the iraq war in a nutshell


There’s a story I want to tell you from Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks, Pentagon correspondent of the Washington Post. That’s the book that recently made Republican Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon “heartsick” because it documents, on page after page, the retreat from empiricism and lack of professionalism (as well as failed oversight) in the making of the war.

Ricks is discussing Retired Lt. General Jay Garner’s preparations to head to Iraq and take charge of post-war operations for the White House. This is Bush’s man on the ground, hand-picked. On Feb. 21-22, 2003 Garner convened experts from across the government for the one and only meeting they would have to bring war policy roughly in line with what they could roughly predict would happen. (The effort failed.) Ricks goes on:

Of all those speaking those two days, one person in particular caught Garner’s attention. Scrambling to catch up with the best thinking, Garner was looking for someone who had assembled the facts and who knew all the players in the U.S. government, the Iraqi exile community, and international organizations, and had considered the second-and third-order consequences of possible actions. While everyone else was fumbling for facts, this man had dozens of binders, tabbed amd indexed, on every aspect of Iaqi society, from how electricity was generated to how the port of Basra operated, recalled another participant.

“They had better stuff in those binders than the ‘eyes only’ stuff I eventually got from the CIA,” said a military expert who attended.

“There’s this one guy who knew everything, everybody, and he kept on talking,” Garner recalled. At lunch, Garner took him aside. Who are you? the old general asked. Tom Warrick, the man answered.

“How come you know all this?” Garner asked.

“I’ve been working on this for a year,” Warrick said. He said he was at the State Department, where he headed a project called the Future of Iraq, a sprawling effort that relied heavily on the expertise of Iraqi exiles.

“Come to work for me on Monday,” Garner said.

And Warrick did just that. A few days later Rumsfeld takes Garner aside and tells him he has to get rid of Warrick. “I can’t,” says Garner. He’s good, he’s smart, and he knows a ton about Iraq. Rumseld says there’s nothing he can do; the order comes from above. Garner goes to see Stephen Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council. Hadley can’t do anything either. Later Richard Armitage explains it to Ricks. “Anybody that knows anything is removed.” And Warrick was removed from Garner’s team, undoubtedly on Cheney’s orders.

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