The Surge

“After their victory, the allies’ troops were directed by the President of the United States to stabilize the situation in Iraq by deploying a temporary military government, the Coalition Provisional Authority. However, even though the majority of Shiite Iraq had been freed from a brutal dictatorship, the population of both Sunni and Shiite Muslims was devastatingly hostile to the non-Muslim allies’ forces and conflicts arose. In addition, most regions were in a difficult situation: looting, fighting, and settling of ancient and more modern scores.

In April 2003, the former head of U.S. Central Command, General Tommy Franks, decided to suspend the death penalty in Iraq. On May 22, 2003, Resolution 1483 passed by the Security Council United Nations requested the occupying powers to work on the formation of an interim administration “until an internationally recognized, representative government can be established by the Iraqi people”. On May 23, 2003, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced the ending of the Iraqi army and other security forces of Saddam Hussein, contrary to the findings of a State Department study conducted before the invasion, in what will be considered later as one of the biggest blunders of the entire effort.

May 31, 2003, the U.S. military announced that they would occupy Iraq longer than had been previously announced. From decades of Sunni exploitation under Hussein, a central government proved impossible to form with Shi’a and Sunni camps each unwilling to acknowledge the other’s concerns. Sectarian violence then became the day-to-day norm as the various religious sectors of the Iraqi population competed for power.

Radical Islamic forces aligned with Al Qaida forces rapidly consolidated and began to assert power around several major population centers, most notably, Ramadi and Fallujah – both west of Baghdad.

The strategic error at the end of hostilities was the belief that a nation-building mission could be successfully undertaken by the military. Nation building is the purview of the State Department, which counsels and assists nations every day in how to establish functioning government entities to be successful in the modern world. We had the examples of Germany and Japan under the State Department supervised Marshall Plan as well as several Middle-Eastern countries freed from the League of Nations’ “Mandates” following World War II.

A yearlong study, appropriately conducted by the State Department, predicted many of the problems that plagued the American-led occupation of Iraq, according to internal State Department documents and interviews with administration and Congressional officials. Beginning in April 2002, the State Department project assembled more than 200 Iraqi lawyers, engineers, business people and other experts into 17 working groups to study topics ranging from creating a new justice system to reorganizing the military to revamping the economy.

Their findings included a much more dire assessment of Iraq’s dilapidated electrical and water systems than many Pentagon officials assumed. They warned of a society so brutalized by Saddam Hussein’s rule that many Iraqis might react coolly to Americans’ notion of quickly rebuilding civil society. Several officials said that many of the findings in the $5 million study were initially ignored by Pentagon officials, although the Pentagon said they took the findings into account. The work was eventually relied upon heavily as occupation forces struggled to impose stability in Iraq.

The working group studying transitional justice was eerily prescient in forecasting the widespread looting in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, caused in part by thousands of criminals he set free from prison, and it recommended force to prevent the chaos. In part, the report predicted;

”The period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting,” the report warned, urging American officials to ”organize military patrols by coalition forces in all major cities to prevent lawlessness, especially against vital utilities and key government facilities.”

Despite the scope of the State Department project, the military office initially charged with rebuilding Iraq did not learn of it until a major government drill for the postwar mission was held in Washington in late February, less than a month before the conflict began. The man overseeing the planning, Tom Warrick, a State Department official, so impressed aides to Jay Garner, a retired Army lieutenant general heading the military’s reconstruction office, that they recruited Mr. Warrick to join their team.

George Ward, an aide to General Garner, said the reconstruction office wanted to use Mr. Warrick’s knowledge because ”we had few experts on Iraq on the staff.” But top Pentagon officials blocked Mr. Warrick’s appointment, and much of the project’s work was shelved. To this day, no one has revealed why Mr. Warrick’s appointment was blocked. [It is not difficult to believe it was because he was a State Department official and not part of the Pentagon “club”.]

The broad outlines of the work, called the Future of Iraq Project, have been widely known, but new details emerged after the State Department sent Congress the project’s 13 volumes of reports and supporting documents, which several House and Senate committees had requested. Administration officials admitted that there was postwar planning at several government agencies, but much of the work at any one agency was largely disconnected from that at any others [what I call the Gorelick Effect].

In the end, the American military and civilian officials who first entered Iraq prepared for several possible problems: numerous fires in the oil fields, a massive humanitarian crisis, widespread revenge attacks against former leaders of Hussein’s government and threats from Iraq’s neighbors. In fact, none of those problems occurred to any great degree.”

Some critics charged that the Pentagon squandered a chance to anticipate more of the postwar pitfalls by not fully incorporating the State Department information. My question is: where was the Secretary of State, former Army General Colin Powell – the senior cabinet official serving the President – during all of this internecine squabbling.

According to General Powell, himself, he had the ear of the President. He quoted a simple expression that summarized this idea for the President: “If you break it, you own it.” It was shorthand for the profound reality that if we take out another country’s government by force, we instantly become the new government, responsible for governing the country and for the security of its people until we can turn all that over to a new, stable, and functioning government. We are now in charge. We have to be prepared to take charge.” Great advice.

But, in Powell’s words; “In the days, weeks, and months after the fall of Baghdad, we refused to react to what was happening before our eyes. We focused on expanding oil production, increasing electricity output, setting up a stock market, forming a new Iraqi government. These were all worth doing, but they had little meaning and were not achievable until we and the Iraqis took charge of this post and secured all property in view.

My next question is – who is the we that Secretary Powell is referring to? As the nation’s leading diplomat with a brand-new country to deal with, where was Colin Powell? It was his department that had done the study on what the US should be prepared for and what it should do. If he had the President’s ear, why wasn’t he counseling the President about what the American forces and assets in Iraq should be doing? After all, he was a former Army field commander and knew – or should have known – what an army was capable of doing in this regard. At best, it seems out of character for a successful general to suddenly become a shrinking violet. At worst, it is a dereliction of duty to his President.

The Iraqis were glad to see Saddam Hussein gone. But they also had lives to live and families to take care of. The end of a monstrous regime didn’t feed their kids; it didn’t make it safe to cross town to get to a job. More than anything, Iraqis needed a sense of security and the knowledge that someone was in charge – someone in charge of keeping ministries from being burned down, museums from being looted, infrastructure from being destroyed, crime from exploding, and well-known sectarian differences from turning violent.

According to Powell, “When we went in, we had a plan, which the President approved. We would not break up and disband the Iraqi Army. We would use the reconstituted Army with purged leadership to help us secure and maintain order throughout the country. We would dissolve the Baath Party, the ruling political party, but we would not throw every party member out on the street.

In Hussein’s day, if you wanted to be a government official, a teacher, cop, or postal worker, you had to belong to the party. We were planning to eliminate top party leaders from positions of authority. But lower-level officials and workers had the education, skills, and training needed to run the country.”

Powell continuing; “The plan the President had approved was not implemented. Instead, [Defense] Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, our man in charge in Iraq, disbanded the Army and fired Baath Party members down to teachers. We eliminated the very officials and institutions we should have been building on, and left thousands of the most highly skilled people in the country jobless and angry – prime recruits for insurgency. These actions surprised the President, National Security Adviser Condi Rice, and me, but once they had been set in motion, the President felt he had to support Secretary Rumsfeld and Ambassador Bremer.”

What!!!??? If the President’s plan was not implemented, then those who had defied the President should have been fired – or the senior cabinet official involved should have resigned to make his point that what was happening was going to lead to disaster. (For the history buffs; it was Longstreet and Lee during Day 3 of the Battle of Gettysburg all over again. Longstreet didn’t resign either. That didn’t turn out too well for Pickett’s brigade, did it?)

Better yet, the Secretary of State should have overseen the nation-building effort – after all, he had an ambassador in place in Baghdad already and his department had done the work necessary to predict the precise events that were occurring and therefore prepare to overcome them. Again, where was Powell?

Defense could provide security and military force when necessary but State was, and is, the proper entity to conduct nation-building.We have ample evidence that it is not a mission that a military force can achieve. Militaries are built to destroy militaries and kill their combatants. It is like asking a football team to build their own stadium.

The fact that State and Defense never effectively talked to each other may have been a byproduct of a four-page directive sent by [as mentioned above] one Jamie Gorelick (the No. 2 official in the Bill Clinton Justice Department) on March 4, 1995, to FBI Director Louis Freeh and Mary Jo White, the New York-based U.S. attorney investigating the 1993 radical Islamist terror bombing of the World Trade Center.

In the memo, Ms. Gorelick ordered Mr. Freeh and Ms. White to follow information-sharing protections that “go beyond what is legally required,” – to create a new entity called a “wall of separation” – in order to avoid “any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance” that the Justice Department was using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, instead of ordinary criminal investigative procedures, in an effort to undermine the civil liberties of terrorism suspects.

[Really? Let’s give terrorists – who are foot-soldiers (most of whom are not even citizens), following orders from those they consider a higher political/military authority, to kill as many innocent American civilians as possible to sow fear in society, not common criminals who are mainly after material gain – special consideration.]

At issue at this critical point was Gorelick’s oft-noted “wall of separation” that effectively prevented counter-terrorism agents and federal prosecutors from communicating with one another prior to September 11. Information collected under special FISA warrants, which do not require a probable cause, was generally not to be shared with personnel responsible for enforcing federal criminal laws — where probable cause must be demonstrated for a warrant to be issued.

“As lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey, no flacks of the Bush administration, noted in a Washington Times Op-ed, the practical effect of the “wall” was that counterintelligence information was generally kept away from law enforcement personnel who were investigating al Qaida activities. But Ms. Gorelick’s memo clearly indicated that the Clinton administration had decided as a matter of policy to go even beyond the law’s already stringent requirements in order to further choke off information sharing between cabinet departments. Again, the mindset of terrorism as a domestic legal issue instead of what is really is – open warfare – led to disaster.

This “wall” became “institutionalized” in that it spread throughout the Clinton administration and continued at the bureaucratic level in succeeding administrations. It was also implicated in the housing market collapse in 2000.

 Nonetheless, what was never evident anywhere in our government, the administration and the Congress alike, was an appreciation for the visceral hatred of Westerners, even Muslim Westerners, by the average Arab Muslim. This is a critical facet of diplomacy, in any country or region, for which the State Department is responsible and, as radical Islamist terrorism ramped up after the end of the Cold War, some of the “peace dividend” the Democrats clamored for should have been spent by the Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright State Departments on understanding the “Arab street”.

“Both State and Defense planners (ignorantly) expected the Iraqis to welcome us with open arms. Instead, even after securing their freedom from a brutal dictator, Iraqis railed against the West, ignored the opportunities now available and instead reverted to the ancient, violent, tribal retributory behavior that Saddam had eradicated. [This ignorance was also, no doubt, a direct result of the evisceration of our human intelligence capability by Democrat Senator Frank Church’s own jihad against our intelligence services in the 1970s – by allowing the names of our foreign intelligence assets to become public – resulting in their wholesale slaughter by our enemies.]

An enlightened strategic plan would have been for moderate, successful Muslim Arab parliamentary governments in the region to be engaged for the purposes of nation-building in Iraq – allied Sunni countries, like Jordan and Egypt, deployed in Sunni areas and allied Shi’a countries, like Kuwait and Bahrain in Shi’a areas – under United Nations’ supervision and coalition forces protection. The US could have deployed State Department nation-builders to the Western-friendly Kurdish region.

Iraqi Parliamentary institutions would then have been provided with time, expertise and technology to establish the relationships between the people and the authorities and between agencies in order to establish functioning, stable, orderly governments in the various regions, working with the central government to rebuild the country and establish the rule of law, the oil industry and the economy. At the same time, coalition forces would work to create a viable military and police force capable of providing security as the nascent government institutions matured.

Said one senior defense official said at the time. ”State has good ideas and a feel for the political landscape, but they’re bad at implementing anything. Defense, on the other hand, is excellent at logistical stuff, but has blinders when it comes to policy. We needed to blend these two together.” [I believe Powell and Rumsfeld were incapable of blending.]

In early 2007, allied reinforcements, called “The Surge”, were sent to Iraq by President George W. Bush, over the objections of most of the Democrat Party – now in control of Congress – and implementation of a program against an entrenched insurgency, symbolized by the appointment of General David Petraeus as commander of the operations, supported by the Iraqi army and militia, helped to lower the degree of violence to the nuisance level.

The surge was developed under the working title The New Way Forward” and was announced in January 2007 by President Bush during a television speech. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers into Iraq (five additional brigades), and sent the majority of them into Baghdad. He also extended the tour of most of the Army troops in country and some of the Marines already in the Anbar Province area. 

The President described the overall objective as establishing a “…unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.” The major element of the strategy was a change in focus for the US military “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security”. The President stated that the surge would then provide the time and conditions conducive to reconciliation between communities.

Initiated against strong domestic opposition and after the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm elections, the surge was considered extremely politically difficult. One White House staffer explained the political rationale succinctly: “If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.” 

In retrospect, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other critics of the surge have acknowledged that it was successful [and their opposition was wrongheaded. How could they not? American combat deaths declined from 125/month in June 2007 to less than 5 in December 2007. Terrorist attacks (in all forms) declined from more than 1600/month in June 2007 to less than 600 by November 2007.

The military lesson should have been learned. As demonstrated time and again over the eight years of the Obama administration, it wasn’t.]

In November 2008, as a junior Senator with no military or international experience was being elected President of the United States, the Iraqi and U.S. governments signed a bilateral pact, the Status of Forces Agreement, which set the end of 2011 as the goal to have the U.S. military turn over the security responsibility to the Iraqi government – provided the conditions on the ground allowed for it. For the time being, US forces would continue to eradicate the insurgency while training the Iraqi army to be able to stand on its own.

At this point, Iraq was a functioning democracy – not perfect but able to begin providing government services – having held parliamentary elections in January 2005 for the purpose of writing a constitution and in December 2005 to elect the first functioning parliament in the history of Iraq – with more than 60% participation. The next parliamentary election was scheduled for 2009 (4 year terms). It actually took place in early 2010.”

Then came the inauguration of Barack Obama to succeed George W. Bush as President. He was a Harvard and Columbia Law graduate, an acolyte of Saul Alinsky and a former community organizer in Chicago, an Illinois state legislator and one-term United States Senator (he had actually attended the Senate for a grand total of 185 days.)  Obama’s strategic goal was to end all U.S. participation in both the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters as soon as politically possible, no matter the conditions on the ground.

Despite increasing violence from both al Qaida forces but also from a new, more virulent form of Radical Islamism, called ISIS – which had incubated in Iraq in the absence of  aggressive American activity in support of Iraqi forces since Obama’s inauguration – and absolutely no hope that the Iraqi government under President Nouri al-Maliki could quell it or deal effectively with the unanticipated al Qaida insurgency by themselves, Obama withdrew the last U.S. forces from Iraq on December 31, 2011, an event celebrated throughout his administration as a “promise kept”.

There was absolutely no comprehension in his administration that this event made the sacrifice of more than 4000 Americans completely useless – wasted. There was absolutely no comprehension that the abandonment of an ally destroyed any trust that any nation may have had in the steadfastness of America in the face of adversity. There was absolutely no comprehension that this “retreat’ in the face of Islamic jihad would provide the best recruiting tool an enemy could ever receive – “victory over the great Satan” in the face of militant Islam. And, if that weren’t enough, he hoped to do the same thing in Afghanistan.

So, as of the election year of 2016, with nothing to show for 14 years of fighting on two fronts, what had Democrat President Barack Obama done to improve America’s security in an increasingly dangerous world continually threatened by international militant Radical Islamic warfare? Had he used the Democrat’s new “Peace Dividend” – from the ending of all operations in Iraq – wisely?

Recall that Democrat Bill Clinton had squandered their original “peace dividend” by allowing the rise of militant Islam in the first place – beginning with the first World Trade Center attack in February 1993 – a clear challenge to him from Islamic militants shortly after his inauguration – not to mention allowing North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons.

For his part, Democrat Barack Obama’s abandonment of Iraq had allowed the rise of the most militant form of Radical Islam since the 7th Century – ISIS. These new Saladins proceeded to conquer large swaths of the Middle East in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia while conducting the most horrific violence against innocents since Stalin and Hitler not to mention allowing Iran – the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism – the path to obtaining their own nuclear capability.

Specifically, in 2009, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (PL 111-5) on February 17. The $1,000,000,000,000, (that’s $1 trillion), 1000-page document was intended to create “shovel ready” jobs to save the American economy. A year after it was signed, 3.3 million more people were unemployed that before it was signed and no jobs had even been started – nor would they ever be.

How much more security could Obama have provided for the American people with that $1T, had it been spent on national security – like replacement for destroyed or used-up military hardware – manufactured in already operating American factories and shipyards? How much more care could have been provided to returning service members – damaged by fighting in America’s defense in already operating hospitals? Instead, it all went to pay offpolitical debts to supporters like unions and environmentalists. It certainly didn’t go to make us more secure – and no sane person can argue otherwise. That’s what the Democrats got for their “peace dividend” – less security, less respect and $1T more debt.

Next time: Yellowcake.

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