I knew that if I read this book long enough, I would eventually read something that would make me so angry that I would be tempted to throw the damn thing right out the fracking window. And this excerpt was it.
What exactly is wrong? Where do I begin?
Starting out, you have Rumsfeld’s crony Steve Herbits knowing that something is seriously wrong with Their Excellent Iraq Adventure, but afraid to tell The Big Man lest he wither in Rummy’s lethal squinting glare. So what does he do? He runs to two neocon idols, Gingrich and Wolfowitz, for help (have to laugh to keep from crying over Bushco’s original thought to appoint Wolfowitz, a Jew, as viceroy of Iraq, an Arab country, instead of Paul Bremer).
(I should also add parenthetically that, as usual, when Democrats seek help, they often seek other Dems but also some crossover Repugs that you can find from time to time. However, when neocons sense danger, they only seek the company of other neocons, which is frequently the reason why they can’t solve anything, being that they’re all locked into the same mindset.)
And this excerpt will show Gingrich and Wolfowitz doing everything they can except the only thing they should do, and that is let any decisions be guided by input from the military people stuck in this mess and paying the price. And it also shows that politics trumps absolutely everything for these people, which is particularly revolting in this context.
Also, I’m attaching a link to Dubya’s latest absurdity on the attempt by Democrats to craft legislation on Iraq that both funds our military and sets a timetable for ending this mess chiefly for this excerpt…
He delivered a tough message to Democrats, who now control Congress, that he would veto any bill that did not provide "the funds and the flexibility that our troops need to accomplish their mission". Democratic proposals for deadlines for troop withdrawals, he claimed, could be "devastating" for US security and could help al-Qa'eda plan attacks against the US on a scale not seen since September 11.Please keep in mind that quote from Dubya about deadlines as you read this excerpt.
(pp. 250-251)I’m skipping around with the excerpts in non-chronological order I know; I wanted to get to the three big Bremer screwups in Iraq first, but again, I thought this passage revealed so much and undercut Dubya’s non-argument on continuing this war so thoroughly that I decided to mention it now.
Steve Herbits, still Rumsfeld’s unofficial eyes and ears at the Pentagon, was regularly in and out of Washington. He was a hawk on the war, a firm believer that invading had been the right thing to do. But (Paul Bremer), he believed, was not working out. Herbits didn’t think he could effectively go to Rumsfeld about the situation because he knew the secretary was set on a course. But he might listen if Herbits could build pressure from within the Pentagon and from conservative circles in Washington. Distressed at the situation, he reached out to two of the most influential conservatives he knew: Paul Wolfowitz and Newt Gingrich. He had been close to both men for years, but Wolfowitz and Gingrich didn’t know each other very well. The three of us have to get together and talk over dinner, Herbits said.
Herbits made a reservation for a private room at Les Halles, a pricey French restaurant four blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, for Tuesday, September 30, 2003. Wolfowitz and Gingrich were almost on time.
The three chit-chatted briefly, and then Herbits stepped in.
“This is the premise of the meeting. The president is losing the peace. He is not going to get re-elected unless we get this thing straightened out. There are two things which he has to do, and he has to do now, or it’s going to fail. This is the premise, and you guys discuss it,” Herbits said. “Item number one is we have to set a date that we are turning over the government to the Iraqis, and we have to set it now. And I pick June 30, 2004.”
It was an arbitrary date, Herbits acknowledged, but they needed a date before the presidential election. June 30, 2004, seemed about right, being nine months away, and four months before the November election.
“The reason we have to do that,” he said, “is because no one will work towards that date unless the date exists.” Herbits was a process person, and there was no process here. He knew how bureaucracies worked, and why they didn’t. People don’t move unless they have a deadline. A long, indefinite occupation would be a disaster. “The American people won’t tolerate it. Mostly the Iraqis will throw us out before then if we don’t have a date.”
“The second thing I’m arguing is that we have got to put Iraqis in uniform.” Bremer and the Pentagon had announced that month that they envisioned a 40,000-soldier Iraqi army by 2005 or later, with another 146,000 people in the police, the border guards and other security forces. So far, there were only 1,000 would-be soldiers training for the new Iraqi army.
“My idea is 300,000 by June of 2004,” Herbits said, pausing theatrically. “Gentlemen, discuss.”
“You’re completely wrong,” Gingrich said. The election was going to be about the American economy.
No, Herbits said. The economy would be fine. And even if it wasn’t there wasn’t much Bush could do about it. But Iraq was important and it was also something that could be influenced. “I’m looking at the process,” he said. “It’s failing.”
Wolfowitz agreed that the occupation was the wrong approach and started to make a point to Herbits.
“This isn’t about me,” Herbits insisted. “This is about you two discussing it.”
Wolfowitz, a longtime advocate for dissolving the Iraqi army as a critical element of ridding Iraq of the Saddam legacy, reminded them that the army had just disappeared and melted away.
The army dissolving was not our choice, Herbits agreed. But allowing it to stay dissolved was indeed the doing of the United States and Bremer. And that was the mistake that had to be rectified. Iraq had to have an Iraqi army.
Herbits’ final argument was political necessity. “Listen, this president is going to get creamed if you don’t change this.”
For more than two hours, Wolfowitz and Gingrich went at it, quoting poetry, studies, historians, Greeks, the moderns. But in the end they agreed with Herbits’ two main points – deadlines had their virtue and something had to be done about an Iraqi army.
At the end of the dinner, both said they would act. Wolfowitz would talk to Rumsfeld and (National Security Adviser Stephen) Hadley. Gingrich was a member of the Defense Policy Board, an outside group that periodically advised Rumsfeld, but his real connection was to Cheney. The two men had first been elected to Congress together in 1978, and had been friends for nearly 25 years. Gingrich said he would go to Cheney and Scooter Libby.