April 14, 2006
The Hidden History of the Iraq War CriticsBy John B. Dwyer
'The plan has been through the combatant commanders, it has been through the National Security Council process.� General Myers and General Pace (chairman and vice—chairman, Joint Chiefs) and others, including this individual, have seen it in a variety of iterations. When asked by the president or by me, the military officers who've reviewed it have all said they thought� it was an excellent plan.� I stand by the plan...I think it's� a brilliant plan.'�
We are in the midst of a spring offensive by Iraq war plan critics such as "COBRA II":http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375422625/qid=1145020325/sr=1—1/ref=sr_1_1/104—7510778—4232740?s=books&v=glance&n=283155 authors Michael Gordon & retired Lt. Gen.Bernard Trainor, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, and now retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold.� As calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation echo throughout the drive—by media, here is a little pop quiz.
Who said this?
Answer: President Bill Clinton in February 1998.�
Okay then, who said this?
Answer: Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen on November 15, 1997.��
Who said this?
Answer Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright on February 20, 1998.�
Just one more now. Who expressed the view that the containment of Saddam Hussein could not succeed over the long run; that 'even a contained Saddam was harmful to stability and positive change in the region'? Hint: the same person who said
Answer:� Clinton National Security Council advisor Sandy Berger in December 1998 speech at Stanford.
War critics either downplay, skim over, or completely ignore this historical context. The prior administration's beliefs and policies towards Iraq were consistent with the threat assessment motivating our war with Saddam. They would have you think that it all began with Bush, who was driven to war by neocon zealots who hijacked US foreign policy.�
They do not tell you, for obvious reasons, that the Clinton administration in November 1997 launched a public campaign to build support for a possible war against Iraq. The do not mention that on October 31, 1998, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which stated that
And, that in 1998, Congress authorized President Clinton to
Saddam was then on his way to setting the Guinness World Record for most resolutions violated. Wanting to indict President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and senior Pentagon officers for 'an invented war,' as former top planner Lt.Gen. Newbold now puts it, they dare not admit that the Bush administration was, in fact, looking at the threat posed by Iraq in much the same way its predecessor did... the difference being that while Bill dallied, W. took on the threat.�
As President Bush said in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union speech:�
In a speech the following month, the President said:
The critics allege that Iraq was a diversion from the real war on terror.� They refuse to acknowledge the proven links that existed between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda as documented by Stephen F. Hayes in his book The Connection and in his Weekly Standard articles on this subject. In his September 8, 2003 article 'Saddam's Al Qaeda Connection'�� Hayes wrote about a letter by CIA Director George Tenet that
Captured documents recently translated revealed that thousands of radical Islamists trained in camps at Samarra, Ramadi and Salman Pak four years prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.� Those documents and others can be found here and here.��
Now let's look at some of the text of House Joint Resolution 114, passed October 12, 2002, which listed the indictments against Saddam's regime. They make a convincing argument that the Butcher of Baghdad was not being kept in his 'box' as the war plan critics allege.�
HJ Res. 114 contains much more, of course, including the fact that Saddam used WMD on neighboring countries and on his own people. As for WMD, both the Duelfer and Kay reports concluded that while Saddam might not have any large stockpiles, he retained, he planned for, the ability to reconstitute WMD programs as soon as all inspectors left.
Then there was the matter of Saddam's programmatic deception and concealment efforts.� As Duelfer wrote in his report:
We need to remember here that Saddam began his Guinness Book UNSCR violations record right after we expelled his army from Kuwait.� He signed a cease—fire agreement in 1991 promising to destroy all his WMD.�
All of this historic context, all of these facts, are ignored by the war plan critics.� I am reminded of a comment by an Iraqi, frustrated by the WMD debate, who opined that 'Saddam Hussein himself was a weapon of mass destruction.'� Through it all, the US worked with the UN, then formed a coalition to liberate Iraq, putting the lie to charges that President Bush acted unilaterally.�������
The carping critics erect a rhetorical, if not imaginary, entity so they can bash it with charges of 'not enough troops' and other hindsight insight.� The perfect war plan devised by omniscient planners has never existed.� And as Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged on several occasions, no plan, however perfect, survives first contact with the enemy.� But since tactical flexibility was inherent in the plan, commanders on the ground adapted to changing circumstances.� And now, a little over three years later, we see the tremendous success that Coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved.��
President Bush put it this way in an April 10 speech at Johns Hopkins University:
The most recent war plan critic is retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who, up to four months prior to the launch of OIF, was the Pentagon's top planner. He left in part due to his opposition to the plan.� He now alleges that other top Pentagon officers who opposed the plan did not speak up, that they are culpable for an 'invented war.'�
At an April 11 press conference Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Peter Pace answered Newbold and other like—minded critics about how the process worked building up to Iraq:�
That agreement on resources having been reached, the Joint Chiefs went to Rumsfeld and then to President Bush, assuring them about the plan and the necessary resources.�Pres. Bush asked specific questions about whether the proper amount of resources had been allocated.
Gen. Pace stressed the fact that there was every opportunity for anyone with qualms or disagreements to speak their minds.� He concluded:
There are some who choose to believe that Saddam never presented a threat to America or the Middle East, that he was safely contained in his 'box,' that he had no connections with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, that neocon zealots hijacked US foreign policy, that the war plan was fatally flawed due to silent top ranking officers and 'Pentagon dictator' Donald Rumsfeld, that the liberation of Iraq was an invented war, and that the Saddam—Iraq chapter of our history began with President Bush, are entitled to their opinions.�
They are refuted by the facts which they and their media allies refuse to acknowledge.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian and a frequent contributor.