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DURING THE FIRST MORNING of the rock drill, Garner had noticed one person who found fault with everything. A real "spring-butt," Garner thought, someone who kept popping up out of his seat with something to say on every topic. When they took a break, Garner walked up to him.
"Let me talk to you," he said.
"I'm Tom Warrick," said the man, a 48-year-old State Department civil servant.
"How do you know so damn much?"
"Well, I've been studying this stuff for the last year and a half," Warrick said.
Oh yeah? Who've you been studying it for?
The State Department, Warrick replied, and said he'd written a long report on postwar Iraq. "It's called the 'Future of Iraq' study."
That was very interesting, Garner thought. He had heard vaguely about the study.
"Why aren't you over here working for me?"
"I'd like to work for you," Warrick said.
"You're hired," Garner told him. "Be there Monday morning and bring all your stuff."
The Monday after the rock drill, Warrick showed up at the Pentagon. By noon, Garner noticed that half the people working with Warrick were mad at him. Garner was delighted. They needed someone like that, challenging everyone, keeping them on their toes and engaged. "He runs around and sandpapers everyone," Garner recalled later. Garner read much of the "Future of Iraq" study, didn't agree with all of it, but felt it was sufficiently provocative to be useful.
A few days later, Garner was summoned to Rumsfeld's office for a big get-together with Wolfowitz, General Myers and the vice chairman of the JCS, Marine General Pete Pace.
"Hey, Jay"—Rumsfeld leaned over at one point—"when it's all over, how about staying? I have a couple of things I need to go over."
When everyone else left, the secretary of defense walked to his desk and started shuffling through his papers. It took a while, and Rumsfeld started to get exasperated, unable to find what he was looking for. Finally, he picked up a small piece of paper.
"Jay," he said, looking up. "Do you have a couple people on your team named Warrick and O'Sullivan?"
"Yeah," Garner replied. "I've got a guy named Tom Warrick who did the 'Future of Iraq' study and I got a gal named Meghan O'Sullivan, who's a real talented young lady."
O'Sullivan, also from the State Department, had come over to Garner's team recently. She was 33, indisputably bright, had a doctorate in political science from Oxford University, and had written extensively on rogue states and Iraq.
"I've got to ask you to take them both off the team," Rumsfeld said.
"I can't do that. Both of them are too valuable."
Rumsfeld stared at Garner briefly. "Look, Jay. I've gotten this request from such a high level that I can't turn it down. So I've got to ask you to remove them from your team."
"There's no negotiation here?" Garner asked.
"I'm sorry. There really isn't," Rumsfeld replied.
A level so high that the secretary of defense couldn't turn it down? Garner thought. That could mean only Bush or conceivably Cheney.
Back in his office, Garner couldn't locate Warrick or O'Sullivan. He told Tom Baltazar, an Army colonel who was working as his operations officer, what had happened. "That's crazy," Baltazar said.
"Look, just find them," Garner said. "Tell them to go back to where they came from, and I'll get them back. Tell them it's just temporary."
Garner later tracked down Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser.
"I really, really want these two back," he told Hadley.
"Yeah," Hadley replied. "I don't know that we can help you here."
Garner pressed his case. Warrick and O'Sullivan knew what they were talking about. There wasn't much time before they would likely be deploying to the Middle East, and he needed them.
"Well, the man is just too hard," Hadley said. It would be impossible to get Warrick back on the team, but it sounded like he was leaving the door open for O'Sullivan.
That night, Baltazar called Garner at his apartment to report that Warrick and O'Sullivan were gone.
"Tom," Garner asked, "where in the hell do you think this came from?"
"I don't know, but I've got a buddy who works at the White House. I'm going to call him tonight on his phone at home. I don't want to call him on the official line."
Baltazar called his friend, R J. Dermer, an army colonel who worked for Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, and who had a secure telephone at home. The bottom line, Dermer said, had to do with Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi expatriate and head of the Iraqi National Congress, a group based in London and funded by the U.S. Cheney's office was pushing the idea that Chalabi was the answer to everything, and Warrick was not a fan of Chalabi. Dermer described the opposition to Warrick as coming from "a group of about five people" in Cheney's office—"a cabal," he said.
The next morning, Baltazar told Garner, "It was the vice president. The vice president can't stand either one of them."
Warrick had been in the Clinton administration, and had been a strong advocate of indicting Saddam Hussein as a war criminal. He had worked on regime change issues for State, met with lots of Iraqi exiles, and had discovered that other exiles weren't exactly enamored of Chalabi. In fact, there had been a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders he'd worked on in 2002 when many of them said they wouldn't come if Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were put in charge.
O'Sullivan had worked at the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, and she was seen as a protégé of Richard N. Haass, the director of policy planning at Powell's State Department. She and Haass had co-authored a paper urging the use of economic, political or cultural incentives as levers to influence countries such as Iraq instead of military force or covert action. In another paper O'Sullivan had questioned U.S. support to Iraqi exiles.
Garner thought the whole maneuver was a bad sign. He was repelled that personalities and apparently ideology would play a role in such vital postwar planning. Losing Warrick, clearly a top expert on the issues, was a blow, though Garner's team kept his "Future of Iraq" study, and a lot of Iraqis who had worked on it wound up working with Garner's organization. The incident demonstrated the depth of the infighting between Defense and State.
At the State Department, Powell got word of what Rumsfeld had done. "What the hell is going on?" he asked Rumsfeld in a phone call.
Rumsfeld said that they needed people who were truly committed and who had not written or said things that were not supportive.
Powell took that to mean that his State Department people didn't support exiles like Chalabi. Soon the secretary of state and secretary of defense were into a giant row. "I can take prisoners too," Powell said.
GARNER WENT BACK to Rumsfeld. "Let me have these two people back," he said.
"I can't do that," Rumsfeld said. "I told you I was asked at a high level to remove these people. I asked you to do it. You've done it. I can't go back on that now." Finally Rumsfeld said, "Look, bring the woman back." Garner could have O'Sullivan. "Nobody will know that."
Powell quickly learned of the half resolution, and he asked himself if things could get any weirder. He found seven senior State officials he thought would be useful to Garner, but Doug Feith wanted outsiders instead of representatives from "the Department of Nice." Powell said it was bullshit. He and Rumsfeld got into another big fight, but Powell got five of the seven approved and on Garner's team after a week of more silliness. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.126-9)
As they were getting up to leave, Armitage stopped Garner.
"Hey, Jay. Let me tell you one thing. You've got a bunch of goddamn spies on that team of yours. They're talking about you. They're reporting on you, so you better watch your back."
"Well, yes, sir," Garner replied, "I'll do that. But you've got some spies over here too."
"We know who they are," Armitage said. "We call them bats."
"Bats?" Garner asked.
"Yeah. Because those sons of bitches hang upside down all day long with their wings covering up their eyes. But as soon as we close the door in the evening they part their wings and they look around and they flap around all goddamn night long, calling everybody." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.144)
In case there was any doubt about his plans, Garner told the reporters, "What we need to do up front is pay the people in the ministries, be able to pay the army and be able to pay the law enforcement agencies and the court system." He said he planned to stay only for a few months. Iraq was in better shape than Afghanistan had been, he said. "In Iraq you do have a somewhat more sophisticated country and a somewhat more structured country than you do in Afghanistan ... it has the structure and mechanisms in there to run that country and run it fairly efficiently."
A reporter asked about the INC, the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmed Chalabi.
"We're not trying to hire any of them right now. Okay?" Garner said. He added later, "We haven't gone out to hire people from the INC." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.148)
At some point afterward, the official Department of Defense transcript of Garner's press conference was amended to add three highly unusual "clarifications," interrupting the text of Garner's remarks, and praising the INC.
"The INC has played an important role over the years in getting various Iraqi opposition groups to cooperate with one another," one such "clarification" stated in bracketed text. "The U.S. government admired the INC's successes in organizing the endorsement by those groups of principles that the U.S. Government favors for the creation of a new democratic government in Iraq." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.149)
GARNER SPOKE WITH RUMSFELD via secure video teleconference from Kuwait just about every day. Usually many others were in the rooms on both ends. On March 22, they renewed their firefight over who was going to run the ministries. Rumsfeld still wanted to handpick each one. Soon they were arguing, and Garner tried another dose of reality, telling Rumsfeld again that he could not possibly get new people over there on time.
"You know, it doesn't seem like you're on our team," Rumsfeld said, according to a note-taker.
"Okay, that's it," Garner replied. The teleconference was over. Garner then sent a longhand note by fax to Rumsfeld insisting they had the same goals. "I am a team player," he wrote. He was deeply offended. It was the worst kind of bullying tactic—if you don't agree with me you are disloyal. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.153)
As Colonel Paul Hughes remembers, DiRita slammed his fist on a heavy oak table, and said, "We don't owe the Iraqis anything! We're giving them their freedom. That's all we should give them. We don't owe them any other benefit."
DiRita does not recall the remarks, but says his point was that the U.S. had to help the Iraqis do it for themselves. If the United States came in with large amounts of cash flowing out of everyone's pockets, it would tell the Iraqis to stand back. Rumsfeld wanted them to stand up. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.161)
"That's too Machiavellian," someone said. The Saudi notes of the meeting indicate it was either Bush or Rice.
"Let bad people find bad people, and then after that you get rid of them," Bandar said. "What's the big deal? Double-cross them. I mean, for God's sake, who said that we owe them anything?" (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.163)
"I PICKED UP a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it," Rumsfeld exclaimed during a Pentagon news conference on April 11. "I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it was just Henny Penny—'The sky is falling.' I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that is being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free."
Rumsfeld's remarks were punctuated by a PowerPoint presentation of photographs shown to the journalists. The images bore captions or file names such as "Iraqis share a laugh with a U.S. Army soldier"; "Jubilant Iraqis cheer U.S. Army soldiers"; "Happy Iraqis pose with a U.S. Army soldier"; and "Two young Iraqis give the thumbs-up sign to coalition soldiers."
"Let me say one other thing," Rumsfeld continued. "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases?' "
Both Rumsfeld and the press corps laughed. "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?" he asked.
Bush echoed the comment in a press conference two days later. "You know, it's amazing," he said, "the statue comes down on Wednesday and the headlines start to read: Oh, there's disorder. Well, no kidding. It is a situation that is chaotic because Saddam Hussein created conditions for chaos." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.164-5)
Henry's list of possible envoys included 100 names. It included former Tennessee Senator and Reagan White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, former Secretaries of Defense James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, former California Governor Pete Wilson, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. There were some Brits on the list—former U.K. Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington was one—as well as a couple of Democrats—Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Herbits knew the Democrats were not serious options. Absent from the list were the people who had experience in postwar stabilization operations, such as Richard Holbrooke, the former Clinton U.N. ambassador who had negotiated a peace agreement among warring factions in Bosnia in 1996, and James Dobbins, Mr. Postwar, the former State Department official who had the most experience in post-conflict situations. They were not considered because of their association with Clinton nation building. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.166)
On April 23, Garner sat down and made a list of nine things he wanted to accomplish before the July 1 "big-tent meeting" and his planned departure. It was basically an ambitious good-government agenda, covering everything from police to sewers.*
* Garner's to-do list of things to accomplish before July 1 included: (1) Bring all Iraqi government ministries back to a functioning level. (2) Pay the salaries of all the public servants across the country, including the army and the police. (3) Restore the police, the courts and the prisons. (4) Ensure basic services to Baghdad—water, electricity, sewage and so forth. This would have an added benefit, Garner reasoned, because most of the foreign reporters who covered Iraq were centered in Baghdad. They'd be happier—and might write better stories—if they had air-conditioning and hot showers. (5) End the Iraqi fuel crisis. (6) Purchase the Iraqi harvest—tons of barley and wheat. (7) Reestablish the food distribution system. (8) Restore interim local governance by arranging for the election of town councils in each of Iraq's 26 cities with 100,000 or more people. (9) Ensure the public health system was working, and continue to avoid epidemics. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.179)
Hughes wrote that he'd explained to the group that they could not be paid salaries, but that the $20 emergency payment might be possible. "I also informed them that this money was originally Iraqi money being returned to them, something that overwhelmed all of them with a deep sense of gratitude."
Hughes met with the Iraqi officers again two days later, and the list of Iraqi soldiers they claimed to be able to organize had grown to 137,000. On May 8, a document was prepared for the signature of another member of Garner's team, Major General Carl A. Strock, who was acting as the interim senior adviser to the Ministry of Defense, authorizing the Iraqi generals to work with the coalition at the Baghdad building where Garner's team was headquartered. The computers began printing out page after page of records of Iraqi soldiers. Hughes was very excited, believing he had stumbled on an opportunity to get the former Iraqi army on the coalition's side and help them retain some honor. It was what General Grant had done in the Civil War after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, he thought. For $20 a head—less than $3 million for all 137,000 soldiers on the lists—they could offer parole to part of the Iraqi military, and get them invested in the post-Saddam society.
He just needed the money. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.188-9)
ABOUT 7 A.M. ON MAY 14, Bremer's first full day in Baghdad, Robin Raphel ran up to Garner.
"Have you read this?" she asked.
"No," Garner replied. "I don't know what the hell you've got there."
"It's a de-Baathification policy," she said, handing him a two-page document.
Garner read quickly: "Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 1—De-Baathification of Iraqi Society." The Baath Party was organized by rank, and the order said that all "full members"—those in the top four ranks—would be immediately removed from their posts and banned from future government employment. Additionally, the three top layers of management in the ministries would be investigated for crimes and as possible security risks.
"We can't do this," Garner said. He still envisioned what he had told Rumsfeld would be a "gentle de-Baathification"—eliminating only the number one Baathist and the personnel directors in each ministry. "It's too deep," he added.
"That's exactly why you can't go home," Raphel said.
Garner ran into Charlie, the CIA station chief.
"Have you read this?" Garner asked.
"That's why I'm over here," Charlie said.
"Let's go see Bremer." The two men got in to see the new administrator of Iraq around 1 P.M. "Jerry, this is too deep," Garner said. "Give Charlie and I about an hour. We'll sit down with this. We'll do the pros and cons and then we'll get on the telephone with Rumsfeld and soften it a bit."
"Absolutely not," Bremer said. "Those are my instructions and I intend to execute them."
"Hell," Garner answered, "you won't be able to run anything if you go this deep."
Garner turned to Charlie. The experienced CIA man had been station chief in other Middle East countries.
"Charlie, what's going to happen?"
"If you put this out, you're going to drive between 30,000 and 50,000 Baathists underground before nightfall," Charlie said, according to notes taken by Kim Olson, Garner's assistant. Charlie said the number was closer to 50,000 than 30,000. "You will put 50,000 people on the street, underground and mad at Americans." And these 50,000 were the most powerful, well-connected elites from all walks of life.
"I told you," Bremer said, looking at Charlie. "I have my instructions and I have to implement this."
Garner called Rumsfeld and tried to get the depth reconsidered and the language of the order softened.
"This is not coming from this building," he replied. "That came from somewhere else."
Garner presumed that meant the White House, NSC or Cheney. According to other participants, however, the de-Baathification order was purely a Pentagon creation. Telling Garner it came from somewhere else, though, had the advantage for Rumsfeld of ending the argument.
The next day, May 15, Robin Raphel brought Garner another draft order. This was Order Number 2, disbanding the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior, the entire Iraqi military, and all of Saddam's bodyguard and special paramilitary organizations.
Garner was stunned. The de-Baathification order was dumb, but this was a disaster. Garner had told the president and the whole National Security Council explicitly that they planned to use the Iraqi military—at least 200,000 to 300,000 troops—as the backbone of a corps to rebuild the country and provide security. And he'd been giving regular secure video reports to Rumsfeld and Washington on the plan.
Moreover, Colonel Hughes had been meeting with his former Iraqi generals with their lists of some 137,000 who wanted to rejoin their old units or sign on with new units if they each received a $20 emergency payment. The CIA had also compiled lists and was meeting with generals and arranging for a reconstitution of the Iraqi military. The former Iraqi military was making more and more overtures, just waiting to come back in some form.
Garner went to see Bremer for the second day in a row. "We have always made plans to bring the army back," he insisted. This new plan was just coming out of the blue, subverting months of work.
"Well, the plans have changed," Bremer replied. "The thought is that we don't want the residuals of the old army. We want a new and fresh army."
"Jerry, you can get rid of an army in a day, but it takes years to build one." Garner tried to explain that it was not just about a soldier in the field, or getting a bunch of riflemen. "Any army is all the processes it takes to equip it and train it and sustain it and make it last." Bremer shook his head.
"You can't get rid of the Ministry of Interior," Garner said.
"You just made a speech yesterday and told everybody how important the police force is."
"It is important."
"All the police are in the Ministry of the Interior," Garner said. "If you put this out, they'll all go home today."
Bremer, looking surprised, asked Garner to go see Walter B. Slocombe, Bremer's director of defense and national security. Slocombe, 62, had been the defense undersecretary for policy during most of the Clinton administration, Feith's predecessor. A Rhodes Scholar, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and a prominent tax attorney, Slocombe felt that as a matter of international law the U.S. invasion meant Iraq was under military occupation. It was not an elective status and the U.S. should not be shy about asserting authority. The governmental system had imploded and the Iraqi army had dissolved, he believed. Everyone—the Iraqis and the United States—needed there to be a new government and a new army in Iraq. Saddam's army had been a principal instrument of repression. In Slocombe's opinion it could hardly be used as the shield for a new democracy.
But Slocombe agreed to excise the Ministry of Interior from the draft so the police could stay. Bremer soon signed the order, which canceled all military "rank, title or status." In his book published in 2006, Bremer did not recount his exchanges with Garner over disbanding the Iraqi army, but he made clear his belief that by the time he got to Iraq, there no longer was an Iraqi army—it had "self-demobilized." Signing the order abolishing the old regime's military services "would not send home a single soldier or disband a single unit," he wrote. "All that had happened weeks before." He was also convinced that the Kurds, who hated and feared the old army, would secede if it was brought back.
But over the next year, every one of the officers and sergeants who made up the new Iraqi army came from the old Iraqi army. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.193-6)
The first of the staff generals was beginning his report when McManaway came through the doorway from the courtyard.
"Bremer wants to see you," McManaway said, indicating Abizaid.
"As soon as we finish this meeting," Abizaid said.
McManaway indicated, "Now."
Abizaid looked at Garner as if to say, What do I do?
"Go on in there," Garner said. "Look, he called for you."
Several minutes later McManaway came in and said Bremer wanted to see McKiernan.
"Do you want me to go?" McKiernan asked Garner.
"Well," another general inquired, "do you think we ought to go on with this meeting or is it over?"
"Let's go ahead and finish it because everybody's put a lot of work in it," Garner said. After all, he realized, the issues on the table were only the ministries, back pay, police, water, electricity, sewage, fuel, food, governance, health and security. Just the essence of Iraq's future. Who could possibly give a shit?
"I was disgusted," recalled Ron Adams. "We were being marginalized."
When the meeting was over, Garner marched into Bremer's office. He shut the door behind him with a gentleness and control he did not feel.
"Don't you ever do that to me again."
"What do you mean?" Bremer asked.
"If you ever have me in a meeting and you start pulling people out of it—" Garner began. He cut himself off, and added, "You give me more respect than that. I'll tell you what. I'll make it easy on you, Jerry. I'm going home."
Bremer jumped up. "You can't go home."
"I can't work with you, and I'm leaving. What you just did in there— I've never had anybody do something like that to me before, and I'll never let you do something like that again."
"I didn't know what was going on," he said.
"That's bullshit. You knew exactly what was going on."
They went back and forth for a minute or two.
"Look, Jay," Bremer said, stopping them both. "You and I may not agree on anything, but we both have the same objective."
"I don't think so," Garner interrupted.
"Yes, we do. Our objective is to make our nation successful in this endeavor."
"You're right," Garner agreed. "You're right about that."
"Well, if you believe in that strongly enough, as I do, then you need to stay for a while. You've got to help me do that."
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Jerry. I'll work on a day-to-day contract with you. The next time you piss me off, I'm gone. There's a couple of things that I'd like to finish, and I don't think it'll take me long. And once I finish with those things then I'll come shake your hand and leave."
"Okay, let's try to work that way," Bremer agreed.
"You've got to make the staff available to me," Garner said.
Bremer thought for a moment, and finally said, "I don't think I can do that."
He and Garner would give conflicting guidance, Bremer said, but he said he would think about it.
"I don't think I can get anything accomplished if I don't have a staff," Garner said.
"Let me think about that."
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. The one thing that has to happen immediately is we've got to get the public servants and the police paid. It's a very complicated and difficult process. I'm going to stay here until I'm sure that process is in place. And when I'm sure of that then I'll either make a decision to stay a little longer or to leave."
"Okay," Bremer said. "And I'll get back to you on staff." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.200-1)
EARLY IN MAY 2003, terror attacks rocked Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, targeting a U.S.-linked business and three housing compounds used mainly by Westerners. Eight Americans were among the 34 killed. Hundreds were wounded. It was one of the worst terror attacks since September 11, 2001. Bush sent Tenet to warn the Crown Prince.
Al Qaeda is here in the Kingdom, Tenet told Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. They will kill you. They are using your country as a launching ground for attacks on the United States. If that happens, it is all over with U.S.-Saudi relations, he warned.
Abdullah agreed to massive joint intelligence and police security operations within the Kingdom. Soon, the CIA was giving the Saudis access to more and more sensitive U.S. intelligence, including transcripts of NSA intercepts inside Saudi Arabia and the region.
Saudi intelligence said that was not good enough. The Saudis did not trust the American translations. The Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, wherever, was all different. Eventually, the NSA started giving the Saudis actual audio voice cuts of some of the intercepts so that more accurate translations could be made, and some of the voices might be traced or recognized by Saudi security forces, informants or detainees. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.204)
PAUL HUGHES now had to deal with the former Iraqi officers who wanted their soldiers to be given the $20 emergency payments, but who were now shut out under the Bremer order. Hughes stalled for a while but finally went to see the officers.
"Colonel Paul, what happened?" asked Mirjan Dhiya, their English-speaking spokesman.
"I don't know," Hughes said. "I can't tell you what happened. I'm as shocked as you are."
"Colonel Paul, we have men who have families. They have no food. They are running out. We need to do something."
Hughes finally got Slocombe's chief of staff to meet with the former Iraqi military representative. There was still a possibility that they might get the $20 each, but things were moving very slowly. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.206)
But with Bremer on the scene, Miller's interagency group working on postwar Iraq plans, the Executive Steering Group, had disbanded. The feeling at the White House was the same as it was at the Pentagon— Bremer didn't need them looking over his shoulder. But reports flowed into the NSC, from the British and through the media, and from Frank Miller's military contacts, although not from Bremer himself. Looting was still going on. Iraqi civil servants weren't getting paid. There was a report that 40,000 teachers had been fired because they were Baathists. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.209)
Leading the new inspection effort in 2003 meant that Kay would have to become an official CIA employee. On Tuesday, June 10, he took a lie detector test and underwent a psychological evaluation. "Anyone who could take this job obviously fails the psychological test," Kay said, "so just flunk me."
He passed, and since he had the security clearances from his previous work, that afternoon Tenet swore him in as special adviser to the director on WMD and head of the Iraq Survey Group. Tenet was crowing about getting someone through CIA personnel in 12 hours—an apparent record for the agency—and he said the plan was for Kay to fly that evening for Baghdad, the next day at the latest.
"George, I can't do that," Kay objected. "I haven't been read in to all your evidence. I've got to talk to the analysts. I've got to talk with the people that are doing collection. I need to talk to Defense. Look, I can't just jump on a plane and go do this."
Over the next week or so, Kay embarked on a crash course in WMD intelligence. Since he had not worked the Iraq WMD case since the 1990s, he expected some new treasure trove as he spent 15- to 18-hour days reading and sitting through CIA and Defense Department briefings. He was shocked at what was not there.
"It was nothing new," he recalled. Anything with a strong or reasonable factual basis came from before 1998, when the U.N. inspectors had left. "Everything after that either came from a defector or came through a foreign intelligence service in an opaque sort of way."
For example, Kay found that all the prewar intelligence about the mobile biological weapons labs that Powell had described at the U.N. in February, and that the president had declared had been discovered on May 29, had come from a single source, the Iraqi defector used by German intelligence code-named Curveball.
Powell had told the U.N. and the world there were four sources for the allegation, based on the CIA information, but in truth three of the sources only provided information about Curveball's career or about an alleged mobile lab facility of some kind. "They had no knowledge of the biological program," Kay said later.
The surprises kept coming. Kay was aghast to realize that the CIA had never even independently interviewed Curveball, but relied instead on the Germans' reports of 112 interrogations they conducted. Worse still, it appeared that the Germans had warned that Curveball was an alcoholic, although this had been downplayed in the U.S. files. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.216-7)
When he was alone with Rumsfeld around the small table in the secretary's famous office, where they had met back in January, Garner felt he had an obligation to state the depths of his concerns.
"We've made three tragic decisions," Garner said.
"Really?" Rumsfeld said.
"Three terrible mistakes," Garner said, laying out what he'd omitted from his May 27 memo to the president. He cited the extent of the de-Baathification, getting rid of the army, and summarily dumping the Iraqi leadership group. Disbanding the military had been the biggest mistake. Now there were hundreds of thousands of disorganized, unemployed, armed Iraqis running around. It would take years to rebuild an army. They'd taken 30,000 or 50,000 Baathists and sent them underground, Garner told Rumsfeld. And they'd gotten rid of the Iraqi leadership group. "Jerry Bremer can't be the face of the government to the Iraqi people. You've got to have an Iraqi face for the Iraqi people."
Garner made his final point: "There's still time to rectify this. There's still time to turn it around."
Rumsfeld looked at Garner for a moment with his take-no-prisoners gaze. "Well," he said, "I don't think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are."
He thinks I've lost it, Garner thought. He thinks I'm absolutely wrong. Garner didn't want it to sound like sour grapes, but facts were facts. "They're all reversible," Garner said again.
"We're not going to go back," Rumsfeld said emphatically. Discussion over. "Come on. Let's go in the other room."
In 2006, I asked Rumsfeld if he recalled Garner's warning about the three mistakes.
"Vaguely," Rumsfeld answered. "I remember having a very good discussion with him. I felt that he had not been properly recognized for what he had done. I think he's a fine retired officer and a very talented guy who cares a lot about Iraq."
After their discussion, Rumsfeld and Garner walked into the large conference room where most of Rumsfeld's top people were assembled—Wolfowitz, Feith, Ryan Henry, DiRita and Torie Clarke, General Pace and General Casey.
In a small ceremony, Rumsfeld pinned the Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Garner, who didn't want the medal.
Afterward, Rumsfeld and Garner held a press conference.
"I do want to thank Jay for the absolutely superb job that he has done," the secretary said, "laying the foundation for the Iraqi people to begin this process of rebuilding from the rubble of decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and to put themselves on a path towards democratic self-government."
Rumsfeld told the press corps that the water system in Iraq was now operating at 80 percent of its prewar level, and that close to 2 million Iraqi civil servants were being paid. He read off a list of impressive statistics: Basra had 24-hour electricity, and Baghdad's power was on 19 or 20 hours a day. Lines to buy gasoline were disappearing, there was no health crisis, and Iraqi children were returning to school. Eight thousand police officers were back on the job, he said. Two thousand of them were patrolling. As for the security situation, Rumsfeld said, "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, General Franks and his team are rooting them out. In short, the coalition is making good progress. It was made possible by the excellent military plan of General Franks and by the terrific leadership of the stabilization effort by Mr. Jay Garner and his team."
When Garner finally had a chance to speak, he was more sober. "To all of you, I'd like to just say one thing. There are problems in Iraq and there will be problems in Iraq for a while. There's always problems when you've been brutalized for 30 years and you take people out of absolute darkness and put them in the sunshine. So I think there's more goodness, far more goodness than there is badness, and the glass absolutely is half full."
At the end of his remarks, Garner completely contradicted what he had privately told Rumsfeld, saying of Bremer, "I think all the things he's doing are absolutely the right things." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.219-21)
OF COURSE, WITH ALL THE STORIES, jocularity, buddy-buddy talk, bluster and confidence in the Oval Office, Garner had left out the headline. He had not mentioned the problems he saw, or even hinted at them. He did not tell Bush about the three tragic mistakes he believed that Bremer, supported by Rumsfeld, had made—de-Baathification, disbanding the army and dumping the Iraqi governing group. Instead, he had said Bremer was great and had painted a portrait of an Iraq where a Shiite cleric envisioned an Iraq governed on the principles of Jesus Christ and joining the union as the 51st state. On top of that, he told Bush that everyone on the Iraqi street loved him. Once again the aura of the presidency had shut out the most important news—the bad news.
Later, I asked Rumsfeld about the obligation to make sure the person at the top knows the bad news. "Oh, I think the president knew that there were big disagreements over de-Baathification. And big disagreements over the military. There's no question that the president was aware of those issues."
But I could find no evidence that was the case.
On October 16, 2005, during a four-hour interview at Garner's home on a lake outside Orlando, Florida, I asked him about his decision not to mention the three tragic mistakes.
"Didn't you owe the president that?"
"I didn't work for the president," Garner answered. "I worked for Rumsfeld. I'm a military guy."
I recalled for him my time as a junior officer in the Navy. "I reported to the operations officer on the ship I was on. And if I thought we were making even half a tragic mistake, I'd tell my boss, but I'd make sure the captain knew."
"No," Garner said.
I said that was perhaps why I didn't do so well in the Navy.
"No," Garner repeated, "my view was I did my job. I told my boss in what I thought were pretty stern terms on the mistakes we'd made."
"Now suppose you said, 'Mr. President, I just told the secretary the following and I want you to hear it from me, because when he reports it to you I want it to be—' "
Garner interrupted. "I'd have no idea how he'd have reacted, but I think he would have said, 'Well, you know, Rummy's in charge of that' or something like that."
"Three tragic mistakes," I said.
"Yeah," Garner said softly, exhaling.
"Because the three tragic mistakes we're living with now two-plus years later. You realize that?"
"Absolutely," Garner replied.
"You watch the news."
"Yeah," he said.
"You don't feel you should have kind of, particularly at the upper levels there ..."
"I think Rumsfeld's the upper level. No, if I had that to do over again I'd probably do that the same way." He said that he did not know of anything that Rumsfeld had done that had been overturned by the president. "I'm not the only one who thought that," he added.
"If you'd said it to the president, and you could save one life—" I stopped, leaving the second half of my question unasked. "Because you're a pretty smart guy. You've been around—"
"Yeah. You know you put it—" Garner started, but he didn't finish his sentence. "But you've got to remember, I didn't look at in that context. I looked at it like, I, Jay Garner, do not think this was the right thing to do. I, Jay Garner, said this over there to the guy in charge and I've said it to the guy that I work for. I've done that. I didn't even really think of bringing that up" to President Bush (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.224-6)
BUSH APPEARED IN THE ROOSEVELT ROOM at the White House on July 2, 2003, to discuss a $15 billion U.S. effort to fight AIDS abroad. When he took a few questions from the press afterward, Iraq was Topic A.
One reporter noted that the number of attacks on U.S. forces and the casualty rate were rising.
"There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely," the president responded, shaking his head no. "They don't understand what they're talking about, if that's the case."
A reporter started to interrupt.
"Let me finish," Bush said. "There are some who feel like—that the conditions are such that they can attack us there." He swung his arm across his chest emphatically as he spoke. "My answer is, 'Bring 'em on.' We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."
It was an ill-advised comment, reflecting little understanding of guerrilla war, taunting and egging on the enemy, almost inviting more attacks.* (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.229-30)
He added in a radio address on August 23 that the picture in most of Iraq was rosy, despite the attack on the U.N. "There is steady movement toward reconstruction and a stable, self-governing society. This progress makes the remaining terrorists even more desperate and willing to lash out against symbols of order and hope, like coalition forces and U.N. personnel. The world will not be intimidated. A violent few will not determine the future of Iraq, and there will be no return to the days of Saddam Hussein's torture chambers and mass graves." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.247-8)
THE CIA's TOP LEADERSHIP met with Condoleezza Rice in September 2003 to argue that the U.S. needed to develop a new Iraqi national intelligence service. Tenet and McLaughlin filed into Rice's White House office, along with Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, Near East Division Chief Rob Richer, and the counterterrorism chief, who was still undercover.
Tenet sat down in the back of the room, chewing on one of his half cigars. The meeting was important, but he would let the others do the talking. His alienation from Rice was nearing a high-water mark.
Both State and Defense were opposed to the idea. Saddam's intelligence service had been a symbol of his brutal despotism. Dissolving it in May had been an important step. They feared any effort to form a new spy service would be received with such trepidation and loathing by the Iraqi people that it would outweigh any benefits.
Kappes outlined the problem. Iraq was the only country in the world where the U.S. was fighting terrorism without a native intelligence service to assist. It was a crippling disadvantage. They needed an internal partner that could provide the CIA with information.
Iraq now has the largest CIA station, Kappes said. That's where we're facing the largest terrorist threat.
In addition, the idea that stepping up a new spy service would send the wrong signal and imply a return to old Saddam-style secret police tactics was simply wrong. The new service could be carefully recruited and monitored. McLaughlin said it had been his experience that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, the intelligence services in Eastern Europe swiveled on a dime and were willing to work with the CIA. In 1990, he had gone to Hungary, where the intelligence people said in effect, "Okay, we used to work for the Soviets, now we're going to work with you guys." Intelligence officials abroad could be bought.
We need better ground intelligence, they argued. A local service could be subsidized and co-opted. "We created the Jordanian intelligence service and now we own it," Tenet said.
"How do you know we will not create another KGB?" Rice asked, referring to the old Soviet intelligence service.
The original KGB wasn't a creation of the CIA, Kappes said.
Tenet shook his head, saying nothing more, barely disguising his disgust. The CIA got some of its best intelligence from foreign intelligence services. It was preposterous that anyone would want them blinded in Iraq.
McLaughlin thought Hadley and Wolfowitz were naive and he spent the next months pushing the deputies committee for approval for an Iraqi service. At one meeting, he told the group, including Wolfowitz and Armitage, "I've been on the deputies committee for four years and never been in such violent disagreement with my colleagues."
For his part, Wolfowitz just didn't trust the whole concept. The CIA would back the wrong people, he thought. So far, the CIA had been sending people in for 90-day Iraq assignments who didn't even speak Arabic. The military was doing a much better intelligence job.
After nine months of arguing and pestering by Tenet and McLaughlin, the CIA finally won authorization for an initial 1,000 Iraqi intelligence officers in July 2004. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.254-5)
To attempt to answer the questions the president had posed after the U.N. headquarters bombing, John McLaughlin put together a briefing entitled "Who Is the Enemy?" that he gave the deputies and principals. He identified four groups: former Baathists with a restoration agenda to bring back Saddam; foreign fighters; Iraqi nationalists who hated the occupation; and tribal members angry over the death of family members and the heavy-handed door kicking of the coalition military.
"I don't think they existed," Kay said when asked about the WMD. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s."
Bill Harlow, Tenet's CIA spokesman, called Kay. He was angry as hell. Kay was supposed to stay on as a consultant and senior adviser. The message was that he was supposed to stay on the reservation.
Tenet went so far as to tell Powell that the CIA would "keep him on the farm." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.261-2)
"You know, as you have to recognize, totalitarian regimes generally end up fearing their own people more than they fear external threats. It's just the history of totalitarian regimes," Kay said. "We missed that." And, he said, they were especially susceptible to missing it because they had so little human intelligence, and instead relied on technical collection. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.279)
POWELL WENT TO The Washington Post for an interview on February 2, 2004, with a group of reporters and editors that did not include me. He was asked what his position on the war would have been if he had known there were no stockpiles of WMD.
"The absence of stockpiles changes the political calculus," Powell said. "It changes the answer you get."
His remarks were the lead story in the Post the next day headlined: "Powell Says New Data May Have Affected War Decision."
In the Oval Office early that morning, Bush vented to Rice and several other aides. The president claimed in public that he didn't read the newspapers, but that morning he had. "I woke up this morning and read the paper and found that I am the only person in Washington willing to defend me," he said.
Rice called Powell. She and the president were "mad," she said. Powell had "given the Democrats a remarkable tool." His remarks were making headlines throughout the world. Bush's public position was that the jury was still out on WMD. So Powell had to go back out in public and retract his remarks, saying five times that the president's decision to go to war had been "right." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.281)
It was striking, Miller thought, that the Iraqis he saw seemed generally friendly, or at least not antagonistic. Little kids came running out, smiling, saying hello, and giving them a thumbs-up sign as they moved through. It wasn't the middle finger, he noted, not realizing that in Iraq the thumbs-up sign traditionally was the equivalent of the American middle-finger salute. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p. 290)
IN AUGUST 2004, Frank Miller returned to Iraq, this time traveling with Pace, who was a Rumsfeld favorite.
Miller thought Pace was a wonderful man and officer, but found that he would not stand up to Rumsfeld. For four days the two men went around to Iraq's major cities and combat zones. On August 5, they stopped in at Camp Fallujah, where Pace pinned Purple Heart medals on seven Marines wounded in the seemingly endless siege. Miller kept asking the ground commanders at all levels the same question: What do you need?
The division commanders with between 10,000 to 20,000 men and women said: Translators. The brigade commanders with several thousand said: Translators. The battalion commanders with 600 to 800 troops: Translators. Small teams or platoons were being sent to search homes, seal off areas, knock on and break down doors without translators who could speak Arabic.
The shortage was unconscionable, Miller thought. If American troops and Iraqis couldn't talk to each other, the possibilities for misunderstanding were compounded. Monumental communication failures were occurring every day. Sometimes the troops on patrol might as well go in blind. Nothing could solidify the image of Americans as imperial occupiers more than teams of heavily armed soldiers with helmets and flak jackets careening around the country, unable to communicate, and seemingly uninterested in what the Iraqis thought, felt or wanted.
Miller was once again reminded of the value of ground truth. After they returned to Washington, he watched Pace, who had also got the message, expecting him to get the ball rolling. Nothing happened. Miller called Lieutenant General Walter L. "Skip" Sharp, the director of Strategic Plans and Policy, the J-5, on the Joint Staff.
"Translators," Miller said. "You need translators."
"No, we don't," Sharp said. "We need interrogators." His focus was on higher-skilled linguists who could not only speak Arabic but also knew how to elicit intelligence from captured Iraqis.
"Fine, you need interrogators," Miller said, but added that they also needed more basic translators.
"I'll talk to some of my people," Sharp promised. He reported back later that he had checked with some brigade commanders. "We're fine," he said.
"Goddamn it," Miller said, "you're not fine."
Finally the Joint Staff sent a brigadier general to Mosul to check things out before he was scheduled to become the second in command of the U.S. military in that region.
"I owe you an apology," the general later reported to Miller.
"We need translators."
Miller wondered why an old civilian bureaucrat like himself on the NSC staff had to alert the military that they needed translators at the unit level. Kids were dying because of the shortage. He raised the issue with the commandant of the Marine Corps and the vice chief of staff of the Army, and finally with Rice. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.320-1)
(Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.)
"Their idea of diplomacy," Armitage said to Powell once, "is to say, 'Look fucker, you do what we want.' " (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.329)
"Do you want him to inspire or inform?" one of the generals at the meeting asked.
Both, Bartlett said.
"You probably can't do both," the general said. Informing people is often boring, and an inspiring message is more often rhetorical and not driven by facts. He cited former President Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, who shied away from facts but could give uplifting speeches. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.332)
The third option Kerry had to consider was the most dramatic. His campaign had a dossier that showed how people in Democratic precincts in Ohio waited three, four, five and seven hours to vote. In Republican precincts there were no lines, it seemed, and voters went through in five minutes, even three minutes. Eight voting machines in some Republican precincts, and only one or two in Democratic precincts, that kind of thing. There was a real disparity. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.350)
BUSH MET WITH HIS CABINET the next morning, Thursday, November 4.
"This election was not won by country club Republicans," he said. "I don't know if they exist. There are only country club Democrats. This election was won by people that carry lunch pails to work. I think that if it had just been policemen and firemen voting in this election, I would have won most—you know 90 percent of the vote."
Bush had tapped into a new group of lower- and middle-class voters concerned about security. After 9/11, he believed, many more people were primarily worried about terrorism, afraid of the next attack. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush had used the fear to the fullest, intimating that Iraq might launch a nuclear strike. "We cannot wait for the final proof— the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," Bush had warned. At other times he had talked of an attack by Iraq that could "kill untold thousands," and "bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
In the campaign, the Bush reelection team had dramatically framed the issues to make the voters' fear of terrorism as palpable as possible. The starkest, most direct suggestion that reelecting Bush would save America but electing Kerry would lead to the country's utter demise had come from Cheney on September 7. "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice," Cheney warned. "Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
The Bush campaign had marched purposefully up to the line of fear mongering, and the record showed that they had crossed it. The election results showed that it had worked. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.353-4)
Armitage said it would not, then added what was on his mind. "I just don't know how I can work in an administration that lets Secretary Powell walk and keeps Mr. Rumsfeld." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.369)
THE CIA KEPT UP ITS STEADY STREAM of warnings about Iraq's upcoming exercise in democracy. The Sunnis would be excluded and violence would go up, it warned. The alarmist classified briefings were unremitting, and grew in the days before January 30. In Baghdad, Negroponte disagreed with the CIA's view, and the embassy was encouraging the U.N. and the Iraqis to go ahead. He said publicly that security was adequate.
After one CIA briefer presented another warning, Bush chimed in, "Is this Baghdad Bob?" referring to Saddam's propagandist. It was a stunning insult. "I'm not hearing that from anyone else but the CIA," Bush said. "If I take more time there's no evidence the security will get better. I'm depending on the prospect of the elections and an elected government to get the insurgency down and get the security improved." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.381-2)
Bandar said the Saudis planned to send a military or intelligence unit to the spot and get bin Laden. "We're not going to go through a trial," Bandar explained. "We get him, we kill him. Get it over with."
"Go ahead," the president said. "I could care less." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.386)
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE Henry Kissinger had a powerful, largely invisible influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration.
"Of the outside people that I talk to in this job," Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, "I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and I guess at least once a month, Scooter and I sit down with him."
Cheney had worked closely with Kissinger in the Ford administration, when Cheney was deputy and later chief of staff. Kissinger at first had been both secretary of state and national security adviser, an arrangement that every subsequent secretary of state had envied. Kissinger's ego was monumental, but Cheney found his hard-line advice useful after 9/11. They shared a worldview that international relations were a matter of military and economic power. Diplomatic power derived from threatening to and then actually using that power. In its rawest form, using the military sent a useful message to the world: It's dangerous to be an enemy of the United States.
The president also met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making the former secretary the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs. Bush, according to Cheney, was "a big fan" of Kissinger. Of the Bush-Kissinger meetings, Rumsfeld said, "I helped set it up." The president, who generally discounts the importance of outside advisers, found his discussions with Kissinger important, according to Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in the White House.
Card and the president's personal office staff knew that Kissinger was one of the few nonfamily outsiders with a standing invitation to call whenever he was coming to Washington to see if the president was available. By Card's calculation about half the meetings were just the president and Kissinger. Either he or Rice attended the other half.
No one in the American foreign policy establishment was more controversial or carried more baggage than Kissinger, then 82 years old.
Vietnam was like a stone around his neck and the prism through which he saw the world. After Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Robert McNamara, probably nobody else was so associated with that war. He had been the architect with Nixon, and later Ford, of U.S. foreign policy from 1969 to 1975. In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of weakened resolve by the public and Congress.
If Kissinger felt he had something to say, he generally wrote about it, often in opinion pieces in The Washington Post. He had lots of thoughts about Iraq and Bush. He supported the war. Though he had little problem with Bush's second inaugural urging the spread of democracy and the end of tyranny, Kissinger would have been more modest in applying it. "We cannot abandon national security in pursuit of virtue," he had written in his 1999 book, Years of Renewal, on the Ford presidency. The United States "must temper its missionary spirit with a concept of national interest and rely on its head as well as its heart in defining its duty to the world."
In a practical sense, Kissinger was not at all certain that Iraq was ready for democracy, and he had reservations about using American combat troops in a massive effort to train a foreign military. In addition, since most Iraqis identified first and foremost with their tribal or religious sectarian background—Sunni, Shiite or Kurd—the question was how to encourage the development of a national Iraqi identity. Closely related was the crucial question of who the Iraqi army would fight for.
Kissinger liked Bush personally, though he told colleagues that it was not clear to him that the president really knew how to run the government. One of the big problems, he felt, was that Bush did not have the people or a system of national security policy decision making that ensured careful examination of the downsides of major decisions.
Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through his Vietnam prism. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.
His column in the Post on August 12, 2005, was entitled "Lessons for an Exit Strategy." It was almost as long as Bush's second inaugural address. In the key line, Kissinger wrote, "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." He then made the rounds at the White House with Bush, Cheney and Hadley. Victory had to be the goal, he told all. Don't let it happen again. Don't give an inch, or else the media, the Congress and the American culture of avoiding hardship will walk you back. He also said that the eventual outcome in Iraq was more important than Vietnam had been. A radical Islamic or Taliban-style government in Iraq would be a model that could challenge the internal stability of the key countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Kissinger told Rice that in Vietnam they didn't have the time, focus, energy or support at home to get the politics in place. That's why it had collapsed like a house of cards. He urged that the Bush administration get the politics right, both in Iraq and on the home front. Partially withdrawing troops had its own dangers. Even entertaining the idea of withdrawing any troops could create momentum for an exit that was less than victory.
Rice understood that Kissinger's message reinforced a conviction that the president already held. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.406-8)
Again, he noted that the degree to which insurgents were using more lethal IEDs, which accounted for the majority of American military deaths, was especially troubling. There was strong evidence that starting in mid-2005, there had been a flow of advanced IED components coming into Iraq from Iran. The designs weren't revolutionary, but by shaping the charges and causing the explosives and projectiles to travel in a straight line, as opposed to a large, undirected explosion, the newer IEDs concentrated their force and could penetrate armor. They were very lethal—at least four times more lethal than what Iraqi insurgents were capable of producing themselves—and capable of killing everyone inside an armored Humvee. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.414)
HADLEY HEARD SIMILAR COMPLAINTS that there was no strategy. He wanted to launch a public relations offensive. He assigned his NSC director for Iraq, Meghan O'Sullivan, to comb through the classified documents that he thought outlined their strategy, and see what could be made public.
In June 2005, Hadley had recruited Peter Feaver, 43, a Duke University professor of political science and Navy Reserve officer who had worked on the Clinton NSC, to the NSC staff. Feaver had studied the impact of war on public opinion and concluded that the public was more tolerant of combat losses than politicians or senior military officers. He felt that Clinton came close to almost questioning his authority as commander in chief to order someone to his death. This had cascaded down so that the political and military leadership during his presidency had virtually no tolerance for casualties.
Feaver's survey work suggested that the public would tolerate casualties if they believed the war policy was reasonable, aimed at winning. O'Sullivan and Feaver worked on a strategy document that would depict a reasonable path to victory. Feaver believed the document they came up with showed mixed progress, and did not mindlessly declare a necessity to stay the course.
Hadley sent the draft out to the principals. Rumsfeld had numerous comments, carefully hedging. The final document said, "We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the year." In other words, there was no timetable for withdrawing forces.
The document was given the title "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It was right out of the Kissinger playbook—the only meaningful exit strategy would be victory.
Bush approved and the plan was to put out a 35-page "Strategy for Victory" in September. But on August 29, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and caught the Bush administration flat-footed. The rollout had to be delayed. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.427)
The first question was pointed: "Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I'd like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators."
"How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war?" the president responded. "I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq." The numbers were telling, as was the fact that Bush had almost the precise death toll for Americans, 2,144, right on the tip of his tongue. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.431)
ON NEW YEAR'S DAY, January 1, 2006, Bush visited Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where doctors and nurses had treated 2,300 casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq. It was the 34th time Bush had gone to visit the wounded.
He encountered a young soldier whose body was about 99 percent burned, and stood speechless for perhaps 30 seconds. Later, Bush told his aides, "I didn't know what possibly, as the most powerful man in the world—There's not a thing I could say." He then sat and prayed with the soldier's family, thanked them for their service and left, stunned by the family's spirit.
Afterward, he spoke to a group of reporters. He had a minor gash on his forehead from clearing trees on his ranch, and he inappropriately drew attention to his wound.
"As you can probably see, I have injured myself, not here at the hospital but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little bit of a scratch." A military doctor asked if he needed first aid, Bush said. "I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here."
The office of the White House physician, Dr. Richard J. Tubb, a one-star general in the Air Force Medical Corps, kept track of the wounded the president had met so he could send personal notes or make calls. Not long afterward, Tubb sent word to Bush that the soldier he had seen at the San Antonio hospital had died.
It hit the president hard. Dan Bartlett, his communications director, could see Bush's anguish. But Bush and the others in the White House tried hard to avoid conveying publicly that the president felt any torment. They believed such a disclosure would suggest he had doubts.
But in the visits with the wounded, a number of times family members confronted the president.
"See?" said a relative, pointing to a maimed soldier in a hospital bed. "It's not worth it."
"You can stop this," said another.
"Only you can stop it," said someone on a third occasion.
"I can understand why you feel that way," Bush responded.
"YOU CANNOT HELP BUT come out of there—" Rumsfeld said in an interview, recalling his own visits to military hospitals, "I'll put it in priority order: Inspired. And strengthened. And you are because the wounded there are—an enormous percentage are—anxious to get back to their units, proud of what they've done, confident that they'll be able to survive the injuries in one way or another. In a case with a leg off, go back to jump school and qualify first in the class and get back over to Iraq. So you come out inspired and strengthened, to be sure. You also cannot help but look at those wonderful human beings and see the damage that's been done to their bodies, and not understand the difficulty of tying a tie or putting a shirt on or the simple things."
"So do you feel anguish?" I asked.
"At those moments?"
"Sure. My goodness. You—no one could do that and not feel that, in my view," he answered. "You come out and you get in the car and you talk about the experience of the people you've met, the soldiers and sailors and Marines, the families, and how inspiring they are and how different they are in their personalities and yet how almost predictable they are in their pride of their service. And we are so lucky to have people like that."
Had he ever been challenged by the wounded or their families, the way Bush had, I asked.
"What have they said?"
"I don't think I want to discuss the private conversations," Rumsfeld said. "But they have indicated their disagreement with the conflict in Afghanistan or the conflict in Iraq. Personal disagreement."
What do you say to them? I asked.
"My goodness. They're going through a period in their life where something that they loved and cared for and nurtured is damaged, and in a way that they never anticipated. And so you can certainly understand the fact that any person in that circumstance is going to go through some swings of emotion, and it depends on where you hit them and where they are when you're there."
"Does that give you any swing of emotion yourself, where you kind of go, Why do I have this job?" I asked.
"No," Rumsfeld said. "There are things that raise that question in my mind. But not that so much."
"What are those things that raise it?" I asked.
"I'm not going to get into that," he said uncomfortably.
Visiting the wounded at military hospitals is part of the job of secretary of defense, he said. "I understand that historically. I understand it from my prior service here. I understand it today. So I do not go away and think, Gee, this is something that I ought to toss in the towel or something." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.437-9)
Dobbins pressed Rumsfeld on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties.
Rumsfeld said he didn't think the numbers were relevant. "The country's not in civil war," he said. "If it was in civil war, there'd be a large number of refugees."
Dobbins quoted the president's statement that 30,000 Iraqis had died in the last three years. It seemed about right based on the classified numbers they'd all seen. That was about 200 a week.
"Allowing for the fact that Iraq is 15 times smaller than the United States," Dobbins said, "Iraqis for the first three years suffered the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every week. You can imagine the traumatic effect a 9/11 attack being repeated weekly would have on American society. Don't you think it's having a similar effect on Iraqi society?"
Rumsfeld dismissed the notion. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.445-6)
That afternoon the online magazine Slate reported that Claude A. Allen, who had been Bush's top domestic policy adviser until he had resigned the previous month, had been arrested by police in the Maryland suburbs and charged in a bizarre case of allegedly defrauding local stores of more than $5,000.
Bush called Card at home around 9:30 P.M., late for the president. He wanted a detailed explanation of what had happened to Allen, 45, a favorite on the staff, a lawyer and born-again Christian. Allen was Bush's highest-ranking African-American White House adviser, and he regularly briefed and traveled with the president. Card said that when Allen resigned the previous month he had told both Card and Harriet Miers that there was some misunderstanding. Bush said he thought the White House had done the right thing, handled it the right way, but he wondered how a senior White House official could be arrested without the chief of staff finding out. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.449)
CARD HAD A SENSE of relief mixed with the knowledge that he was leaving unfinished business. One of his great worries was that Iraq would be compared to Vietnam. There were 58,249 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. One of Henry Kissinger's private criticisms of Bush was that he had no mechanism in place, or even an inclination, to consider the downsides of impending decisions. Alternative courses of action were rarely considered. As best Card could remember there had been some informal, blue-sky discussions at times along the lines of "What could we do differently?" But there had been no formal sessions to consider alternatives to staying in Iraq. To his knowledge there were no anguished memos bearing the names of Cheney, Rice, Hadley, Rumsfeld, the CIA, Card himself or anyone else saying let's examine alternatives, as had surfaced after the Vietnam era. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.455)
No MATTER HOW BAD the news might get, few were as good as Rumsfeld at reframing the issues and debate. In April 2006, six retired generals publicly called for his resignation, citing missteps in Iraq, especially the failure to have enough troops. On Tuesday, April 18, 2006, Rumsfeld appeared for one of his periodic press conferences with General Pace by his side. There was much anticipation about his response to the very public critique that was being labeled "The Revolt of the Generals."
"Good afternoon, folks," Rumsfeld began. "One of the interesting things about this city is that there are so many distractions that people sometimes lose track of how fortunate we are.
"It was 64 years ago today that Jimmy Doolittle led the against-all-odds raid on Tokyo during the early days of World War II," he said, and added that it was also "a hundred years ago today that San Francisco was nearly destroyed by an earthquake."
After five minutes of this, a reporter got to ask about the retired generals who had said "that you've been dismissive and even contemptuous of the advice offered by senior military officers."
"I kind of would prefer to let a little time walk over it," Rumsfeld said and added, as if their comments about him were their problem, "I just am not inclined to be instantaneously judgmental about them."
"Mr. Secretary," a reporter tried.
"Coming into work today," Rumsfeld continued with his history lesson, "I did think about something that happened 30 years ago, I think close to this month. I was secretary of defense." He described in detail how he overruled the Army's recommendation for the gun and engine on its Ml battle tank.
"Well, you would have thought the world had ended," he continued. "The sky fell. Can you imagine making that decision and breaking tradition for decades in this country? Can you imagine overturning what the service had proposed for a main battle tank? Well, it went on and on in the press, and it was a firestorm.
"The people involved were good people," he added, "and there were differences of views, and somebody needed to make a decision." For another five minutes, he went on to list all the changes he had made in recent years. Lots of his personnel moves had ruffled feathers, he said, such as making a Marine like General Jones the NATO commander or General Pace the chairman. "A Marine as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the first time in history—imagine! What a stunning thing to do!" Rumsfeld said.
A reporter tried to interrupt with a question.
"I was asked a question and I'm going to take all the time I want!" Rumsfeld said. There was laughter.
"But I think it's important that we recognize that there's a lot of change going on, it's challenging for people, it's difficult for people." When asked again about the concerns of the six retired generals, he noted, "We've got what, 6,000, 7,000 retired admirals and generals ... Who thinks they're going to be unanimous on anything?"
In other words it was very hard to be defense secretary with so many backward-looking forces arrayed against him. After the press conference Rumsfeld met privately with a group of a dozen retired generals—none of whom had called for his resignation—and other outside advisers. It was supposed to be a close-hold, off-the-record session.
He was asked about his thinking on the number of troops used in the Iraq war plan.
"The final war plan called for a ramp-up to about 400,000," Rumsfeld said from one end of the table. "That's right, isn't it, Pete?"
"Yes, sir," General Pace said from the other end.
"Then General Franks called me," Rumsfeld recounted, "and said stop the force flow. He didn't need more." Franks was the combatant commander on the ground, so, Rumsfeld said, he went with his general's recommendation.
How convenient, thought one of the retired military men, Major General William L. Nash, who was now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. At the press conference, Rumsfeld had presented himself as the bold, decisive change agent. When it came to one of the most important decisions during the war, Rumsfeld simply acquiesced to General Franks. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.459-60)
"Pick your own management model," Wilkinson suggested. "There's the Iraqi way. There's the American and Western way. And there's a Maliki way of doing business. I urge you to use the Maliki way." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.465)
Rice had once told him, "I don't like extremists."
"Because on some of these issues I don't trust anybody that's that sure," the secretary of state had said. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.467)
If all this were put out publicly, it might start a fire that no one could put out. First, questions would immediately arise about the quality of the intelligence. Was this potentially another WMD fiasco? Second, if it were true, it meant that the Iranians were killing American soldiers—an act of war. The chief premise of a Republican foreign policy had been toughness—no more weakness, no more Carters or Clintons and their pathological unwillingness to use force. Where would that lead them in dealing with Iran now?
There was a third problem. The EFPs were being fed into the Shiite groups in the south and some in Baghdad, but comparatively speaking, the level of EFPs was not all that high. Suppose the Iranians put their minds and energies to it and started giving the technology, know-how and equipment in large numbers to the Sunni Arab insurgency, as well as the Shiites? That would be an entirely different matter.
Polling showed that about 50 percent of the Sunnis had a positive attitude toward the insurgency. Since Sunnis were about 20 percent of the overall population, that meant at least 10 percent of Iraqis—over 2 million people—had a favorable attitude toward the insurgents. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.474-5)
"Do you have any doubts this was the right decision to invade Iraq?
"I have no doubts at all," he said. "None. Zero."
"Isn't the process, though, you always have to have doubt?" I said. "I live on doubt."
"I'm sorry for you," the Marine general said.
"Don't be sorry for me," I replied. "It's a wonderful process."
"I do not have doubt about what we've done," he said. "We did not do this. When we were sitting home minding our own business, we got attacked on 9/11." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.476)
THE U.S. WAS STILL keeping score and releasing body counts. Inside Iraq, evidence of the Great American Killing Machine and the trumpeting of its latest body counts became recruiting tools for the insurgents. The ground reality was that since the insurgents didn't wear uniforms and lived and blended into the population, some of those killed, possibly a significant number, were innocent civilians. Body counts also reminded Iraqis that they were living in an occupation. Counterinsurgency experts say that body counts offer a false measure of winning, and cite the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese, the winning side, lost about a million, compared to the United States, which had 58,000 killed but lost the war.
But President Bush loved to keep scorecards. Notes of the NSC meetings in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks show Bush repeatedly asking for a "scorecard" as a way to measure the war on terror. On October 10, 2001, Bush went to the FBI headquarters and personally unveiled a list of the 22 "Most Wanted Terrorists," which included Osama bin Laden. He took a classified version of the list with photos, brief biographies and personality sketches of the 22 and slipped it into a drawer in the Oval Office. When one on the list was killed or captured, he personally drew a big "X" through the photo. With pride, Bush displayed his terrorist scorecard during an Oval Office interview December 20, 2001. During an interview at his Crawford ranch on August 20, 2002, he said, "The scorecard is important because I want people to know there is progress."
So during the Iraq War it was difficult for the president to restrain himself. Rumsfeld, Rice and Card had cautioned him on body counts, but he wanted to know, wanted the tally sheet for what he saw as a series of separate battles. "They killed three of ours. How many did we kill of them?"
It bled into his public statements. In an October 1, 2005, radio address, for example, he noted that one sign of success was that "hundreds of insurgents and terrorists have been killed."
Rumsfeld too did not resist, ignoring his own advice. On July 11, 2006, in a press conference with Afghanistan President Karzai, the secretary of defense said, "If you look at the number of terrorists and Taliban and al Qaeda that are being killed every month, it would be hard for them to say that the Coalition forces and Afghan security forces were losing." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.482)
I was getting a description of the Rumsfeld style.
"He's getting to know the people and taking their measure," Rumsfeld continued, "and seeing how they handle those questions and how they answer them and how much they know and who they rely on for answers to things. And he ends up coming away with a confidence level, and he develops an ability to know how much—how long a leash he wants different people to be on."
"How long's your leash?" I asked.
"Oh, goodness gracious," he replied. "Don't ask me."
"No. I have no idea," he said.
Rumsfeld certainly knew that Bush gave him a very long leash.
"Do you feel a tug sometimes?"
He declined to answer. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.485)
I ASKED RUMSFELD what was the best, most optimistic scenario for a positive outcome in Iraq.
"This business is ugly," he replied. "It's tough. There isn't any best. A long, hard slog, I think I wrote years ago. We're facing a set of challenges that are different than our country understands. . . . They're different than our Congress understands. They're different than our government, much of our government, probably understands and is organized or trained or equipped to cope with and deal with. We're dealing with enemies that can turn inside our decision circles." The enemy can move swiftly, he said. "They don't have parliaments and bureaucracies and real estate to defend and interact with or deal with or cope with. They can do what they want. They aren't held accountable for lying or for killing innocent men, women and children.
"There's something about the body politic in the United States that they can accept the enemy killing innocent men, women and children and cutting off people's heads, but have zero tolerance for some soldier who does something he shouldn't do." (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.486)
AT THE END OF THE SECOND INTERVIEW I quoted former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, "Any military commander who is honest with you will say he's made mistakes that have cost lives."
"Urn hmm," Rumsfeld said.
"Is that correct?"
"I don't know. I suppose that a military commander—"
"Which you are," I interrupted.
"No, I'm not," the secretary of defense said.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"No, no. Well..."
"Yes. Yes," I said, raising my hand in the air and ticking off the hierarchy. "It's commander in chief, secretary of defense, combatant commander."
"I can see a military commander in a uniform who is engaged in a conflict having to make decisions that result in people living or dying and that that would be a truth. And certainly if you go up the chain to the civilian side to the president and to me, you could by indirection, two or three steps removed, make the case."
Indirection? Two or three steps removed? It was inexplicable. Rumsfeld had spent so much time insisting on the chain of command. He was in control—not the Joint Chiefs, not the uniformed military, not the NSC or the NSC staff, not the critics or the opiners. How could he not see his role and responsibility?
I could think of nothing more to say. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.487-8)
"On weapons of mass destruction," I asked.
"Sure," the president said.
One of my bosses at The Washington Post had suggested I ask, "Was the president misled—"
"No," Bush said.
I continued the question, "—by the intelligence, or did he mislead the country?"
"No, okay," I repeated his reply.
"The answer is absolutely not."
"What happened?" I asked.
"What do you mean what happened?" Bush asked, sounding as if he had not been the one who gave all those speeches about WMD.
"In terms of weapons of mass destruction," I explained. "And the 'slam dunk' case."
The president said that weapons inspector David Kay's initial report supported the idea that Saddam had weapons programs. "I think that it's way too early to fully understand the complete history. This is intelligence," he pointed out.
"I understand," I said. "Not fact."
"It was intelligence, hard-enough intelligence for the United Nations to pass several resolutions. Hard-enough intelligence for President Bill Clinton to make a military decision on this" by ordering the bombing of Iraq's suspected WMD sites in 1998. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.488)
I said I would deal with what he said in my book about the decision to invade, due to come out in 2004.
"Why do you need to deal with this in the book?" he asked. "What's that got to do about it?"
I said I had to deal with it because it was an important issue.
Later he wanted to be sure that I understood the terms of the interview—his comments were for the book and not an article in The Washington Post. "In other words, I'm not going to read a headline, 'Bush Says No Weapons.' " I said I would wait. (Bob Woodward “State of Denial” 2006 p.489-90)