Some of these conclusions are interestingly similar to the events which actually occurred after Saddam was overthrown. (Note 1) The report forewarned that regime change may cause regional instability by opening the doors to “rival forces bidding for power” which, in turn, could cause societal “fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines” and antagonize “aggressive neighbors.” Further, the report illuminated worries that secure borders and a restoration of civil order may not be enough to stabilize Iraq if the replacement government were perceived as weak, subservient to outside powers, or out of touch with other regional governments. An exit strategy, the report said, would also be complicated by differing visions for a post-Saddam Iraq among those involved in the conflict.”
General Zinni, who retired after the war games, tried unsuccessfully to remind the current administration about Desert Crossing. In an act of political heroism, he went public with some of his concerns. Aside from other problems, “the former CENTCOM commander noted that his plan had called for a force of 400,000 for the invasion — 240,000 more than what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved. “We were concerned about the ability to get in there right away, to flood the towns and villages,” USA Today quoted Zinni as saying in July 2003. “We knew the initial problem would be security.” (Note 7)”
Portions of the conclusions are being reported on CNN.com today.
Selected emails disclose that one of the entities involved in planning Desert Crossing, along with CENTCOM, was the giant security contractor “Booz Allen.” The emails refer to Booz Allen Hamilton, a huge northern Virginia firm numbering members and signatories of PNAC among its principals and the government among its chief clients. Booz Allen is a privately held mega-funded global contractor.
The company name hit the news earlier this fall with revelations that the Bush administration was secretly monitoring bank transactions (SWIFT). The White House said that the electronic surveillance was being supervised by Booz Allen, a claim that itself arouses problems. As this article by Liana Forest reminds, Booz Allen also developed Carnivore, the discredited data mining process, for use by the FBI. Thus we have a purported check and audit on government electronic surveillance being handled by a company that has demonstrably not seen fit to warn the public about what government is doing, either in regard to Iraq or in regard to financial spying.
Back to Desert Crossing: no argument can be made that key government agencies were left out of the loop. As the report afterward makes clear, “Over 70 participants, including the Department of State, Department of Defense, National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency took part in the seminar.” Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby and David Addington had access to the information processed by their predecessors in the Defense department. Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley had access to material available to the National Security Council.
Even couched in the value-neutral language of bureaucracy, the conclusions of the report are horrifying: “The dimensions of preparing a post-Saddam policy for Iraq and the region are vast and complex. Early preparation of a political-military plan as called for in Presidential Decision Directive 56 should be a priority. The accompanying policy debate will expose a variety of contentious positions that must be reconciled and managed. Key discussion points include: benefits and risks associated with various strategic options; information requirements; and the likelihood that intervention will be costly in terms of casualties and resources.”
Setting aside if one could that calling the invasion of another country “intervention” is quintessentially Orwellian; setting aside if one could that one nation has no right to remake another nation in the first place; setting aside if one could the injuries and deaths of thousands, one is still faced with the obscene presumptuousness with which under-qualified individuals set themselves on a course to do something they never had a chance of doing. We keep asking how–how could they do it? –how could personnel as negligible as George Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Wolfowitz and Libby, Hadley and Addington even think they could accomplish the remaking of Iraq? What made them think they had the right to do so?
In a sense the question answers itself. Invading and trashing a country that has not attacked us is self-evidently invalid. Only unqualified, ignorant, selfish people–ignorant in spite of all their resources, their wealth and their access to information and expertise–could imagine either that they could, or that they should give it a try.