Rumsfeld's Astonishing Judgment

Brig. General Mark Scheid has laid out what many others have been saying since before the Iraq war started in 2003, that Rumsfeld's plan for the war was based on absurdly rosy scenarios that bore little relation to reality. He adds one new element to the story: Rumsfeld actually threatened to fire those in the Pentagon who brought up the need for post-war planning. I'll post a long excerpt below the fold:

In 2001, Scheid was a colonel with the Central Command, the unit that oversees U.S. military operations in the Mideast.

On Sept. 10, 2001, he was selected to be the chief of logistics war plans.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he said, "life just went to hell."

That day, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of Central Command, told his planners, including Scheid, to "get ready to go to war."

A day or two later, Rumsfeld was "telling us we were going to war in Afghanistan and to start building the war plan. We were going to go fast.

"Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan ... Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq."

Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, "My gosh, we're in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two at one time? How can we pull this off? It's just going to be too much."

Planning was kept very hush-hush in those early days.

"There was only a handful of people, maybe five or six, that were involved with that plan because it had to be kept very, very quiet."

There was already an offensive plan in place for Iraq, Scheid said. And in the beginning, the planners were just expanding on it.

"Whether we were going to execute it, we had no idea," Scheid said.

Eventually other military agencies - like the transportation and Army materiel commands - had to get involved.

They couldn't just "keep planning this in the dark," Scheid said.

Planning continued to be a challenge.

"The secretary of defense continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."

Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.

"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."

Why did Rumsfeld think that? Scheid doesn't know.

It should be noted that this is not merely hindsight. Numerous generals at the Pentagon, including most obviously Gen. Eric Shinseki and Gen. Anthony Zinni (the head of CentCom who had drawn up the plans for an Iraqi invasion that Rumsfeld threw out in favor of his stripped down effort), had publicly warned the administration that they were courting disaster by going in without planning for the post-war occupation. Colin Powell had fought within the administration to make the same argument, but he was ignored like the rest.

When Shinseki testified in front of Congress before the war that it would require at least a quarter million troops and cost at least $100 billion, Wolfowitz called a press conference the next and pronounced that he was "wildly off the mark", adding, "I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." Shinseki, who had already planned to retire, was undermined in the press corps and removed from his position months ahead of time for daring to speak truth to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. One "unnamed Pentagon source" told one newspaper that Shinseki's claim was "bullshit from a Clintonite enamoured of using the army for peacekeeping and not winning wars." How'd that prediction turn out, Mr. Unnamed Source?

Likewise, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White and Gen. Wesley Clark all said publicly in the leadup to the war that Rumsfeld was refusing to accept the reality of a long post-invasion occupation and the need to secure, stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The administration had more than enough warning from a host of people with expertise that they should have listened to. Virtually everything those men said before the war has turned out to be true, while virtually everything Rumsfeld and his apologists said before the war has turned out false. Yet Rumsfeld still has his job. It's astonishing.

More like this

A columnist for the St. Petersburg Times has a column on the mounting cost of the Iraq war. It's stunning to me that the "liberal media" hasn't made a bigger deal out of the fact that the White House was either completely clueless about what the war would require, in terms of both troop strength…
Much has been written about the incompetence with which the Bush administration has pursued the war and post-war occupation in Iraq. I'd like to add to our understanding of that situation by looking, in hindsight, at what was predicted with foresight before the war. Many of the people who were…
One of the most astonishing things about the Bush administration, in my view, is how many former officials have come out and criticized things the administration has done, and how little impact it has had politically. This can partially be chalked up to an uninformed populace, of course, but also…
This is really weird timing. I'd love to know what really prompted this. Bush has been adamant that Rumsfeld would not be going anywhere, and you know that "resigned" means "forced out." He's certainly not leaving on intelligent grounds, like on the basis of his utter failure; if that was the case…

Virtually everything those men said before the war has turned out to be true, while virtually everything Rumsfeld and his apologists said before the war has turned out false. Yet Rumsfeld still has his job. It's astonishing.

I find it far more astonishing that the "administration" has yet to give him a medal of freedom, there usual way of rewarding mindboggling incompetence.

Rumsfeld has retained his position for one reason - nothing he has done has gone against the orders of his boss. Bush rewards loyalty - and Rummy is his lapdog.

But I don't know why you are harping on Rummy - this should be used as an opportunity to discuss how the democrats probably would have been just as bad if they had been in power. Pox on both their houses.

I find it far more astonishing that the "administration" has yet to give him a medal of freedom, there usual way of rewarding mindboggling incompetence.

That's only because he isn't done screwing up this whole mess. :(

What could you expect from a President who didn't even know what Shiites and Sunnis were, and probably considered them as no different than, say, Methodists and Baptists? Sometimes I wonder how much of the disaster that Iraq has become could have been prevented if Bush or somebody had just inserted a clause in the Constitution requiring all political parties that won seats in the Parliament to be composed of representatives of all three main groups. It wouldn't have excused our error in fighting the war in the first place, but it might have made the aftermath at least a little less bloody as it forced the groups, or some of them, to cooperate for the long-term good of Iraq rather than for the good of their own group.