The post-war problems of the Anglo-American occupiers of
For instance, in their unseemly haste to reach
The failure to prepare adequately for post-war
In his latest book, Plan of Attack, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward reveals that even before
The second important reason for rushing into the
In tandem with the establishment of the OSP went Cheney's and Rumsfeld's strategy of ignoring even official documents that deviated from the overoptimistic scenario that neoconservative hardliners had concocted. In that category fell wide-ranging studies of a post-Saddam
The neocons in the Pentagon even suppressed Reconstructing Iraq, a monograph written by the
Moreover, when the predicted Iraqi welcome of the Anglo-American forces as liberators, and the switching of loyalties by the Iraqi military and police from Saddam to the Pentagon failed to materialize, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld trio did not critically reexamine the basic assumptions on which they had built their post-war scenario.
But then the trio could not have done so: They had already invested too heavily and too publicly in their version of the New Iraq. This comes through clearly in former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's description (in Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty) of an NSC meeting that took place on
The secretary of defence then launched into an assessment of broader American goals. "Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with US interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond. It would demonstrate what
Little wonder that the Bush team pressed ahead with its preconceived plans, endorsed strongly by Chalabi, to dissolve the Iraqi military, police, and security agencies as well as the Baath Party, and to bar Baathists from jobs in the public sector and government. In other words, it created a "Year Zero" scenario with its concomitant total political-administrative vacuum. This was contrary to what the United Nations had done in
These actions had catastrophic economic consequences. Under the old regime, one-third of all wage earners had been dependent on the government. With the looting and physical destruction of all the administrative ministries in Baghdad -- except the Oil Ministry -- and the disbandment of the military and police, unemployment quickly soared to 60-75%, with many of the jobless now being former soldiers and policemen.
The Bush team thus sowed the seeds of insurgency, which would sprout soon after.
The Neocons Set the Agenda
Such behavior points to an obsession that is both irrational and longstanding. The prime mover behind this policy was Vice President Cheney, appointed by President-elect Bush in December 2000 to select his top team for administering foreign and defense policies after he himself had chosen Colin Powell as his secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as his national security adviser.
In the words of O'Neill in The Price of Loyalty, "Cheney would offer oversight and protection. Rumsfeld would be the point man. Paul Wolfowitz will back Rumsfeld from inside the Pentagon. From the outside, Richard Perle, heading the civilian Defense Policy Advisory Group, would counsel the Pentagon, the White House and the CIA."
It was Perle who had coached Bush on Middle Eastern affairs during the election campaign. "The first time I met Bush 43... two things became clear," Perle later said publicly. "One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed that he didn't know very much." Given such a clean slate, Perle imprinted on it his strong Likudnik views.
By then, Perle had shared in the authorship of A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm -- the "realm" being
It advised Netanyahu to "make a clean break from the peace process" -- that is, to abrogate the 1993
In cooperation with
The following year, Perle was a key player in the founding of the Project for the New American Century, a pressure group of neocons chaired by William Kristol. On the eve of President Bill Clinton's State of the Union speech in January 1998, these neocons addressed an open letter to him, stating that Saddam's removal from power "needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."
They then lobbied Congress, an endeavor in which Cheney and Rumsfefld -- both of them with illustrious records as leading Republican congressmen -- joined enthusiastically. The result was the passing of the Iraq Liberation Act in October 1998. It empowered
The next year Perle, followed by Wolfowitz, then dean of the Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, embraced the thesis in Laurie Mylroie's book, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge, published by AEI, that Saddam was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.
After 9/11, Wolfowitz dispatched James Woolsey, a former CIA director and a Mylroie fan, to
"No, no to Saddam; No, no to
Overall, if there is one bright spot in this
Central to that strategy was a plan to get Iraqi generals to stop doing their jobs. This undeclared non-cooperation was to be won primarily with bribes, and fostered by communications breakdowns between the Iraqi central command and its regional commands, achieved by the Pentagon's hi-tech weaponry -- all combined with relentless propaganda and psychological pressure put on loyal military officers.
Saddam's plan was to overcome the expected communications breakdowns by using a messenger service as he had done during the 1991 Gulf War. What he did not envisage was that many of his generals would go on an undeclared strike in the wake of relentless, ferocious bombing by the world's most powerful and technologically advanced military machine, which impressed on them the hopelessness of trying to defend
The reason why Saddam did not visualize the "betrayal" scenario was that the first and foremost requirement for promotion in the military was total loyalty to him. Before any Iraqi was considered for a military commission, he was vetted by the Baath Party's security bureau, chaired by Saddam, for his loyalty to the Leader and the Party. To ensure the loyalty of his officers to him, he established Military Security in 1992 with a mandate to maintain internal security within the armed forces. It served him well. Over the next decade, it aborted half a dozen military coup attempts against him.
The collapse of Saddam's regime -- founded on domestic terror, political cunning, and a gargantuan personality cult -- brought immense relief to most Iraqis. But the fact that this release from Saddam and his security-intelligence apparatus was carried out by the
This ambivalence, prevalent among Iraqis, at being simultaneously "liberated" and occupied by a superpower they distrusted deeply -- encapsulated in the slogan, "No, no to Saddam; No, no to America" -- has shaped the post-invasion history of Iraq, with the rise of Sunni insurgency followed by an uprising by the partisans of Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr. And it is this phenomenon that has thwarted the Bush team's overarching mission of transforming post-Saddam
Dilip Hiro is the author of Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm (Nation Books). His latest book is Secrets and Lies: Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' and After, (Nation Books).
This piece will appear in print in the Middle East International (
Copyright C2004 Dilip Hiro
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]