"INSURGENTS AND TERRORISTS RETAIN THE RESOURCES AND CAPABILITIES TO SUSTAIN AND EVEN INCREASE CURRENT LEVEL OF VIOLENCE THROUGH THE NEXT YEAR." This was the secret Pentagon assessment sent to the White House in May 2006. The forecast of a more violent 2007 in Iraq contradicted the repeated optimistic statements of President Bush, including one, two days earlier, when he said we were at a "turning point" that history would mark as the time "the forces of terror began their long retreat."
State of Denial examines how the Bush administration avoided telling the truth about Iraq to the public, to Congress, and often to themselves. Two days after the May report, the Pentagon told Congress, in a report required by law, that the "appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007."
In this detailed inside story of a war-torn White House, Bob Woodward reveals how White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, with the indirect support of other high officials, tried for 18 months to get Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld replaced. The president and Vice President Cheney refused. At the beginning of Bush's second term, Stephen Hadley, who replaced Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser, gave the administration a "D minus" on implementing its policies. A SECRET report to the new Secretary of State Rice from her counselor stated that, nearly two years after the invasion, Iraq was a "failed state."
State of Denial reveals that at the urging of Vice President Cheney and Rumsfeld, the most frequent outside visitor and Iraq adviser to President Bush is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who, haunted still by the loss in Vietnam, emerges as a hidden and potent voice.
Woodward reveals that the secretary of defense himself believes that the system of coordination among departments and agencies is broken, and in a SECRET May 1, 2006, memo, Rumsfeld stated, "the current system of government makes competence next to impossible."
State of Denial answers the core questions: What happened after the invasion of Iraq? Why? How does Bush make decisions and manage a war that he chose to define his presidency? And is there an achievable plan for victory?
Bob Woodward's third book on President Bush is a sweeping narrative—from the first days George W. Bush thought seriously about running for president through the recruitment of his national security team, the war in Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the struggle for political survival in the second term.
After more than three decades of reporting on national security decision making—including his two #1 national bestsellers on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush at War (2002) and Plan of Attack (2004) —Woodward provides the fullest account, and explanation, of the road Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the White House staff have walked.
BOB WOODWARD, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, has been a newspaper reporter and editor for 35 years. He has authored or coauthored ten #1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana, and lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Elsa Walsh, a writer for The New Yorker.
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State of Denial
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To Mary Walsh
Christine Parthemore, a 2003 Phi Beta Kappa political science graduate of The Ohio State University, is a kind of Wonder Woman of the Information Age, capable of finding any information or any person. She has never let me down. Meticulous and diligent in every task from transcribing hundreds of hours of interview tapes to editing the manuscript, she is learned, frank, and smart. A natural editor, she knows how to get to the heart of matters. As she demonstrated every day, Christine has the energy of half a dozen and an endless capacity for work.
IN late December 2000, less than a month before his inauguration, President-elect George W. Bush was still debating who should be his secretary of defense. Former Senator Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican who had served on the Armed Services Committee, had been at the top of Bush's list and had the backing of his conservative base. But Coats had not been impressive in his interview with Bush and Vice President elect Dick Cheney, who was heading the transition team for the new government. Coats knew the top generals mostly from a distance and was lukewarm on the national missile defense system Bush had promised in the campaign. He had never run a large organization and he acknowledged he would need a strong, experienced number two at the Pentagon.
It wouldn't work. Bush needed someone who could not only battle things out with the generals but who also had as much gravitas as the rest of his new national security team. Cheney had been secretary of defense under Bush's father; Colin Powell, Bush's pick for secretary of state, had been chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Reagan's national security adviser. He needed a secretary of defense with more stature, grit and experience.
What about Donald Rumsfeld? Cheney suggested. Rumsfeld, 68, Cheney's old boss and mentor, had the dream resume. He had been secretary of defense once before, under President Ford from 1975 to 1977. He had been a Navy pilot in the 1950s, elected to four terms in Congress, served as Ford's White House chief of staff, and been the CEO of two Fortune 500 companies. They'd been talking about making Rumsfeld CIA director, but maybe that wasn't right. Maybe they needed him back at Defense.
Three days before Christmas, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had a long meeting and lunch. Wiry, cocky, confident with a boyish intensity, Rumsfeld seemed only half his age. He blew into the meeting like a tornado, full of excitement and vision. He knew the Pentagon; he had recently headed commissions on the use of space and the ballistic missile threat. He seemed to know everything.
Bush was surprised to be so impressed. Afterward, he spoke with his incoming White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.
Bush had selected Card, 53, because his father said there was no more loyal person. Back in 1988, Card had been instrumental in his father's win in the critical New Hampshire primary. Later, Card had been Bush senior's deputy White House chief of staff and transportation secretary.
After the 2000 election, Card thought he would be asked to run the transition team. "No, I'm not talking about that job," Bush told him. "I'm talking about the big one." They would have to have a completely candid, unique relationship, Card insisted, setting out his conditions for becoming chief of staff. Access to all people, meetings and information. "I also can't be a friend," Card said.
"Of course," Bush said.
In November, weeks before the Supreme Court settled the election in his favor, Bush announced Card's appointment, intentionally sending the strongest signal: Besides the vice president, Andy Card would be first among equals in the Bush White House, on all matters, at all times.
Coats seemed like a good man, Bush told Card, but the contrast with Rumsfeld was stunning. Rumsfeld understood what military transformation meant—making the weapons and troops more mobile, swifter, higher-tech and more lethal. He was so impressive, Bush said. This is what has to be done. This is how to do it. These are the kinds of people it takes. It was as if he already had a plan. Rumsfeld was 43 when he had the job a quarter century ago. It was as if he were now saying, "I think I've got some things I'd like to finish."
There was another dynamic that Bush and Card discussed. Rumsfeld and Bush's father, the former president, couldn't stand each other. The two had been the young GOP stars in the 1970s, and there was a lingering animosity between them. Bush senior thought Rumsfeld was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian. He believed that in 1975 Rumsfeld had maneuvered President Ford into selecting him to head the CIA. The CIA was at perhaps its lowest point in the mid-1970s. Serving as its director was thought to be a dead end. Though things had turned out differently, Bush senior didn't trust Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had also made nasty private remarks that Bush was a lightweight, a weak Cold War CIA director who did not appreciate the Soviet threat and was manipulated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Card could see that overcoming his skepticism about Rumsfeld added to the president-elect's excitement. It was a chance to prove his father wrong. And Rumsfeld fit Cheney's model.
Cheney had been in charge of the search for Bush's running mate. He'd said he was looking for someone with a broad range of experience. An ideal candidate would know the White House and Congress, have held elected office, have run a large federal executive department. He also had to be someone who wasn't just a creature of Washington. He had to have experience in the real world, the corporate world perhaps. A CEO, for example. Perhaps it was not surprising that Cheney, who had been a congressman, White House chief of staff, secretary of defense and Fortune 500 CEO, would value his own experience and model the ideal candidate after himself. Bush got the message and picked Cheney as his running mate. Now, Cheney seemed to have done it again. He had set up a model for secretary of defense that mirrored his own resume. Cheney thought Bush needed a Cheney at the Pentagon. Nobody resembled Cheney more than Rumsfeld. On paper, at least, they looked almost perfect.
Bush would nominate Rumsfeld, he told Card. Cheney had been selected for his national security credentials. He was the expert, and this was the sort of decision that required expertise. Still, Bush wondered privately to Card about pitfalls, if there was something he didn't see here. After all, his father had strong feelings.
Is this a trapdoor? he asked.
A movie of the George W. Bush presidency might open in the Oval Office a month later, on January 26, 2001, six days after the inauguration, when Rumsfeld was sworn in as defense secretary. A White House photographer captured the scene. Rumsfeld wears a pinstripe suit, and rests his left hand on a Bible held by Joyce, his wife of 46 years. His right hand is raised. Bush stands almost at attention, his head forward, his eyes cocked sharply leftward, looking intently at Rumsfeld. Cheney stands slightly off to the side, his trademark half smile on his face. The man in the black robe administering the oath is Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a close friend of both Rumsfeld and Cheney dating back to the Ford days, when he was deputy and then acting attorney general. It is a cold, dry day, and the barren branches of the trees outside can be seen through the Oval Office windows.
The White House photograph captures a moment tying the past with the future. Back in the days of the Ford presidency, in the wake of Watergate—the pardon of Nixon, the fall of Saigon—Cheney and Rumsfeld had worked almost daily in the same Oval Office where they once again stood. The new man in the photo, Bush, five years younger than Cheney and nearly 14 years younger than Rumsfeld, had been a student at Harvard Business School. He came to the presidency with less experience and time in government than any incoming president since Woodrow Wilson in 1913.
Well into his seventh decade, many of Rumsfeld's peers and friends had retired, but he now stood eagerly on the cusp, ready to run the race again. He resembled John le Carré's fictional Cold War British intelligence chief, George Smiley, a man who "had been given, in late age, a chance to return to the rained-out contests of his life and play them after all."
"Get it right this time," Cheney told Rumsfeld.
in the fall of 1997, former President George H. W. Bush, then age 74 and five years out of the White House, phoned one of his closest friends, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
"Bandar," Bush said, "W. would like to talk to you if you have time. Can you come by and talk to him?" His eldest son and namesake, George W Bush, who had been governor of Texas for nearly three years, was consulting a handful of people about an important decision and wanted to have a private talk.
Bandar's life was built around such private talks. He didn't ask why, though there had been ample media speculation that W. was thinking of running for president. Bandar, 49, had been the Saudi ambassador for 15 years, and had an extraordinary position in Washington. His intensity and networking were probably matched only by former President Bush.
They had built a bond in the 1980s. Bush, the vice president living in the shadow of President Ronald Reagan, was widely dismissed as weak and a wimp, but Bandar treated him with the respect, attention and seriousness due a future president. He gave a big party for Bush at his palatial estate overlooking the Potomac River with singer Roberta Flack providing the entertainment, and went fishing with him at Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine—Bandar's least favorite pastime but something Bush loved. The essence of their relationship was constant contact, by phone and in person.
Like good intelligence officers—Bush had been CIA director and Bandar had close ties to the world's important spy services—they had recruited each other. The friendship was both useful and genuine, and the utility and authenticity reinforced each other. During Bush's 1991 Gulf War to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and prevent him from invading neighboring Saudi Arabia, Bandar had been virtually a member of the Bush war cabinet.
At about 4 a.m. on election day 1992, when it looked as if Bush was going to fail in his bid for a second term, Bandar had dispatched a private letter to him saying, You're my friend for life. You saved our country. I feel like one of your family, you are like one of our own. And you know what, Mr. President? You win either way. You should win. You deserve to. But if you lose, you are in good company with Winston Churchill, who won the war and lost the election.
Bush called Bandar later that day, about 1 p.m., and said, "Buddy, all day the only good news I've had was your letter." About 12 hours later, in the early hours of the day after the election, Bush called again and said, "It's over."
Bandar became Bush's case officer, rescuing him from his cocoon of near depression. He was the first to visit Bush at Kennebunkport as a guest after he left the White House, and later visited him there twice more. He flew friends in from England to see Bush in Houston. In January 1993 he took Bush to his 32-room mansion in Aspen, Colorado. When the ex-president walked in he found a "Desert Storm Corner," named after the U.S.-led military operation in the Gulf War. Bush's picture was in the middle. Bandar played tennis and other sports with Bush, anything to keep the former president engaged.
Profane, ruthless, smooth, Bandar was almost a fifth estate in Washington, working the political and media circles attentively and obsessively. But as ambassador his chief focus was the presidency, whoever held it, ensuring the door was open for Saudi Arabia, which had the world's largest oil reserves but did not have a powerful military in the volatile Middle East. When Michael Deaver, one of President Reagan's top White House aides, left the White House to become a lobbyist, First Lady Nancy Reagan, another close Bandar friend, called and asked him to help Deaver. Bandar gave Deaver a $500,000 consulting contract and never saw him again.
Bandar was on hand election night in 1994 when two of Bush's sons, George W. and Jeb, ran for the governorships of Texas and Florida. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush thought that Jeb would win in Floridaand George W. would lose in Texas. Bandar was astonished as the election results poured in that night to watch Bush sitting there with four pages of names and telephone numbers—two pages for Texas and two for Florida. Like an experienced Vegas bookie, Bush worked the phones the whole evening, calling, making inquiries and thanking everybody—collecting and paying. He gave equal time and attention to those who supported the new Texas governor and the failed effort in Florida.
Bandar realized that Bush knew he could collect on all his relationships. It was done with such a light, human touch that it never seemed predatory or grasping. Fred Dutton, an old Kennedy hand in the 1960s and Bandar's Washington lawyer and lobbyist, said that it was the way Old Man Kennedy, the ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, had operated, though Kennedy's style had been anything but light.
Bandar planned his 1997 visit with the Texas governor around a trip to a home football game of his beloved Dallas Cowboys. That would give him "cover," as he called it. He wanted the meeting to be very discreet, and ordered his private jet to stop in Austin.
When they landed, Bandar's chief of staff came running up to say the governor was already there outside the plane. Bandar walked down the aisle to go outside.
"Hi, how are you?" greeted George W Bush, standing at the door before Bandar could even get off the plane. He was eager to talk.
"Here?" inquired Bandar, expecting they would go to the governor's mansion or office.
"Yes, I prefer it here."
Bandar had been a Saudi fighter pilot for 17 years and was a favorite of King Fahd; his father was the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan. Bush had been a jet pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. They had met, but to Bandar, George W was just another of the former president's four sons, and not the most distinguished one.
"I'm thinking of running for president," said Bush, then 52. He had hardly begun his campaign for reelection as governor of Texas. He had been walking gingerly for months, trying not to dampen his appeal as a potential presidential candidate while not peaking too early, or giving Texas voters the impression he was looking past them.
Bush told Bandar he had clear ideas of what needed to be done with national domestic policy. But, he added, "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy.
"My dad told me before I make up my mind, go and talk to Bandar. One, he's our friend. Our means America, not just the Bush family. Number two, he knows everyone around the world who counts. And number three, he will give you his view on what he sees happening in the world. Maybe he can set up meetings for you with people around the world."
"Governor," Bandar said, "number one, I am humbled you ask me this question." It was a tall order. "Number two," Bandar continued, "are you sure you want to do this?" His father's victory, running as the sitting vice president to succeed the popular Reagan in the 1988 presidential election was one thing, but taking over the White House from President Bill Clinton and the Democrats, who likely would nominate Vice President Al Gore, would be another. Of Clinton, Bandar added, "This president is the real Teflon, not Reagan."
Bush's eyes lit up. It was almost as if the younger George Bush wanted to avenge his father's loss to Clinton. It was an electric moment. Bandar thought it was as if the son was saying, "I want to go after this guy and show who is better."
"All right," Bandar said, getting the message. Bush junior wanted a fight. "What do you want to know?"
Bush said Bandar should pick what was important, so Bandar provided a tour of the world. As the oil-rich Saudi kingdom's ambassador to the United States, he had access to world leaders and was regularly dispatched by King Fahd on secret missions, an international Mr. Fix-It, often on Mission Impossible tasks. He had personal relationships with the leaders of Russia, China, Syria, Great Britain, even Israel. Bandar spoke candidly about leaders in the Middle East, the Far East, Russia, China and Europe. He recounted some of his personal meetings, such as his contacts with Mikhail Gorbachev working on the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. He spoke of Maggie Thatcher and the current British prime minister, Tony Blair. Bandar described the Saudi role working with the Pope and Reagan to keep the Communists in check. Diplomacy often made strange bedfellows.
"There are people who are your enemies in this country," Bush said, "who also think my dad is your friend."
"So?" asked Bandar, not asking who, though the reference was obviously to supporters of Israel, among others.
Bush said in so many words that the people who didn't want his dad to win in 1992 would also be against him if he ran. They were the same people who didn't like Bandar.
"Can I give you one advice?" Bandar asked.
"Mr. Governor, tell me you really want to be president of the United States."
Bush said yes.
"And if you tell me that, I want to tell you one thing: To hell with Saudi Arabia or who likes Saudi Arabia or who doesn't, who likes Bandar or doesn't. Anyone who you think hates your dad or your friend who can be important to make a difference in winning, swallow your pride and make friends of them. And I can help you. I can help you out and complain about you, make sure they understood that, and that will make sure they help you."
Bush recognized the Godfather's advice: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. But he seemed uncomfortable and remarked that that wasn't particularly honest.
"Never mind if you really want to be honest," Bandar said. "This is not a confession booth. If you really want to stick to that, just enjoy this term and go do something fun. In the big boys' game, it's cutthroat, it's bloody and it's not pleasant."
Bandar changed the subject. "I was going to tell you something that has nothing to do with international. When I was flying F-102s in Sherman, Texas, Perrin Air Force Base, you were flying F-102s down the road at another Texas base. Our destiny linked us a long time ago by flying, without knowing each other." He said he wanted to suggest another idea.
"If you still remember what they taught you in the Air Force. I remember it because I spent 17 years. You only spent a few years. Keep your eye on the ball. When I am flying that jet and my life is on the line, and I pick up that enemy aircraft, I don't care if everything around me dies. I will keep my eye on that aircraft, and I will do whatever it takes. I'll never take my eye off."
Former President Bush continued in his efforts to expand his son's horizons and perhaps recruit future staff.
"George W, as you know, is thinking about what he might want to do," he told Condoleezza Rice, the 43-year-old provost of Stanford and one of his favorite junior National Security Council staffers from his White House years. "He's going to be out at Kennebunkport. You want to come to Kennebunkport for the weekend?"
It was August 1998. The former president was proposing a policy seminar for his son.
Rice had been the senior Russia expert on the NSC, and she had met George W. in a White House receiving line. She had seen him next in 1995, when she had been in Houston for a board meeting of Chevron, on which she served, and Bush senior invited her to Austin, where W. had just been sworn in as governor. She talked with the new governor about family and sports for an hour and then felt like a potted plant as she and the former president sat through a lunch Bush junior had with the Texas House speaker and lieutenant governor.
The Kennebunkport weekend was only one of many Thursday-to-Sunday August getaways at Camp Bush with breakfast, lunch, dinner, fishing, horseshoes and other competitions.
"I don't have any idea about foreign affairs," Governor Bush told Rice. "This isn't what I do."
Rice felt that he was wondering, Should I do this? Or probably, Can I do this? Out on the boat as father and son fished, the younger Bush asked her to talk about China, then Russia. His questions flowed all weekend—what about this country, this leader, this issue, what might it mean, and what was the angle for U.S. policy.
Early the next year, after he was reelected Texas governor and before he formally announced his presidential candidacy, Rice was summoned to Austin again. She was about to step down as Stanford provost and was thinking of taking a year off or going into investment banking for a couple of years.
"I want you to run my foreign policy for me," Bush said. She should recruit a team of experts.
"Well, that would be interesting," Rice said, and accepted. It was a sure shot at a top foreign policy post if he were to win.
Bush raised an important issue with his close adviser Karen Hughes, then 43, a former television reporter who had worked for five years as his communications czar in Texas.
He said he needed to articulate why he wanted to be president. "You know, there has to be a reason," he said. "There has to be a compelling reason to run."
Hughes set out to come up with a central campaign theme. She knew Bush had three policy passions. First, there were the so-called faith-based initiatives—plans to push more government money to social programs affiliated with religious groups. That enthusiasm was real, but it couldn't be the backbone of a presidential campaign.
Second, Bush cared about education. But America's schools are run at the state and local level. It would be tough to run for president on a national education platform.
Bush's third belief, in tax cuts, held promise. It could provide the rationale. The campaign autobiography Hughes wrote with Bush—A Charge to Keep, released in November 1999—included 19 provisions about "education" and 17 entries under "taxes." "Faith-based organizations" are mentioned three times. The phrase "foreign policy" occurs twice, both in the context of free trade. There was a single reference to Iraq, no mention of Saddam Hussein, terrorists or terrorism.
During one of the 2000 primaries, Bush called Al Hubbard, a former deputy chief of staff to his father's vice president, J. Danforth Quayle, and one of a group of advisers the elder Bush had recruited to tutor his son on economic issues.
"Hubbard," Bush exclaimed. "Can you believe this is what I'm running on! This tax cut!"
Bush invited Richard L. Armitage, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, to join his team of foreign policy advisers. Armitage, 54, was Colin Powell's best friend. Barrel-chested with a shaved head, a weight-lifting addict who could bench-press 330 pounds, Armitage was a 1967 graduate of the Naval Academy. He signed on because he believed that the Clinton administration had no theory or underlying principle for its foreign and defense policies. It was ad hoc. The Republicans had a chance of getting it right. Armitage was an admirer of Bush senior, who he felt understood the necessity of a strong foreign policy tempered by restraint.
The U.S. military was preeminent in the world and could dominate or stabilize any situation, in Armitage's view. Clinton and his team had failed to develop adequate exit strategies for getting out of foreign entanglements such as Bosnia or Kosovo in the Balkans.
A big job for the next president, he thought, was no less than figuring out the purpose of American foreign policy. Rice's team called themselves the Vulcans. The name started out in jest because Rice's hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, known for its steel mills, had a giant statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metal. But the group, which included Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary for policy in Cheney's Pentagon, liked the image of toughness, and Vulcans soon became their self-description.
In 1999, Armitage attended five meetings with Bush and various Vulcans. He found good news and bad news. The best news was that Bush wanted Powell to be his secretary of state.
At the first Vulcan meeting in February 1999, Bush had asked, "Is defense going to be an issue in the 2000 campaign?" The advisers said they didn't think it would. Bush said he wanted to make defense an issue. He said he wanted to transform the military, to put it in a position to deal with new and emerging threats.
To do that, the advisers said, the military would need new equipment to make it more mobile and modern, and more advanced training and intelligence gathering. This might take 15 to 20 years before the real advantages would be realized. It would certainly be beyond a Bush presidency, maybe not in their lifetimes.
Bush indicated he was willing to make that investment. Armitage and the others worked on a speech that Bush gave at The Citadel, the South Carolina public military university, on September 23, 1999.
"I will defend the American people
against missiles and terror," Bush
said, "And I will begin creating the military of the next century.
... Homeland defense has become an urgent duty." He cited the potential "threat of biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism….Every group
or nation must know, if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating.
"Even if I am elected, I will not command the new military we create. That will be left to a president who comes after me. The results of our effort will not be seen for many years."
Armitage was pleased to see realism in a presidential campaign. He thought that terrorism, and potential actions by rogue states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, could be trouble, but not lethal. The big issues in defense policy were the great power relationships with Russia, China and India.
But there was also bad news about Bush. "For some reason, he thinks he's going to be president," Armitage told Powell. It was like there was some feeling of destiny. Bush talked as if it was a certainty, saying, "When I'm president..." Though not unusual for candidates to talk this way in speeches, Bush spoke that way privately with his advisers. It was as if Bush were trying to talk himself into it.
And there was Bush's smirk, Armitage said.
The big problem, Armitage thought, was that he was not sure Bush filled the suit required of a president. He had a dreadful lack of experience. Armitage told his wife and Powell that he was not sure Governor Bush understood the implications of the United States as a world power.
Among the Vulcans was another veteran of the Cheney Pentagon, Stephen J. Hadley, who had been assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. It was the post Armitage had held in the Reagan administration—a kind of State Department within the Pentagon focusing on foreign relations. Hadley, 52, was as quiet and soft as Armitage could be vocal and hard. Raised in Ohio, Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell and with a Yale Law degree, Hadley was a student of national security with early service on the National Security Council staff in the Ford administration.
Hadley had helped in the preparation of Bush's Citadel speech. When Bush said he wanted a reform or transformation agenda for the Pentagon, several Vulcans demonstrated their knowledge of Army hardware by reeling off the names of some of the lighter vehicles that could be used to replace the heavy tanks. Bush began asking questions about the kinds of lighter vehicles and their various merits.
"You really don't want to go there," Hadley told Bush, "because if you start proposing an alternative to the tank, there are 200 specialists in Washington all ready to jump on what you're saying and say, 'This guy doesn't know what he's talking about.' So stay away."
"Let me tell you how I think about elections," Bush replied. "I want to reform the Defense Department. Now, I run and don't mention it, when I'm elected and go to the Joint Chiefs and say, 'By the way, I want to reform the Defense Department,' they'll say, 'Who are you? You've been elected. You'll be gone in four years. We'll be here. Thank you very much.'
"If I go to the American people and say, 'I'm going to reform the Defense Department. Here's why. Here's what I'm going to do.' And when I get elected and I go to the Joint Chiefs and I say, 'The American people have just elected me to reform the Defense Department. Where do we start?' That makes a big difference." He apparently didn't know that the Joint Chiefs, the heads of the services, serve only four-year terms. He clearly thought of them as a monolith.
At another meeting during Bush's early candidacy, the Vulcans were discussing arms control. Bush had lots of questions and he was getting lots of answers. Hadley told Bush, "They're very good on this stuff. You don't need all the technical stuff. You've got great instincts. If I could urge you to do one thing, it would be 'Trust your instincts.' "
Bush had no problem trusting his instincts. It was almost his second religion. In an interview with me several years later, on August 20, 2002, he referred a dozen times to his "instincts" or his "instinctive" reactions as the guide for his decisions. At one point he said, "I'm not a textbook player, I'm a gut player."
In addition to seeking foreign policy tutors for his son, the former president spent his post-presidential years defending his decisions in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The United Nations had authorized the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein's army from neighboring Kuwait, which Saddam had invaded the previous summer. It was a specific mission, endorsed by most of the world's nations. Saddam's army had been driven out of Kuwait, but because he survived the war and stayed in power, a number of critics, many Republican conservatives, said Bush had screwed up and should have pushed on to overthrow the Iraqi dictator.
On February 28, 1999, the former president was the honored guest at a gathering of some 200 Gulf War veterans at the Fort Myer Army base, just across the Potomac River from Washington.
It burned him up when people said they hadn't finished the job, he said. "Had we gone into Baghdad—We could have done it. You guys could have done it. You could have been there in 48 hours. And then what? Which sergeant, which private, whose life would be at stake in perhaps a fruitless hunt in an urban guerrilla war to find the most-secure dictator in the world? Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power—America in an Arab land—with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous."
As George W. Bush locked up the Republican presidential nomination, Prince Bandar kept in touch. Over the weekend of June 10, 2000, Bandar attended a surprise party for Barbara Bush's 75th birthday at the family retreat in Kennebunkport. Bandar thought it was quaint and old-fashioned, complete with the Bush family members putting on a 45-minute variety show with comic skits. The effort put into these family spoofs astounded him but he found the show hilarious.
George W. pulled Bandar aside.
"Bandar, I guess you're the best asshole who knows about the world. Explain to me one thing."
"Governor, what is it?"
"Why should I care about North Korea?"
Bandar said he didn't really know. It was one of the few countries that he did not work on for King Fahd.
"I get these briefings on all parts of the world," Bush said, "and everybody is talking to me about North Korea."
"I'll tell you what, Governor," Bandar said. "One reason should make you care about North Korea."
'All right, smart aleck," Bush said, "tell me."
"The 38,000 American troops right on the border." Most of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division was deployed there, along with thousands of other Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. "If nothing else counts, this counts. One shot across the border and you lose half these people immediately. You lose 15,000 Americans in a chemical or biological or even regular attack. The United States of America is at war instantly."
"Hmmm," Bush said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea."
"Now I tell you another answer to that. You don't want to care about North Korea anymore?" Bandar asked. The Saudis wanted America to focus on the Middle East and not get drawn into a conflict in East Asia.
"I didn't say that," Bush replied.
"But if you don't, you withdraw those troops back. Then it becomes a local conflict. Then you have the whole time to decide, 'Should I get involved? Not involved?' Etc."
At that moment, Colin Powell approached.
"Colin," Bush said, "come here. Bandar and I were shooting the bull, just two fighter pilots shooting the bull." He didn't mention the topic.
"Mr. Governor," Bandar said, "General Powell is almost a fighter pilot. He can shoot the bull almost as good as us."
Bandar followed W.'s 2000 campaign like a full-time political reporter and news junkie. He appreciated the focus and the method. The candidate's father promised to come to Bandar's estate outside London for pheasant shooting after the election. Bush senior told Bandar, "By the time I come to shoot with you, either we will be celebrating my boy is in the White House, or we'll be commiserating together because my boy lost."
A man with his own addictions and obsessions, Bandar spent immense amounts of time studying the psychology of individual human beings and he developed a theory about what drove George W. Bush's ambition. First, W. had rejected the key figure in his father's rise in politics to the presidency, James A. Baker III, his father's chief political operative and secretary of state. In W.'s opinion, Baker had not done enough in the 1992 reelection campaign, had left his father alone. Barbara Bush thought Baker was out for himself.
But when W. was faced with the Florida recount battle in 2000, he swallowed his pride and named Baker to head the recount effort. Who played the big boys' bloody and cutthroat game better than Baker?
"I think Bush came into office with a mission," Bandar said. "Many people are confusing it with his faith—religious faith. I think he had a mission that is agnostic. That he was convinced that the mission had to be achieved and that he is the only one who is going to achieve it. And it started with: Injustice has been done to a good man, George Herbert Walker Bush, a man who was a hero, who served his country, who did everything right." His father had been a decorated World War II pilot, congressman, United Nations ambassador, Republican National Committee chairman, envoy to China, CIA director, vice president. All the things that W did not do. Then as president, his father went to war in 1991 to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. "And he wins," Bandar continued, "and a charlatan—in his mind—draft dodger, etc., beats him. There is no justice."
Clinton's victory in 1992 was the catalyst. "So from 1992, this young man who was a wild young man in his youth, matured, but with a focuson one mission. There's injustice. There's something not right. I am going to correct it."
After the 2000 election, Bandar visited President Bush in the White House regularly, and kept in touch with Bush senior all the time. On occasion, he saw the father and son together. There was a bonding, an apparent emotional connection, and yet there was a standoffishness, a distance that was not explainable. Many times Bush senior commented to him about policies being pursued by his son.
"Why don't you call him about it?" Bandar asked.
"I had my turn," Bush senior replied. "It is his turn now. I just have to stay off the stage. For eight years I did not make one comment about Clinton. I will not make any comment vis-à-vis this president, not only out of principle but to let him be himself."
In a small fifth-floor corner office of his international consulting firm three blocks north of the White House, Brent Scowcroft, one of the few men as close to former President Bush as Bandar, viewed the fledgling presidency of Bush's son with mixed emotions. A small-framed Mormon with a doctorate in international relations and 29 years of military service, a three-star general in the Air Force, Scowcroft had served as national security adviser to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.
He and the elder President Bush were contemporaries, born just nine months apart. And they were policy soul mates, so close that instead of writing a presidential memoir, Bush had teamed up with Scowcroft to co-author a 566-page book in 1998 called A World Transformed. It was a sort of semi memoir, one of the most unusual books to emerge from a 20th-century presidency. Bush and Scowcroft wrote alternating, dueling sections with occasional snippets of narrative sandwiched between. It demonstrated both men's immersion in the events of the Bush presidency from 1989 to 1992, including revealing though carefully manicured inside accounts of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War.
Scowcroft communicated with Bush senior as much as Bandar did. He knew the father did not want to leave the impression that he was looking over his son's shoulder. If it were even suggested that Bush senior had any hidden-hand presence in his son's administration, in Scowcroft's view it would demean the son and reduce the respect and support for his presidency, even undermine it.
But Scowcroft also knew that it was very personal—a textbook case encompassing more than half a century of subtle and not-so-subtle father-son tensions, love, joy, rivalries and disappointments. After all, Scowcroft knew that here was the father who had done everything—and done everything quite well in his view.
As best Scowcroft could calculate, George W. Bush didn't know who he was until he was about 45. And now he was president? It was astonishing. Now, Scowcroft knew, the father did not want to injure the son's self-confidence. He and Barbara had given the world not only a son but a president of the United States. The father desperately, passionately, wanted him to succeed. The best way to help was to stay out of his way.
"As soon as I take my hand off the Bible, I want a plan of action," George W. Bush told Karl Rove, his chief political strategist, immediately after the Supreme Court declared him the winner on December 12, 2000. "I saw what happened to my old man, whom I love more than life itself, and he got into office and had no plan." He said he'd watched Clinton quickly plunge into controversies of the moment over gays in the military and cabinet appointments. Bush said he wanted to focus on big-agenda items.
"Time is our ally at the beginning of the administration," Bush told Rove. "It will at some point turn against me." He wanted momentum, and he wanted the focus and political debate in the Congress and the country to be on his agenda. "So I want a plan."
Bush had known Rove for 28 years. As one of their most senior Texas political associates explained, "Karl has got a somewhat split personality in that he can be your loyal, dear friend—and cut your throat the next day without thinking about it if he perceives that you're a threat to him." Rove could get paranoid, the Texas associate said, and he never really got the paranoia out of his system. But Bush knew that paranoia—especially Rove's version of it—was useful in politics.
When Bush had decided to run for president, he had asked Rove to divest himself of Karl Rove & Company, his direct mail and political consulting firm. "If you're going to be my guy, you've got to sell your business and be full-time for me. If you're going to be my guy, you're going to be my guy." Rove had strong views and wanted to control many things, and Bush had to cut him off at the knees, at times nicely, at other times quite forcefully.
Now, Bush wanted to make sure "my guy" was right there by his side in the White House. Rove was given no line responsibility but instead a broad and open-ended license to look after two matters: first, Bush's immediate political well-being that day, that week, that month; and second, Bush's long-term political health, positioning him for reelection in 2004.
Rove, 50, set himself up in a second-floor West Wing White House office that had last been used by Hillary Clinton. He believed Bush's re-election prospects would hinge on a successful first term, and in the first months of the Bush presidency that meant one issue: tax cuts, the centerpiece of Bush's domestic agenda. In a debate during the Republican primaries, Bush had said, "This is not only 'no new taxes,' " quoting the campaign pledge his father had made and later broken. "This is 'Tax cuts, so help me God.' "
So Rove threw himself into tax cuts, which he thought would define the Bush presidency. In contrast, and despite all the tutoring, Bush had no plan for foreign affairs. He held no "so-help-me-God" convictions.
in his first Pentagon tour, Donald Rumsfeld had acquired a disdain for large parts of the system he was to oversee once again. He had found the Pentagon and the vast U.S. military complex unmanageable. One night at a dinner at my house a dozen years after he had left the Pentagon the first time, he said that being secretary was "like having an electric appliance in one hand and the plug in the other and you are running around trying to find a place to put it in." It was an image that stuck with me—Rumsfeld charging around the Pentagon E-ring, the Man with the Appliance, seeking an elusive electrical socket, trying to make things work and feeling unplugged by the generals and admirals.
This time he was going to get control. He would not be distracted by outside events. The military services—Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force—were special pleaders, narrow-minded. Though a former congressman, he thought Congress also was narrow, unhelpful, wedded to habit and protocol. Foreign visitors and officials chewed up too much time, and the routine of ceremonies and meetings was a pain in the ass. No, he had big things to do. That meant focus. He was going to change the entire U.S. military, transform it into a leaner, more efficient, more agile, more lethal fighting machine. It was not just important to the military, he felt; it was important to the credibility of the United States.
Shortly after Rumsfeld settled into his office, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Henry H. "Hugh" Shelton, who had been appointed the nation's senior military officer by President Clinton, asked for a private meeting.
"When President Bush took the oath of office, my loyalties immediately shifted to him as commander in chief," Shelton said. "I want to be considered a member of your team."
Shelton, 59, was a paratrooper with 37 years in the military, including two tours in Vietnam. Tall, amiable, never considered one of the Army's intellectuals, Shelton had a direct manner. He knew the value of political loyalty, and how contentious the 2000 presidential election had been. He was making a peace offering to the new regime.
Under recent defense secretaries for the last 15 years, the chairman acted as the link and communications channel between the secretary and the combatant commanders. The model was the 1991 Gulf War, when JCS Chairman Colin Powell had been the main conduit of information and orders between then Secretary of Defense Cheney and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of Operation Desert Storm.
The JCS chairman had potential power and influence, as a go-between and adviser, but he was not in the chain of command.
"What precisely are your duties?" Rumsfeld asked Shelton. Since his first time as defense secretary in the Ford administration, the Goldwater-Nichols reform legislation of 1986 had enhanced the chairman's role, at least on paper.
"I'm the principal military adviser to the president, you and the National Security Council," General Shelton answered, citing his authority from the 15-year-old Goldwater-Nichols law in Title X of the U.S. Code.
"Oh, no," Rumsfeld said, "not the NSC."
Yes, sir, Shelton quietly repeated. The law was clear.
"Not the NSC staff," Rumsfeld said. He had found NSC staffers in the Ford administration troublesome, puffing themselves up as if they spoke for the president.
Not the staff, Shelton agreed. But as the principal military adviser to the NSC, he dealt with the NSC principals—the president, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, the president's national security adviser and the CIA director. Though the law said that the chairman's role was limited to advice, communications and oversight, he had a seat in the White House Situation Room when policy and war were discussed.
Rumsfeld was uncomfortable with a system that interfered with a strict chain of command from the president as commander in chief to him as secretary of defense and then to the military combatant commanders out around the world from the Pacific to the Middle East.
A week later, Rumsfeld told Shelton he had an idea to cut staff. Colin Powell had built the Joint Staff into a powerhouse of hundreds of ambitious middle-level and senior officers. Powell called it an "action staff," organized and dedicated to getting things done. With two- and three-star generals and admirals heading the directorates, the Joint Staff was still often considered the most potent staff in Washington.
It's too big, Rumsfeld said. He wanted Shelton to pare it down, get rid of the people who handled public relations, legislative liaison and legal matters for the chairman. Shelton could use Rumsfeld's civilian staff for those matters.
"Sir, I'm supposed to give independent military advice," Shelton replied. He pointed out that he had probably fewer than 30 people in those three sections while Rumsfeld had over 200. Maybe the civilian side would be the best place to cut? he suggested.
Rumsfeld dropped the matter for the moment.
Shelton was worried about trust between himself and the new secretary. Before Rumsfeld had been confirmed, he had received a chilling warning. A retired Navy captain who had worked for Air Force General George S. Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs during Rumsfeld's first tour as secretary of defense, had sent him a personal letter. It was damning. The captain claimed that Rumsfeld could not be trusted, that he despised the uniformed military.
"You are not going to enjoy this relationship," he wrote. "He will be in control of everything." Shelton shared the letter with several senior generals and admirals.
"God, I hope this isn't true," Shelton said, noting that he had only nine months left to serve as chairman. "I don't want to spend my last year in this kind of environment."
Other retired senior military officers had chilling stories of being dressed down by Rumsfeld. Admiral James L. Holloway, the chief of naval operations from 1974 to 1978, said Rumsfeld had chewed him out in front of 40 other senior military officers and civilians. Rumsfeld was concerned about some congressional testimony and Holloway had attempted to explain.
"Shut up," Rumsfeld said, according to Holloway, "I don't want any excuses. You are through and you'll not have time to clean out your desk if this is not taken care of."
Shelton was concerned as Rumsfeld built a kitchen cabinet of special assistants and consultants within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It was growing into a fortress, old friends and retired military officers. First was Stephen Cambone, a 6-foot-3 defense intellectual who had worked closely on Rumsfeld's space and missile defense commissions in the 1990s. Cambone was named Rumsfeld's top civilian assistant. Second was Martin Hoffman, who had been Rumsfeld's roommate and fellow member of the Princeton Class of 1954, and who had been secretary of the army during Rumsfeld's first Pentagon tour. The two men had been close friends for nearly 50 years. Third was M. Staser Holcomb, a retired Navy vice admiral who had been Rumsfeld's military assistant in the 1970s.
The fourth and perhaps most important member of the kitchen cabinet was Steve Herbits, 59, a lawyer and longtime Rumsfeld friend going back to 1967. Herbits had been one of Rumsfeld's civilian special assistants during the first Pentagon tour, and ran the Defense transition and personnel search for Caspar Weinberger in 1981 and for Cheney in 1989 when each became secretary of defense. Herbits became a top executive at the Seagram Company, the giant liquor business. Probably no one had more longevity or credibility with Rumsfeld on basic military management and issues. Rumsfeld made Herbits a consultant with a license to analyze current problems, and he functioned as a management fix-it man somewhat as Karl Rove did for President Bush.
Herbits, who was also a gay rights activist and occasional contributor to Democratic candidates—and thus highly unusual among Republican defense experts—was known for his incisive, provocative, slashing dissections of personnel and institutions. Rumsfeld appreciated his style and skill at cutting through the normal fog of Pentagon paperwork and lowest-common-denominator analysis.
Rumsfeld and Cambone were looking for a senior military assistant, a key post on Rumsfeld's team. Previously, the position had been held by a three-star general or admiral. Nope, Rumsfeld said. He wanted to demonstrate what downsizing was about. The Pentagon bureaucracy was bloated, and the military kept putting officers of higher and higher rank in key positions, a kind of rank inflation. Rumsfeld wanted to go down two full ranks to not even a two-star but a one-star officer—a junior flag officer.
They thought of a Navy rear admiral named J. J. Quinn, who had headed the Naval Space Command and had given candid testimony the previous year to Rumsfeld's space commission. Quinn, a 1974 Naval Academy graduate, had testified in secret that the small Navy space program should ideally be increased to assist the war-fighting commands. If it wasn't expanded, maybe the Navy should get out of the space business altogether. It was almost unheard of to have a military commander suggest that his command be eliminated.
Rumsfeld and Hoffman called Quinn in for an interview. Quinn, 48, 6-foot-2, had been the captain of the baseball team at the Naval Academy. Rumsfeld, a former Navy pilot, delved into Quinn's career.
Quinn was a naval aviator though not a pilot. He had flown in the back seat of F-14 fighter jets as the radar interceptor officer and later as a Top Gun instructor. He had served in the White House as a military aide to President Reagan for 19 months, and to President Bush senior for five months, carrying the so-called football, or codes for nuclear war.
Rumsfeld asked Quinn about his service as commanding officer of an F-14 squadron on the USS Ranger during the 1991 Gulf War. Quinn described flying 51 strike escort and photo reconnaissance missions in 43 days. After the war, he went to the grueling 20-month nuclear power school founded by the late Admiral Hyman Rickover in preparation for command of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Rumsfeld asked about his time as commanding officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
"The best time of my life," Quinn said. He'd commanded a crew of 5,000 and some $12 billion worth of ship and equipment. Command at sea was the emotional pinnacle for a Navy officer, as Rumsfeld knew. "That's what we live for," Quinn said.
Marty Hoffman grabbed a piece of blank paper and asked Quinn to write something to see if Rumsfeld could read his handwriting.
Quinn wrote, "Mr. Secretary, I really want this job."
"I can read that," Rumsfeld said chuckling. Within two weeks, Quinn was sitting at the desk in a small office adjacent to Rumsfeld's beneath a framed picture of several Civil War generals' aides standing around holding the reins of their bosses' horses. Called The Horse Holders, the picture had been signed by the previous senior military assistants to the secretaries of defense. Among the signatures was that of Colin Powell, who had held the post for Secretary of Defense Weinberger and was now Bush's secretary of state.
On Friday, February 16, Rumsfeld's 21st day in office, two dozen U.S. and British planes bombed 20 radar and command centers inside Iraq, enforcing the no-fly zones the United Nations had put in place after the 1991 Gulf War. These were the largest strikes in two years. A general from the Joint Staff informed the White House about the bombing, but Rumsfeld felt he had not been fully brought up to speed and he was livid. Information from the commanders in the field was being routed to him through Shelton. It could take six to ten hours before he learned what had happened.
"I'm the secretary of defense," he said. "I'm in the chain of command." He—not the generals, not the Joint Staff—would deal with the White House and the president on operational matters.
Rumsfeld demanded that Shelton do a detailed reconstruction of the process. Why had those targets been selected? Who had approved them? Who had briefed? Who knew? Who was thinking? The attacks had been against Iraqi long-range search radars outside Baghdad. The explosions were heard in the Iraqi capital. So there was CNN coverage, and it looked like an air strike on Baghdad, grabbing international attention. For a brief moment it had looked like the new Bush administration had launched a war against Saddam Hussein in its first month.
Rumsfeld felt he had been misled, not warned, not given the full story in advance.
Vice Admiral Scott A. Fry, the director of the Joint Staff and General Shelton's right-hand man, thought Rumsfeld had a point. They should have made it clearer. They had failed to anticipate and they had violated the no surprise rule—don't surprise the boss.
Fry, a 51-year-old, 1971 graduate of the Naval Academy, was one of the Navy's most promising officers. As a junior officer he had read about the careers of some of the top admirals, and he had dreamed about being director of the Joint Staff. In his view it was the greatest job in the U.S. military for a three-star officer. He had previously served as executive assistant to the chief of naval operations, been the deputy in the Joint Staff plans and policy directorate (J-5), and gone on to command an aircraft carrier battle group—the USS Eisenhower, two cruisers, four destroyers and two submarines—the backbone of the Navy. He was then made director for operations (J-3), and finally given the most coveted position, director,
Rumsfeld's attitude was one of fundamental distrust, Fry realized. So that meant they would have to prove themselves. One day he took two slides classified confidential on a minor operational issue up to Rumsfeld's office. He was going over them with Steve Cambone when Rumsfeld came in.
Why are they classified confidential? Rumsfeld asked.
Fry wasn't sure. It was the lowest level of classification. Most matters that came to the secretary had much higher classifications—SECRET, TOP SECRET, code word special access programs, special compartments to limit distribution of sensitive information. Soon Rumsfeld, Cambone and Fry were in a discussion about classification. It turned out, Fry conceded, that these particular slides didn't really need to be classified at all. He wanted to review the substance.
No, Rumsfeld said. Please go down and get new slides and bring them back properly marked unclassified.
Fry talked to Shelton, who unloaded about the nonstop questions from Rumsfeld: Why did the chairman have a special assistant who traveled with Secretary of State Powell on trips abroad? What was that all about? Rumsfeld wanted to know. Who did he report to? What was the information flow? When would he, Rumsfeld, learn about what Powell was doing? Tell me again why you have a lawyer.
Rumsfeld sent short notes all around the building, called "snow-flakes," asking questions, seeking detail and asking for reconstructions when it was unclear to him what had happened. He'd developed the snowflake system early in the Nixon administration, when he led the Office of Economic Opportunity. Though unsigned, everyone knew they represented orders or questions from the boss. But if a snowflake leaked, it provided deniability—no signature, no clear fingerprints. He was quite proud of his new management tool. When Rumsfeld had been ambassador to NATO from 1973 to 1974, his memos were on yellow paper, called "yellow perils." Now they were once again on white paper, and "snowflake" was resurrected.
Rumsfeld either scribbled out his notes or dictated them, and Delonnie Henry, his confidential assistant, then typed them out. Rear Admiral J. J. Quinn, the new military assistant, became the keeper of the snowflakes. There were roughly three kinds—administrative ("call and arrange a lunch with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan"—an old Rumsfeld friend from the Ford days), simple thoughts or personal reflections, and calls for information or action. Some were quite broad and asked for a lot. Quinn delivered them, often by hand if they were urgent and important. Rumsfeld kept copies of the snowflakes in files on his desk. He had a file for Shelton, another for Quinn, one for Cambone and others for his top aides.
In an interview later, Quinn said, "It was a simple, efficient way for him to keep track of what he had asked for and what he wanted to get done. It was a way for him to get his arms around this big behemoth called the United States military."
Rumsfeld was into everyone's business. No one was immune. Many in the Pentagon looked at the snowflakes as an annoyance. Others found them intrusive and at times petty. For some, there was no way to keep up.
Vice Admiral Fry told the Joint Staff this was an opportunity to examine what they were doing and why. Soul-searching and introspection were good, it would be good for the Joint Staff. "We need to do this," he said. "We'll get through this. We'll gain his confidence. He'll get comfortable with us."
Under the old system, as practiced by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and General Shelton, when there was a significant incident—a ship collision, violation of the no-fly zones in Iraq, or in the extreme an outbreak of war—the duty general or admiral in the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which was part of the Joint Staff and manned around the clock, would call Shelton. Rumsfeld wondered to Shelton why he didn't get called first. He was in the chain of command, not Shelton. He, Rumsfeld, reported to the president. Shelton replied that he often had to get answers from the duty general or admiral. He had to anticipate the secretary's questions so that when he called Rumsfeld, he'd have answers.
Oh, no, Rumsfeld said. He wanted to know first. Suppose it was serious and he had to call the president? Since the command center monitored the world, the duty officer called Shelton regularly. Whenever this happened, Rumsfeld demanded a full reconstruction of the timeline— when Shelton got called, when Rumsfeld got called, what information each received, and explanations for the delays and discrepancies in the reports. It was almost a daily occurrence. Rumsfeld brought in another retired admiral to do a study of the NMCC. As the overseer of the NMCC and the duty officers, Fry was in the middle.
On Thursday, March 15, 2001, the 53rd day of the Bush presidency, Prince Bandar went to the Oval Office with his loyal aide-de-camp, Rihab Massoud. Condoleezza Rice, who was now Bush's national security adviser, attended. It was highly unusual for an ambassador to have Bandar's kind of direct access to the president.
Bandar complained about a remark Secretary of State Powell had made in congressional testimony a week earlier. The United States planned to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to "the capital of Israel, which is Jerusalem," Powell had said. Since Arabs claimed that part of Jerusalem is Palestinian, it was outrageous.
Bush said he knew how sensitive Jerusalem was to the Saudis. Powell had probably misspoken.
In a message from the Crown Prince, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Bandar said that moving forward on the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, which had just elected Ariel Sharon its new leader, was critical to building a coalition of moderate Arabs to pressure Saddam Hussein. He asked how much longer the enforcement of the United Nations no-fly zones over Iraq would continue. Two years? Five years? Ten years? "This is costing us militarily, financially, but much more importantly politically," he said. "And it is not hurting Saddam Hussein."
Bush seemed to agree. "If there is any military action, then it has to be decisive. That can finalize the issue," the president said. "The Iraqi opposition is useless and not effective." They discussed the difficulty of using covert action to overthrow Saddam. The president expressed concern about increases in worldwide oil prices, something the Saudis influenced heavily. He said he would like to see Bandar at least once a month. He wanted honest talk.
Bandar was elated. He sent a secret message to the Crown Prince: "Many positive signs as far as relations and issues that are of concern to both countries. Loyalty and honesty are sensitive issues for this president. It is important that we invest in this man, in a very positive way."
Rumsfeld was trying to define the task before him and get everything down on paper. His dictations, memos, drafts, redrafts and snowflakes reveal his conviction that he faced huge obstacles. On March 20, he dictated a four-page memo, "Subject: The Challenge—the Importance of Succeeding."
After two months on the job, it is clear that the Defense establishment is tangled in its anchor chain," he dictated. Congress required hundreds of reports. The Pentagon couldn't construct a $500,000 building without congressional approval. There were so many auditors, investigators, testing groups and monitors looking over their shoulders at the Pentagon, more perhaps, "at 24,000 on any given day, than the U.S. Army has deployable front-line troops with weapons." The military's personnel policies "were designed to manage a conscript force of single men" and had not been changed for "a volunteer force with families." Military officers were transferred "from assignment to assignment every 20 to 25 months or so, to the point that successful officers skip across the tops of the waves so fast that even they can't learn from their own mistakes." The military fringe benefits "mindlessly use the failed Soviet model centralized government systems for housing, commissaries, healthcare and education, rather than using the private sector competitive models that are the envy of the world."
Distrust between Congress and the Defense Department was so great, he said, that "from a practical standpoint, the DOD no longer has the authority to conduct the business of the Department.
"The maze of constraints on the Department force it to operate in a manner that is so slow, so ponderous and so inefficient that whatever it ultimately does will inevitably be a decade or so late."
Without changing and fixing the relationship with Congress, Rumsfeld concluded, "transformation of our armed forces is not possible."
Six days later, he snowflaked Wolfowitz, Cambone and two others asking for their edits and ideas. This "Anchor Chain" memo became notorious among Rumsfeld's staff as they watched and tried to help him define the universe of his problems. By April 10 he had dictated a 10-page version, and by May 1 it had grown to 12 pages. By then he had found that Congress required 905 reports a year. The 1962 Defense Authorization Act had been a single page; in 1975 when he'd been secretary it was 75 pages. "Today the Act has ballooned to 988 pages."
It sounded like he had almost given up fixing the Pentagon during the George W. Bush presidency. The task was so hard and would take so long, he dictated, that "our job, therefore, is to work together to sharpen the sword that the next president will wield."
"I've got four drafts of it," I told Rumsfeld in a 2006 interview.
"Do you really?"
"Yes, sir," I said, handing him copies. "I wanted to give you copies." "It got better," he said.
"It did," I agreed. "It almost looks like you're struggling, if I may be frank with you."
"This is a difficult job here," he said. "This is not easy, this department. And I can remember having been here a month or two and standing at my desk at night, reflecting over this whole thing and saying, Okay, I was asked to do this job. I've accepted. And what is it? How do you define the job and what are the problems you're facing and what are the obstacles to getting it done? And what's doable and what isn't doable?"
I quoted from the last draft of the memo: "We'll have to do it for the next president."
"You know," he said, "in a place this big that's almost true of everything." He noted that back in 1975 as secretary of defense the first time he had approved the Ml tank that was used in the first Gulf War and the recent invasion of Iraq. He also had approved the F-16, which was still being used in air operations over Iraq. He spoke almost wistfully. "These decisions you make play out over a long period time, either to the benefit of the country, or conversely to the detriment of the country if you fail to do something."
on April 1, China forced down a U.S. Navy EP-3E spy plane and took its 24 crew members hostage, the first major foreign policy crisis of the new Bush administration. The White House was determined to keep President Bush away from the delicate hostage situation. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had given hostage-takers leverage by becoming emotionally involved in trying to get back Americans held in Iran and Lebanon. In Carter's case, it had led to a general sense of impotency and fear in the country, with ABC News running a nightly show called America Held Hostage and prominently reminding viewers each day how long the Americans had been held. Under Reagan, the hostage crisis had led to secret arms sales to Iran and the biggest scandal of his presidency, Iran-contra. The image of powerlessness his predecessors had endured would not be allowed to develop in the George W. Bush administration.
Secretary of State Powell was given the assignment of negotiating a settlement with the Chinese. Powell enlisted Prince Bandar, who had special relations with the Chinese through various deals to purchase arms and missiles. China was also beginning to rely on Saudi oil.
Bandar eventually got the Chinese to release the 24 hostages. Never modest about his influence, Bandar considered it almost a personal favor to him. The Chinese wanted a letter from the United States expressing regret. It was the kind of diplomatic gobbledygook that was Bandar's specialty. As the Chinese wanted, the United States would say it was"very sorry" the spy plane had entered Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, while the United States would not apologize for what it considered a legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. The National Security Agency was monitoring Bandar's calls with the Chinese, and sending reports to Powell about the various negotiations, including the final deal Bandar arranged. Powell called Bandar with congratulations.
"Hey, it's great!" he said.
"How the hell do you know?" Bandar asked.
Having jumped the gun, Powell sheepishly tried to get out of explaining. Bandar knew his calls were monitored, but he and Powell couldn't really talk about one of the most sensitive and classified intelligence-gathering operations of the U.S. government involving communications among foreign governments. So for a year Powell and Bandar laughed and half joked about it without ever really defining it.
Rumsfeld demanded a full reconstruction of the timeline of the EP-3 flight from the first moment. He didn't like any aspect of it. The EP-3 was being followed closely and harassed by a Chinese fighter, and there had been a collision. One question was whether the U.S. pilot had made the right decision to land in China. As Rumsfeld dug deeper, he was asking what these intelligence missions accomplished. Who authorized them? Who assessed the value of the intelligence that was gathered? What about the risks versus the rewards? That led to more questions and a top-to-bottom evaluation of intelligence-gathering missions from all U.S. military airborne platforms.
"Painful, but important," Fry told the Joint Staff and the intelligence experts. Such potentially high-risk missions had been going on for years and were on a kind of automatic pilot. They needed to be reexamined, Fry thought, but as Rumsfeld turned over rocks, he was finding too many worms.
The question was when to resume the EP-3 missions off the Chinese coast. A few days later Rumsfeld convened a secure conference with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard B. Myers and Admiral Dennis Blair, the commander in chief of Pacific Command, the combatant commander in the region. General Shelton was traveling so Myers represented the JCS. The gentlemanly, 6-foot-3 1/2-inch Air Force general had been Shelton's deputy for just over a year. A Vietnam combat pilot who flew F-4 Phantom fighter jets, the soft-spoken Myers had served as the commander in chief of the U.S. Space Command before becoming the vice chairman in March 2000.
Rear Admiral Quinn took notes as Rumsfeld, Admiral Blair and General Myers conferred.
Blair recommended that they restart the spy missions soon. The Chinese alleged the flights violated their airspace, but the U.S. recognized a 12-nautical-mile limit and did not want to concede anything or cave in to Chinese intimidation. Blair outlined a rough schedule for resumption of flights.
"Denny," Rumsfeld said, "that sounds like a good plan. Send me a one-page message that outlines the exact details so I can show it to Condi Rice and Colin Powell tomorrow morning." He had a secure conference call with Rice and Powell at 7:15 a.m. each weekday.
Aye aye, sir, Blair said.
The next morning Quinn was in by 6 a.m. looking for Blair's message when Rumsfeld called.
"I don't see the message from Denny Blair," he said.
"Mr. Secretary, I'm searching for it too and can't find it."
Quinn popped into Fry's office before 7 a.m. Fry was in a meeting. His executive assistant, a Navy captain and stickler for the chain of command, looked kind of funny at Quinn when he asked about the message from Admiral Blair. Apparently Blair had addressed the message the old way—only to Shelton and the JCS, not to Rumsfeld.
Fry's executive assistant said that since it was addressed only to the JCS, his hands were tied. "I can't give it to you."
When Fry returned, his executive assistant held up a copy of Blair's message. "Oh, by the way," the captain said, "I'm telling J. J. Quinn that the secretary can't see this until the chairman has seen it."
Quinn remembers also asking Fry for the message and maintains that Fry also refused to hand over a copy of the message. Fry places the responsibility on his executive assistant.
Whatever the case, Quinn returned to Rumsfeld's office to report. "Mr. Secretary, the message is in the Joint Staff director's office and they refuse to give it to me."
Rumsfeld picked up the phone. Shelton was still traveling, so he summoned Vice Chairman Myers.
Myers came rushing up to Rumsfeld's office. "What's the problem, Mr. Secretary?"
"What the hell are you guys thinking down there?" Rumsfeld exploded. "I can't believe this."
Quinn was standing on the other side of the room. Rumsfeld was about as furious as he had ever seen a human being.
"Where is the loyalty here?" Rumsfeld shouted, and proceeded to give Myers a royal ass chewing. It had been months of being tangled in the anchor chain. Frustration came pouring out. In his own quarter of a century in the Navy, Quinn had never seen anything quite like it as he froze in place.
Myers insisted they were not trying to keep anything from the secretary. That would be absurd. They had both been on the conference call with Blair. Obviously, there had been some routing mistake. Yes, clearly Rumsfeld was the boss. He tried to defend the Joint Staff.
Rumsfeld would not hear of it, as he continued to rip Myers up one side and down the other. Quinn looked at the clock and recalls it registered 7:02 a.m. The Powell-Rumsfeld-Rice conference call was coming up in 13 minutes.
When it was over, Myers walked out and turned to Quinn. "What the hell is going on?"
Quinn filled him in, and Myers flew down to get a copy of the message, which he brought back to Rumsfeld's office in time for the conference call.
After the call, Rumsfeld came on the squawk box in Quinn's office. "Can you come in?"
Quinn went in and Rumsfeld asked his opinion about what had happened.
"Mr. Secretary, next time you have to dress down a four-star officer like that, I think I'll make myself disappear."
"No, you won't. I want you there as a witness." He asked Quinn to get the Pentagon general counsel. He wanted to inquire about his legal authority over the Joint Staff and his power to fire people.
Rumsfeld was beside himself. Most of his key civilian appointees had not yet been confirmed. He complained that he felt like he was running the Pentagon alone. He didn't have his team. "I'm here and I don't have anybody working for me," he said. Edgy and fed up after weeks of feeling that the chain of command was not being enforced, he leaned on his consultant Steve Herbits.
"I want to talk to the combatant commanders," Rumsfeld told Herbits.
"They report to me. That's what the law says." He told Herbits he was learning things too late from the Joint Staff time and time again. He was furious with Shelton and Fry.
"You've got to fire somebody," Herbits proposed. "You've got to let people know who's boss here. Here's a perfect example." Fry seemed incompetent. "Fire Fry."
Word soon reached Shelton, who was back, that Rumsfeld was planning to do precisely that. Shelton and Myers thought they had explained the screwup about the message from Admiral Blair, and had promised it would not happen again. Shelton wasn't sure if it was that or if it was a new problem, so he stopped by Fry's office to see what snowflake answers might be due Rumsfeld.
Steve Cambone had issued an edict that all snowflakes would get a response within 24 hours, and Fry explained that he was trying to keep up. At times he felt that he had most of the Joint Staff working on Rumsfeld's queries. "There aren't enough people in the Pentagon to respond to all the snowflakes that are coming down from the third deck"—the third floor, where Rumsfeld had his office.
Shelton could see that Fry, a tireless worker with a real leadership future ahead of him, was exhausted, working weekends and staying up half the night trying to answer snowflakes.
Shelton bolted up to Rumsfeld's office and barged in, forcing a confrontation.
"If you're not happy with Scott Fry," the chairman said, "he works for me, and if you're not happy with him, it means you're unhappy with me. You can have two for the price of one," Shelton said.
Rumsfeld seemed to jump back and heatedly denied that he had any plan to fire Fry.
Shelton went back down to Fry's office.
"You've never had any leave," Shelton said. "You've never had a day off. You've been here every day that I've been here. Why don't you take a couple of days off?"
"Ah, bullshit," Fry responded. "We're doing fine."
"Take a couple of days off," Shelton ordered. "I'll see you Thursday."
Fry's day began about 6 a.m. when he would go to the National Military Command Center to get briefed on overnight developments, review messages, and make phone calls around the world to get updated. At 7 a.m. he briefed Shelton for the chairman's own 8:30 a.m. meeting with Rumsfeld. Fry then represented the Joint Staff at a larger meeting Rumsfeld had later in the morning. At that meeting, Rumsfeld went around the table and asked if anyone had something to offer. "Nothing this morning, Mr. Secretary" was Fry's usual refrain because everything he knew of significance that morning he had passed to Shelton, who had already informed Rumsfeld.
"Fry comes to my meeting," Rumsfeld told his staff. "He never has a goddamn thing to say."
On April 25, 2001, ABC television ran an interview with Bush about his first 100 days. The interviewer, Charles Gibson, asked Bush whether the U.S. had an obligation to defend Taiwan.
"Yes, we do. And the Chinese must understand that," Bush replied.
"And you would..."
"Yes, 1 would."
"With the full force of the American military?"
"Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself."
It was one of the strongest statements the U.S. had made about the delicate issue of Taiwan. The Chinese were very upset.
Condoleezza Rice called Brent Scowcroft, who had had her job under Bush's father, and asked him to come see the president. Scowcroft met privately with Bush and Rice.
How do I get out of this? Bush essentially asked.
After listening to Scowcroft, Bush asked him to go on a secret mission to China to meet with President Jiang Zemin and explain U.S. policy. Scowcroft, who was going to China on private business, agreed to talk with Jiang on the president's behalf. He told the Chinese leader that Bush's policy was to defend Taiwan if the island was attacked unprovoked, but if the Taiwanese took action to change the status quo on their own, the United States would not defend them. Jiang and Bush seemed satisfied, and Scowcroft's secret mission never became public.
Scowcroft was delighted to see the administration recover from its misstep. Getting off on a balanced, moderate footing was the key ingredient, in Scowcroft's and Bush senior's view, of a strong and sensible foreign policy. It was good news.
Rumsfeld's daily 7:15 a.m. secure phone call with Powell and Rice was causing trouble. With all his contacts from his 35 years of previous military service, as Reagan's national security adviser, and now as Bush's chief diplomat, Powell gathered more intelligence than perhaps any single other individual in the U.S. government. His best friend, Richard Armitage, now the deputy secretary of state, conducted an aggressive daily sweep during his meetings and phone calls—"Feed the Beast," he would say. He wanted something good to pass to Powell. "Give," he often said emphatically.
In the morning Rice-Powell-Rumsfeld phone calls, Powell often had something new from abroad or the Washington information chain. He relished these moments when he could drop a little item involving the military that Rumsfeld had not heard about. At the later morning meeting with Shelton, a frequent Rumsfeld question was "Why is it that Powell knew this and I didn't?" This often led to reconstructions of the information flow. How was it that someone out there in the vast U.S. military enterprise knew something potentially or obviously important and it didn't make its way to the secretary of defense? One of Rumsfeld's favorite questions for Shelton was: How come the combatant commanders talk to you, when they work for me?
The snowflakes came fast and furious. At one point Fry realized he couldn't create a tracking system that could adequately monitor all that impacted the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff. This was because Rumsfeld sent snowflakes to almost everyone, whatever their rank or position in the Pentagon. Snowflakes sent to others often got rerouted to Fry in whole or in part, and suddenly there would be a massive request and only hours to answer. Rumsfeld, however, had his own tracking system, which led to more queries and follow-on snowflakes about what had happened to the unanswered snowflakes.
One day Cambone got chewed out by Rumsfeld and came whimpering into Quinn's office. 'Am I doing that badly?" he asked.
Another day, Quinn approached Vice President Cheney at a Pentagon reception and asked for any advice. "Here's what I can tell you about Don Rumsfeld," Cheney said. "You're never going to get any credit. And you'll only know how well you're doing if he gives you more work. If that happens, you're doing fine."
As Quinn saw it, Rumsfeld was on a necessary and noble mission. For eight years under Clinton the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff had taken control of the Pentagon. Rumsfeld was trying to wrest the power back from them and put it under proper civilian control. Quinn's relations with Fry and the other senior flag officers on the Joint Staff were awful. They wore their superior rank, and Quinn found he was not able to transmit Rumsfeld's requests and orders with the authority and urgency with which they had been issued. One day Fry complained to Quinn that Rumsfeld and his civilians were not cooperating with them—the Joint Staff—as if they were in charge.
Quinn's wife and two young daughters were living about an hour and a half away in Maryland where the Naval Space Command was located, so Quinn got home for only part of each weekend. He tried to arrange for housing at one of the local bases closer to the Pentagon, and got in a horrendous fight with the Army. Cambone intervened, but it seemed to be a little harassment campaign, and Quinn never got local base housing. Fry thought it was consuming an inordinate amount of Quinn's time and emotional energy, and began complaining that Quinn was underperforming.
For Quinn, the housing issue was incidental. He felt he couldn't do his job, so he took matters into his own hands and went to Rumsfeld.
"You've got to make a change here in your military assistant," he said. "I am a one-star. The three- and four-stars won't listen to me. They go around me. They go through me. The culture doesn't allow me to pass on orders."
"No," Rumsfeld said. "Our chemistry is good. We'll work through this."
But Rumsfeld complained to Herbits about the disorder in his own office. Everything moved too slowly and he didn't like the way the uniformed military was responding to him. So Herbits packed up his things from the transition offices downstairs in the Pentagon and moved up to Rumsfeld's suite, so he could keep an eye on the traffic of people and paper. He took over a desk between Admiral Quinn and Rumsfeld's civilian special assistant, Steve Cambone.
After several weeks of watching Quinn's performance, Herbits walked into Rumsfeld's office.
"This isn't going to work," he said, echoing Quinn's self-evaluation.
"Why?" Rumsfeld inquired.
Quinn was a competent, decent officer, but in the rank-conscious military, his single star gave him insufficient clout. He was just one step above a Navy captain or Army colonel, and he couldn't really pass on orders or talk as a peer with the three-stars on the Joint Staff and elsewhere. Quinn was being ignored by Fry and the others. The link between the secretary's military assistant and the director of the Joint Staff was critical to the functioning of the Pentagon, Herbits said. It was one of the most important relationships in the building. In some respects it was the most important, and it wasn't working.
That spring the Navy announced that it was going to resume bombing exercises on a small island off Puerto Rico called Vieques. There was a long history of controversy. Two years earlier a civilian security guard had been killed during one bombing run; protesters occupied the range and in 2000 the successful candidate for governor of Puerto Rico made expelling the Navy from Vieques the centerpiece of her campaign.
"I need to get smart about Vieques," Rumsfeld told Quinn. "Call down to the Navy. Tell them I want a briefing. No more than five to 10 charts." He hated the 60-slide, show-and-tell, death-by-PowerPoint briefings renowned in the Pentagon. "A 10-minute briefing and then 20 minutes of discussion," he ordered.
Quinn passed the instructions to the senior Navy operations admirals in the Pentagon and to the four-star admiral in charge of the Atlantic Fleet. He was explicit—no more than five or 10 slides, 10 minutes of briefing followed by a serious 20-minute discussion of the issues. The discussion was always the part Rumsfeld's active mind liked.
The Atlantic Fleet four-star soon showed up in Rumsfeld's office with eight people and 60 slides. The admiral got through 15 slides in the allotted half hour with Rumsfeld rolling his eyes and jumping in his seat.
"I'm going to have to stop this briefing," Rumsfeld said, made some excuse and shooed everyone out.
"Didn't you tell them what I wanted done?" he later complained to Quinn.
It had all been repeated and repeated—everything but an engraved invitation, Quinn said.
"They don't listen, do they?" Rumsfeld said.
"The culture doesn't allow a one-star to do this," Quinn repeated.
On the Vieques problem, Rumsfeld told Quinn, "We'll give them the island back and buy another one. It's a political and media nightmare." But Rumsfeld was deeply concerned about the Navy, his old service. During his first days back at the Pentagon, a Navy submarine, the USS Greeneville, was practicing an emergency surfacing off the coast of Hawaii and struck a Japanese fishing boat, killing nine, including some Japanese students. Then there was the EP-3 spy plane incident, and now Vieques.
At 7:51 a.m. on April 27, Rumsfeld dictated a snowflake summarizing his own thoughts and feelings.
"The problems in the Navy may be systemic. It is one thing if you make mistakes when you are pushing the envelope. It's another thing if you make mistakes walking to work."
Shelton was growing despondent. Rumsfeld was suggesting that Shelton should give his military advice to the president through Rumsfeld. Shelton reiterated that since Title X made him the "principal military adviser" to the president, he didn't see how that could work. He had to give his advice directly.
"You are not providing added value," Rumsfeld said once during a visit to the Tank, the Joint Chiefs' conference room.
Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations, 56, bespectacled and studious, pushed back. We can't even get copies of all the studies your consultants are doing, Clark said. There was one document in particular he hadn't been allowed to see. "How can you ask us to comment on this when we have never even seen the document?"
Rumsfeld hotly disputed this. "Well, that's not true. That document's wide open for all of you."
"Mr. Secretary," Clark said, "I called your office myself 30 minutes ago to get a copy of that document and I was told by your office that I was not authorized to see it."
Rumsfeld said he had the studies done because the Joint Staff was essentially useless. They specialized in thick studies that took months or more, didn't cut to the essential issues, and were basically unreadable. "I can't get a product out of these guys," he said.
Clark disagreed. He had been director of the Joint Staff earlier in his career, and he said they did some great work. Rumsfeld ought to appreciate it, Clark said; if he didn't yet, he'd learn to.
Rumsfeld scoffed. Afterward, he went back to his office with Quinn. "Did you see your CNO down there?" Rumsfeld asked.
"Yes sir," Quinn replied. "First time I ever saw a four-star throw some mud back at you."
Quinn made another run at getting himself relieved. "Mr. Secretary, you need to find the biggest, baddest three-star in the building and make him your senior military assistant. And somehow you need to signal that this is your guy, that this is the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Then the other admirals and generals will take him seriously."
All Rumsfeld did was smile.
In interviews later, Quinn said that the uniformed military believed that Rumsfeld was engaged in a hostile takeover. "I was considered a traitor," Quinn said.
Herbits discovered that probably the best candidate to replace Quinn was the deputy chief of naval operations for resources, warfare requirements and assessments, Vice Admiral Edmund R Giambastiani, a nuclear power submariner. Often called "Admiral G" because many people had trouble pronouncing his name, Giambastiani was a 1970 Naval Academy graduate. He had skippered the Navy's only nuclear-powered, deep-sea research submarine, NR-1, and later commanded a fast-attack nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Russell, that conducted some of the most sensitive and high-risk covert Cold War missions, spying on the Soviet Union. He'd been a special assistant to the deputy CIA director in the 1980s, and had most recently commanded the Navy's entire Atlantic submarine fleet.
Vern Clark, the Navy CNO, was on the third hole of a golf course at Nags Head, North Carolina, soon afterward, when he received a call telling him to phone Secretary Rumsfeld at a specific time that would be right about when he would finish the first nine holes. Clark was one of the most improbable men to head the Navy. Unlike 25 of his 26 predecessors, he was not a "ring-knocker," a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. A person of deep Christian faith, Clark had graduated from Evangel College, a small church-affiliated school in Missouri. He had gone to officer candidate school in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. He had quit in 1972 after his first tour of duty because he did not respect most of the officers who were making the Navy a career, but rejoined the following year, believing the Navy was something he should do for a while.
An at-sea commander, Clark had served General Shelton in the premier Joint Staff billets: director of operations, or J-3, overseeing all actual military operations, then later as his director of the Joint Staff. Some 25 years earlier Clark, as a Navy lieutenant, had been the commanding officer of a patrol gunboat, the USS Grand Rapids (PG-98). His executive officer had been a lieutenant junior grade named Scott Fry, now the Joint Staff director.
Though Rumsfeld had profound doubts about the Navy and Fry, he believed that CNO Admiral Clark was on the road to fixing the Navy.
"I've got an issue here that's developed with my military assistant," Rumsfeld said when he reached Admiral Clark. "You know, it's just not working out."
"Well, I can understand," Clark said. He knew about Rear Admiral Quinn's struggles. "Anything we need to do. You need to have the best support up there that we can get you."
"Well, I don't want him to get hurt," Rumsfeld said.
"Mr. Secretary, I can do something about that," Clark said. "I can assure you that I will order him to command of a carrier battle group, which is the premier thing that could be done in his grade. It will be no harm, no foul. And it will be up to him to make the rest of his future. I can do this in a matter of minutes. So this is done. We've got to protect you and the office, and obviously the people leaving there must do well. So this is a done deal."
"Okay, Vern. Great. Well, thanks."
Clark was about to hang up.
"Whoa, Vern. Wait a minute. I've got to have a replacement."
"They are telling me about an Admiral G that works for you."
"You've got to be kidding, Mr. Secretary."
"Is he any good?"
"Of course, he's good. He ran my transition team. He's fabulous."
Clark said that Rumsfeld didn't have a three-star billet for his military assistant but it could be worked out. "Same rules apply," he said, "You've got to be taken care of."
Admiral G was in his office when he received the call.
"The secretary of what?" Giambastiani asked.
"The secretary of defense."
"I don't know the secretary of defense."
"Well, he wants to see you."
"i’ve written these two things," Rumsfeld said to Giambastiani. "Would you read them and critique?"
The first document was just a page but the other was about five pages reflecting on the differences in the Pentagon between Rumsfeld's first tour in 1975-77 and 2001, the latest version of the "Anchor Chain" memo. Critiquing the papers was just the kind of little test Giambastiani loved, the meticulous nuclear-power-trained mind forced to pry apart the exact meaning and discover what had been left out and what questions were unasked. He spent about 45 minutes reading and critiquing. Rumsfeld asked him to stay for lunch and the next day called and asked him to become his military assistant.
In early May, Rear Admiral Quinn left to command the USS Truman carrier battle group, and three-star Admiral G moved to Rumsfeld's office as senior military assistant. One distinct advantage he immediately had was that as a 1970 Naval Academy graduate he outranked the 1971 Naval Academy graduate Scott Fry.
The previous month, Rumsfeld had sent a two-sentence snowflake to the deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. "A person in Illinois sent me this interview from 22 years ago, where I talk about government. You might want to read it." A photocopy of an article from a 1979 Fortune magazine was attached. Rumsfeld was opining on what it was like to be a former top government official in the world of business. He talked about setting up task forces, getting rid of underperforming businesses, and management style.
"I was a flight instructor in the Navy," Rumsfeld had said. "The first thing a fledgling pilot usually does, when he climbs into a plane, is to grab hold of the stick and squeeze it so hard that he gets a sore arm. With a grip that tight, every movement is jerky. When government officials get into a tight situation, they have a tendency to do the same thing. They get jerky, over-control, micromanage."
Some of the senior civilians Rumsfeld appointed were astonished and alarmed at how hard he was now squeezing the Pentagon controls. He micromanaged daily Pentagon life and rode roughshod over people. Rumsfeld had picked Powell A. Moore, 63, a Georgia native with more than four decades in Washington, to be his assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, the key link between the Pentagon and the Congress. Moore had a long and colorful history in Washington, including serving as one of the spokesmen for the Nixon reelection committee who had had the unenviable task of issuing categorical denials to Watergate stories. He knew how to work for difficult people. Moore had accepted the job as congressional liaison with an agreement that he would have direct access to Rumsfeld. They had many discussions about the care and feeding of the elected representatives.
Few better understood the Congress or how to oil the machine to make it work than Moore. But former Congressman Rumsfeld was not interested. Moore was surprised at Rumsfeld's contempt for Congress. He did not attempt to disguise his feelings.
In one public confrontation at a hearing with Senator Susan Collins, the earnest Maine Republican, Rumsfeld had put her down in a manner that was stunning even for him. Collins's voice had quivered at one point. Later, Moore suggested to Rumsfeld that he call her, try to smooth things over.
"Hell," Rumsfeld said, "she needs to apologize to me."
Another time Moore saw a draft of a harsh letter Rumsfeld had dictated to Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Tone it down, Moore recommended.
"If you let people kick you around," Rumsfeld told him, "they'll do it again and again and again."
Rumsfeld's micromanaging was almost comic. On one occasion, he led a delegation from Congress to the funeral in Columbia, South Carolina, for Representative Floyd Spence, a Republican who had been a pro-Pentagon hawk for three decades. Moore had arranged the seating on Rumsfeld's plane the way everything was done in Congress, by seniority.
"I don't want this," Rumsfeld declared and personally rearranged the seating, putting Representative Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who would soon become the House Armed Services Committee chairman, in the back.
In May, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, the majority leader, wanted one of his former aides named assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisitions. There was a big shipbuilding installation at Pascagoula, Mississippi, so for Lott it was home-state politics.
Steve Herbits had another candidate in mind, someone he thought had more experience, and he was trying to get the appointment through. Herbits had planned to leave the Pentagon to go home to Florida by mid-May. According to some of the arcane rules for government contractors, it wasn't even clear he could legally stay at the Pentagon beyond May 15.
Lott apparently didn't know about Herbits's impending departure, and put a hold on many confirmations from Defense.
"If you want your people confirmed, send Herbits back to Florida," Lott told Rumsfeld.
The secretary was in a bind. "If I cave in to that blackmail, I'll be blackmailed all the time," he told Moore. He called Herbits in.
"You can't leave," he said.
"Because I can't be looking like I'm bowing to Lott."
Eventually Herbits's time was up, though, and he went back to Florida for a while. Senior Pentagon civilians were soon being confirmed by the Senate.
Rumsfeld had been a champion wrestler at Princeton in the 154-pound class, and Moore found that nearly every conversation with him was a wrestling match. Who's going to get on top? Who's going to take the other person down? Once Moore asked Rumsfeld about his golf game. "I play it like I wrestle." Moore took that to mean that Rumsfeld gripped too tight and swung too hard at the ball, classic mistakes in golf.
The secretary was never satisfied with what came out of the building, so he sent over a draft of upcoming congressional testimony on a new defense strategy to one of his best friends, Kenneth Adelman.
Adelman had first worked for Rumsfeld in 1970 when Rumsfeld headed the Office of Economic Opportunity, a federal anti-poverty agency, under President Richard Nixon. Another of Rumsfeld's assistants at OEO had been Dick Cheney. Adelman had also been Rumsfeld's civilian special assistant during his first tour as secretary of defense, and later served as head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan administration. Adelman had a doctorate in political theory and was an outspoken, pro-military hawk.
Before every "good" inauguration—meaning inaugurations of Republican presidents—Adelman and his wife hosted a black-tie dinner at their home. Rumsfeld and Cheney regularly attended, but in 1981, Rumsfeld wanted to have a brunch at the Jockey Club before the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, and instructed Adelman, "Invite someone new, and just make sure that he's interesting." Adelman brought a 38-year-old professor at Johns Hopkins University named Paul Wolfowitz, who had been a deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Carter administration. After the brunch, both Cheney and Rumsfeld reported that they had been very impressed. They wondered where Wolfowitz had come from and how he knew so much.
Afterward, the Rumsfeld and Adelman families often vacationed together, staying at Rumsfeld's homes in Taos and Santa Fe, and his apartment in Chicago. In 1986, Rumsfeld took the Adelmans to his vacation home in the Dominican Republic.
"I'm running for president," Rumsfeld told Adelman. "I want you to run it."
"It's a specialized field," Adelman protested. He wouldn't know the first thing about managing a presidential campaign.
"You'll learn it," Rumsfeld said.
No way. Rumsfeld didn't need an amateur.
"You can do the issues."
Adelman laughed. "No, you know you'll do that yourself."
"You can write speeches then."
"No, I've already done that." He would of course support his old friend's candidacy and help out, but he wouldn't run the campaign.
Rumsfeld's presidential ambitions sputtered early the next year when he couldn't raise the money, but the friendship flourished.
Now, Adelman, 54, read the planned testimony for the big rollout of Rumsfeld's new national defense strategy. "The testimony is getting there nicely," he wrote in a three-page snowflake of his own to Rumsfeld, "but still needs labels for the Secretary's new approach." He proposed "A MARGIN OF SAFETY FOR AMERICA."
He also offered two warnings.
"After our democracies defeated the
twin totalitarian monsters of Nazism and Communism," Americans expected an era of peace. Not so fast, Adelman said, noting that in 1914 the
same expectation had prevailed. He quoted the "young but ever-wise
Winston Churchill," who sarcastically summed up such optimism:
"War is too foolish, too fantastic, to be thought of in the twentieth century. ... Civilization has climbed above such perils….The interdependence of nations . . . the sense of public law. . . . have rendered such
nightmares impossible." Adelman noted that "Churchill delivered the
punch line in his most ironic voice: ‘Are you quite sure? It would be a pity
to be wrong.' "
Adelman added, "It was a pity, with the First World War breaking out that very year, only to be followed by an even more disastrous Second.
Unimagined wars become unimaginable tragedies. Some sixty million deaths showed what a huge pity it was to be so wrong."
Rumsfeld wrote "use" in the margin by the Churchill quote.
The last paragraph of the Adelman memo said: "ADD IN SOMEWHERE: On not knowing where the threat will come—surprise element. My successor and then predecessor, Dick Cheney, when taking office, could not have imagined that his main military confrontation would be the then-friendly country of Iraq. The country was never mentioned in Cheney's confirmation testimony and no senator thought to ask him any question about Iraq."
Rumsfeld's May 16 snowflake on Adelman's comments remarked that they were "first-rate" and should be incorporated. "I think this Churchill quote definitely should be used."
Twelve days later, in a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Rumsfeld used the Churchill quote in full and then added that to expect the end of wars in the 21st century, "would be much more than a pity."
Ten days later Rumsfeld used the Churchill quote at a NATO meeting in Brussels. At his Senate testimony on Defense strategy, he noted that Cheney had not mentioned Iraq in confirmation testimony in 1989, and used Adelman's "margin of safety" language to define the strategy.
In May, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia publicly refused an invitation to the White House, saying the United States was blind to the plight of the Palestinians. "Don't they see what is happening to Palestinian children, women, the elderly—the humiliation, the hunger?" the Crown Prince said.
On June 1, a suicide bomber attacked a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing 21, the largest attack in nine months. "I condemn in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv this Sabbath evening," Bush said in response. "There is no justification for senseless attacks against innocent civilians." Two days later, Prince Bandar and Rihab Massoud had dinner in the White House residence with Bush, Powell and Rice.
Bandar brought a lengthy outline of a paper on how the Arab world viewed the United States. It was all part of Bush's education on the ways of the world—as seen through Saudi eyes—a remarkable, five-hour session that started at 7 p.m. and kept Bush up well past his bedtime.
The situation in the Middle East was getting worse, Bandar said. “This continuous deterioration will give an opportunity for extremists on both sides to grow and they will be the only winners. The United States and the Arab mutethila"—friendly moderates—"will pay a very high price." He continued, "There is no doubt that moderate Arab countries, as well as the United States, have lost the media war and the Arab public opinion. What the average Arab person sees every day is painful and very disturbing. Women, children, elderly are being killed, tortured by the Israelis."
Israeli military units, often armed with U.S.-made weapons, were making raids into Palestinian territory as reprisals for attacks. The previous year a Palestinian boy had been killed by Israeli troops while his father tried to shield him—an image played over and over on Arab television.
Bandar said it added up to an image that the U.S. stood behind the Israelis, with the goal of destroying the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian economy. "The continuous use of American-made weapons against civilians, against Palestinian institutions and entities confirms to public opinion that resisting Israeli occupation by all possible means is then considered legitimate in the mind of the Arab Street."
Bush, Powell and Rice tried to rebut, but Bandar went on. He was not necessarily talking about facts but impressions. "Such impressions become fact in the Arab minds," Bandar said, and that "will have a total devastating and extremely dangerous impact on U.S. interests in the region. And unfortunately, the impression the Arab world has now of the United States, the only superpower in this world, isn't of a just and fair country but as one totally on the side of the Israelis."
Bandar cited examples of the United States condemning violence when Israelis were killed—as Bush had done two days before—"and at the same time, total silence when something similar happens that caused the killing of Palestinians." This jeopardizes the "work of the countries that are too close to the United States, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan."
Bandar said these countries realized the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, but it looked one-sided. "The United States has to find a way to separate the actions of the Israeli government and its own interests in the region."
Overall regional deterioration had, he said, "even threatened the internal situation in Jordan and therefore King Abdullah's position internally is shaken. President Mubarak is also having a very difficult situation." In a highly unusual but careful admission, he said that even in Saudi Arabia, "for the first time in 30 years we are facing a very questionable internal situation."
Bandar knew which buttons to push. "The continuous deterioration is creating a golden opportunity for Saddam Hussein: one, to create an artificial petroleum crisis and disturb the market." Second, he said, "Saddam's continuous calling for jihad against the Zionist enemy and the imperialist America will create a very fertile ground." The Arab Street will act, he said, particularly "in the absence of real, genuine American involvement and balanced policies."
The collapse of the Palestinian Authority, he said, "as well as the loss of hope among the Palestinians will create a very dangerous situation and not only difficulty for the United States and the moderate Arab states but even for Israel."
Bandar launched into a searing critique of Israel's policy of destroying the homes of anyone involved in terrorism against Israel. "How would you, Mr. President, think the American people would react if McVeigh who did the Oklahoma City bombing, you go and destroy all the McVeigh family's homes?"
Bandar was imploring. "Mr. President, you've got to do something. You've got to do something. I mean, you're killing us basically. We are being slaughtered right and left, and you're not doing anything."
Bush had vehemently criticized Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his decision at the last minute to walk away from a settlement with Israel at the end of the Clinton administration. "Arafat is a liar," Bush said. He was impossible to work with, to trust. He would not negotiate with him.
"Fine," Bandar said, "he's a liar. We know that. You know that. He's a schmuck. But he is the only schmuck we have to deal with." The problem was larger than one man.
Bandar's final message was: "The region is boiling and it's building and it's building."
On June 16, Bush was in Slovenia for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, part of his first major overseas presidential trip. The president stood waiting for Putin's arrival with Donald B. Ensenat, an old fraternity buddy who had been sworn in just 10 days before as the chief of protocol at the State Department. Both men were members of the Yale Class of 1968, and had been members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, known as "Deke." Bush's first mention in The New York Times, in November 1967, had been as a former Deke president defending the practice of branding new fraternity pledges with a hot coat hanger.
In an interview in 2002, Bush gave me the following account of his conversation with Ensenat as they waited in the 16th-century Slovenian castle for a foreign head of state.
"It's amazing, isn't it, Enzo?" Bush said, calling Ensenat by his fraternity nickname.
"Yes, Mr. President."
"It's a long way from Deke House at Yale."
"Yes, Mr. President."
on July 10, 2001, CIA Director George Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror organization. Black laid out the case, comprised of communications intercepts and other TOP SECRET intelligence, showing the increasing likelihood that al Qaeda would soon attack the U.S. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided that he and Black should go to the White House immediately. Tenet called Condoleezza Rice from the car, and said he needed to see her now. There was no practical way she could refuse such a request from the CIA director.
For months Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders called findings that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Perhaps a dramatic appearance—Black called it an "out of cycle" session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice— would get her attention.
Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence he'd seen. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming. He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.
Tenet, 48, the husky, gregarious son of Greek immigrants, had been head of the CIA for four years. He was the only Clinton administration holdover to serve on George W. Bush's National Security Council, and thus the only NSC member who had been serving in November and December 1999, just before the Millennium, when a series of worldwide al Qaeda plots had been disrupted. The current situation seemed reminiscent to Tenet.
Back in 1999, the National Security Agency had intercepted a phone call by a bin Laden ally saying, "The time for training is over." The intercept had led to the breakup of attacks in Jordan and Israel. A 32-year-old Algerian jihadist, Ahmed Ressam, had been caught trying to enter the United States from Canada before Christmas 1999 with explosives for an attack on Los Angeles International Airport. Tenet had called the CIA to battle stations. "The American people are counting on you and me to take every appropriate step to protect them during this period," he said in a cable before the turn of the Millennium. There could be 15 or 20 attacks, he warned President Clinton. He spoke with the chiefs of 20 key friendly foreign intelligence services, triggering anti-terrorist operations and arrests in eight countries.
Now, Tenet thought he was seeing something similar, possibly much worse. The NSA was intercepting ominous conversations among bin Laden's people—more than 34 in all—in which they made foreboding declarations about an approaching "Zero Hour," and a pronouncement that "Something spectacular is coming." Ten days earlier, on June 30, Tenet had ordered all his station chiefs to share al Qaeda intelligence with friendly local governments abroad and argue that their intelligence services should disrupt suspected terrorist cells in their countries. As he'd done in 1999, Tenet followed up on July 3 with personal calls or contacts with the chiefs of the same 20 friendly foreign intelligence services, asking them to detain named al Qaeda suspects in their countries and harass members of other terrorist cells affiliated with al Qaeda.
They did not know when, where or how, but Tenet felt there was too much noise in the intelligence systems. Two weeks earlier, he had told Richard A. Clarke, the NSC counterterrorism director, "It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one."
But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Rumsfeld had questioned all the NSA intercepts and other intelligence. Could all this be a grand deception? Rumsfeld had asked. Perhaps it was a plan to measure U.S. reactions and defenses. Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts. They concluded they were genuine al Qaeda communications. On June 30, a TOP SECRET senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined, "Bin Laden Threats Are Real."
Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice. He and Black, 52, a veteran covert operator with thinning hair and an improbably soft voice and manner who resembled a taller version of Karl Rove, had two main points when they met with her. First, al Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly within the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to act right now, that very moment, to undertake some action—covert, military, whatever—to thwart bin Laden.
The U.S. has human and technical sources, and all our intelligence is consistent, the two men told Rice. Black acknowledged that some of it was uncertain "voodoo," but said it was often this "voodoo" that was the best indicator.
They both felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. Bush had said he didn't want to swat at flies. As they all knew, a coherent plan for covert action against bin Laden was in the pipeline, but it would take some time. In recent closed-door meetings the entire National Security Council apparatus had been considering action against bin Laden, including the use of a new secret weapon: the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, that could fire Hellfire missiles to kill him or his lieutenants. It looked like a possible solution, but there was a raging debate between the CIA and the Pentagon about who would pay for it and who would have authority to shoot. Besides, Rice had seemed focused on other administration priorities, especially the ballistic missile defense system that Bush had campaigned on. She was in a different place.
Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. Black felt the decision to just keep planning was a sustained policy failure. Rice and the Bush team had been in hibernation too long. "Adults should not have a system like this," he said later.
Black calculated that if they had given him $500 million of covert action funds right then and reasonable authorizations from the president to go kill bin Laden, he would have been able to make great strides if not do away with him. Bin Laden operated from an unusual sanctuary in Afghanistan, which was ruled by the extremist Taliban. Possible covert action was no mere abstraction. Over the last two years—and as recently as March 2001—the CIA had deployed paramilitary teams five times into Afghanistan to work with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, a loose federation of militias and tribes in the north. The CIA had about 100 sources and subsources operating throughout Afghanistan. Just give him the money and the authority and he might be able to bring bin Laden's head back in a box.
The July 10, 2001, meeting with Tenet, Black and Rice went unmentioned in the various reports of investigations into the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, but it stood out in the minds of both Tenet and Black as the starkest warning they had given the White House on bin Laden and al Qaeda. Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork about the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about. It was what happened in investigations. There were questions they wanted to ask, and questions they didn't want to ask.
Philip Zelikow, the aggressive executive director of the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the terrorist attacks, and a University of Virginia professor who had co-authored a book with Rice on Germany, knew something about the July 10 meeting. Indeed, Tenet and Black had demanded action that day, but it was not clear to Zelikow what immediate action really would have meant. The strategic warning Tenet and Black gave lacked details. When? Where? How?
Besides, Zelikow concluded, the planning for covert action to go after bin Laden in his sanctuary in Afghanistan actually did go forward at a pretty fast clip—quite fast for a national security bureaucracy, he felt, although the plan was not approved before the September 11 attacks. In fact, Rice had a National Security Presidential Directive to launch a new covert war against bin Laden set to go to Bush on September 10, 2001. It was NSPD-9, meaning eight other foreign policy matters had been formally debated, agreed on and signed by the president as administration policy before the plan to go after bin Laden.
Rumsfeld worked weekends. One Saturday in early August 2001 he summoned Shelton, the operations director, and all the section chiefs involved in the 68 war plans on the shelf, including the major war plans for Iraq and North Korea. It was a grueling session. Rumsfeld wanted to examine the assumptions. "I sat there and these people couldn't believe it," he told me in an interview. "It took most of the day. And then one colonel would pop up and he'd go through the assumptions and I'd discuss them and talk about them. And then the next guy would come up and we went through one after another after another." The formal guidance for these plans from the secretary of defense and the president was in some cases four or five years old. "Yet it had never been even discussed here," in the secretary's office, Rumsfeld recalled with disdain.
"We are going to be here for about a week if we keep up this pace," Admiral Giambastiani told Rumsfeld during the Saturday session.
Rumsfeld was not going to give up. The plans seemed to be stymied by the technical problem of matching objectives with force levels. This was the grunt work, in his opinion, that the colonels solved just by throwing more and more troops into the war plans. They were risk-averse. He wasn't. He was willing, even eager, to assume risk.
Shelton had been chairman since 1997. His four-year term would be up in the fall. Rumsfeld assigned the sensitive task of helping find a successor to Staser Holcomb, the kitchen cabinet consultant and retired vice admiral who had been his military assistant 25 years earlier. Holcomb started with a staggering list of 150 officers. He interviewed half himself, culled the list and consulted about 40 active and retired military and civilians—people he called "trusted old hands." The list included some retired officers and some three-stars who were technically not eligible. He listed a dozen characteristics the new chairman should have, including "candor and forthrightness—willingness to disagree, then effectively support the decisions reached."
The prospect that a three-star or a retired officer might jump to the chairmanship sent shock waves through the senior, four-star ranks of the active military.
Holcomb had been asking to see Marine Commandant General James L. Jones, a tough, 6-foot-5 Marine who had a cosmopolitan side. Jones, who had grown up in Paris and was fluent in French, had graduated from Georgetown University in 1966 with a degree in international relations. He had joined the Marines through officer candidate school the next year and served as a platoon leader in combat in Vietnam. He'd had all the right assignments—chief aide to the Marine commandant, Marine division commander and then, in 1997, military aide to Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Cohen and Jones were close friends, going back nearly two decades when Cohen was a U.S. senator from Maine and Jones, then a major, had been the Marine liaison in the Senate. Cohen had seen that Jones was appointed commandant, the senior Marine and member of the Joint Chiefs. Jones knew that the Cohen connection made him suspect in the Rumsfeld Pentagon.
When Holcomb went to see Jones, he said part of his work for Rumsfeld was to identify bright two- and three-stars who thought the right way on transformation. Holcomb said he was going to be there only six weeks.
"Admiral," Jones said, "everyone who has been in here has said that."
Jones thought that was part of the problem with the Rumsfeld model. The U.S. military was not a think tank where consultants, moving in and out with big, new, bold ideas, could really help.
Still, Jones was on Holcomb's list as a possible chairman. He was called with no advance warning on a Saturday morning for an interview with Rumsfeld about the JCS chairmanship. During Rumsfeld's first months back at the Pentagon, Jones had found himself largely in the dark about what the secretary was doing. As the top Marine—counterpart to Vern Clark at the Navy—he also couldn't get copies of some of the studies Rumsfeld assigned to his civilian staff and consultants.
Jones always had time and showed respect for anyone, whatever their rank or station in life, and he was surprised by Rumsfeld's curt manner. The secretary at times didn't even say hello. Jones felt that Rumsfeld was mostly concerned with his own ideas. He gave the appearance of being deliberate and thoughtful but he often shot from the hip. Rumsfeld's self-importance and arrogance infected everything, Jones concluded. Who would want to be his chairman and senior military adviser, given that it appeared Rumsfeld didn't really want military advice? He wanted voluminous information and detail from others, but then he would only follow his own advice.
Jones took the unusual step of declining the interview, saying he wanted to remain Marine commandant.
Shelton, an Army man, had concluded that the best person to succeed him was the chief of naval operations, Admiral Clark. Though Clark had only been the CNO for about a year, his performance as Joint Staff operations director and overall staff director meant he knew the system. In Shelton's view, Clark was unusual: a team player with fierce independence. If Clark disagreed, he said so. But his style was straightforward and not threatening. Clark was the one officer who might survive Rumsfeld and preserve some sense of dignity and independence for the uniformed military. This had to be done before Rumsfeld changed the system forever.
With an MBA from the University of Arkansas, Clark tried to keep up with best-selling business books. One favorite was Jim Collins's bestseller, Good to Great, about businesses with average performances that suddenly experience high growth. Collins's book stresses the importance of humility, discipline and how an individual's core beliefs help define a corporate culture. It had a lasting impact on Clark.
"What does this person really believe?" became Clark's frequently asked question as he evaluated the Navy's senior officers. It created problems when an individual's beliefs did not align with the culture and values of an organization.
As the sweepstakes to replace Shelton opened in the summer of 2001, Clark received a message that he was to see President Bush in several days.
Clark called his former deputy, Admiral G, in Rumsfeld's office.
"What is this all about?"
"This is about you interviewing to be the chairman," Giambastiani said.
"Well, bullshit, I'm not going to be interviewed to be chairman without at least talking to Don Rumsfeld. Nobody's talked to me about that."
Sir, you're kidding! Giambastiani replied. Rumsfeld and Clark had met recently. "What did you do in there the other day?"
"We talked about all the candidates and who the players were and who the leaders were in the department and their qualities."
"You never talked about you?"
"You're on the short list," Giambastiani said.
Clark felt that preferably the next chairman should not come from among the current heads of the four individual military services. Ideally the new chairman should be selected from the combatant commanders—the CINCs, short for commanders in chief—who controlled operational forces, such as Admiral Blair in the Pacific or Army General Tommy Franks in the Middle East.
Under the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, power had shifted from the service chiefs to the CINCs. Service chiefs, himself included, were too parochial. They simply recruited, equipped and trained their individual services. The CINCs, on the other hand, used the forces and fought the wars. These were joint commanders—a Navy admiral or Air Force general might lead Army and Marine ground forces—and the future of the military was in jointness, the services working together. In Clark's view they needed a sitting CINC who had done it, practiced jointness, to move up to the chairmanship. Clark had been a CINC—head of the Atlantic Command, but only for five months before becoming the CNO. As CNO he had no real operational role, but he had an important job as the top Navy admiral. And Clark believed he was on the road to improving the Navy.
"I'm not going to see the president," Clark told Giambastiani, "until I've at least talked to Don Rumsfeld about this."
admiral Giambastiani squeezed in an appointment for Clark to see Rumsfeld at 6:45 p.m. on a Friday. Rumsfeld was in a hurry that night, and they agreed to meet on Sunday after church.
Clark opened strong. "I'm not going over there to talk about this. You and I have never even had the discussion about this." Clark told Rumsfeld they needed to discuss all the issues to see what their priorities and goals and beliefs were. Were they the same? What did Rumsfeld want? They needed an understanding. There was lots of confusion about the chairman's role. Clark believed in setting priorities; in the Navy, he focused on five top priorities. If you had 100 priorities, nothing got done. What were Rumsfeld's priorities for the entire United States military?
Rumsfeld waved away the questions.
"You don't trust us," Clark said, going to the heart of the matter, realizing that it was the first time he had a chance to get his true feelings about Rumsfeld off his chest.
"Well, of course I trust you," Rumsfeld said with his best bedside manner. "You're the leader of the United States Navy." Then he turned on a dime. "How could you say that?" he asked sounding both confrontational and hurt. Then back to the Dr. Rumsfeld routine, saying, "I have great confidence," and laying it on pretty thick.
Clark realized that the effusive praise was an astonishingly effective way of pushing away the issue of trust. He didn't want to be picky and small in this interview but he brought up all the studies and reports that Rumsfeld kept from the Joint Chiefs. "Mr. Secretary," he said, "you have locked us out of this process. As a result, I have read everything that I'm allowed to see, and at this stage still some of the things have not been released to us.
"I don't know that you and I, Mr. Secretary, are on the same page for us to be able to lead the United States military and for me to be your senior military adviser. If I'm going to be your senior military adviser, you have to know what I think and I have to know what you think."
Rumsfeld indicated that Clark was making too much of a bunch of paper. "We'll have other times to talk about this," he assured Clark.
"More than anything else, sir, I do not want to go to the White House tomorrow and have a meeting with President Bush where the first thing he asks is, 'Vern, do you want to be chairman?' We are not ready for that kind of conversation."
"Okay, no problem," Rumsfeld said. "The president will not offer you the job tomorrow. It will not be handled like this. This is a preliminary interview."
In that case, Clark agreed. "Sir, I'm on for tomorrow."
Before his meeting with Bush, Admiral Clark pulled out a copy of the Title X Goldwater-Nichols law on the Joint Chiefs and the chairman. In addition to designating the chairman as the "principal military adviser" to the president, defense secretary and NSC, the law said that the other service chiefs were also military advisers, and if they disagreed with the chairman their views should be presented as well. On the way to the White House, Clark reminded himself to stress that the Joint Chiefs were not a one-man band.
Clark's only real interaction with Bush had been six months earlier on January 20, 2001, at Bush's inaugural parade. When a large Navy contingent walked by the reviewing stand in front of the White House, Clark, as the top admiral, was escorted up. He saluted Bush and stood by his side, describing the various Navy units. As the last one passed by, Clark squared his heels and saluted again.
"Mr. President," he said, "it's a pleasure to be here today and be part of this significant event. And the men and women of the United States Navy are prepared to serve under your leadership. And on a personal basis I want you to know I'll be praying for you."
Bush had blanched.
clark was greeted in the Oval Office by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. After a few moments of small talk the president said, "Well, Vern, what would you think about being chairman of the Joint Chiefs?"
Clark shot a glance over at Rumsfeld, and realized he was going to have to tap-dance his butt off. He went into his Rotary Club ramble to keep from saying anything. He said how honored he was to serve as chief of the Navy, and how jointness—the services operating together—was the future.
Bush asked some general questions about the Navy.
Clark had his stock speech down pat and he went into an account of his top five priorities to change the Navy, with a focus on people, readiness and new shipbuilding.
In a little set piece that he hoped would be music to Bush's ears, Clark said that in the 1990s the nation had stopped talking about service, including the military. "My Navy's part of it," he said. "It was all 'I, I, Me, Me!' I'm not getting this and I'm not getting that—pity party feeling about life." Clark continued, "You know, I am a person of faith."
The president just nodded.
"My dad was a preacher," Clark continued. Before his first meeting as CNO with all his subordinate admirals, he said, an aide told him, "We need a revival meeting." Clark recounted how he then spoke to the admirals and said, "We are a people of service. And quality of service doesn't just mean quality of life"—medical care, base housing and other fringe benefits. Service meant "We're going to start talking about quality of work." Service meant giving of yourself for a higher purpose.
"Mission is number one," Clark said. "The Continental Congress did not create a Navy so we could cut a fine silhouette on the horizon. Our business is about taking it to the enemy."
Clark mentioned that Rumsfeld liked to talk about "transformation," meaning modernization and change in the military. He said that he had been doing "transformation" before the word was used, certainly before Bush became president and Rumsfeld became secretary of defense.
Cheney said hardly a word, and after the meeting Rumsfeld said nothing to Clark. Clark felt the meeting had been ho-hum, and he didn't think anyone learned much.
Several weeks later, Clark got word that Cheney wanted to meet with him alone. The meeting was scheduled to last 20 minutes, clearly a pro forma effort. The White House was checking the boxes and Clark felt he was not a serious candidate. However, he had time to prepare.
"I don't know if you remember, but I was the guy standing over your shoulder during the Gulf War," Clark said. "I was the guy that shoved the stack of deployment orders over to you."
Cheney didn't pretend to remember. Clark had been a Navy captain then.
On the overall military situation, Clark indicated that it was a time of difficult adjustment but he felt the principles of transformation being pursued by Rumsfeld were correct.
Cheney wanted to know how he'd risen to become the Navy chief.
Clark said that in 2000 Secretary of Defense William Cohen's civilian chief of staff had asked him, "Vern, how did this get so screwed up?" referring to the Navy. Clark said his answer was "They picked the wrong people." Only one of the top five admirals in the Navy had ever commanded a carrier battle group. There were too many desk admirals. Picking the right leaders with the right operational experience was critical. "Whatever you do, don't let it get like that again," he told the vice president.
Clark said that he had started "stupid study" or "stupid school" for the new admirals. Instead of the old indoctrination for new flag officers built around etiquette, how to hold a knife and fork at foreign embassies or the White House, they now had a two-week course focused on core issues. "Admirals didn't know anything about finance," he said. They only knew how to spend money, not how to manage budgets. So they taught real finance to the admirals. From his studies about how to be a CEO, he tried to get the admirals to spend their time according to the modern business model: one third of the time on the top priorities, one third on executive placement and development, and the final third on evaluating the product or results.
"You know," Clark added, "in this town we never do the last one third. We just build a new budget. That is wrong. We have got to figure out how to do this better. That's what I'm teaching my guys to do. This was part of my agenda. It wasn't Don Rumsfeld's agenda. This was what we came here to do."
Cheney was receptive, so Clark turned to goings-on during the Clinton administration. It was clear that the vice president liked to hear these old war stories.
"Make sure you have people around that will tell the president exactly what the facts are and not like we did in Kosovo," Clark said. Clark recounted how as the Joint Staff's operations director, or J-3, he had attended the White House meetings in 1999 when Clinton decided to deal with Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. Whether it was a miscalculation or simply sugarcoating, President Clinton's advisers first told him that Milosevic would fold if he were threatened. When he didn't fold, Clinton was told bombing would do the trick.
"It was all supposed to be over in 48 hours and then in 72 hours," Clark said. Instead it took 78 days of bombing to get Milosevic to cave. "You needed a roomful of psychiatrists to counsel all the cabinet members to make sure none of them slit their wrists, because they had so grossly misrepresented what was going to happen and the way they cased this for the president." Some of the Clinton national security team had been selling hope and had lost their sense of realism, Clark said.
"And you want to make sure you never, ever get caught in that situation," Clark said.
In Kosovo, the optimism was so deep, Clark said, that they had a 72-hour strike plan but there was nothing planned to follow it. "Zero," he said. No plan if the optimism didn't turn out, so they really had to scramble. "With your background here," he told the former defense secretary, "you'll be able to play a role in this that will be different than has happened around here in a long time. And for goodness sake, pick a chairman that won't ever let that happen."
Cheney seemed all grins, taking it all in, seeming to want to listen. So Clark went on, saying that General Shelton had insisted that the chiefs read Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, the 1997 book by H. R. McMaster, a 1984 West Point graduate. The military leaders during Vietnam were weak and failed to give their best military advice, Clark said. The chiefs had not worked together and they did not have rapport with the civilian leadership.
Clark said the Vietnam-era military leaders had lost their ability to affect the process in a way that kept the president from doing things that were detrimental to the nation. They lost their voice, didn't talk straight, and McNamara manipulated the system. The country and the military paid a price for it. "Mr. Vice President, whatever you do, you've got to make sure you pick a military leader who will never let that happen again."
Clark went back to when he'd been a Navy captain during the Gulf War. He had watched the relationship between Cheney as secretary of defense and Powell as JCS chairman. As far as he could tell, Clark said, it was the ideal model—an independent-minded chairman who was nonetheless close to the secretary of defense. There was a strain between Rumsfeld and Shelton, Clark noted. "You know," Clark continued, "this connection, getting the right guy really is a big deal. It's going to be a big challenge with Rumsfeld." He added, "I've got a fabulous job. I want you to understand that. And I've got it rolling in the Navy." And that was something he, the president and Rumsfeld might want to keep in mind when making a selection.
"Well," Cheney said, "I can see that you'd be a great resource in this job."
The meeting lasted one hour and 20 minutes—an hour longer than scheduled. Clark left thinking, "Wow. I wonder how this plays." He had laid it on the line, but felt it had been a very warm meeting. He believed he had connected with Cheney and that the tide was turning in his favor.
Soon Clark was summoned back to the White House to meet for another 30 minutes with both Bush and Cheney. He was given no advance notice.
"Mr. President," Clark said, "you know I've got a terrific job here. This is not something I covet doing."
"Yeah," Bush said, "that's what they tell me. You don't really care if you get the job, do you? Why is that?"
"Well, Mr. President," the admiral responded, "first of all, I consider it an honor of a lifetime to be able to serve." And, he said, it could be difficult for a service chief, steeped in his own program and service problems, to move up to the chairmanship, which required total jointness. "But there's one other really important reason. You know, ambition is important in people. But too much ambition, my observation, in senior military leaders is a dangerous thing."
Clark let the point just hang, but he thought, be careful with this notion of ambition, dummy. No one could become president without being pretty ambitious. "Of course," Clark attempted to recover, "there are places and positions that you couldn't possibly seek unless you had ambition. But the military positions are first positions of service. And I think when ambition gets in the way of service that it's a dangerous thing."
"Vern and I had a great meeting a couple of days ago," Cheney said. "Vern's got a lot of things going on in the Navy, things that I think it's important that he share with you. Why don't you tell him in more detail what you're doing in the Navy."
Clark summarized his five priorities and stressed the importance of people and the need for a new definition of service. He said retention of officers and enlisted men in the Navy was going up because of programs to improve not only the quality of life but the quality of service. Retention was so high that he was soon going to have to create a new program to start forcing people out of the Navy.
Before the meeting Clark had been escorted to wait in the Roosevelt Room, instead of the normal holding place for visitors in the West Wing lobby, and he knew that Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers had seen Bush and Cheney just before him. He wanted to display a little inside knowledge, so he said to the president he understood the choice was probably between Myers and himself. "I wanted to tell you Dick Myers will be a fine chairman," Clark said. His choice of "fine" was intentional. Not "great" or "perfect." Just "fine."
Clark said it was vital that Bush pick a chairman whose announcement would make the whole military stand up and cheer. It was critical, he said, that the men and women in the military from down in the ranks up to the top commanders have confidence in their leaders. That was a key issue not only in recruitment and retention, but in performance. "A military that does not respect its own leaders will not flourish," he said.
The president asked Clark about his understanding of the role of a JCS chairman.
Principal military adviser to the president, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council, Clark said, noting he had been the Joint Staff director and knew the law. But the chairman "principally and first works for the secretary of defense," Clark said, adding that Goldwater-Nichols required the chairman to represent the views and opinions of the other chiefs.
"Tell him about your experience with Kosovo," Cheney said to Clark. "The one you shared with me."
"I wasn't a four-star, I was a three-star," Clark told the president. "I was the guy who worked for the chairman. I got to watch the chairman up close and personal." He recalled how he came to the White House with Shelton in 1999 for what he called the "getting-ready-to-go-shoot talks," and was sometimes sitting at the table in the Cabinet Room or Situation Room, sometimes sitting right behind the chairman. It was important that President Clinton get the facts, realistic evaluations, he said. "When you get ready to pull the trigger," Clark said, "you have got to have a chairman that you have absolute total confidence that you've gotten the whole story from."
Overselling was a big problem, Clark said, recounting the Kosovo bombing story and the need for shrinks in the Clinton Cabinet Room.
"So, this relationship with the president and the chairman is important. What's really important here is the relationship between the secretary and the chairman. Now being that guy on the sidelines, coming up through my career, I've been able to observe this. And the model you want to emulate is the model that existed when that guy"—he pointed to Cheney—"was the SecDef and Colin Powell was the chairman."
Cheney said nothing, but he knew that his relationship with Powell had not been nearly as perfect and seamless as it was being portrayed.
"It's flattering that I'm over talking to you," Clark went on. "But, you know, in a crunch that's not nearly as important as what's going to come over here to you via the SecDef. That's the guy you're going to be talking to."
He continued, "This interview's really interesting." Clark looked right at Bush. "And a connection between you and I, if I were to be the chairman, is important but not nearly as important as the connection between the chairman and the secretary of defense. So of utmost importance is that you get a chairman who has a great connection with the secretary of defense."
"Do you have that relationship with Don Rumsfeld?" Bush asked.
"Not yet," Clark replied.
"Hmmm, okay," Bush said.
Clark believed in divine intervention. He left the meeting hoping that he might get the job but also thankful for the chance to tell the president what the military really needed, what the president needed to do, and how he ought to think about the military matters. Many of his colleagues would have killed for the opportunity.
In addition, Clark believed that he brought few if any of the trappings that bound so many of his peers, especially from the service academies. He felt that he had not had to kiss ass along the way to get there.
Shelton had been talking with Rumsfeld regularly, trying to keep his hand in the selection process for his successor. Since it was now down to Clark or Myers, Shelton thought he owed Rumsfeld his recommendation.
"Vern is the best by far," he said. Clark would push hard against Rumsfeld, which Shelton felt was exactly what Rumsfeld needed. But Myers was the exact opposite. He would state his view, but if Rumsfeld disagreed, would withdraw and acquiesce. Shelton had seen it happen.
Rumsfeld smiled and merely said, "Okay."
Shelton did not tell Clark or Myers about his recommendation. He wasn't at all sure which way it would go, and he didn't want any acrimony.
Around this time, Steve Herbits had lunch alone with Rumsfeld, who said the choice was indeed down to Clark or Myers.
"If you want transformation to happen in this building," Herbits said, "then Vern Clark's your man. He is brilliant analytically, he is a leader of change, he knows how to get people moving." Clark had taken on the most hidebound of military cultures—the U.S. Navy. "He knows how to pick change agents. He changed the Navy. He's done an unbelievable job."
But, there was one argument to be made for Myers, Herbits said. "If you think there's a chance that you're going to war, you better pick Dick."
"Because Dick has more war-fighting experience," Herbits replied. Myers had flown 600 hours in combat over Vietnam. Though it had been three decades ago, it might have symbolic importance. "And the military will trust him more in a military situation than they will Vern, who has got all the credentials but he doesn't have the war-fighting experience."
two days after Clark's interview, he was summoned by Rumsfeld. Clark was looking for some affirmation that he was Rumsfeld's guy, but when he walked into the room, he could feel it was all edge. It wasn't that he and the secretary did not have a cordial working relationship or that they did not get along, it was that the meeting immediately went to the heart of the matter.
"Well," Rumsfeld said, "you had the meeting with the president."
Clark said it had been a good, healthy exchange, but it had reinforced his concern. "My reservations remain the same," Clark said. "I told the president the most important thing about this selection was not the relationship between the military guy and the president, but the relationship between the military guy and the secretary of defense. And I held as the model what I had observed between Colin Powell and Dick Cheney. And the president asked me if I had such a relationship with you and I said not yet."
Rumsfeld seemed less impatient than usual, so Clark asked about beliefs. What did Rumsfeld actually believe? "I'm not going to be able to be your chairman and stand up in front of the world as your senior military adviser arm in arm with you until I know what you believe."
Rumsfeld had all these studies floating around—on weapons systems, strategies, war plans, personnel—you name it. There were 18 task forces doing studies. Clark felt some of the studies were ridiculous, but he inquired more gently about them, particularly one that suggested all wars could be won from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home of the B-2 bomber, which, with airborne refueling, could fly 50-hour round-trip bombing missions nonstop to the other side of the world. Another Rumsfeld study similarly suggested that war could be conducted from over the horizon, hundreds if not thousands of miles away, without forward deployment of forces. The Navy was about forward deployment, having the aircraft carriers and fleets on station out in the oceans near and in the face of trouble. Did Rumsfeld think that everything could be fixed by putting crosshairs on targets from great distances?
Rumsfeld didn't respond. He seemed really dumbstruck. Clark thought all the studies—the beehive of activity, the tyranny of the urgent—had overwhelmed Rumsfeld. He did not know the details or did not have enough of a strategic understanding to engage comfortably in a discussion about shaping the military.
"Do you think you're going to change the face of history and deal with every potential enemy the nation has and never get any dirt under your fingernails? If that's what you believe in," Clark challenged, "you and I are not going to be able to work together because we don't believe the same things."
"We haven't done any of that stuff yet," Rumsfeld said dismissively. He was knee-deep in studies and plans. Transformation meant new thinking, and he wanted to make sure he cast a broad net, went deeply into matters and "wirebrushed" everything.
Clark asked about the chiefs and their role, particularly the role of the Joint Staff. The Joint Staff is a national treasure, Clark said, and the secretary tended to undervalue it, even malign it. Clark said that he believed Rumsfeld was dead wrong on that score.
Rumsfeld scoffed again. What they provided was not worth the paper it was written on, he said, and it wasn't timely or useful. Why does the chairman need a head of policy, or a spokesman, a liaison to the Congress or a lawyer? Rumsfeld asked repeating his earlier comments to Shelton. "Why shouldn't he use my lawyer?"
Clark said that the chairman was interfacing with the military leaders of the world. The chairman by law was a member of the National Security Council. "He is asked to put forward opinions on policy questions every time you guys go to a principals meeting," the meetings of the NSC principals without the president.
"If you select me as chairman," Clark said, "I will fully embrace the responsibilities to be the military adviser to the president." The job included providing independent advice. "If we disagree, of course I'll want my position to be made known because that's the way the law's written."
Rumsfeld wasn't really responding and he clearly did not want to have this discussion. Clark started to push his chair back.
"Well, I would have to be the secretary of defense for four years and write my book," Rumsfeld replied sarcastically, "before I'd know the answers to all those questions."
"Well," Clark answered, "you and I both know that that's not what I'm talking about." He stood up.
"I guess there's no use talking about it much further," Rumsfeld said.
"I agree," Clark said, turned on his heels and left. He immediately went to see Shelton.
"I burned my bridges today," the Navy chief said, and described the meeting in its full agony and glory. "I'll never be chairman."
"Yep," Shelton said with a chuckle, "I guess you won't."
Later I asked Rumsfeld about Clark. "Terrific guy," he said. But the question of Clark becoming chairman was apparently a touchy subject, because when I said that I understood General Shelton had recommended Clark, Rumsfeld said, "I don't know that."
We then got into a verbal wrestling match.
"You don't believe he made that—" I began.
"I didn't say I believed it or didn't believe it," Rumsfeld said. "I said I don't know that. I'm very precise. If you say something that I don't remember, I'm not going to say it's wrong and I'm not going to say it's right. I'm going to say I don't know that."
"And I don't," he said.
"You don't recall, so you—"
"I don't recall it," he finally said, answering the question. Of Clark he said, "He didn't seem to want it. He was very engaged in the Navy, doing a terrific job, and I didn't have the feeling that he was leaning forward, anxious to do that." Clark was high on his list and the president knew that, he said, "but I kind of like someone who wants to do something, because these are tough jobs and you take a lot of stuff. And it strikes me that someone needs to be leaning forward and want to do it. And I had the sense that maybe Vern didn't."
I inquired if Clark had said that under the law as chairman he would have to give independent military advice to the president.
"Oh sure," Rumsfeld said. "That comes up always, and I obviously agree with that. That's what the law is. Absolutely. Not just to the president, but to the National Security Council."
"Do you remember a real clash with him?"
"Oh, not at all."
About four days after Clark's bridge-burning meeting with Rumsfeld, on Saturday, August 11, The Washington Times, the conservative daily newspaper in the nation's capital, ran a front-page story headlined, "Admiral Called Front-Runner for Joint Chiefs; Clark Is Said to Impress Bush."
The report by Rowan Scarborough, who had good contacts in the Bush administration, went so far as to say, "One well-placed source said last night that Adm. Clark is Mr. Bush's pick." Noting that Clark is "deeply religious," a source was also cited saying that Clark resembles Vice President Cheney "in appearance and businesslike demeanor."
Clark was playing golf that morning at Andrews Air Force Base. He was on the ninth hole and one under par, one of the best games of his entire life, when his wife, Connie, called his cell phone. "I went out and bought this paper and the headline says you are the front-runner to be the chairman," she said, adding that their home phone was ringing off the hook.
Clark promptly hooked his drive out of bounds, took another shot, sliced it out of bounds and wound up with a triple-bogey.
On August 24, 2001, outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush introduced his selection to be the next chairman. The president's remarks focused on training, equipping, manning and transforming the military. "Secretary Rumsfeld and I thought long and hard about this important choice, and we enthusiastically agree"—Air Force General Richard B. Myers. Bush promised that he would work closely with Myers, "who will make sure the military's point of view is always heard in the White House."
Rumsfeld had told Bush and Cheney that in the end Clark wanted to remain Navy CNO, so they picked Myers.
Clark was on leave with his wife when they heard Bush's announcement live. Rumsfeld reached him in the car to tell him the news firsthand and thank him for going through the process. It was a very cordial conversation.
"Wow," Clark said to his wife. "That was nice."
Myers, 59, with president-of-the-student-council good looks, was gentlemanly and controlled. Raised in Kansas, he had graduated from Kansas State with a mechanical engineering degree before joining the Air Force in 1965 as the Vietnam War was escalating. He flew F-4 Phantom fighter jets in combat on dangerous low-level missions over North Vietnam attacking ground targets. On a second tour, he flew so-called Wild Weasel missions against North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile systems. He had spent four years as head of the Space Command and then served one and a half years as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. To friends, he acknowledged that he coveted the chairman job.
Shelton was disappointed. As he had long suspected, it looked like Rumsfeld wanted a chairman in name only. The selection meant that when it came to the hardest of decisions there would be no one in the uniformed military positioned and supported by law to provide alternative advice to the president and stand up to Rumsfeld. From all the debates during the first months of the new administration, it looked like the most important issues were how to build a missile defense system, what military hardware to buy, and how to reorganize and modernize the force. Time and energy were almost exclusively directed at those problems, and they had been the focus of Bush's remarks introducing Myers.
But Shelton knew better. He had served in Vietnam and been the assistant division commander for operations of the 101st Airborne during the 1991 Gulf War. The really hard decisions were about the use of military force—under what strategy and plan, what types of force, when, how much, against what enemies or threats. The decision to go to war defined a nation, not just to the world but to the nation itself. War was the core reason for the military's existence. Those decisions could mean the death of thousands. The 1.4 million men and women of the United States armed forces counted on the chairman of the Joint Chiefs as their representative at the table when the president and the National Security Council weighed and debated such matters. With Myers, Shelton worried, the voice would be muted, silenced.
General John P. Jumper, a fighter pilot who had been military assistant to two secretaries of defense, was sworn in as the Air Force chief of staff—the equivalent Air Force position to Admiral Clark at the Navy and General Jones in the Marines—on September 6, 2001.
"Welcome to the most disappointing group you'll ever be associated with," Jones told Jumper as he took his seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Military advice is compromised by the political leadership. It doesn't emerge."
The Myers announcement came 18 days before September 11, 2001. He had been truly surprised to be picked. He had met with Bush and Cheney several times for 15- or 20-minute interviews, where the subjects had been transformation and whether he could work with Rumsfeld. Bush and Cheney had asked questions to make sure he could step outside his Air Force uniform. To his recollection, they did not discuss war or what might have gone wrong in Kosovo or Vietnam.
Myers got along with Rumsfeld, but they had had several heated exchanges. He believed that Rumsfeld overstated to make his points. One day Rumsfeld had gone after the Pentagon procurement system. He wouldn't stop. "We've got to reform this. This is just terrible," Rumsfeld said.
"Time out," Myers interjected. "That's wrong. You're wrong." But then he had the Myers way of softening the blow by half agreeing. "Okay, Mr. Secretary, that may all be true, and certainly our system isn't very good. In many respects it needs to be fixed." Then he shifted to the good side of the system, adding, "On the other hand, we produce the world's best military equipment. Everybody wants our stuff, so there's got to be something inherently good about the way we develop things, our whole system that develops things from the concept and the operational requirements to the time it comes out the hangar door or the plant door."
Myers's selection had leaked to cable television news, but he didn't really believe it, telling reporters who called, "What do you guys know?" But a couple of hours later Rumsfeld called and said, "We've selected you to be chairman. The president selected you to be chairman." He gave no reason why they had chosen him and Rumsfeld immediately jumped into a discussion about who should be the new vice chairman. They quickly decided on Marine General Peter Pace, a low-key 1967 Naval Academy graduate and veteran of Vietnam and Somalia.
As chairman, Myers found Rumsfeld so hands-on that he would confide to one of his senior aides at times that he wondered why he was even there. When they went to the White House, it had all been rehearsed. They achieved what Myers called a "mind meld," which meant that Myers adapted his mind to match Rumsfeld's. Many senior officers, including some service chiefs, saw Myers functioning as the senior military assistant to Rumsfeld.
Andy Card, who attended all the principals and NSC meetings, was struck that Rumsfeld and the chairman tended to opine in the same voice. It was an echo, and he could not recall an instance when the chairman's advice challenged Rumsfeld's. There were a few times he found himself thinking to himself that it was significant that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs wasn't saying anything. The silence might mean the chairman disagreed but they would never know.
At the end of a long interview with Myers in his office at the Pentagon on January 9, 2002, four months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I asked him for help in decoding Rumsfeld.
"If I could do that, my blood pressure would be a lot lower," he said. Maybe it had been a particularly difficult day, but Myers put both his arms on the small table and then laid his head down on top of them. I could not tell if it was a sign of exasperation or despair or something in between. I had not seen this before—a senior officer cradling his head in his arms.
Myers quickly stood up. The storm, whatever its cause or intensity, had passed. But it was a statement I would remember, a snapshot of life as it really was in the Rumsfeld Pentagon.
I wrote a book on the Afghanistan War and the response to 9/11, and another on the decision to invade Iraq. In the course of the research I interviewed dozens of the key players, including the president, and reviewed notes of many of the highest-level internal deliberations and National Security Council meetings. Myers is there, making an occasional comment, at times even briefing, only to have his points embarrassingly repeated by Rumsfeld. It was as if the secretary hadn't listened to what the chairman had said.
At times Myers inquired of close aides if they thought it possible Rumsfeld might leave. The answer was always no. Myers would just shake his head or put his head down.
Rumsfeld was intimately involved in filling the key positions on the Joint Staff. If Rumsfeld wanted someone and Myers said he couldn't live with the choice, Rumsfeld generally would drop the candidate and find someone else he wanted. But he insisted on a veto over the choice assignments. At one point, Myers wanted someone on the Joint Staff, and Rumsfeld had his own candidate. It frustrated Myers to death as they went to their separate corners and there was a little standoff.
The dispute lay dormant for about three weeks. Out of the clear blue while riding the escalator up in the Pentagon one day, Rumsfeld brought it up.
"If you could just give on this one, I'd appreciate it," Rumsfeld said.
Myers realized he was saying, "I'm not going to budge, and I'm the boss." Of course, Rumsfeld got his way. And Myers later explained, "We serve the civilian masters and the chain of command. Unless it's illegal or immoral or unethical, you do it. If you can't stand it, then you've got other options. You can retire."
During the first year Rumsfeld gave Myers a copy of an article dating from the Nixon administration. JCS Chairman Admiral Thomas H. Moorer's representative to the NSC staff had been caught spying on the White House and passing secret documents back to the Pentagon.
"Hey," Rumsfeld said, "this is something that might be interesting to you."
Myers couldn't believe it. He felt trapped in Rumsfeld's process, endless meetings and discussions. Once he came into the Tank for a meeting with the chiefs looking absolutely destroyed.
"Had to do two hours up there," Myers said in near despair, "and listen to all that bullshit all over again. And I've got to go back up there. I'm sorry, guys, but I got to go back up there again at five minutes till, and we just don't have long here."
Myers took to undoing his cuffs and scratching his arms compulsively, and he became so oblivious that some of the chiefs thought he didn't even know he was doing it. At times he would stare off in the corner of the Tank like he wasn't there and he didn't care what they were doing or talking about.
When Myers was exasperated he called Rumsfeld "that son of a bitch" or "that asshole." Half a dozen times people saw him just put his head down on the conference table in the Tank in frustration, much as I had seen him do in his office.
It was an irony that Rumsfeld had set up a system that did not ensure that he receive warnings from the uniformed military about rosy scenarios like those that had been promised from Vietnam to Kosovo. Strong, forceful military advice was bleached out of the system. The uniformed military was now just staff, its voice a polite whisper. Rumsfeld thought he had won. He was in control.
over the summer of 2001, Israeli-Palestinian cease-fires had been declared, then broken. In August, the Saudi Crown Prince watched on television as an Israeli solider pushed and then stepped on an elderly Palestinian woman. According to the Saudi version of the story, he called Bandar to carry a message to the White House. Bandar went to see Bush on August 27.
"Mr. President," Bandar began, "this is the most difficult message I have had to convey to you that I have ever conveyed between the two governments since I started working here in Washington in 1982." He recounted at length the many meetings Bush or Cheney or Powell had had with the Crown Prince.
"Mr. President," Bandar read with a straight face, "leadership in Saudi Arabia always has to feel the pulse of the people and then reflect the feeling of its people in its policies."
Saudi Arabia was one of the last monarchies in the world. The leadership—King and Crown Prince—did what it wanted.
Bandar invoked the Saudi partnership with "your father" in the Gulf War and the time "your father" stopped loan guarantees to Israel when the Israelis broke their promise on settlements. In the past, it had been a balanced policy. "The Crown Prince has tried to find many excuses for this administration and we couldn't." The president had allowed Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to "determine everything in the Middle East." The Israeli policy of occupation and killing was like Britain with the American colonies in the 18th century, France with Algeria, America with Vietnam, and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. All failures.
"What pained the Crown Prince more is the continuance of American ignorance of Israel upholding policies as if a drop of Jewish blood is equal to thousands of Palestinians' lives."
Then came the action line: "Therefore the Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you, and Saudi Arabia will take all its political, economic and security decisions based on how it sees its own interest in the region without taking into account American interests anymore because it is obvious that the United States has taken a strategic decision adopting Sharon's policy."
Bush seemed shocked. "I want to assure you that the United States did not make any strategic decision," he said.
Powell cornered Bandar later. "What the fuck are you doing?" he demanded. "You're putting the fear of God in everybody here. You scared the shit out of everybody."
"I don't give a damn what you feel," Bandar shot back. "We are scared ourselves."
Whether this was all careful histrionics, or genuine concern, or a combination of show and sincerity, the Saudi threat worked. Two days later, August 29, Bush sent the Crown Prince a two-page letter: "Let me make one thing clear up front: nothing should ever break the relationship between us. There has been no change in the strategic equation.
"I firmly believe the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination and to live peacefully and securely in their own state, in their own homeland, just as the Israelis have the right to live peacefully and safely in their own state." It was a much bigger step than President Clinton had taken. Even as Clinton had tried to fashion a Middle East peace agreement as his legacy, he had never directly supported a separate Palestinian state.
Bandar immediately flew back to Saudi Arabia with the letter. On September 6, the Crown Prince replied: "Mr. President, it was a great relief to me to find in your letter a clear commitment confirming the principle in which the peace process was established. I was particularly pleased with your commitment to the right of the Palestinians to self-determination as well as the right to peace without humiliation, within their independent state." The formal reply added, "First it is very essential that you declare your position publicly which was stated in your letter. Such a declaration at this level will eliminate the common impression prevailing in the region of the U.S. bias to Israel."
Bush agreed to come out publicly for a Palestinian state. A big rollout was planned for the week of September 10, 2001.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the al Qaeda terror attacks on America on September 11, 2001. The details of the attacks and Bush's response are well chronicled. Bush had been in a Florida elementary school when the first planes hit. Within hours after the attacks, as Bush was flying around the southern U.S. on Air Force One, staying away from Washington because of the potential for more attacks, he reached Rumsfeld. "It's a day of national tragedy," Bush told him, "and we'll clean up the mess and then the ball will be in your court and Dick Myers's court."
But Rumsfeld and the Pentagon were empty-handed. His efforts at transformation had not taken hold. General Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), which includes the Middle East, had no plan to attack Afghanistan, where bin Laden and his network had found sanctuary. He told Rumsfeld it might take months before they could put forces on the ground in the country. At an NSC meeting the day after the attacks, Bush asked what the military could do immediately. Rumsfeld replied, "Very little, effectively."
Later that day, at another NSC meeting, Rumsfeld asked Bush, Why shouldn't we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? Rumsfeld was among those who thought Bush's father had failed by not taking out Saddam. One night in 1995, on a trip to Vietnam with his friend Ken Adelman, Rumsfeld kept Adelman up until 3 a.m., giving him an earful on how badly the elder Bush had screwed up. He never should have agreed to a cease-fire that let Saddam survive in power, Rumsfeld said, and he should have destroyed more of the Iraqi military while they still had the cover of war.
The president put Rumsfeld off, wanting to focus on Afghanistan, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
The CIA stepped in to fill the void left by the secretary of defense and the uniformed military. Within 48 hours, Tenet and Cofer Black briefed Bush on their plan. They could bring to bear all the resources of the intelligence community, combined with U.S. military power and Special Forces, harness the factional opposition known as the Northern Alliance, defeat the Taliban and close out the al Qaeda sanctuary. As disquieting as Rumsfeld's admission of the Pentagon's impotence was, Black was just as reassuring. "Mr. President, we can do this," he said. "No doubt in my mind."
Tenet dispatched the CIA's covert paramilitary team, code-named Jawbreaker, into Afghanistan 15 days after the attacks. Bombing began 11 days later, on October 7, 2001. The campaign represented some of the CIA's finest moments after 9/11, and it was a frustrating time for Rumsfeld. General Franks had only 31 Taliban and al Qaeda targets for the first day of bombing and Rumsfeld was all over target selection, insisting they also destroy some four dozen Taliban airplanes.
Air Force Lieutenant General Charles F. Wald, the Saudi Arabia-based CENTCOM air component commander, told his boss, General Franks, that they had bombed and destroyed the runways. The Taliban aircraft weren't a threat because they could not conceivably take off.
"I'm going to get fired!" Franks told him. The first day of bombing, Franks and his staff appeared on the secure video conference from CENTCOM's Tampa, Florida, headquarters wearing golf shirts. Franks let loose with a torrent of profanity insisting that the "fucking airplanes" be hit.
Wald ordered the strikes. Under the military's rules, however, they could not confirm for Franks that the attacks had been successful and the airplanes destroyed until they got satellite pictures of the targets. When it was delayed, Rumsfeld went ballistic. Franks insisted to Wald that he was going to be relieved. Finally, Wald got the validation from the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Jawbreaker and other CIA paramilitary teams were doing just as Tenet had promised, leading the way in toppling the Taliban from power, and denying bin Laden much of his sanctuary, forcing him into hiding. In all a small team of approximately 110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces operators, in many ways similar to the more mobile military Rumsfeld desired, combined with massive airpower, were getting the job done.
And Rumsfeld sat uneasily on the sidelines. At an NSC meeting on October 16, his frustration boiled over. "This is the CIA's strategy," he declared. "They developed the strategy. We're just executing the strategy."
CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who was taking Tenet's place that day at the NSC meeting, insisted the agency was just supporting Franks.
"No," Rumsfeld retorted, "you guys are in charge."
Armitage, who was there in place of Powell, stuck it into Rumsfeld. "I think what I'm hearing is FUBAR," Armitage said, using an old military term meaning "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition." How could they prosecute a war if they couldn't agree who was in charge?
The president ordered Rice, "Get this mess straightened out."
After the meeting Rice took Rumsfeld aside. "Don, this is now a military operation and you really have to be in charge."
Steve Hadley, Rice's deputy, even weighed in, telling Rumsfeld he needed to design a strategy. "It's yours for the taking."
Later Powell also told Rumsfeld he was in charge whether he wanted to be or not.
Rumsfeld had been humiliated by McLaughlin, Armitage, the president, Rice, Hadley and Powell.
Never again. The next month, when the president ordered him to look seriously at the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld made it his personal project. This would be his.
Afterward, Tenet looked back on his July 10, 2001, meeting with Rice, two months before 9/11, as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the 9/11 attacks. It framed his and the CIA's relationships with Rice and the NSC. On paper Tenet reported to Bush, but practically speaking the CIA director works for the national security adviser on a day-to-day basis.
Tenet had been briefing Bush regularly in the first six months of his presidency, and was developing a personal relationship with him. But it was nothing like Rice's. She lived alone, regularly spent weekends at Camp David with the president and first lady, and traveled often to Bush's Texas ranch. She was almost part of the family.
Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the bin Laden threat, but she just didn't get it in time, Tenet thought. He felt he had done his job, laid it on the line very directly about the threat, but Rice had not moved quickly. He felt she wasn't organized and didn't push people as he tried to do at the CIA.
When the multiple 9/11 investigations came in full force, Tenet's CIA was picked apart—failure to do this, failure to do that, failure to connect this dot with that dot. Tenet thought the CIA had been working flat out, and that comparatively the FBI got a free pass. If the FBI had done a simple credit card check on the two 9/11 hijackers who had been identified in the United States before 9/11, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, they would have found that the two men had bought 10 tickets for early morning flights for groups of other Middle Eastern men for September 11, 2001. That was knowledge that might conceivably have stopped the attacks.
A month after the July 2001 meeting, in a TOP SECRET President's Daily Brief on August 6, 2001, that later became famous, the CIA warned again: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Tenet would later say of that period, "The system was blinking red." But the pivot point when they might have shifted from all the dire talk to action had been July 10. Rice had perhaps denied him his biggest moment. U.S. intelligence had pieced enough together and had been on the verge of a significant, even a giant, breakthrough. Tenet's initial angst about Rice after the July 2001 meeting turned to distress, and then disdain. If the White House, Bush, the CIA and all the others—including Tenet himself, he acknowledged— had moved, perhaps, just perhaps, the years that followed would have been about success.
Every intelligence officer, all the way up to the CIA director, wants to be an oracle, to see deeply into the future, dig out the hard data and intelligence, mix it with the voodoo, and predict what will happen. Tenet believed he had done it. His first duty was to avert catastrophe, the bolt-out-of-the-blue event or attack. He had seen it, he believed, and he felt he had sounded the loudest warning he could. But it hadn't been heeded. The July meeting with Rice had been the culmination. As Cofer Black later put it, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."
The elder George Bush was concerned about his son after 9/11, and he called Prince Bandar. "He's having a bad time," Bush told Bandar. "Help him out."
On September 13, two days after the attacks, Bandar met again with the president at the White House. The two men, with Cheney, Rice and Bandar's aide, Rihab Massoud, gathered on the Truman Balcony off the second floor. In a photograph of the meeting, both Bush and Bandar have cigars.
The Saudis had arrested and detained some key al Qaeda suspects immediately before and after 9/11. The president told Bandar, "If we get somebody and we can't get them to cooperate, we'll hand them over to you."
With those words, the president casually expressed what became the U.S. government's rendition policy—the shifting of terrorist suspects from country to country for interrogation. The United States Constitution provides rights and protections that prohibit unrestricted interrogations of its citizens. But in countries like Saudi Arabia, there was nothing like the U.S. Constitution. Terrorist suspects in Saudi custody had few rights. Though the Saudis denied it, the CIA believed the Saudis tortured terrorist suspects to make them talk. In the immediate wake of 9/11 Bush wanted answers from those who had been detained.
After 9/11, Bush's approval rating soared from 55 to 90 percent, an unprecedented surge. The president pretended not to be interested when Rove showed him the numbers, but it was understood that Rove's job was to make sure the broad support was used effectively. In the past, when the public rallied around the president in times of crisis, the boost in popularity lasted seven to 10 months, Rove calculated.
Bush made it clear that his presidency was now going to be about 9/11. Just like my father's generation was called in World War II, now our generation is being called, he told Rove. Bush's father had enlisted in the Navy in 1942 on his 18th birthday and flown fighters in the Pacific. He'd been shot down and had seen some of his friends killed. It had been a formative experience.
The younger Bush and Rove had never fought in a war, but now they felt that they were being called, in their 50s.
"I'm here for a reason," Bush told Rove, "and this is going to be how we're going to be judged." This was the new plan.
On November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, 71 days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush asked Rumsfeld to start updating the war plan for Iraq.
"Let's get started on this," Bush recalled saying that day. "And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to." He also wondered if this planning could be done so it would be kept secret. Rumsfeld said it could, because he was "refreshing" all the U.S. war plans.
On this day, Bush formally set in motion the chain of events that would lead to the invasion of Iraq 16 months later. In dozens of meetings, many with the president and the war cabinet, the Iraq war plan went through many changes, which I recounted in Plan of Attack.
The Iraq war plan was the chessboard on which Rumsfeld would test, develop, expand and modify his ideas about military transformation.
And the driving concept was "less is more"—new thinking about a lighter, swifter, smaller force that could do the job better. Rumsfeld's blitzkrieg would vindicate his leadership of the Pentagon.
He was the main architect, driving the meetings and the changes. His chief implementer was General Franks. General Myers worked from the sidelines, if that. Though Myers believes he was kept abreast and informed of all decisions, he was not a real participant. In Franks's memoir, American Soldier, Myers is mentioned in the Iraq war-planning sessions only as being present several times or taking notes. Franks, 58, a tall, hot-tempered Texan who had a reputation as an officer who screamed at his subordinates when he grew impatient, referred openly to the Joint Chiefs as the "Title Ten Motherfuckers." He believed that Myers and the other chiefs were largely irrelevant to the process.
An important contrast to this process can be found in the record of the war planning for the 1991 Gulf War. My own book, The Commanders, and memoirs by Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who was the CENTCOM commander in that war, illustrate the difference.
Schwarzkopf describes how Powell as chairman was his intermediary, counselor, regular contact, adviser and psychiatrist. After Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President Bush ordered Operation Desert Shield, which involved the deployment of some 250,000 troops to the Middle East to defend Saudi Arabia. By late October 1990, Bush and Cheney, his defense secretary, wanted to know how many troops it would take to provide an offensive option—the capacity to drive Saddam's army out of Kuwait. They did not ask Schwarzkopf; they asked Powell. Powell flew to Saudi Arabia, where Schwarzkopf was headquartered. Schwarzkopf said he needed two more divisions. Powell added two more on top of that. In his memoir, Powell recounted the conversations. "Aircraft carriers? Let's send six." The concept was "Go in big, and end it quickly. We could not put the United States through another Vietnam." The plan to use overwhelming force to guarantee victory became known as the Powell Doctrine.
Powell had then told Bush and Cheney they needed an additional 200,000 troops, which would essentially double the force defending Saudi Arabia. The first President Bush said, "If that's what you need, we'll do it."
In 2001, things were very different. This President Bush wanted an option to invade Iraq and depose Saddam, but he had campaigned promising military transformation. He and Rumsfeld wanted a new way to wage war. The Powell Doctrine was out. Over the next year, the two great Pentagon ideas—a new, "refreshed" Iraq war plan, as Rumsfeld called it, and military transformation—converged.
Well into the Afghanistan bombing campaign, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, called an old friend, Christopher DeMuth, the longtime president of the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative Washington think tank. Just before coming to the Pentagon, Wolfowitz had been the dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, known as SAIS. AEI and SAIS, just blocks from each other, were the forum for lots of intellectual cross-pollination.
The U.S. government, especially the Pentagon, is incapable of producing the kinds of ideas and strategy needed to deal with a crisis of the magnitude of 9/11, Wolfowitz told DeMuth. He needed to reach outside to tackle the biggest questions. Who are the terrorists? Where did this come from? How does it relate to Islamic history, the history of the Middle East, and contemporary Middle East tensions? What are we up against here?
Wolfowitz said he was thinking along the lines of Bletchley Park, the team of mathematicians and cryptologists the British set up during World War II to break the ULTRA German communications code. Could DeMuth quickly put together a skilled group to produce a report for the president, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and Tenet?
Asking a think tank if it would be willing to strategize for the top policy-makers in a time of extraordinary crisis was like asking General Motors if they would be willing to sell a million more cars. DeMuth, a smooth, debonair lawyer trained at the University of Chicago Law School and expert on government regulation, readily agreed. AEI was practically the intellectual farm team and retirement home for Washington conservatives. Among its scholars and fellows were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president. Cheney himself had been an AEI fellow between his stints as secretary of defense and president and CEO of the giant defense contractor Halliburton.
DeMuth recruited a dozen people. He later said they agreed to serve only "if I promised it would all be kept secret."
Included in the group were Bernard Lewis, a Cheney favorite and a scholar of Islam who had written extensively on Middle Eastern tensions with the West; Mark Palmer, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary who specialized in dictatorships; Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and a Newsweek columnist; Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at SAIS; James Q. Wilson, a professor and specialist in human morality and crime; and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East expert. Rumsfeld assigned his consultant and general fix-it man, Steve Herbits, to participate. Herbits, who had devised the original idea and encouraged Wolfowitz to push it, called the group "Bletchley II."
On Thursday night, November 29, 2001, DeMuth assembled the group at a secure conference center in Virginia for a weekend of discussion. They passed around some of the participants' various writings. DeMuth was surprised at the consensus among his group. He stayed up late Sunday night distilling their thoughts into a seven-page, single-spaced document, called "Delta of Terrorism." "Delta" was used in the sense of the mouth of a river from which everything flowed.
In an interview, DeMuth declined to provide a copy of "Delta of Terrorism," but he agreed to describe its conclusions.
"What we saw on 9/11 and the less dramatic attacks of the '90s like the USS Cole"—which killed 17 Navy sailors—"manifest that a war was going on within Islam—across the region. It was a deep problem, and 9/11 was not an isolated action that called for policing and crime fighting."
It was a different kind of terrorism than the 1970s version, with locally disaffected groups such as the Red Brigades in Italy. Overall, the report concluded, the United States was likely in for a two-generation battle with radical Islam.
"The general analysis was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, were the key, but the problems there are intractable. Iran is more important, where they were confident and successful in setting up a radical government." But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with, he said.
But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable. DeMuth said they had concluded that "Baathism is an Arab form of fascism transplanted to Iraq." The Baath Party, controlled by Saddam Hussein, had ruled Iraq since 1968.
"We concluded that a confrontation with Saddam was inevitable. He was a gathering threat—the most menacing, active and unavoidable threat. We agreed that Saddam would have to leave the scene before the problem would be addressed." That was the only way to transform the region.
Copies of the memo, straight from the neoconservative playbook, were hand-delivered to the war cabinet members. In at least some cases, it was given a SECRET classification. Cheney was pleased with the memo, and it had a strong impact on President Bush, causing him to focus on the "malignancy" of the Middle East. Rice found it "very, very persuasive."
Rumsfeld later said he remembered the general plan but didn't recall the details of the memo. His design, he said, was to "bring together some very fine minds on a highly confidential basis and provide intellectual content" for the post-9/11 era.
Herbits was very happy with the way Bletchley II had worked out, although Rumsfeld decided not to make the group permanent. Summarizing their conclusions, Herbits said, "We're facing a two-generation war. And start with Iraq."
bush decided on January 18, 2002, that the protections of the Geneva Conventions would not apply to terrorist suspects detained from al Qaeda and the Taliban. They would be declared "unlawful combatants," not entitled to the Geneva protections of prisoners of war.
General Myers had not been involved in the decision. He disagreed with it because it would open the door for mistreatment of U.S. personnel taken as POWs. He argued to Rumsfeld, but he couldn't get the secretary on his side. Worse, he didn't know where Rumsfeld stood.
Secretary of State Powell asked the president to reconsider. At a later NSC meeting with Bush and Cheney, Myers and Rumsfeld were not in agreement. It was one of the few times they had not coordinated ahead of time to bring Myers's position in line with Rumsfeld's.
"Mr. President," Myers said, "you may notice I'm the only guy here without any backup. I don't have a lawyer." The other NSC principals had their legal advisers there. "I don't think this is a legal issue. And I understand technically why the Geneva Conventions do not apply to these combatants." They weren't all fighting in organized national armies or wearing uniforms, as the conventions required. "I got that. But I think there is another issue we need to think about that maybe hasn't gotten enough light."
Myers said he worried about the impact on U.S. POWs. "You have to remember that as we treat them, probably so we're going to be treated." That was the best-case scenario, the going-in hope. "We may be treated worse, but we should not give them an opening." Terrorists or other future enemies could easily use the U.S. policy against the Taliban as an argument that they too could ignore the Geneva Conventions.
By February, the president had decided to compromise. The Taliban would be covered by the Geneva Conventions, although they would not be classified as prisoners of war who had the highest levels of protection and who could not, for example, be physically coerced during interrogations. The administration would not consider al Qaeda terrorists covered at all, although detainees would be treated humanely.
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was supposed to read the decision to the press on February 7, but Steve Hadley, Rice's deputy, had sent a copy to Rumsfeld giving him a heads-up. Rumsfeld had a last-minute objection— as was often the case—and Hadley told Fleischer not to read it.
Bush was watching Fleischer's briefing that day. When it ended at 1:28 p.m., the president was surprised that Fleischer had not announced the decision.
Bush called Fleischer. "I cleared that statement," the president said, and instructed the press secretary to go out and read it. At 1:40 p.m.—just 12 minutes after he'd walked off the podium—Fleischer appeared again in the press room for an unusual, unscheduled second daily briefing.
"The Geneva Convention will apply to the Taliban detainees, but not to the al Qaeda international terrorists," Fleischer announced, and pointed out the important distinction that "Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status.
"The President has maintained the United States' commitment to the principles of the Geneva Convention, while recognizing that the Convention simply does not cover every situation in which people may be captured or detained by military forces, as we see in Afghanistan today."
President Bush had spent most of August 2002 on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bandar joined him there for a visit on Tuesday, August 27, 2002, a year to the day after the 2001 meeting in which Bandar had delivered the Crown Prince's message and successfully pressured Bush to declare explicit U.S. support for an independent, sovereign Palestinian state. The two had hours to talk that morning. Bandar had met personally with Saddam four times in the five years from 1985 to 1990, and he shared his own reactions, along with those of King Fahd, who had met with Saddam many times.
Bandar recalled for Bush a conversation King Fahd had with Saddam after the November 20,1979, takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by hundreds of militants who claimed the Saudi government was becoming too liberal and friendly to the West. Saddam had been vice president and acting leader for some time, but he had just become president and was attending his first Arab summit meeting.
"Kill those people," Saddam advised Fahd.
Fahd said when the militants were arrested, their leaders would be executed and the others would go to jail.
"Oh, my, I'm worried," Saddam said. "I'm embarrassed by your comments."
Fahd asked Saddam what he meant.
"In my mind there is no question you are going to kill all 500. That's a given. Listen to me carefully, Fahd. Every man in this group who has a brother or father—kill them. If they have a cousin who you think is man enough to go for revenge, kill him. Those 500 people is a given. But you must spread the fear of God in everything that belongs to them, and that's the only way you can sleep at night."
According to Bandar, Saddam required his bodyguards to do two things to prove themselves: kill somebody else from within their own tribe and kill somebody from another tribe. So there would be a double vendetta.
Bandar explained: "This is smart evil because if you take the evil out of it, it makes sense. If I want to trust you with my life, I want to make sure nowhere else you are safe except with me."
At another time Saddam pointed to the people around him—high and low—and told Fahd, "They are the most loyal to me."
"It is nice to be surrounded by the most loyal people," Fahd replied.
"Oh, no, no, I didn't say that, Your Majesty," Saddam corrected. "I told you they are very loyal to me because every one of them, his hand is bloody. Every one of them knows that when I die, you will never find a piece this big from my body." Saddam indicated the smallest piece of flesh between his fingers. "I'll be cut to pieces, and if that happens to me, they're all finished."
From his personal meetings with the Iraqi dictator, Bandar said, "The most amazing thing about Saddam is how confident he looks, how relaxed he looks, and how charming he is—and how deadly. And each of these attributes are clear and at the same time."
Saddam could make his most senior generals shake, Bandar said. Once, while Bandar met with Saddam in the 1980s while trying to broker an end to the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam told him, "Bandar, all those people are loyal to me. I know a man by looking into his eyes. I can tell you if he is loyal or not. And if his eyes start blinking, I know he is a traitor and then I exterminate him."
Bandar said that Saddam was excited to show his power, and said it in such a gentle voice and in such a genteel manner that it took five seconds to realize he was serious.
"You are a man with presence," Bandar told the Iraqi dictator. "I would not be surprised that some poor young officer or minister might panic, which is natural. Are you going to tell me you are going to kill somebody because he panicked only because he is in awe of you?"
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA!" Saddam replied with the most deadly laugh. He then tapped Bandar on the shoulder. "I'd rather kill somebody, not sure if he is a traitor, than let one traitor get by."
In the fall of 2002, Tenet and Bush had a 30-second conversation in which Bush made it clear that war with Iraq was necessary and inevitable. Tenet was extremely surprised, but the president's short remarks were made with such conviction that Tenet suddenly realized they were on a march to war. There was something about the hard resolve in Bush's body language that made Tenet realize that all the TOP SECRET talk and war planning had a specific purpose. Bush said that the risks presented by Saddam would grow with time.
"We're not going to wait," he said.
On November 4, 2002, Rob Richer, a veteran covert operator and former CIA chief of station in Amman, Jordan, took over as head of the Near East and South Asia Division of the CIA operations directorate, overseeing the entire Middle East. It was the key operations billet with hands-on management of clandestine work in the region. Within a month, as his Iraq Operations Group was moving two CIA paramilitary teams secretly into northern Iraq, Richer attended his first meeting on Iraq and asked Tenet if it really looked like war.
"You bet your ass," Tenet said bluntly. "It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. This president is going to war. Make the plans. We're going."
Tenet refined some of his thoughts in discussions with John O. Brennan, one of his closest confidants. Brennan, a veteran of 22 years with the agency, had been the White House daily intelligence briefer for two years during the Clinton administration, and later served as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, and as Tenet's chief of staff for two years. He was now the deputy executive director at CIA headquarters.
Tenet told Brennan he believed war was coming and Bush was determined. He said he found that there was a part of Bush that might still be deliberating while some others under him, like Cheney and Wolfowitz, had absolutely decided that war was coming.
Tenet told Brennan that in his gut he didn't think invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Bush and the others were just really naive, thinking they would just be able to go into Iraq and overturn the government.
"This is a mistake," Tenet finally told Brennan.
But Tenet never conveyed these misgivings to the president. Bush had never asked him directly for his bottom-line counsel, although Tenet felt that Bush had nevertheless opened the door in their conversations to the point where Tenet could have said, "No, this is crazy, this won't work, you shouldn't do this." But Tenet never said it.
What held him back was complex. Despite his doubts, Tenet assured Bush on December 21, 2002, that the case that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the prime articulated reason for the looming invasion, was "a slam dunk." For Tenet, the temptation to invade was real because there was no doubt the U.S. could overthrow Saddam and totally defeat the Iraqi military with some ease. And there was all that great momentum, all the CIA and military planning, including getting a few other countries such as Great Britain to commit to action. It was hard to step back. As Tenet said once afterward, "If you get up on your toes, you can't walk away. We sucked in all of these allies—the Saudis, the Jordanians—and we just couldn't pull the plug on them. They were giving us all this sub rosa support."
Lastly there was Cheney. Was the vice president putting all his experience and surface coolness behind a strong push? Had he told Bush, "Yes, you've got to do it"? Tenet had never been in the room when that had happened, but he believed Cheney was privately pressuring Bush, arguing strongly for war as the only solution to the Saddam Hussein problem.
In late September 2002, Rumsfeld met with General Franks, his operations director, Air Force Major General Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr. and Douglas J. Feith, the Pentagon's undersecretary for policy. Feith, 49, was a protégé of Richard Perle, the former Reagan defense official who was one of the most outspoken Iraq hawks.
Rumsfeld said that Defense was better set up to run postwar Iraq than the State Department, and he believed that Defense should and would be put in charge.
Feith agreed and said he wanted his policy operation to lead the postwar effort. Over the past months, he had been attending secret interagency luncheon meetings of the deputies run by Steve Hadley. They had discussed the issues at length, and Feith had pulled together a five-inch-thick notebook outlining the discussions and the planning.
"Make a copy of this for Condi," Rumsfeld said, seeming impressed with the book. If there was war with Iraq, he stressed, he wanted to make sure that it was not another Bosnia. In Iraq he wanted the reconstruction and political issues worked out in advance. "We do not want to be in a position where the failure of somebody to do those things ties our forces down indefinitely the way they seem to be tied down in Bosnia indefinitely." Rumsfeld had been pushing to cut the number of NATO troops still serving in Bosnia, which had recently been as high as 18,000.
Feith would handle the job for Defense, Rumsfeld said. His goal was very precise: "Unity of effort and unity of leadership for the full range of reconstruction activities that need to be performed in order to say that mission is over and the troops can leave."
"Boss, did you just hear what I think I heard?" Renuart said to Franks as they left the meeting.
"What did you think you heard?" Franks inquired.
"Well," Renuart, a fighter pilot, who took notes in a book nicknamed the "Black Book of Death," said, "it sounds to me like OSD Policy"— Feith's office—"has responsibility for planning post-conflict and our responsibility is security. And we don't own the reconstruction stuff."
"That's the way I look at it too," the Central Command commander said.
"I think we just dodged a big bullet," Renuart said.
"Well you may be right," Franks said. "I've got my marching orders. The secretary wants us to focus on security."
Feith and his deputies began drafting policy guidance, establishing working groups and creating specific cells to examine issues such as energy, stability and sovereignty. Rumsfeld agreed to create a new office specifically for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.
"You're going to be responsible for this," Feith said to Rumsfeld. "Let's get the office created."
"Yes," Rumsfeld agreed, "let's get the office created." Then he said no, then he said yes, then no again. They discussed it repeatedly. Feith spoke to Hadley, who explained that a diplomatic settlement with Saddam was still an option, so they didn't want to create a postwar office.
In late September, 49-year-old Army Major General James "Spider" Marks was preparing for the assignment of a lifetime: top intelligence officer for the U.S.-led forces planning to invade Iraq. For Marks it was the culmination of 27 years in the Army. Nicknamed "Spider" since his high school days as a 6-foot-1, 150-pound football player, Marks was third-generation West Point, graduating in 1975, a month after the fall of Saigon, perhaps the low point for U.S. military morale. Marks was one of only seven out of the 875 in his class to reach two-star rank, and he was determined not to screw up this critical assignment.
Still rail-thin, handsome in a youthful way, mildly dashing and totally gung ho, Marks would serve directly under the ground commander, Lieutenant General David D. McKiernan. Both men knew accurate, timely intelligence would be crucial, perhaps defining success or failure.
On August 26, Vice President Cheney had given a speech that Marks believed must have been cleared by U.S. intelligence. "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said. "There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." The rhetoric was very strong, and Marks took it as an article of faith that the intelligence behind it was equally strong. Saddam had WMD.
Marks immediately realized the invading ground forces would probably come from Kuwait, the oil-rich desert country that shared a 100-mile border with Iraq and blocked most of its access to the Persian Gulf. That meant he'd be sent there probably months ahead of war, a sitting duck with the rest of the ground force generals. What better target for Saddam to hit with a preemptive chemical or biological attack? It would be an awful way to go, he thought, but it was all too possible. Odds were he would not be coming home. Marks, a Catholic, kept his fatalistic conclusions from his wife and daughters, but he went to confession and put his affairs in order.
For the eleven years since the 1991 Gulf War, the United States had been engaged in what amounted to a low-grade undeclared war to keep Saddam in a box. U.S. warplanes enforced two no-fly zones in Iraq, where Saddam was not permitted to fly any aircraft. U.S. pilots, permitted by U.N. resolution, had entered Iraqi airspace 150,000 times in the last decade. The Iraqis had attacked hundreds of times but not a single U.S. pilot had been lost, mainly because the U.S. had unsurpassed technical intelligence. Overhead satellite photos, other imagery and extensive communications intercept operations by the National Security Agency provided an astonishing edge. If Iraqi pilots or air defense used their radios, NSA picked it up. The Iraqi skies were an open book, a "glass ball theater," in military and intelligence slang. U.S. intelligence graded its performance based on its ability to penetrate Iraq in support of the Northern and Southern Watch Operations, and gave itself an A plus.
But in studying the Iraq intelligence, Marks found that this superior technical intelligence had become a crutch—a wait for the next satellite pass culture. It could be invaluable in pinpointing the location, disposition, strength and movement of Saddam's forces during an invasion. The downside was that it was collection from a distance. They had almost no on-the-ground intelligence, the sort they'd need to find the WMD they were sure Saddam was hiding.
Marks arranged to meet with the top experts on Iraq and WMD at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He thought of these experts at DIA— the brainchild of Kennedy-Johnson-era Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and the military's premier, all-source intelligence service— as "the smart guys."
On October 4, 2002, he settled into a conference room at the Pentagon with a dozen or so DIA smart guys. There were the overhead satellite smart guy, the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons smart guys, the Middle East regional smart guys, and the overall intelligence collection systems smart guys.
What do we really know about Saddam's WMD? he asked them.
They presented him with their highly classified WMD database on Iraq, called the Weapons of Mass Destruction Master Site List (WMDMSL). It was a list of 946 locations where intelligence indicated there were production plants or storage facilities for chemical, biological or nuclear-related material in Saddam's Iraq.
The first issue, Marks wrote in his notes, would be "SSE—Sensitive Site Exploitation." What would the invading U.S. ground forces do with each WMD site? Destroy it? Test it? Guard it? Render it useless?
Who physically will be doing that? Marks asked.
"Well, we don't have their names," one of the guys answered.
"Why not?" Marks asked. "What units are doing that?"
"Oh, we've got units who do that."
"Have you notified them?"
"Of course not."
"Well, then how's this all going to come together?" Marks asked. "I hate to be a jerk here, guys, but I'm the guy who's going to be—I and about 400 to 500 guys—are going to be holding the bag on this thing. Can you throw me a bone?"
The precise details on each of the 946 suspected sites—location, type of WMD, what kind of security was there—were more important to the forces on the ground than to anyone else, including the president. Bush might be staking his political capital, but the troops were staking their lives.
The truth was that the civilian Pentagon experts in their suits, shirts and neckties didn't have much to tell Marks on these points. "We haven't done anything," one of them said. Those were operational considerations, several of the smart guys indicated, to be decided by the military commanders, not by them.
The gap between intelligence and operations doesn't exist in combat, Marks said. "The ops guy and the intel guy are as tight as Siamese twins. You are co-joined," he said, dependent on each other. In the heat of warfare, the two had to work together because everything happened instantly in real time. Survival and success depended on it.
For example, when the WMD exploitation teams would arrive at a suspected site in Iraq they were going to have to do triage, and assign priorities based on urgency and threat. There wouldn't really be a hard-and-fast line between intelligence—what they needed to know—and operations—what they needed to do.
It will be a function of experience and equipment, he explained. Does this WMD sample have to go back to the lab to be tested? Would it even be possible to get samples? Is this sample benign? Can this be bagged and marked to be examined later?
The faces of the intel smart guys seemed to say, Not my problem.
Marks looked over the WMDMSL printout. "Are they prioritized?" he asked. Was Site Number 1 more important than Site Number 946?
"Of course, General," one of the people at the table said dismissively. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"No, my point is this: Where physically is 946?" Marks asked. "Is the prioritization based on the likelihood of WMD being there?" Were these all certain sites? Some more certain than others?
No one had an answer.
He tried to dig deeper. If site Number 946 was less important than Number 1, he wanted to know why.
Again, nobody had a real answer.
Was the first site listed first because they thought it had the most WMD? Or was it because of the type of WMD—chemical, biological, nuclear or missile-related activity or another category? Was it related to the overall threat from the site? Or was it a matter of how quickly or easily Saddam could use the WMD? "How are these things racked and stacked?" Marks asked.
The experts indicated that Number 1 was by some measure more valuable.
Okay. Let's try to define valuable, Marks said.
They eventually said that 120 of the 946 were "top priority," and Marks wrote it in his notes.
"Operationally," Marks began. He stopped for a second as he looked around the table. The lack of interest in the room seemed to grow. Most of these guys have never served in uniform, he surmised. He drew a rough map on a piece of paper.
"Iraq kind of looks like this. We're probably going be down here in Kuwait," Marks said. "There are going to be a bunch of kids in Bradley Fighting Vehicles and tanks that are going to be the very first guys that run across these sites that are scattered across the country." As they crossed the border, Marks said, a hypothetical private would have many missions. "He's got to kill bad guys. He's got to protect himself. He's got to protect his buddies. He has got to run his equipment." Now they were going to give him another mission: Secure nearly a thousand suspected WMD sites.
A lot of the smart guys were rolling their eyes at him, Marks thought. Too much detail, too many practical operational issues and questions.
"The very first site might be right here, right across the border," Marks said. "But it might be Site 833. So, does he blow by it? Do you want him to stop? Is it important? I mean, there's an operational requirement, and I need you to kind of give me a sense." He added that he was not asking them to tell him what specifically the ground troops should do. That wasn't their job. "But I've got to be able to give the operators a sufficient sense of the importance and priority of that site. And just by putting it 833 on the list tells me nothing."
Marks left the meeting very disturbed. "I was shocked at the lack of detail," he said later. These were supposed to be some of the smartest, most dedicated men and women working on WMD intelligence in Iraq. The Pentagon was not going to be much help on this critical issue, he realized.
Marks dug into the underlying evidence that suggested each of the 946 sites on the Weapons of Mass Destruction Master Site List actually had WMD. It was thin. There were very old satellite images—five years or more in some cases—and some signals intelligence. These were snippets of intercepted conversations, but nothing conclusive relating to a specific site or to specific WMD. There was nothing even remotely like an intercept of an Iraqi officer saying, "The VX nerve gas is stored on the first floor of 1600 Saddam Avenue." The WMD list was all on a computer network, but if he printed out the total information on any one site file or folder, he'd get at most 15 or 20 pages, much of which was of doubtful value.
The U.S. isolation of Iraq since the Gulf War had been nearly complete, and there was no routine commerce, no interchange, no political dialogue—and thus, no real ground intelligence. Technical intelligence had been great for enforcing the no-fly zones, but it was almost useless for the mission of finding, neutralizing or destroying WMD at nearly a thousand sites around the country before it could be used.
What Marks was confronting was a decade of intelligence blindness. In fact, he realized, of the 946 sites on the WMD site list, he couldn't say with confidence that there were any weapons of mass destruction or stockpiles at a single site. Not one.
"We're on our ass," became a Marks catchphrase, something he repeated to the DIA staff and his own people in meeting after meeting. He would have to galvanize everyone. And yet he kept wondering, "Why are we the only guys doing this? I don't get it."
bush was to give A prime-time speech in Cincinnati on October 7 spelling out the case against Saddam. The CIA kept tabs on what Bush was going to say, and at one point realized that the president planned to make an alarming claim about a potential Saddam nuclear program, by charging that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium oxide in Africa.
"You need to take this fucking sentence out because we don't believe it," Tenet told Hadley when he read the draft. Hadley pulled the reference. Instead, Bush said, "Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don't know exactly, and that's the problem." It was a modest claim that accurately reflected the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the collective judgment of all U.S. intelligence agencies, that had been issued five days earlier. The TOP SECRET NIE said with "moderate confidence" that "Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009."
But instead of saying a nuclear Iraq was probably five years off, the president pulled out the stops. "Facing clear evidence of peril," he warned, "we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
In a secure video conference October 9, General Franks explained that President Bush, the war cabinet and he himself were still focused on the war plan for invading Iraq.
"The president is not fulfilled with the plan we have," Franks said. Bush was worried that Saddam and his forces would retreat to the capital and hunker down in a kind of "Fortress Baghdad," leading to prolonged urban warfare. This concern had been voiced by Rice and Card in secret war-planning meetings for months. Now the first priority was to find a strategy to counter it.
The president's second priority, Franks said, after "Fortress Baghdad," was the "WMD problem."
That was Marks's problem.
Marks called in favors as he trolled the Army's promotion lists, building up his staff until it reached 400 military officers and others from the civilian intelligence agencies. He selected as his deputy Colonel Steve Rotkoff, 47, a senior military intelligence officer with 25 years in the Army who had been two years behind Marks at West Point. Marks thought Rotkoff was one of the most gifted officers in the Army, his absolute first choice to be the number two officer on the intelligence staff.
Rotkoff was an atypical officer in some ways—a Jewish intellectual, a bookish, irreverent New Yorker with distinctive, thick, bushy eyebrows. He was also a real bulldog who knew how to get things done. Marks knew that Rotkoff was getting ready to retire from the Army. That was a bonus; he might be especially willing to break some crockery and make things happen. His initial orders to his new deputy: "You have complete authority to be strident and border-line disruptive and insubordinate."
Rotkoff decided to keep a daily war journal, and over the next six months he filled six volumes. Pressed for time on many occasions, he summarized his thoughts and emotions with three-line haiku.
One of his early observations:
Rumsfeld is a dick
Won't flow the forces we need
We will be too light.
By the time General McKiernan moved his headquarters to Kuwait to prepare for war, during October and November 2002, Rotkoff could see that the top generals and planners weren't very focused on WMD. But Marks, Rotkoff and their staff spent time on it. As a practical matter, if Saddam launched even a small chemical or biological attack on U.S. forces as they crossed from Kuwait into Iraq, he might slow or even stop the advance.
Marks and Rotkoff together drove their staff. It became a kind of sweatshop. They made an individual target folder for each of the 946 sites, and they went to work trying to improve and update the intelligence for the main sites. This entailed requests for new satellite passes and other overhead imagery.
Air Force Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden, the head of the National Security Agency, had ordered that $300 million to $400 million of the NSA's money be redirected to "Iraq unique" operations and targets. Most of that was for battlefield intelligence, but NSA was picking up intercepts about WMD. In Hayden's view they were collecting a massive but circumstantial amount of evidence of WMD. Marks didn't consider it "massive," just more and more snippets, and it was indeed circumstantial.
Beginning in late November 2002, when Saddam permitted the United Nations weapons inspection team headed by Swedish lawyer Hans Blix back into Iraq, Marks noticed suspicious activity in a number of new satellite photos. U.N. inspectors were seen coming in the front gate of a suspected WMD site, while Iraqis were seen taking some sort of material out the back and loading it on trucks.
Are they just a step ahead of the hounds? he wondered. Are they that lucky? How did they know the inspectors were coming to that site? He ordered his staff to see if they could track the trucks to the Syrian border.
The big problem, though, was that no one knew for sure if they were looking at WMD. They could only guess or assume that was what it was.
"I don't know if there are bicycles in there from Toys R Us," Marks lamented after looking at the trail of one truck to Syria. He repeated an old military expression about not being able to decipher the real meaning: "You're a pig looking at a watch."
It was a paradox. On the one hand, he was troubled that he still couldn't say with conviction that he could prove any particular site had WMD. On the other, he still harbored no real doubt that they were there—somewhere. The intelligence had conditioned him to expect it.
Unbeknownst to Marks, Rumsfeld was wrestling with the same worries about WMD intelligence. In a classified three-page memo dated October 15, 2002, Rumsfeld listed 29 things that could go wrong in an Iraq war. He reviewed it with the president and the NSC. In the middle, item Number 13 said, "U.S. could fail to find WMD on the ground."
He obviously had some serious doubts and I asked him about it in 2006.
"I was very worried about it," he said. "I worry about intelligence. I have to." At the same time, intelligence was the responsibility of Tenet and others. "I developed confidence over time and conviction, and I think everyone did."
Did he know about a two-star general named Spider Marks who was in charge of ground intelligence and had had doubts about WMD?
"No," Rumsfeld said. "I mean, we dealt with the combatant commander's people. I may have met him, but I don't know him."
In October Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize war with Iraq. Three weeks later, in the midterm elections, the Republicans retained control of the House and took control of the Senate—picking up two Senate seats and eight in the House. It was exceedingly rare for a president's party to make gains in midterm elections. "How They Aced Their Midterms (And Now for the Big Tests)" was the headline on the cover of Time magazine, with an Oval Office photo of a smiling George W. Bush, his arm draped around a laughing Karl Rove.
At State, Armitage worried that the drive to invade Iraq had received a significant boost. Bush, he said, "really believes that his role is to change the face of the world and that attack, 9/11, did it. Combined with the '02 elections, where he became the mighty president of all the people, that's the effect of the off-year victory. He finally became the popularly elected president."
Armitage and Powell received reports from foreign leaders who met with Bush that the president was acting as if he had received validation and vindication. He was saying, "We got to seize this moment. This is an opportunity given us." Armitage thought Rice was running more and more interference for Bush. "Condi, in my view, anytime someone wasn't ready to do immediately exactly what the president wants, it was almost disloyal."
"No one knows the pressure I will put on you to get to Baghdad. You will assume risk," General Tommy Franks told his generals on December 7, remarks that Spider Marks recorded in his diary. That was the point of the plan, right there. Get to Baghdad, and fast. It echoed Rumsfeld's desire—"assume risk." The Powell Doctrine of trying to guarantee success was out. Rapid, decisive warfare was in.
Marks was still asking for help on the WMD list and site folders, and on the teams that would have to do something about the weapons during and after war. He routinely questioned the validity of using only technical methods of looking at the suspected WMD sites. He wanted to increase what he called the Fingerspitzengefühl—German for an instinctive sense and understanding—of Iraq, through human collection. But it was too late to develop human sources, and the CIA and DIA had almost none inside Iraq.
Marks tried to energize the DIA back in Washington, with little success.
"I can't get DIA to move," he told General McKiernan one day. "You need to fire me."
McKiernan wouldn't hear of it. Marks was eventually even more direct.
"Sir, I can't confirm what's inside any of these sites," he said. He amplified his concern about a particular site on the list, a suspected chemical production plant. "There is no confirming intelligence that that's what it does. It's labeled as such and it's got a bunch of signs on it that we can see from overhead imagery, and we've got some architectural designs and that's what it's designed to do. But I can't confirm that that's what it's doing today in the Year of Our Lord 2002."
"Got it," McKiernan replied. "Let's move on."
Marks took that as further reinforcement that it was up to him to solve the problem. Top military officers like Marks were trained to be can-do people. "Can't" was a word not to be uttered. He was in the solutions business, not the whining business or the excuses business. The boss was busy and had his own problems. It was almost a principle of Army leadership, and Marks developed a motto: "Don't visit your personal hell on your boss." His deputy, Colonel Rotkoff, heard it so often he recorded it in his diary as a classic Spider Marks catchphrase: "Don't share your personal hell."
Monday was always the scariest day of the week for Colonel Rotkoff in Kuwait. Like nearly everyone else, he spent days at a time wearing his charcoal-lined chemical weapons defense jumpsuit. A nylon pouch containing a gas mask and hood was strapped to his leg for ready use. Even the lighter, more modern version of the suit, called a J-LIST, was uncomfortable and awkward. Still, he was scared half to death each time he took it off.
Monday was the one day that Rotkoff could find 15 minutes in his schedule to shower. Every time he did, he was sure that would be when Saddam would attack with chemical or biological weapons. Saddam had fired 88 Scud missiles, with a range of several hundred miles, at American troops in the first Gulf War and 39 more at Israel in an attempt to goad that nation into the fight and fracture the U.S.-Arab coalition that existed at the time. Now, everyone expected he would attack again, only this time he would top the Scuds with chemical or biological warheads. Everyone absolutely knew it was coming.
Day after day, WMD scares provided inspiration for the haiku Rotkoff wrote in his diary:
Anthrax + smallpox
Gas masks, J-Lists at all times
Scary being here
Mask four hours avoiding work
Sweat pours down my face
This is not a drill...
Mask + chem suit on quickly
Try not to panic
That was the visceral reaction, but the continuing problem was that there was a real absence of convincing intelligence.
"They were every morning getting up and putting on their chemical suits," Rumsfeld later recalled. "Not for the heck of it, because they were worried about having their troops killed by chemical weapons. We never—none of us ever believed that they had nuclear weapons. The only real worry that we had was chemical."
The full written version of the Iraq war plan, called Op Plan 1003 V, included an annex devoted to the task of WMD exploitation. That was the good news, Marks thought. The bad news was that there had never actually been a military unit assigned to the task. This was the operational problem Marks had been grappling with for months, since his first visit with the DIA "smart guys" at the Pentagon in October.
After much wrangling, Franks's Central Command agreed to assign the job to a battalion, designated the "Sensitive Site Exploitation Task Force." But a battalion was a small force of several hundred, and the lieutenant colonel in command was a relatively low-ranking officer to lead the mission, given that weapons of mass destruction were the most often cited reason for war. It seemed odd to Marks, even negligent. "There is no more important or critical mission for the nation," he wrote in his diary at the time, "& DOD keeps wire brushing us/pushing back on our requests—Incredible!"
He searched for a larger unit, and in December 2002 he worked out a solution with a general at the Army's III Corps at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
"You've got an artillery brigade coming over here," Marks said. "We're thinking about having them leave their big guns at home and come over here to handle the WMD instead." The brigade, about 400 people strong, was commanded by a stocky colonel named Richard McPhee. It was soon rechristened the 75th Exploitation Task Force and given the job of finding the WMD once the U.S. forces entered Iraq. It was what the military called a "field expedient solution," making do with what they had. Finally, at least, somebody was assigned to the WMD job.
At the Pentagon, on Thursday, December 5, 2002, in the middle of the most intense invasion planning for Iraq, Steve Herbits walked into Rumsfeld's office.
"You're not going to be happy with what I'm going to tell you," he said, "but you are in the unique position of being the sole person who could lose the president's reelection for him if you don't get something straightened out."
Herbits continued. "Now that I've got your attention, you have got to focus on the post-Iraq planning. It is so screwed up. We will not be able to win the peace."
Later I asked Rumsfeld if he recalled the conversation with Herbits. "No," Rumsfeld said. "Doesn't mean it didn't happen."
Rumsfeld was under instructions from President Bush to oversee a massive deployment of hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces to the region around Iraq without telegraphing to the world and Saddam Hussein that war was inevitable. The president was still engaged in United Nations diplomacy. So Rumsfeld personally took charge of the mobilization and deployment system called the TPFDD (pronounced TIP-fid) for Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data. He believed he had lifted a big rock and found a system that was totally screwed up. Soon he was personally deciding which units would deploy and when. It was an extraordinary degree of micromanagement that frustrated and enraged the military.
Herbits warned Rumsfeld that policy undersecretary Feith was screwing up. The fighting between State and Defense was so bad that interagency meetings were at times little more than shouting matches. Postwar planning was so fiercely off track that it required the secretary's personal intervention.
Rumsfeld didn't say much but soon called one of his surprise Saturday meetings with Feith and others involved.
"What's going on here?" he asked. "We've got to get this on track."
In early January 2003, Marine Commandant General Jones was alone with Rumsfeld in his office. Jones had declined to be interviewed for the JCS chairmanship 18 months earlier, but Rumsfeld was now giving him another important four-star post—the dual assignment of both NATO supreme allied commander and U.S. combatant commander for Europe.
Rumsfeld's ruminations turned to life in Iraq after the battle. Saddam Hussein had effectively and brutally sealed off the country. What was it like there? What were the people really thinking and doing? It was hard, Rumsfeld mused to Jones, to find anyone anywhere who really knew something about Iraq, who knew facts.
"I worked for someone who is a hero in Kurdistan," Jones said, referring to the northern Iraqi region. "Jay Garner."
"I know him!" Rumsfeld said, bolting up at the mention of Garner's name. Garner had worked on Rumsfeld's space commission during the Clinton administration.
Garner, a retired three-star Army general, had led Operation Provide Comfort after the 1991 Gulf War, coming to the rescue of thousands of ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. Over the years Provide Comfort had become the gold standard of military humanitarian missions.
Jones explained that as a colonel, he had commanded the contingent of 2,200 Marines assigned to Provide Comfort. Garner deserved the lion's share of the credit for the operation's success, he said, setting up critical water purification systems and providing other humanitarian assistance. Overall, Garner was in charge of a U.S.-led force of 20,000 troops who systematically drove Saddam's forces from northern Iraq. Finally, one Sunday morning in 1991, Colin Powell, then chairman of the JCS, had drawn a line on a map establishing a southern Kurdistan border.
After Provide Comfort, the Kurds in northern Iraq set up a semi-autonomous enclave. They were regularly threatened by Saddam, but they were also a real thorn in his side and a conspicuous exception to his iron rule.
Provide Comfort was considered a great success for another important reason: Garner and the U.S.-led forces had done their job and come home in a matter of months.
Garner's name lodged in Rumsfeld's mind. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. He told Feith he had decided on Garner to head a postwar office.
On Thursday, January 9, Garner, then the head of a division of L-3, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor specializing in high-technology surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance equipment, was in New York for a company meeting. He picked up an incoming call on his cell phone from Feith's policy office at the Pentagon.
"We want to talk to you. Can you come over?" asked Ron Yaggi, an Air Force one-star general who was Feith's military assistant.
What do you want to talk about? Garner asked.
"It's a little sensitive on the phone," Yaggi said.
"Look, General," Garner said a little irritably. "This is the only way we're going to talk about it." Age 64, an intense, 5-foot-7 fireplug of a man, Garner had retired from the Army half a dozen years earlier after 33 years of service, including two tours in Vietnam.
"We're putting together an organization to do some postwar work. I'm sure you know where it is," Yaggi explained, trying to be cryptic on the nonsecure phone line. "We'd like for you to run that, at least to put it together."
Yaggi explained that Garner would set the organization up, but he might not go with it into Iraq after combat operations. Garner got the impression that he might not remain the senior civilian once things really got going.
"I probably can't do this," Garner said. "I'm running a company with over 1,000 people in it and they depend on me and I just can't take off like that."
The following Monday, January 13, Feith called Garner. "The secretary of defense said to tell you that if you turn this job down you have to come in and personally explain it."
Neither man had to state the obvious: It would be almost unthinkable for someone in Garner's business position, dependent on Pentagon contracts, to refuse the secretary of defense. Retired officers working for major defense contractors were in a kind of unofficial standby reserve for special assignments. To no one's astonishment, the CEO of L-3 found it possible to grant a leave of absence.
"By the end of June, I'll be home," Garner promised Connie, his wife of more than 40 years. "I'll be home for our Fourth of July cookout." *
That same day, January 13, President Bush summoned Secretary of State Colin Powell for a 12-minute Oval Office meeting to say he had decided on war with Iraq.
"You're sure?" asked Powell.
Bush said he was.
"You understand the consequences," Powell offered in a half question. For nearly six months, Powell had been hammering on the theme of the complexity of governing Iraq after the war. "You know that you're going to be owning this place?"
Bush said he realized that.
"Are you with me on this?" the president asked his secretary of state. "I think I have to do this. I want you with me."
"I'm with you, Mr. President," Powell replied.
In case there was any doubt—and there really couldn't be any for Powell, the good, obedient soldier—the president explicitly told the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs: "Time to put your war uniform on."
The president very reluctantly confirmed to me that he had asked Powell directly for his support but added testily a rather obvious point. "I didn't need his permission."
The director of Middle East affairs on the National Security Council staff, Elliott Abrams, was one of the most controversial, driven, hard-line conservatives. During the Reagan administration he had been
* From documents, talking points, chronologies, letters, transcripts, his personal notes and the notes of his executive assistant, Garner's role is presented here in detail and at length because he was the first person given full-time responsibility for postwar Iraq. This is the most complete, documented account of his experience yet available, as he decided not to write his own book or speak to others at such length. Garner was interviewed extensively on the record on September 19, 2005, October 16, 2005, December 13, 2005, and April 22, 2006. Members of his postwar planning office were also interviewed and some supplied additional documents and notes.
the assistant secretary of state and had avidly and energetically supported the covert CIA war in Nicaragua. He pled guilty to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Bush senior pardoned him in 1992.
Rice had brought Abrams to the NSC, where he was a workhorse. He was assigned the humanitarian relief account for Iraq. For months Abrams had been working with General Franks's Central Command, drawing up elaborate no-strike lists and trying to keep Iraqi hospitals, water plants and electrical grids from being bombed when the war started.
On January 15, two days after Bush informed Powell it would be war, the president met with the NSC for a secret Abrams presentation on the plans for humanitarian relief. Two months before the war would start, the president received his first major briefing on postwar plans.
War might displace two million Iraqis, Abrams said. The U.S. was stockpiling food, tents and water. Money had to be moved quietly to United Nations agencies and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) so they would be ready.
Abrams said that the precise number of refugees and displaced persons would be determined by interethnic tensions among the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, the level of violence and reprisals, and weapons of mass destruction—whether they were used or even if people just thought they might be. One PowerPoint slide explained how Saddam might blow up dams and flood parts of the country. In all it was not a pretty picture, a disturbing forecast for possibly one of the worst humanitarian crises of recent times.
"This is an opportunity to change the image of the United States," Bush told the war cabinet. He saw a public relations opportunity. "We need to make the most of these humanitarian aid efforts in our public diplomacy. I want to build surge capability." He began issuing orders. "I want loaded ships ready to provide food and relief supplies so we can go in very promptly." Then he added, "There are a lot of things that could go wrong, but not for want of planning."
Garner, who was about to take over the postwar humanitarian mission, had not been invited to Abrams's presentation. The next day, he sat with both Rumsfeld and Feith at a little table in Rumsfeld's office.
"Look, Jay," Rumsfeld began, "regardless of what you're told, there's been an awful lot of planning throughout the government for this." But it had all been done in the "vertical stovepipe" of each of the federal agencies, including the Defense Department. "I recommend that you try to horizontally connect the plans and find out what the problems are and work on those problems and anything else you find."
Feith was very upset with the aftermath of the Afghanistan War of 2001-02. He thought the State Department—which he at times called "the Department of Nice"—had botched it by not stabilizing the country fast enough. He wanted the Pentagon to have control of postwar Iraq until State could stand up an embassy. Until then, State would be subordinate to Defense.
Garner was worried about the lack of time. In World War II, Garner told Rumsfeld, the United States had started planning for postwar Europe years before the war ended. "You're taking on this problem to solve what will need a solution in somewhere between five and 10 weeks."
"I know," Rumsfeld said. "We'll get somewhere. We'll get somewhere on this. Just maximize the time available."
Frank Miller, a 22-year veteran of the Pentagon bureaucracy who had served under seven secretaries of defense in some of the most sensitive and senior civilian positions, was now working for Rice as the NSC's senior director for defense. He headed the Executive Steering Group, which was to coordinate the Iraq issues among the different federal agencies. Heavyset with glasses, Miller was the kind of serious, invisible middle manager who can make an organization work, the equivalent of a timing belt in an automobile engine: vital, but barely noticed until gone.
By the start of 2003, Miller felt that Rumsfeld had made his job almost impossible. There was constant tension between the NSC and Rumsfeld's Pentagon, and Rumsfeld went to extra lengths to keep control of information. Often, when Rumsfeld came to the White House with General Franks to brief the president and the NSC and some of the staff on the Iraq invasion plans, he would see that the slides and handouts were distributed just before the meeting, and taken back immediately after. Sometimes there would be a handout for the president with 140 pages, and the lesser beings like Miller would be allowed to see only 40 of them. On one occasion, Rumsfeld came for a meeting without enough briefing packets for all the principals, so Rice wound up looking on with the person next to her. It was all so petty. Miller and a few others allowed in the meeting would scramble, trying furiously to write down the important points.
Sometimes, Rumsfeld would point across the room in the middle of a briefing. "People shouldn't be taking notes," he scolded. "People should not be taking notes in here."
It was absolutely crazy, Miller thought. How could he advise Rice and Hadley or the president if he couldn't keep notes on information from the Pentagon? Miller had handled the most sensitive nuclear war plans issues for Cheney when he was defense secretary, and had been awarded the Defense Department's highest civilian award, the Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, five times. He was deeply insulted that Rumsfeld would treat him and others from the NSC staff like third-class citizens of dubious loyalty, sometimes not even acknowledging their presence. Besides, he thought, it was self-defeating. Weren't they all on the same side?
When the generals came over to the White House with him, Rumsfeld spoke first, introducing everyone, and explaining what they were going to talk about. Miller thought it sounded unnecessarily self-centered, as if Rumsfeld were the conductor leading his orchestra. It was worse for General Myers. Miller and Myers were longtime friends, and Miller could see his friend was suffering.
Miller was also de facto chief of staff for the NSC deputies committee, which included the number two officials such as Wolfowitz, Armitage and McLaughlin. But there had been such chaos that he also had a weekly offline meeting with Card, Rice, Hadley and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to blow the whistle on the Pentagon and get them to nudge Rumsfeld. With the difficulties in getting information, Rice's orders to Miller were to work around it. If you can't do it through the front channels, call someone you know, and use the back channel. Miller thrived on his contacts in the Pentagon and among deployed forces. During his Pentagon years, Miller had known lots of officers who now wore three and four stars, and he counted many among his friends.
Get it done any way, Rice ordered regularly. "Fix it."
Incredibly Rice found that Rumsfeld at times would not return her phone calls when she had questions about war planning or troop deployments. She complained to Rumsfeld, who reminded her that the chain of command did not include the national security adviser.
Rice complained to the president.
Bush's response was to try to be playful with Rumsfeld.
"I know you won't talk to Condi," Bush once teased Rumsfeld, "but you've got to talk to her."
Card was astonished.
The whole scene would have been comic, Miller thought, if the issues hadn't involved war, life and death.
hadley had been working for several months on the transition of power in post-Saddam Iraq. There had been a lot of talk about making General Franks the proconsul for Iraq, and having everybody work for him. But the drawback was that it would put an occupation face on the U.S. presence. They didn't need a General MacArthur; they needed a civilian face for the leadership. Rice was appalled at the idea that they'd tell the Iraqis that their new president was going to be Tommy Franks. "Create a MacArthur?" she asked. She knew it wouldn't be tolerated by Bush or the Iraqis.
But how to structure things, then? Hadley knew that Rumsfeld—and, of course, Feith—thought postwar Afghanistan was a failure. Rumsfeld would say that they had failed because they broke up responsibility for the postwar period in Afghanistan by parceling it out to individual countries. Germany was supposed to do police training. Italy was supposed to do the judiciary. Even within the U.S. government, they had parceled things out—State had its responsibilities, Treasury had other responsibilities—and the result was that Afghanistan was nobody's first priority.
It was out of that experience, Hadley felt, that the idea of Garner's fledgling team had been born. The military term for postwar operations was Phase IV—"stability operations"—but the president wanted more than just stability in postwar Iraq. He wanted democracy, so Hadley pushed for a comprehensive postwar plan covering everything.
The State Department had been working for a year on what was called the "Future of Iraq" project—thousands of pages of reports and recommendations on government, oil, justice and agriculture. Despite this effort, and contrary to his later assertions, Powell agreed that it was logical to give postwar responsibility to Defense. Rumsfeld would have the tens of thousands of troops on the ground, the money and resources. Powell, the military man, was instinctively drawn to a plan that respected the principle of unity of command. There had to be somebody— one somebody—ultimately in charge. It had to go to Defense. To Powell this was not out of the ordinary. It was what had been done after World War II in Germany and Japan.
Hadley, the NSC staff and Feith had about a week to prepare a legal document laying out the Defense Department's authority.
On January 20, 2003, President Bush signed a secret National Security Presidential Directive, NSPD-24. The subject: setting up an "Iraq Postwar Planning Office" within the Defense Department.
Garner didn't have any input. A few days later when he went to work in a Pentagon office near Rumsfeld's, he read the four-page document, which was classified SECRET. It took his breath away.
"If it should become necessary for a U.S.-led military coalition to liberate Iraq," the directive began, "the United States will want to be in a position to help meet the humanitarian, reconstruction, and administration challenges facing the country in the immediate aftermath of the combat operations. The immediate responsibility will fall on U.S. Central Command; overall success, however, will require a national effort."
The new postwar office, Garner's office, would have responsibility for "detailed planning across the spectrum of issues that the United States Government would face with respect to the postwar administration of Iraq." Included among these were all the security, economic and political issues.* Garner had thought he'd been recruited to play the role of a glorified chief of staff, but the presidential directive now gave him responsibility for all the tasks normally run by national, state and local governments in post-Saddam Iraq.
The directive ordered that 10 federal agencies—everything from the CIA and the State Department to the Agriculture and Education Departments
* The list included: (a) Assisting with humanitarian relief; (b) Dismantling weapons of mass destruction; (c) Defeating and exploiting terrorist networks; (d) Protecting natural resources and infrastructure; (e) Facilitating the country's reconstruction and protection of its infrastructure and economy; (f) Assisting with the reestablishment of key civilian services, such as food supply, water, electricity and health care; (g) Reshaping the Iraqi military; (h) Reshaping the other internal security institutions; and (i) Supporting the transition to Iraqi-led authority over time.
—begin detailing experts to his office. They had to be sufficiently high-ranking—colonels, one-star generals and the highest levels of career civilian officials—to have the clout necessary to "coordinate issues throughout their agencies when required."
In the event of war, the directive stated, "the Planning Office shall be deployed to Iraq to form the nucleus of the administrative apparatus that will assist in administering Iraq for a limited period of time."
Garner went to see Rumsfeld after he'd had some time to absorb the NSPD.
"Here's what I think we have to have," he said. They needed people who would coordinate efforts in three large areas: reconstruction, civil administration and humanitarian affairs. Then they needed an operations group—something almost totally military—that would handle logistics: food, housing, physical security and transportation. Finally, they should divide the country into three divisions—a northern team, a southern team and a central team covering Baghdad and its outskirts.
"Do you think you can live with this?" Garner asked. Rumsfeld agreed, although Garner could see his mind was on the upcoming invasion, not the aftermath.
Garner found himself waking up at 2 a.m., dictating to-do lists. He realized he had been given an impossible task but the military man's can-do attitude prevailed over doubt. "I thought this was going to be superhard," he told me later. But, he added, "I never failed at anything."
On Saturday night, January 25, 2003, President Bush attended the 90th annual Alfalfa Club dinner, an old-world, black-tie ritual named after the plant species that would do anything for a drink. The dinner, held at the Capital Hilton Hotel three blocks north of the White House, was a gathering of hundreds of the usual suspects from the top of the political and business worlds, including the president's mother and father.
In brief remarks, President Bush told the audience that his mother had warned him not to joke about U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, and not to say anything about North Korea.
"So I finally said, 'Well, why don't you just give the darn speech?' So ladies and gentleman, I give you my mother."
Barbara Bush, the Silver Fox, as her husband called her, then 77, took the floor. "People never believe this, but he was the perfect child," she said. "He'd put on his cowboy outfit and ... entertain himself for hours fighting the bad guys, or as he called them, 'The Axis of Evil.' " Bush had memorably referred to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "Axis of Evil" in his 2002 State of the Union speech.
"I'll never forget the paper he wrote in fourth grade where he explained that in 1519 Ferdinand Magellan set out 'to circumcise the world.' " She got a standing ovation.
Later, mingling in the large crowd, the former first lady reached out to an old family friend, David L. Boren, the centrist former Democratic senator from Oklahoma who had been the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence during the presidency of George H. W. Bush. Boren was now the president of the University of Oklahoma but he was still plugged into Washington, not least through George Tenet at the CIA, who had worked for Boren on the Intelligence Committee. Tenet had impressed Boren greatly, and Boren became his patron, recommending him to President Clinton in 1992 and again to George W. Bush in early 2001.
Boren and the elder George Bush had known each other for decades and were close friends.
"You always told me the truth," Barbara Bush opened, drawing Boren aside for a private chat.
"Yes, ma'am," Boren replied.
"Will you tell me the truth now?"
"Are we right to be worried about this Iraq thing?"
"Yes. I'm very worried."
"Do you think it's a mistake?"
"Yes, ma'am," Boren replied. "I think it's a huge mistake if we go in right now, this way."
"Well, his father is certainly worried and is losing sleep over it. He's up at night worried."
"Why doesn't he talk to him?"
"He doesn't think he should unless he's asked," Barbara Bush said. It was the father-son distance, she said, and he didn't think he should volunteer.
"Well," Boren responded, "I understand the feeling of a father but he's a former president of the United States and an expert in this area."
Barbara Bush shook her head solemnly, almost woefully.
Later, Boren greeted Bush senior.
"Do you ever see our mutual friend, Colin?" the former president asked.
"Be sure to tell him I sure think he's doing a good job."
Both men knew Powell was the reluctant warrior, trying to solve the Iraq problem with diplomacy.
Yes, Mr. President, Boren said. "I certainly will and I certainly think he is too."
Lieutenant General John Abizaid, General Franks's deputy, was the U.S. military's senior Middle East expert. A member of the 1973 West Point class that just missed Vietnam, Abizaid, whose combat experience in Grenada was dramatized in the 1986 Clint Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge, had done postgraduate sabbaticals at Harvard and the University of Jordan in Amman. He had learned Arabic, and his first visit to Iraq had been in the late 1970s.
As director of the Joint Staff succeeding Vice Admiral Fry in 2001-02, Abizaid had felt the full blast of Rumsfeld's impatience, and often he just had to take the ass chewing. "Sometimes he was nice about it, sometimes he wasn't nice about it," Abizaid told a colleague. "I admire the man greatly even though I don't necessarily like him. . . . He's got a weakness in wanting to have his hands around everything. Okay?"
In early 2003, Abizaid was chatting informally with Spider Marks at the U.S. base in the Kuwaiti desert. The subject turned to the WMD master site list.
"What do you think, Spider?" Abizaid asked. He put his arm around the ground forces intelligence chief's shoulders. "What do you really think about these weapons of mass destruction sites?"
"Sir, I don't give a shit," Marks said. It was a flippant reply to the higher-ranking general, but Marks had known Abizaid since they were both cadets at West Point, and sensed he wanted an honest opinion. "Whether it's there or not—and I need to tell you, I can't confirm it's there—but whether it's there or not I still have to do something with that site. I'm going to have to put American men and women at risk to get in there and do something with that site."
It was a stark reframing of the problem. With neither the time nor the resources to figure out with confidence whether there really were any WMD at the 946 sites on the list, Marks had to operate on the presumption that they were there. For the pragmatist generals on the ground who were poised to launch a war over Saddam's alleged WMD, ironclad proof that the weapons were there was getting less and less relevant.
• • •
In 1991, when Abizaid was a lieutenant colonel, he had commanded an infantry battalion under Garner during Operation Provide Comfort. Garner thought that Abizaid knew both the military mind and the Arab mind so well that he called him early for advice. He took notes on what his former subordinate said. "What we've got to do is provide an opportunity for the Iraqi army to emerge with some honor." The army was largely Sunni and they couldn't be allowed to feel they were losing everything.
Later, in an interview, Rumsfeld said he agreed with Abizaid's approach. "He felt that way about the Sunnis, that we're losing control of the country, and constantly was looking to see that decisions" were "fair and representative of them."
Garner agreed. The idea was to use the defeated Iraqi army for reconstruction, from rebuilding bridges to handling border and building security. Keep them busy. An idle army would be trouble.
Abizaid warned him that the hard part would come after they defeated the Iraqi army. In the aftermath, Abizaid said, "There's going to be a lot of terrorism. There's going to be a lot of things we have to put up with—disgruntled people, pockets of resistance and guerrilla activity."
Near the end of January, Garner and his chief of staff, fellow retired three-star Army General Jared Bates, met with General Franks at the Pentagon. The three men were contemporaries. All had served as battalion commanders in Germany in the 1980s. They agreed it made sense for Garner and Franks both to report directly to Rumsfeld.
"You and I both work for the same boss," Franks told Garner, adding that he was concerned about the National Security Council process where the various departments and agencies tried to hammer out a consensus. "What you've got to do is keep the interagency off my back for a while," Franks said, "but keep them wired together where they're not destructive." He promised that after the major combat was over he would get Garner and his team into Iraq. But he offered a sobering assessment. "I don't think you guys will be in there before about 60 to 90 days." Both Garner and Bates felt this was way, way too long to wait, but neither said anything.
On January 28, Garner met with Zalmay M. Khalilzad, the NSC's senior director for the Gulf region, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Khalilzad had been born and raised in Afghanistan and had a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He was considered a neoconservative, having worked for Wolfowitz in the Reagan and Bush senior administrations.
"We need to form an advisory group of wise men who advise us on what needs to be done in order to turn the running of the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people," Khalilzad told him. From all his conversations with everyone else so far, Garner had the strong impression that the U.S. plan was to set up a provisional government. Khalilzad was the first in the administration who was basically saying to him: No, we don't need one. What we need to do is get the Iraqis governing themselves as fast as possible.
"I agree with you," Garner said. He was encouraged by the conversation, as it squared with his idea of rapidly turning over power directly to Iraqis. Here was an ally.
In the first full week of February 2003, Garner and Bates flew to Doha, Qatar, where Central Command was headquartered, to meet at greater length with Franks and Abizaid. This was Army old-home week for all. Bates felt particularly close to Abizaid. He'd been his superior in the 75th Ranger Regiment, serving as second in command of a Ranger battalion when Abizaid was a relatively young lieutenant in the same unit. Colonels and majors are the mentors to captains and lieutenants in the Army, and a former senior officer has enduring status in the military club.
Franks routinely denounced Doug Feith as the "dumbest bastard, dumbest motherfucker on the face of the earth." He told Garner and Bates, "I'm very comfortable with you two being in charge." Again, he repeated that he wanted them to keep Washington off his back. "We understand trucks and ROWPUs," he said, referring to the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units, which could suck polluted water from a river and spew out thousands of gallons of fresh water. Franks was focused on the basic humanitarian issues.
Bates saw that Abizaid understood precisely what the hard part would be. The Army Arabist was focused on Iraq after the war—what had to be done and how quickly it had to be done.
A government had to be put in place, Abizaid said. "We've got to get an Iraqi face on it. It's got to be a multiethnic face." A new government had to involve all Iraqis, not just Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, but tribes and factions, he explained. Iraqis don't like us, he said, and they are not going to like us in their country. Bates appreciated the fact that Abizaid did not want to reduce the problem to a simple bumper sticker.
But Abizaid expressed unhappiness with the way Washington was thinking its way through the postwar period. One rumbling he kept hearing was how much the Pentagon did not like Saddam's Baath Party. Fair enough. But if someone in Saddam's Iraq wanted a decent job, especially in government, that person almost had to be a member of the Baath Party. The United States, he said, was going to need Baath Party members to be involved in a new government.
At a meeting with Abizaid and many senior staffers at the Central Command headquarters in Qatar that week, Garner explained that he planned to follow right behind the combat units as they moved into Iraq.
Oh, really? thought one of the staff officers, Colonel Carol Stewart, the head of Central Command's intelligence plans division. She wondered whether Garner understood that the war plan didn't include taking and holding cities. We're not planning on taking Basra and Nasiriyah. We're going straight to Baghdad.
"Who's providing security in Iraq?" Stewart asked. Garner said he expected the Iraqi police would still be on the job. That didn't sound right at all to Stewart, but she held her words since there were so many higher-ranking officers in the room.
Over the previous month or so, Stewart's intelligence plans division had tried to project how many troops would be needed to accomplish a peacekeeping mission in Iraq, based on the Army's experience in Bosnia and Kosovo. Their estimate was 450,000. But nobody was thinking about troop levels that high, so they worked through some other options. What if, instead of trying to occupy the entire country, they instead focused on the key Iraqi cities? On the low end, they concluded, if the situation in Iraq awaiting American forces was completely peaceful, with the total consent of the Iraqis to an American occupation, they would need at least 60,000 troops. At the other extreme, with lots of opposition and fighting among the Iraqi ethnic groups, an estimated 180,000 to 200,000 troops would be required to secure just the 26 or 27 most important cities.
Later that day, in a smaller meeting with Garner and other senior officers, Stewart spoke a little more freely. The Central Command intelligence estimate said there would be no Iraqi police on the job once the U.S. passed through, she stressed.
"What do you mean, no police?" one of the generals asked.
"It's like Panama," she replied, referring to the 1989 U.S. invasion of that country with some 24,000 troops. When the Americans had toppled the government and the local army, the police force had ceased to exist. In Iraq, the same thing was likely to happen.
She turned to Garner. "You just told us that you'd follow the combat forces. That is not a good idea."
There was more difficult news. One officer pointed out that if they wanted to keep the police and other civil servants on the job after the invasion, somebody had to come up with a way to keep paying them.
Garner turned to Bates. "We're going to have to go back to D.C. and get a checkbook," he said.
Bates kept in touch with Abizaid in the coming months and they had more than a handful of meetings. Abizaid continued to express dismay about Washington. It was more than the field man expressing the classic gripe about headquarters. After one formal meeting, Bates and Abizaid talked as old friends. "You know," Abizaid said, "these bastards in Washington have got no idea what they're doing, and I think I'm going to retire. I don't want any more part of this."
vice President Cheney was seized with what he thought was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, but the CIA disagreed. Tenet and his people had gone over the intelligence as completely as they could. There was no proof, he said plainly. True, a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had strong al Qaeda ties, was involved in various terrorist activities inside Iraq. He had been given sanctuary there by the Saddam regime. But there was no evidence to show that Saddam himself, someone on his behalf, or someone in the Iraqi intelligence or security services was involved with Zarqawi.
"I can't take you to authority, direction and control," Tenet said. That was the high standard that had to be met to make a case for a Saddam-al Qaeda link.
Powell was set to go before the United Nations on February 5, 2003, to make the WMD intelligence case for war, and Cheney wanted him to look at the argument his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, had assembled charging a link between Saddam and al Qaeda. The case included an allegation that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attacks, had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer as many as four times. Tenet's CIA had chased down some indications about one or two meetings, but nothing had been confirmed. In the end they had concluded there was no evidence of even a single meeting.
Powell thought the Atta link didn't exist and he refused to include it in his speech. He also toned down the references to Zarqawi in his forthcoming U.N. speech. He planned to talk only about the potential for an Iraq-al Qaeda link.
Spider Marks's deputy, Colonel Rotkoff, watched on TV from the Kuwaiti desert on February 5 as Powell addressed the U.N. Despite his firsthand knowledge of the state of the WMDMSL target folders, Rotkoff hadn't really doubted that Saddam had the prohibited weapons. Seeing Powell, the retired four-star who was widely respected in the military, put his credibility on the line and make the case only added to Rotkoff's conviction. They had everything but ironclad evidence.
Every Sunday in Kuwait, as they waited for war, Rotkoff organized informal, invitation-only gatherings for the smartest officers in Spider Marks's intelligence shop. These meetings, which soon took on the nickname "Sunday Afternoon Prayer Sessions," were relaxed working sessions where they'd scrounge pizza and near beer and try to encourage a freewheeling, informal discussion with fresh ideas. Spider Marks and the other generals were never invited so that the officers would not be afraid of taking a chance, thinking out loud or saying something stupid in front of their bosses.
One Sunday in early 2003, Colonel Steve Peterson, a brainy Army officer with a reputation for creative thinking, asked Rotkoff if he could lead a Prayer Session.
"Saddam Hussein's 'Black Hawk Down' Strategy," Peterson's PowerPoint presentation began. The reference was to Mark Bowden's celebrated book Black Hawk Down about the 1993 Somalia debacle when 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in close-encounter urban warfare, leading President Clinton to withdraw U.S. troops. Somalia had come to symbolize America's apparent unwillingness to incur casualties.
Peterson proposed that their operating premise about Saddam's strategy of retreat to a Fortress Baghdad might be all wrong. What if Saddam instead planned to have his units melt away, only to resurface periodically and randomly attack U.S. forces, creating a long-term insurgency? Saddam would have to know that U.S. forces had far superior equipment, men and tactics. Eventually they would break through a Fortress Baghdad. But what if Saddam got smart, and saw that his better strategy was a campaign of small, sophisticated attacks by Iraqis—a kind of continuous, random, urban terrorism? That way U.S. forces would have to contend with unending violence, with little knowledge of who was carrying it out, or where or when they might strike.
Peterson said his hypothesis derived from the following:
First, some U.S. intelligence showed that Saddam had commissioned an Arabic translation of Black Hawk Down and issued copies to his senior officers. We've always assumed this was supposed to buck up his senior leaders' morale, Peterson said, to show that if you kill a few Americans, the United States will go home. But what if the real lesson Saddam takes from Black Hawk Down is that insurgents can have local tactical successes against a far superior military force?
Second, in October 2002, Saddam had opened Iraq's prisons, freeing tens of thousands of inmates—both political prisoners and common criminals. What if the idea was that they'd form bands of troublemakers or be individual agents of disruption?
Third, there was evidence of widespread conventional weapons caches all over Iraq—firearms and explosives, the types of weapons that would be especially useful to insurgents.
Fourth, Saddam's Baath Party organization in each town somewhat resembled the classic Communist cell structure, built on loose, informal and personal relationships quite effective for communications in guerrilla insurgencies.
Add it all up, Peterson said, and a logical strategy for Saddam might be to run and hide, and use the Baathist cell structure to develop an insurgent army that would have weapons and explosives for a prolonged fight until the Americans grew exhausted and lost their political will.
Peterson's theory was radical. It flew in the face of all the war planning predicated on a quick defeat of Saddam's army. Rotkoff recognized that it took a lot of confidence to push a contrary possibility, especially this late in the planning game. Everyone else in the room at the Prayer Session seemed to think it was not very feasible. The "Black Hawk Down Strategy" was just another theory.
On February 14, the president met with the NSC and Franks. A question arose about protecting the Iraqi oil wells during and after the invasion.
"How do you determine if you keep local policemen?" the president asked.
Franks was reassuring. According to the notes of one person at the NSC meeting, the general told Bush, "I have created lord mayors for each Iraqi city. I have the forces in place to do this tomorrow." The implication was that he had Iraqis ready to run the police.
• • •
Garner spoke with Lieutenant General George Casey, the director of the Joint Staff, to request 94 people for his postwar operations. In 2004-06, as a four-star, Casey would be the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.
"That's a lot of people," Casey said. "Let me look at it."
Garner and his chief of staff, Bates, pressed Casey.
"Look, George," Bates said. "Time's running out on us. We have to have these people. Have you requisitioned them?"
"No," Casey replied. "I haven't done that because you guys are trying to convince me this is a 24/7 operation and I don't believe it."
"George," Garner said. "You're out of your mind. You don't think this is 24/7?"
"No," Casey replied.
Garner called Casey again. "Hey, George. This is hardball time now." He proposed a meeting in Rumsfeld's office at 5 p.m. that day. "We'll battle this out in front of him, because I've got to have these people."
About an hour later, the head of personnel for the Joint Staff called Garner. "How many people do you need?"
Garner, with responsibility for all of postwar Iraq, the most important matter being undertaken by the U.S. government, was essentially being forced to assemble a pickup team of several hundred and go beg, cajole and threaten to get his players.
In 2006, I mentioned to Rumsfeld that I thought "for some reason the government assigned a pickup team the most important thing that they were doing," and asked, "Is that fair?"
"Oh, I wouldn't think so," he said, noting that many talented people volunteered, went to Iraq, and did the tough jobs. "You can be pejorative and say it's a pickup team. But it wasn't a pickup team at all." He suggested that I would be embarrassed in history if I drew such a comparison. "As your old friend says," he added, attempting to imitate Nixon's voice, "That would be wrong."
Garner also recruited Gordon Rudd, a retired Army colonel who had been the official military historian for Provide Comfort in 1991. Rudd had a Ph.D. in history and lived near the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia, where he was a professor at the command and staff college. Working for Garner, he would hit the road about 5 a.m. each day to beat the snarled Virginia traffic to the Pentagon, work as many as 14 hours a day, and basically let the assignment take over his life.
"Gordon," Garner called out to him in a Pentagon hallway. "Write me a paper on what we should do with the Iraqi army."
Rudd took a day, went to the library, and read everything he could find about what the U.S. had done with the German and Japanese armies at the end of World War II. He also researched how the U.S. had used its own military during the New Deal, developing things such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. He wrote a paper theorizing that if the Iraqi army had armor and artillery units, it must also have engineering and maintenance units. That meant it must have military schools—an engineering school, a transportation school, maybe even a medical school.
What they should do, he wrote, was run the Iraqi infantry units through schools that taught specific reconstruction tasks—mine-clearing school, or explosive-ordnance-disposal school.
But Rudd soon found out that nobody knew where the Iraqi military schools were, which meant it was almost impossible to put together a practical plan. He worked with an Army intelligence colonel and put in requests for more information to the DIA and the CIA, but the response they got back was simply, "We just don't know."
People began flowing from various federal departments and agencies into Garner's Pentagon B-ring offices. It resembled one of those stock, rushed preparation scenes in the old World War II movies with everyone hyperactive, focused and knowing their assignments. But Garner could see that it was chaotic. Few knew who was working on what. Everyone was moving but it was not clear where anyone was going.
"What we're going to do is, we're going to do a rock drill," Garner said, using an old Army term for a field commander's technique of diagramming a military plan on the ground using rocks to represent the various units.
The weekend of February 21-22, Garner gathered some 200 people at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in southwest Washington, D.C., for a massive rehearsal and planning conference.
Throughout the weekend, two questions went unanswered during all the presentations, PowerPoint slides and discussions: Who was going to be in charge of Iraq the day after the serious combat ended? And, was there an Iraqi political process that could be tapped to help recruit people who could provide the basics—security, water, electricity—matters that are normally the responsibility of a mayor in an American city?
Shortly after the rock drill, one participant who had spoken with Garner and other key staffers analyzed the conference in a 20-page report. The analysis identified numerous planning problems a month before the war. In retrospect, it provides stark and contemporaneous warnings:
• "Current force packages are
inadequate for the first step of securing all the major urban areas, let alone
for providing interim police. . . . We risk letting much of the country descend
unrest [and] chaos whose magnitude may defeat our national
strategy of a stable new Iraq, and more immediately, we place
our own troops, fully engaged in the forward fight, in greater
• "It seems likely that we will
begin military action before we
know whether sufficient Phase IV funds will be available. If
fewer funds are available than required, we risk leaving behind a
great unstable mess with potential to become a haven for terrorists."
• "In field after field, the
ideas, as briefed, suggest a heavy-handed
imperial take-over. Danger, danger!"
• "The conference did not take up
the most basic issue: What sort
of future government of Iraq do we have in mind, and how do we
plan to get there?"
• With no sufficient plan for police
from U.S. troops or a civilian
government of Iraq, "What happens to law and order in the
The memo went on to explain that Garner himself had introduced at the rock drill the notion of what he called "Show Stoppers—problems, if not solved, place mission at risk."
This "Danger, danger!" memo identified several such Show Stoppers.
"Security," was one. "This is far and away the greatest challenge, and the greatest shortfall. If we do not get it right, we may change the regime, but the national strategy will likely fall apart and our troops on the ground will be in jeopardy.
"This complete dearth of needed forces, coupled with the security exigencies we will no doubt face on the ground, make for a very disturbing picture indeed. Fortunately, Gen. Garner is as aware as anyone of the seriousness and urgency of this issue. He stated flatly that the issue is crucial and that we do not have enough forces, and he added he will be taking the issue up this week with SECDEF and NSA Dr. Rice. . . . This should help, particularly should Dr. Rice choose to take the most serious matters—security and cost—to POTUS." POTUS stood for President of the United States.
Garner and his team emerged from the rock drill very troubled. His second in command in the postwar planning group, another retired Army three-star, Ron Adams, wrote in his notes: "Faulty assumptions. Overly optimistic. Lack of reality." Later, Adams recalled, "I personally came out of the rock drill far more concerned than when I went in, and I was uneasy right from the get-go."
During the first morning of the rock drill, Garner had noticed one person who found fault with everything. A real "spring-butt," Garner thought, someone who kept popping up out of his seat with something to say on every topic. When they took a break, Garner walked up to him.
"Let me talk to you," he said.
"I'm Tom Warrick," said the man, a 48-year-old State Department civil servant.
"How do you know so damn much?"
"Well, I've been studying this stuff for the last year and a half," Warrick said.
Oh yeah? Who've you been studying it for?
The State Department, Warrick replied, and said he'd written a long report on postwar Iraq. "It's called the 'Future of Iraq' study."
That was very interesting, Garner thought. He had heard vaguely about the study.
"Why aren't you over here working for me?"
"I'd like to work for you," Warrick said.
"You're hired," Garner told him. "Be there Monday morning and bring all your stuff."
The Monday after the rock drill, Warrick showed up at the Pentagon. By noon, Garner noticed that half the people working with Warrick were mad at him. Garner was delighted. They needed someone like that, challenging everyone, keeping them on their toes and engaged. "He runs around and sandpapers everyone," Garner recalled later. Garner read much of the "Future of Iraq" study, didn't agree with all of it, but felt it was sufficiently provocative to be useful.
A few days later, Garner was summoned to Rumsfeld's office for a big get-together with Wolfowitz, General Myers and the vice chairman of the JCS, Marine General Pete Pace.
"Hey, Jay"—Rumsfeld leaned over at one point—"when it's all over, how about staying? I have a couple of things I need to go over."
When everyone else left, the secretary of defense walked to his desk and started shuffling through his papers. It took a while, and Rumsfeld started to get exasperated, unable to find what he was looking for. Finally, he picked up a small piece of paper.
"Jay," he said, looking up. "Do you have a couple people on your team named Warrick and O'Sullivan?"
"Yeah," Garner replied. "I've got a guy named Tom Warrick who did the 'Future of Iraq' study and I got a gal named Meghan O'Sullivan, who's a real talented young lady."
O'Sullivan, also from the State Department, had come over to Garner's team recently. She was 33, indisputably bright, had a doctorate in political science from Oxford University, and had written extensively on rogue states and Iraq.
"I've got to ask you to take them both off the team," Rumsfeld said.
"I can't do that. Both of them are too valuable."
Rumsfeld stared at Garner briefly. "Look, Jay. I've gotten this request from such a high level that I can't turn it down. So I've got to ask you to remove them from your team."
"There's no negotiation here?" Garner asked.
"I'm sorry. There really isn't," Rumsfeld replied.
A level so high that the secretary of defense couldn't turn it down? Garner thought. That could mean only Bush or conceivably Cheney.
Back in his office, Garner couldn't locate Warrick or O'Sullivan. He told Tom Baltazar, an Army colonel who was working as his operations officer, what had happened. "That's crazy," Baltazar said.
"Look, just find them," Garner said. "Tell them to go back to where they came from, and I'll get them back. Tell them it's just temporary."
Garner later tracked down Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser.
"I really, really want these two back," he told Hadley.
"Yeah," Hadley replied. "I don't know that we can help you here."
Garner pressed his case. Warrick and O'Sullivan knew what they were talking about. There wasn't much time before they would likely be deploying to the Middle East, and he needed them.
"Well, the man is just too hard," Hadley said. It would be impossible to get Warrick back on the team, but it sounded like he was leaving the door open for O'Sullivan.
That night, Baltazar called Garner at his apartment to report that Warrick and O'Sullivan were gone.
"Tom," Garner asked, "where in the hell do you think this came from?"
"I don't know, but I've got a buddy who works at the White House. I'm going to call him tonight on his phone at home. I don't want to call him on the official line."
Baltazar called his friend, R J. Dermer, an army colonel who worked for Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, and who had a secure telephone at home. The bottom line, Dermer said, had to do with Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi expatriate and head of the Iraqi National Congress, a group based in London and funded by the U.S. Cheney's office was pushing the idea that Chalabi was the answer to everything, and Warrick was not a fan of Chalabi. Dermer described the opposition to Warrick as coming from "a group of about five people" in Cheney's office—"a cabal," he said.
The next morning, Baltazar told Garner, "It was the vice president. The vice president can't stand either one of them."
Warrick had been in the Clinton administration, and had been a strong advocate of indicting Saddam Hussein as a war criminal. He had worked on regime change issues for State, met with lots of Iraqi exiles, and had discovered that other exiles weren't exactly enamored of Chalabi. In fact, there had been a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders he'd worked on in 2002 when many of them said they wouldn't come if Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were put in charge.
O'Sullivan had worked at the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, and she was seen as a protégé of Richard N. Haass, the director of policy planning at Powell's State Department. She and Haass had co-authored a paper urging the use of economic, political or cultural incentives as levers to influence countries such as Iraq instead of military force or covert action. In another paper O'Sullivan had questioned U.S. support to Iraqi exiles.
Garner thought the whole maneuver was a bad sign. He was repelled that personalities and apparently ideology would play a role in such vital postwar planning. Losing Warrick, clearly a top expert on the issues, was a blow, though Garner's team kept his "Future of Iraq" study, and a lot of Iraqis who had worked on it wound up working with Garner's organization. The incident demonstrated the depth of the infighting between Defense and State.
At the State Department, Powell got word of what Rumsfeld had done. "What the hell is going on?" he asked Rumsfeld in a phone call.
Rumsfeld said that they needed people who were truly committed and who had not written or said things that were not supportive.
Powell took that to mean that his State Department people didn't support exiles like Chalabi. Soon the secretary of state and secretary of defense were into a giant row. "I can take prisoners too," Powell said.
Garner went back to Rumsfeld. "Let me have these two people back," he said.
"I can't do that," Rumsfeld said. "I told you I was asked at a high level to remove these people. I asked you to do it. You've done it. I can't go back on that now." Finally Rumsfeld said, "Look, bring the woman back." Garner could have O'Sullivan. "Nobody will know that."
Powell quickly learned of the half resolution, and he asked himself if things could get any weirder. He found seven senior State officials he thought would be useful to Garner, but Doug Feith wanted outsiders instead of representatives from "the Department of Nice." Powell said it was bullshit. He and Rumsfeld got into another big fight, but Powell got five of the seven approved and on Garner's team after a week of more silliness.
The overriding problem was that there was not one, single plan, thought Paul Hughes, an Army colonel on Garner's staff. There was no single document spelling out, This is your objective. This is who's in charge. These are the priority tasks. These are the coordinating steps we will take to bring these all together. Garner had tried to synchronize things at the rock drill, but they clearly weren't there yet, not even close.
Hughes, a tall, trim 50-year-old officer who had served 28 years on active duty, had been in charge of national security studies at the National Defense University until he was assigned to Garner's group. He and another officer on Garner's staff, Colonel Thomas Gross, were known as "The Law Firm," and had wide latitude. Even on some of the official office phone lists, where their colleagues were identified by the division in which they worked, Hughes and Gross were listed simply as "Law Firm."
Hughes had spent six months thinking about what postwar Iraq would look like, and had put together a two-day conference on the issue in November 2002. The National Defense University had done a 41-page report on their findings, which wound up in the hands of Jim Thomas, a special assistant to Paul Wolfowitz.
Hughes continued to push for an omnibus plan. The word from Feith's office was a simple "no." Hughes saw that such a document would almost inevitably involve the interagency process, including State and the CIA. That wouldn't fly because NSPD-24, which had set up Garner's office, had specifically put the authority and responsibility for postwar planning for Iraq in the Defense Department.
Rumsfeld invited an outside group of experts to the Pentagon to discuss postwar Iraq. Among the group was James F. Dobbins, who probably knew as much about managing modern post-conflict situations as anyone. A courtly, 60-year-old veteran diplomat, Dobbins was Mr. Postwar. He had been the U.S. envoy for Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia, overseeing both the celebrated and controversial stabilization and reconstruction missions of the 1990s. Now he was at RAND Corporation, the think tank, as the head of international and security policy.
In 2001, Powell had named Dobbins to head the negotiations among the Afghanistan opposition groups to find a leader after the fall of the Taliban. It was a classic brokering assignment, requiring as much negotiating among the various U.S. agencies and departments as with foreign governments. At the CIA several officials proposed Hamid Karzai, a moderate Afghan leader who had been a junior minister under the Taliban but had defected and joined the opposition. General Franks approved and others in the CIA, State and Defense Departments signed off. Having gathered consensus within the U.S. bureaucracy, Dobbins headed to a U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany, where the Afghan factions were engaged in all-night negotiating sessions, trying to settle on a leader. Dobbins persuaded the key regional players—the Russians, the Pakistanis and even the Iranians—to agree on Karzai, who took the oath of office as Afghanistan's president on December 22, 2001—just 102 days after 9/11.
At the Pentagon, one of Feith's deputies briefed Dobbins and several other outside experts on a postwar plan that seemed to envision a full-scale occupation of Iraq. Dobbins thought of it as Plan A—a sort of General Douglas MacArthur viceroy. The United States would prepare the country for elections, after which sovereignty would be given back to the Iraqis.
After the briefing, Rumsfeld came in to meet with Dobbins and the others.
"I thought we did it just fine in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said, acknowledging Dobbins and his role, "and I would hope that we'll be able to do the same thing in Iraq—that is, bring together a representative group of Iraqis and find Iraq's Hamid Karzai."
Rumsfeld said later, "I tilted to the latter, to the quicker handover, and the president did . . . Clearly you needed somebody who people could recognize as providing leadership in the country. And I've always felt that foreign troops are an anomaly in a country, that eventually they're unnatural and not welcomed really. There's also the concept of declining consent."
Dobbins was happy to see that there was a Plan B—a Bonn conference equivalent with quick transfer of power to an Iraqi government. He wondered which model—MacArthur or Karzai—would be used. There seemed to be no well-devised plan for either, and clearly there was no consensus within the administration. It was also evident to him that the administration did not comprehend the massive undertaking before them—not only the security, governing and economic issues but the task of trying to heal some of the old wounds from the dictatorship, and the hatred between the Sunnis, who ruled Iraq under Saddam, and the Shiites, who were a majority of the population.
Bush had disparaged nation building in the 2000 presidential campaign. But now his administration was going to be in that business big-time.
Six weeks into his assignment, Garner went to the White House, midmorning on Friday, February 28, 2003, to meet President Bush for the first time and brief him on what his team had been doing. Waiting outside the Situation Room, where the president and the war cabinet were meeting, Garner recognized Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Looks like we're both out of the loop, Garner said nervously, trying to break the ice.
Ashcroft responded with what Garner thought was a "go to hell" look.
In the Situation Room, Garner took a seat at the far end of a small, well-polished table. The president was at the other end, with the principals seated alongside, including Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and Tenet. General Franks was there, and Cheney was on the secure video teleconference screen. Frank Miller, director of the NSC staff for defense, was in the middle of a briefing. Garner was nervous. He could see the president had no idea who the hell he was.
As Miller talked, Bush shifted his attention between Miller and Garner, staring intently at Miller, and then glancing quickly at Garner, before turning back to Miller. Then again, a quick look at Garner before turning back to Miller. Then a third time.
This is going to be a long day, Garner thought. Somewhat out of the blue, Bush flashed a high-in-the-air thumbs-up sign at Garner. Garner instantly felt better. He thought the president sensed his discomfort and was trying to put him at ease.
"Okay, what's next?" the president asked when Miller finished.
"General Garner's in the postwar planning group," Rice said, "and he's going to brief you on that."
"Before you do that," the president said, "tell me about yourself."
"No, I'm going to tell you about him," Rumsfeld interrupted, and summarized Garner's Army service, his success in Operation Provide Comfort, and his service on Rumsfeld's space commission.
"That's fine," Bush said. And then to Garner: "Go ahead."
Garner passed around copies of his handout, an 11-point presentation, and dove right in. Addressing his nine basic assignments in NSPD-24, Garner said essentially that four of them shouldn't be his because they were plainly beyond the capabilities of his small team. The four tasks included dismantling WMD, defeating terrorists, reshaping the Iraqi military and reshaping the other internal Iraqi security institutions. In other words, four of the really hard ones. Those would have to be handled by the military, Garner said.
The president nodded. No one else intervened, though Garner had just told them he couldn't be responsible for crucial postwar tasks—the ones that had the most to do with the stated reasons for going to war in the first place—because his team couldn't do them.
No one asked the follow-up question of exactly who would be responsible, if Garner wasn't. Were the issues going to be left hanging in the air? Were they important? Maybe Garner was wrong. Maybe he could or should have those issues. The import of what he had said seemed to sail over everyone's heads.
Garner next described how he intended to divide the country into regional groups, and moved on to the interagency plans.
"Just a minute," the president interrupted. "Where are you from?"
"Why do you talk like that?" he asked, apparently trying to place Garner's accent.
"Because I was born and raised on a ranch in Florida. My daddy was a rancher."
"You're in," the First Rancher said approvingly. His brother Jeb was governor of the state, and the president visited regularly.
Garner went on, explaining that each department and agency had to "operationalize" its plan and have a "vision" about its end state, particularly for the first 30 days to one year.
He raised his notion of Show Stoppers, problems that might jeopardize or even stop the mission in its tracks. They were struggling for money, he said.
The president listened.
Referring to the rock drill, Garner explained how they planned to maintain stability in Iraq after combat.
Garner's talking point said, "Postwar use of Iraqi Regular Army." He said, "We're going to use the army. We need to use them. They have the proper skill sets."
How many from the army? someone asked.
"I'm going to give you a big range," Garner answered. "It'll be between 200,000 and 300,000."
Garner looked around the room. All the heads were bobbing north to south. Nobody challenged. Nobody had any questions about this plan.
Next, Garner said he wanted to internationalize the postwar effort. Immediately, he noticed some discomfort in the room. Not from Powell, but from most of the others. He thought there was a lot of squirming going on, and Garner figured most of the others were thinking, Don't you get it? We're not trying to internationalize this thing. It's a U.S. operation.
He continued, saying that he would send his advance party to the region in about 10 days, with the rest to follow 10 days later. The president didn't say anything. No one indicated when the war might start, but it was obvious it was coming soon.
"Thank you very much," Bush said when Garner was done. Rice started talking about something else, so Garner figured he was dismissed.
As he started to walk out of the room, the president caught his eye.
"Kick ass. Jay," Bush said.
Garner waited for Rumsfeld outside. Soon, Bush and Rice came out and walked three or four steps past Garner. Suddenly Bush turned back.
"Hey, if you have any problem with that governor down in Florida, just let me know," he said.
after Powell had toned down the idea of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection in his address to the U.N. on February 5, Cheney wanted to give his own speech making the charge. Tenet was upset. It was bullshit. He wondered to his associate John Brennan if he should step down. At the same time, Tenet did not want to be the disloyal intelligence director who folded in a national crisis or on the eve of war.
He went to the president. The CIA intelligence does not support the conclusion of Cheney's proposed speech, he said. There is no proof that Saddam had "authority, direction and control" of any al Qaeda aid coming from Iraq. If Cheney gives the speech, Tenet told the president, the CIA cannot and will not stand behind it.
Bush backed Tenet. He told Cheney not to give the speech.
Without informing anyone in the White House or Pentagon, Garner went to the United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 3. He and his deputy, Ron Adams, felt strongly that the more the war was a coalition effort, the better for all. Garner decided to see if he personally could get the U.N. stamp on as much of the postwar effort as possible.
The outreach was dangerous because the White House and the Pentagon had scant interest in the United Nations. Garner's comment about "internationalizing" the effort had not gone over well at the NSC meeting just a few days before.
Louise Fréchette, the deputy secretary general of the U.N., chaired their meeting.
"The U.N.'s working hard on immediate relief on humanitarian affairs and not seeking a role beyond that," Fréchette said.
Garner asked if he could at least have a U.N. liaison officer assigned to him.
No, Fréchette said.
Bang, thought Garner. Shot down. So much for help from the U.N.
Garner next met with Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the U.N., who looked physically exhausted, overwrought, worn out. The stress of trying to get a second U.N. resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq—an effort that would soon fail—was obviously taking its toll.
"We're in this with you," Greenstock said. "We're together in this, but internationalizing this effort will make everything a lot easier for all of us." He meant especially for British Prime Minister Blair, who had promised his Labour Party at home he'd seek a second U.N. resolution. By tradition Labour paid homage to the United Nations.
Afterward, the American U.N. ambassador, John D. Negroponte, came by. "Lots of luck," he told Garner, and left. He looks a hell of a lot more rested than Greenstock, Garner thought. Negroponte did not have to spend time paying homage to the U.N.
The next day, March 4, Doug Feith gave a secret briefing to the president and the NSC, including a PowerPoint presentation on "U.S. and Coalition Objectives" for an Iraq war. It was rosy, pie-in-the-sky political science—everything from visibly improving quality of life for Iraqis to moving toward democracy and obtaining "international participation in the reconstruction." It was a wish list of high hopes with no how-to.
Garner had not known anything about Feith's meeting with the president. A day later, March 5, he updated Rice in her West Wing office, a cozy, high-ceiling room decorated in blue with an impressively thick door. The office had been the national security adviser's for decades.
Garner revealed that he had gone to the United Nations on Monday, had asked for a liaison officer and been turned down.
Rice sat in silence.
"They're not seeking additional roles," Garner continued. "They're willing to help but they need to understand our concept. And that's why they kept saying, 'We don't understand your concept. Why are you going it alone?' "
Rice continued to sit in silence.
Proceeding with his written agenda, Garner said he needed the "startup funding" for such basics as food, law enforcement and energy.
"Okay," Rice said, turning to Hadley and Frank Miller. "Let's work on this. Let's get this going. Let's have it by the time they need it."
Hadley and Miller seemed to be taking notes, but Garner got the impression that Rice's directions were just sort of floating up in the ether. He didn't sense that there was a follow-up system in place.
We need money to pay for public servants in Iraq, for the police and the military, Garner told Rice. "I'm still planning on paying all these people just as soon as I can when I get there."
There was about $1.6 billion in frozen Iraqi assets in the United States, Garner had learned. If they could tap into that money, their back-of-the-envelope calculation was that they could afford to bring back the civil servants—especially the police and about 200,000 Iraqi military— and keep them working for about 90 days.
Rice seemed to agree.
"Ministries" was the next agenda item. Who would be the designated American official to go in and run the Ministry of Agriculture in Iraq? Or Interior? He needed to fill out all the people who were going to be responsible, Garner said, and he hadn't finished that yet.
Garner moved on to a crucial issue: They all knew they didn't have enough forces and that they needed more security.
"Well, where are we on that?" Rice inquired.
They both knew part of the answer was that Rumsfeld and Franks were still working out the final war plan. Garner believed that Franks's latest plan called for a force level dramatically below the 500,000 in the initial war plan for Iraq—perhaps as low as 160,000. But with another 100,000 U.S. forces that could flow in after combat began, plus some 200,000 to 300,000 from the Iraqi army who could be turned to work with the U.S. forces, it was possible to have some measure of security and stability.
On the issue of contracts for economic development and reconstruction, Garner said it might be possible to require that all contractors have one or more Iraqi subcontractors—a kind of set-aside that would get money flowing to ordinary Iraqis.
What about the numbers of police and other law enforcement officials? Garner wanted a lot, but Frank Miller wanted only $70 million devoted up front. Garner thought it would cost hundreds of millions, but he urged that they wait. "Let's don't decide on a lower number now or a larger number, but let's leave this open so that if I'm right you can jump in and help me as fast as you can. And if he's right then we haven't lost anything. But I don't think he's right."
The next item was funding. "Who's got the money is in control," Garner said. "Where is the money? I need the money."
Rice seemed supportive, but Garner still didn't have any solid assurances about funding. He realized the president, Rice and the others were being told how easy the war was going to be—perhaps even a "cake-walk," to use a term offered in a hawkish prewar Washington Post op-ed by Ken Adelman, the longtime friend to Cheney and Rumsfeld. The money issue, like most others, was left hanging.
"Governance" was the final item. How would they put together a postwar government for Iraq? Garner asked. This was the overriding question of political power. Who would have it after the war? Someone would. But who?
Rice never answered.
On Friday, March 7, Garner and Ron Adams met with Wolfowitz. They were frustrated, and complained that they had no sense even of when they were expected to fly to Kuwait. They barely knew how they would move their people to the region, or where they would stay while they waited for war. Nobody would tell them when the war was planned to start.
"You should already be there," said Wolfowitz, who as the number two Pentagon official presumably had a good idea of the timing.
Hunkered in the Kuwaiti desert, Spider Marks was outspoken, even strident with what he called his "technical" chain of command among intelligence officers, including Franks's senior intelligence officer, Brigadier General Jeff Kimmons. The intelligence they had on the WMDMSL just wasn't good enough.
"This is unsat, unsat, unsat," Marks told Kimmons, lopping off the last four syllables of "unsatisfactory." "Jeff, you need to move this forward, buddy. I'm not going to call Rumsfeld's office. I'm not going to call Cambone," who was now the Defense Department undersecretary for intelligence. "He doesn't know me from Adam. But this is not working."
It vividly illustrated the breakdown. The general whose job was to find and exploit Saddam's WMD had looked at the fruits of more than a decade of intelligence work and found it wanting. Bush and others in the administration had been escalating the rhetoric. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on December 5, 2002: "The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it." Fleischer announced again on January 9, 2003: "We know for a fact that there are weapons there." In his weekly radio address February 8, Bush said, "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
Marks understood Kimmons's predicament. It resembled his own. They were just junior generals looking at the same unfulfilling jumble of data. Kimmons was dealing with his own personal hell. He wouldn't want to go to Franks for fear of triggering one of General Franks's notorious and profane explosions, Marks thought. Kimmons could end up with a hole in his chest and, more important, be no closer to a solution.
But the intelligence wasn't getting any better. If Cambone and Rumsfeld didn't know Marks from Adam, maybe that was a problem. Marks had told McKiernan, Abizaid and Kimmons about his concerns, but was there anything else he could have done from the Kuwaiti desert to raise hell up the chain of command until he was heard? For that matter, shouldn't Rumsfeld or Franks—or even Bush—have reached down the chain a link or two, found the general handling WMD intelligence for the invading forces and asked him what he thought? There was too much riding on the answer.
"Still some confusion," Marks wrote in his journal on March 3. "Do we secure as we progress thru zone, or treat like an obstacle and mark, cover, bypass?" He was still waiting for a complete answer to another of the questions he'd hammered on at the DIA "smart guys" meeting back on October 4: How do we prioritize the 946 suspected WMD sites in Iraq?
War was clearly imminent, but Garner was still at the Pentagon. He believed the nagging question of governance still had to be addressed, and he wanted to stand up the Iraqi ministries immediately. But again the question had not been answered: Who was going to be in charge? At one point Rumsfeld had asked him a key question in a Rumsfeldian way. "By the way, what are you going to do about de-Baathification? Do you have a de-Baathification process?" Garner was going to have to get rid of the members of Saddam's Baath Party, much like the de-Nazification in Germany after World War II.
"You can't do de-Baathification of the ministries," Garner answered. "There won't be anybody left." Most of the jobs were filled by party members. "So what we'll do is take out the top guy. We'll take out the personnel guy." Maybe a few others. "We'll let everybody else return and over time the people in the ministry will begin to point out the bad guys."
"Well, that sounds reasonable to me," Rumsfeld replied.
Garner walked down to see Wolfowitz again.
"You know, probably the most important function we have, we don't have covered," Garner said.
"It's governance. We have to have a team that's putting together the government." They needed an Iraqi face. "What I'm asking you to do," he continued, "is let's go out and get the smartest minds in America, and go to Harvard or go to wherever you want to go, and put together a world-class governance team that we can bring over there that begins immediately putting together a government for us."
"Let me think about that," Wolfowitz replied to Garner.
Later that afternoon, Wolfowitz called Garner back.
"I thought about what you said," he began. "What do you think about Liz Cheney?"
"I don't know who Liz Cheney is," Garner replied.
"The vice president's daughter."
Cheney, a 36-year-old lawyer and mother of three, had held several posts in the State Department and was now serving as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. Steeped in conservative politics since childhood, she had worked on the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.
"I don't care, as long as I know it's somebody who knows what they're doing and knows how to do this."
"Well, she'll be over here in the morning, so you can come in and explain to her what you want," Wolfowitz said.
The next day, Garner came to Wolfowitz's office and met with Liz Cheney.
"What we need is a face of Iraqi leadership for the Iraqi people," Garner told her. "I think we need to put together a group that is capable of governance. And we also need to immediately start writing a constitution.
We have to start having elections. We need to start having elections in the provinces. And so we need to start all this immediately and let them be involved in what happens."
Leaders, a constitution, elections—it was a tall order.
"Let me work on this," Liz Cheney said. Neither she nor Wolfowitz added much or offered any objections. Later that afternoon, she came back over to the Pentagon with a few people from State. One was Scott Carpenter, a balding but boyish-looking deputy assistant secretary of state who had worked on the "Future of Iraq" study.
Garner outlined his broad, ambitious plan for governing. Carpenter took some notes and said, "Okay, I'll start to put this together. When will we go over there?"
Garner still didn't know when he was leaving. "The best thing for you to do is to stay over here and put the team together and then join me when I go to Baghdad."
"Okay, I'll do that."
After Liz Cheney and Carpenter left, Garner had a private discussion with Wolfowitz.
"You know, he seems like a good guy," Garner said, meaning Carpenter. "He's a little young. I don't know how experienced he is. She would have been okay."
"Yeah, but we can't send her over there because she's too high-risk being the vice president's daughter."
"That makes sense," Garner responded.
In Room 666 in the prestigious E-ring of the Pentagon on the third floor, just several outer corridors from Rumsfeld's office, General John M. Keane, the vice chief of staff of the Army, got wind of Garner's new role. Bizarre, thought Keane.
An old bear of a man with 37 years in the Army, Keane had been stunned by the lack of trust Rumsfeld had shown the uniformed military leaders in the first years. The secretary was abrasive, curt and dismissive of other people's thoughts and ideas. But Keane found that Rumsfeld was right most of the time about the need for change in the military, especially the Army.
Setting aside emotions and personality, Keane had become a Rumsfeld favorite and for practical purposes was running the Army, because Rumsfeld had battled with Keane's boss, General Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff. In late 2000 and early 2001, there had been a big imbroglio over Shinseki's decision to issue a black beret to every soldier in the Army. Black berets had long been the trademark of the elite Army Rangers. Rangers, ex-Rangers and some members of Congress were offended. A couple of former Rangers even marched from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Washington to protest the change. But Shinseki dug in his heels. Bush talked to Rumsfeld twice about the controversy, which dragged on for months. So Rumsfeld, who came back to the Pentagon wanting to focus on big priorities, had to quell a big fight over the kind and color of hat the Army would wear.
In April 2002, Rumsfeld had asked Keane to become the next Army chief. Keane had agreed but more recently had reconsidered, saying he was leaving the Army because his wife was seriously ill. He told Rumsfeld that his married life had been about him for 37 years and now it had to be about his wife. Of all the top people in the Pentagon, Keane had found Rumsfeld to be by far the most understanding and instinctively compassionate.
Keane asked Garner to come give him a briefing. He thought Garner was smart and he had lots of wonderful ideas. Garner was painting on the broadest of canvases—everything from water, food and electricity, to a new government, a constitution and elections—trying to do quickly what American entrepreneurs and the Founding Fathers had needed decades to accomplish.
"Who are you working for?" Keane asked.
"I'm working for the secretary of defense," Garner replied.
"Jay, that's the wrong answer. I mean, God Almighty, you've got to be working for General Franks, and de facto for General McKiernan. You can't be working for the secretary. There will be a separate channel. I mean, your staff will immediately become dysfunctional from the military command. I mean, you can see it coming. They're not going to want to deal with you. You're not going to—"
"No," Garner protested. "We'll make it work somehow."
Keane reminded Garner of the principle of unity of command. One person had to be in charge in each theater or operation. Franks should be in charge of Phase IV and held accountable for stability. Early on, everything would be military anyway. "Jay, if we've learned one thing in the last fifteen years, it's this. Come on. Every time we've screwed up we've had problems with this. We don't have to relearn this lesson."
"I will make it work," Garner said, reminding Keane he was a military man and very sensitive to the problem. In addition, he added, decisions had already been made.
Keane was aware of that. Perhaps worse were the decisions that had not been made. Soon, he heard Abizaid too pressing Rumsfeld on the governance questions.
"Mr. Secretary," Abizaid said, "I'm concerned about who is going to be in charge when we take the regime down. What is the political apparatus going to be?" Abizaid had four or five variations of the same question. "Who is going to be in charge of the country?" he asked another time.
Once Rumsfeld said, "Well Doug is working on that." That meant Feith, who Keane believed to be a very weak link in Rumsfeld's team and completely underqualified for his post. Feith had lots of paper and documents outlining elaborate plans. Garner, for example, was technically supposed to be under General Franks. But Garner was already reporting directly to Rumsfeld, who not only liked it that way, but insisted on it.
Several days before deploying, Garner and Bates went to the State Department to see Powell and Armitage. Powell and Bates gave each other a hug. It wasn't only the long Army affiliation; in September 1994 Bates and Powell had been part of the small team President Clinton dispatched to avert a hostile U.S. invasion of Haiti. Former President Carter, Powell and former Senator Sam Nunn, who had been chairman of the Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995, had been the trio in charge of the mission. Bates had been the military representative from the Joint Staff.
"You know, sir," Bates said to Powell, "we could solve this if you and I just take another trip over there with President Carter and Sam Nunn."
Powell laughed and made some remarks about the eternal and escalating warfare between State and Defense. It was extraordinarily dysfunctional, the four former military men agreed.
"You know," Powell said, "the problem with these guys is they've never been in a bar fight." He was referring to Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and others in the administration who had never served in the military or never seen actual combat. Among the four in Powell's office, including Armitage's six years in the Navy, they had over 100 years of military experience. There was a feeling among them that they were the old hands who knew the ropes.
"Whatever you need that I can give to you, I'll give to you," Powell told them. "You know that.
"It really pissed me off when Don had you get rid of Warrick and O'Sullivan," Powell said.
"You know, I don't think he did that. I think he was just following orders," Garner replied.
"Well, let me tell you something. I picked up the phone and said, 'Hey, look. I can take prisoners too.' I started to pull everybody in the State Department off your team, but after taking a brief moment thinking about that, I thought, well, that won't do anybody any good. That just damages what you're doing. It'll ruin what you're doing. It'll ruin what the nation's trying to do. Somebody has to be the big guy about this, and I've tried to be it."
As they were getting up to leave, Armitage stopped Garner.
"Hey, Jay. Let me tell you one thing. You've got a bunch of goddamn spies on that team of yours. They're talking about you. They're reporting on you, so you better watch your back."
"Well, yes, sir," Garner replied, "I'll do that. But you've got some spies over here too."
"We know who they are," Armitage said. "We call them bats."
"Bats?" Garner asked.
"Yeah. Because those sons of bitches hang upside down all day long with their wings covering up their eyes. But as soon as we close the door in the evening they part their wings and they look around and they flap around all goddamn night long, calling everybody."
Bates and Garner liked the nickname, and they bestowed it on the people they thought had been funneled onto their team by Feith to keep an eye on them. One of their Pentagon bats had four cell phones—later confirmed by the phone bills. When they deployed to Kuwait, this person seemed to be constantly on one of the phones. One day while deep in concentration on his cell phone, the man walked into a swimming pool. "It was the highlight of the day," Bates recalled later. "It made everyone's day."
Around this time Powell had one of his semiprivate meetings with the president. As usual, Rice was there.
Powell raised the question of unity of command. There are two chains of command, Powell told the president. Garner reports to Rumsfeld and Franks reports to Rumsfeld.
The president looked surprised.
"That's not right," Rice said. "That's not right."
Powell thought Rice could at times be quite sure of herself, but he was pretty sure he was right. "Yes, it is," Powell insisted.
"Wait a minute," Bush interrupted, taking Rice's side. "That doesn't sound right."
Rice got up and went to her office to check. When she came back, Powell thought she looked a little sheepish. "That's right," she said.
"Yeah," Powell said, pocketing the small victory and addressing Bush. "You have got a military chain of command that correctly goes to the secretary of defense, to you. But you have also created this alternative, which goes through Garner or whoever the civilian guy is, which also goes to the secretary."
Continuing his little lecture, Powell expanded. "There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this as long as you understand what you've done. But you have to understand that when you have two chains of command and you don't have a common superior in the theater, it means that every little half-assed fight they have out there, if they can't work it out, comes out to one place to be resolved. And that's in the Pentagon. Not in the NSC or the State Department, but in the Pentagon."
What Powell didn't say was that he believed the Pentagon wouldn't resolve the conflicts because Wolfowitz and Feith were running their own little games and had their own agenda to promote Chalabi.
Rice thought it was all a rather theoretical discussion. If they put Garner under Franks, that would mean Franks was the viceroy. Bush would never allow that, she knew.
But it was the way Rumsfeld wanted it. Both Franks and Garner reported to him, giving him the most control—always his goal.
Garner was holding regular meetings with Rumsfeld, trying to keep him informed, get decisions and convey his growing sense of the magnitude of the task.
The issue of money was omnipresent. Garner felt that almost nobody in the Bush administration thought there was going to be a big bill for the Iraq aftermath. One budget document Garner had prepared, dated February 27, 2003, showed that he had just over $27 million for his group. The numbers required for the basics of running the country were huge by comparison. He projected humanitarian assistance at over $1 billion including the next year, reconstruction at $800 million and running the government at $10 billion—nearly $12 billion, all told. Where would it come from?
He was seeking guidance. "Hey, Mr. Secretary," Garner recalls asking Rumsfeld one day before deploying, "We've got three options. What do we want to do in reconstruction? Do you want to take everything back to where it was pre-first Gulf War? Do you want to take it back to where it was before this war? Or do you want to build all new?" The budget document also listed proposals to do a percentage of one of those periods or just repair everything. Yet no actual numbers—the important kind, with dollar signs in front of them—had been proposed.
"What do you think that will cost?" Rumsfeld inquired.
"It will cost billions of dollars," Garner answered. "Any of them will."
"Well, if you think we're spending our money on that, you're wrong," Rumsfeld said, in his most sweeping, assertive way. "We're not doing that. They're going to spend their money rebuilding their country."
the "field expedient" artillery brigade that was going to search the 946 locations on the WMD Master Site List started to assemble in Kuwait. Experts from other Pentagon agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency started flowing in, but the Exploitation Task Force, or XTF, didn't have enough people, equipment or vehicles to field all the teams they'd planned to send on site inspections. They scaled back, allocating troops and trucks as best they could.
On March 10, Rotkoff got word that he was to embed a New York Times reporter with the WMD-hunters. The order came straight from the top, he was told. He didn't recognize the reporter's name, but he scribbled it down in his daily notes, with the abbreviations and scratchy handwriting of a man in a hurry: "Judith Miller. Write chem bio stuff. Secdef wants her embedded in XTF—gets here Wednesday."
Formally embedding reporters with military units was a fairly new Pentagon idea, and the troops on the ground were still getting used to it. War was now a 24-hour business, and Rotkoff knew only too well how, thanks to instantaneous, worldwide, secure video transmissions, military officers could spend half the day compiling information and assembling briefings for the bosses back in Washington.
Rotkoff would follow the order, but he was predisposed to dislike The New York Times after his experience with another Times reporter, Michael Gordon, who had been embedded at the ground forces' headquarters. Gordon was a skilled and experienced military affairs reporter but had a reputation for aloofness and self-importance. He inspired a Rotkoff haiku:
Gordon N.Y. Times
Demonstrates Media Ethics
It's all about him
On Tuesday, March 11, Garner held a press briefing in the Pentagon. It was on background so he could be quoted only as an unnamed "senior Defense official."
In case there was any doubt about his plans, Garner told the reporters, "What we need to do up front is pay the people in the ministries, be able to pay the army and be able to pay the law enforcement agencies and the court system." He said he planned to stay only for a few months. Iraq was in better shape than Afghanistan had been, he said. "In Iraq you do have a somewhat more sophisticated country and a somewhat more structured country than you do in Afghanistan ... it has the structure and mechanisms in there to run that country and run it fairly efficiently."
A reporter asked about the INC, the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmed Chalabi.
"We're not trying to hire any of them right now. Okay?" Garner said. He added later, "We haven't gone out to hire people from the INC."
That night, Feith called Garner, distraught. You've damaged the credibility of both Chalabi and the INC, he said.
"Doug, number one, I don't have a candidate" for who should run Iraq after the invasion, Garner replied. "And by the way, your boss doesn't have one either. I've heard Rumsfeld say two or three times, 'I don't have a candidate. The best man will rise.' "
Feith wasn't subdued. He struck Garner as a bright guy, but very, very disorganized, and he seemed really worried, almost in shock. You've really screwed up here, was his message. You've really created problems for us, and everybody at the Pentagon is really displeased with you.
"Look, Doug, there's an easy answer to your problem. Fire me. Hell, I'll go back to my company tomorrow. You don't have to settle for me. Go get somebody else."
"We can't do that now," Feith said.
Wolfowitz also called Garner. He was smooth, in contrast to the excitable Feith, but Garner realized that he was being reprimanded by the deputy secretary of defense.
"We're really going to have to be careful now," Wolfowitz said, "because there's a lot involved with the INC and Chalabi, and we have to be careful how we frame our remarks."
That night, the word came down to Garner: Don't talk to the press again until you leave. A day or two later, Garner's public affairs officer, a captain in the Navy Reserve, got another official word: He was not to speak to the press, even after he got to Kuwait.
At some point afterward, the official Department of Defense transcript of Garner's press conference was amended to add three highly unusual "clarifications," interrupting the text of Garner's remarks, and praising the INC.
"The INC has played an important role over the years in getting various Iraqi opposition groups to cooperate with one another," one such "clarification" stated in bracketed text. "The U.S. government admired the INC's successes in organizing the endorsement by those groups of principles that the U.S. Government favors for the creation of a new democratic government in Iraq."
Larry DiRita, a former Navy officer who had served on the Joint Staff and was now Rumsfeld's special assistant and right-hand man, called Garner on March 13.
"The SecDef wants to be briefed before you leave," DiRita said.
The next morning, Garner and his group met with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and the top military men from the Joint Staff—Chairman Myers, Vice Chairman Pace, General Casey and a dozen others.
Rumsfeld seemed a little stiff and distracted. Unknown to Garner, Bush was about to issue an ultimatum to Saddam: Leave Iraq or it will be war. Rumsfeld was pushing hard that Saddam be given 48 hours.
"I'm the mayor of Baghdad," said Barbara Bodine, a controversial former ambassador on Garner's staff.
"Well, that's interesting, isn't it?" Rumsfeld replied sarcastically.
Garner thought Bodine's comment was stupid and ill advised, but he said nothing.
That night Larry DiRita called Garner. "SecDef wants to meet you in the morning at eight."
The next morning, Rumsfeld saw Garner alone.
"Look, Jay," Rumsfeld began. "I accept responsibility for all of this, because I haven't given you the time I should have given you." It was an unusual admission from Rumsfeld. "Quite frankly, I just have been so engulfed in the war that I just didn't have time to focus on everything that you're doing. I tried to keep abreast of it, but I wasn't able to give it the time it needed.
"I'm really uncomfortable with all these people you have running the ministries," he said. Iraq had 23 main ministries. Most were similar to the cabinet departments in the United States government—Agriculture, Labor, Health, Education, Justice, Foreign Affairs and Defense. Other ministries reflected the Iraqi economy or special problems—Electricity, Irrigation, Culture and Religious Affairs. Less than half the people designated to run the ministries were from Defense. "I think they all should be from DOD," Rumsfeld said.
"Mr. Secretary," Garner replied, "we can't do that. There are clearly functions that belong to other agencies more than DOD." Bush's directive, NSPD-24, made it an interagency planning office.
"No," Rumsfeld insisted. "I think they all ought to be DOD." The same directive had put Defense in charge.
"We just can't agree on this," Garner said.
They went back and forth, but Rumsfeld held all the cards. He was the boss. He was polite, but insistent.
"Okay," Garner said, trying another tack. "Give me your nominee for the Ministry of Agriculture." Garner had recruited Henry Lee Schatz from the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. Schatz had been working internationally on behalf of the Department of Agriculture for nearly three decades.
"Look, we'll find the right people," Rumsfeld said. "I'm going to put together a good team for you."
"I don't want that," Garner said. "Let's look at health." He had designated Dr. Frederick "Skip" Burkle, yet another veteran of Operation Provide Comfort. "He's been on every operation like this—he's been in charge of health—everything like this since about 1986, and he's never failed. He knows what he's doing."
"We have competent people too," Rumsfeld protested.
"You don't have anybody as competent as Burkle," Garner said. "None of us do. Let's take the best there is, and the best are not all in DOD."
"I could probably go along with someone like Robin Raphel because I know her and I respect her a lot and I know that she's a hard worker." Raphel, a former ambassador to Tunisia, was going to be in charge of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. She and Rumsfeld had worked together when he had been the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East in 1983 and 1984. But, Rumsfeld added, "I'm just not comfortable with the rest of these people." He obviously did not have alternatives and he proposed a compromise of sorts, or at least a delay. "Look. You think about this on the way over and call me as soon as you get to Kuwait."
"I'll do that," Garner agreed.
Garner left incredulous. All he could do was make sure he brought all the people he had designated and assigned.
Three days before the start of the war, Sunday, March 16, Vice President Cheney was on NBC's Meet the Press. "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators," he predicted.
The host, Tim Russert, pointed out that General Shinseki had testified to Congress that the postwar phase in Iraq would likely require several hundred thousand troops.
"To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement," Cheney said.
About the same time as Cheney's television appearance, Garner and the roughly 150 members of his team responsible for Iraq "after the conflict" gathered in a parking lot outside the Pentagon. Rumsfeld came outside to see them off. For most of Garner's people, it was the first time they'd seen the secretary in person. The team headed to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and left on a chartered US Airways jet for Kuwait.
Emotions were running high. "What went through my mind all the time was, I hope we pull this off," Garner recalled. He was thinking, "I just need a little more time. Just need a little more time."
Within hours after they landed in Kuwait on March 17, Lieutenant General McKiernan, the commander of the ground forces, asked Garner and Bates to come to a meeting of his senior staff officers.
"These are the two new members of the team," McKiernan told his staff, with his arms on Garner's and Bates's shoulders. "Your ticket home is to make these guys feel comfortable."
McKiernan had said there was no space available for Garner's team at the military camp, so the group found space at a brand-new Hilton hotel complex outside Kuwait City. The resort had been leased by the defense contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Cheney's old company, Halliburton, in anticipation of war. It was an hour's drive away.
That same day, Garner and his deputy, Ron Adams, phoned Rumsfeld to go over the ministry list. Rumsfeld continued to press for Defense people.
"Okay, maybe we can take a DOD guy here," Garner said at one point, then, at another, "Maybe we can take one there." It looked like Rumsfeld might get more, maybe enough to have a majority.
"Trust me," Rumsfeld said. "I'm going to put together a good team for you. It'll be a great team."
"Mr. Secretary, you can't get them here in time," Garner said. War was going to start any day.
"Jay, we're going to give you a much better team than you have now," Rumsfeld promised.
"Okay, that's fine," Garner said.
When he hung up, Garner turned to Adams. "We're not going to do a damn thing," he said. "We're going to go with what we got. Don't say a word to anybody. They'll never know."
The war began on March 19 with a target-of-opportunity strike on Dora Farm, a complex southeast of Baghdad on the bank of the Tigris River, where Saddam was incorrectly thought to be hiding.
As a pure military operation, the invasion seemed to go astonishingly well. On Day 3, the 3rd Infantry Division was 150 miles into Iraq, and Saddam's army was either being defeated or dissolving. Still, some of the former Iraqi soldiers were coming back dressed in civilian clothes or in the black-and-white garb of the Saddam Fedayeen, the militia commanded by Saddam's son Uday. Unprotected Iraqi civilian fighters were throwing themselves on armored formations. Mostly, they were being slaughtered. They tried insane, impossible, suicidal tactics, attacking tanks on foot, or trying to ambush Bradley Fighting Vehicles with small arms.
Rotkoff wrote a haiku:
Where the hell did they come from?
Everyone missed it
Spider Marks concluded that Saddam loyalists were pointing guns at the civilians' backs: You either attack the Americans or you die right here. The Iraqi people were simply and deeply fearful. A few days after the invasion, Marks, McKiernan and a couple of others were talking it over with Tenet in Kuwait.
"So, what do you think?" Marks asked the CIA director. "You know, these guys are fighting. They're coming at us."
"I can't fucking figure it out," Tenet said.
On March 21, 2003—the second day of the war—Rice and Hadley gave the president and the NSC a formal briefing on the nine U.S. and coalition war objectives. The point was to make sure everyone agreed about what they planned for Iraq after the shooting stopped. One goal was stated as: "Iraq is seen to be moving towards democratic institutions and serves as a model for the region." In addition, they had to "place as many Iraqi faces in positions of visible authority as quickly as possible.... Accomplish the above urgently."
It was consistent with what Garner had told the president the only time they had met. His efforts had been approved yet again by the principals, including Rumsfeld.
Garner spoke with Rumsfeld via secure video teleconference from Kuwait just about every day. Usually many others were in the rooms on both ends. On March 22, they renewed their firefight over who was going to run the ministries. Rumsfeld still wanted to handpick each one. Soon they were arguing, and Garner tried another dose of reality, telling Rumsfeld again that he could not possibly get new people over there on time.
"You know, it doesn't seem like you're on our team," Rumsfeld said, according to a note-taker.
"Okay, that's it," Garner replied. The teleconference was over. Garner then sent a longhand note by fax to Rumsfeld insisting they had the same goals. "I am a team player," he wrote. He was deeply offended. It was the worst kind of bullying tactic—if you don't agree with me you are disloyal.
No WMD had been used or found in the first days of the invasion. The intense pace of Marks's intelligence team only got more frantic. The quality of the intelligence on the hundreds of remaining sites on the WMD site list was still unsatisfactory, and the unanticipated Iraqi opposition was jarring. It had been part of the intelligence shop's job to figure these things out, and they hadn't done it.
Marks had to give himself a pep talk at one point. One of the CIA station chiefs he was dealing with, he wrote on March 29, had "been watching this region for his entire professional life and he did not understand the depth of the people's fear. Don't beat yourself up Marks." Everybody was worn out. "This is the most fulfilling but most difficult and frustrating job I have ever endeavored to do," Marks continued in his diary. "The scope of responsibilities, the compressed timelines for execution, little time for anything other than execution, no time to think. Substance does matter, but the process is what is killing me. Just keeping the engine room stoked is monumental."
Rotkoff put it succinctly, baring his exhaustion, frustration and doubt:
Mental bone tired
Hard to stay not wanted
Can't rest—men will die
"Thousands are just taking off their uniforms and going home," Bush told British Prime Minister Blair on the phone.
"Yes, they are just melting away," Blair added.
"Just melting away," Bush echoed.
Bush didn't really have a lot to do once the fighting started. Notes of his conversations and meetings show he spoke repeatedly about victory, but they also reveal a president concerned that the U.S. could win the ground conflict but still lose the propaganda battle.
"We need to remind people why we are here," Bush said in a Pentagon meeting on March 25. He told Rumsfeld: "You will remind the world of who we are fighting."
The Air Force had three giant, four-engine Commando Solo transport planes in the air—flying TV and radio stations—broadcasting over Iraq.
"How does this look to the average Iraqi?" Bush asked at an NSC meeting on March 28. The answer was that the broadcasts were reaching Baghdad for five hours a day, from 6 to 11 p.m. They weren't broadcasting video, just still photographs.
Not enough, was Bush's reply. "You have to calibrate it. You have to market programs. People don't turn on television if there's nothing to watch."
Three days later, he had General Franks on a secure video teleconference.
"Are you pleased with our information ops?" he asked. "Can you broadcast our message into Baghdad?"
Franks said he wasn't pleased that Iraqi TV was still on the air, and he needed more translators "to turn up the quality and volume of Arab language broadcasts."
Bush said, "If you need help from the States, we'll give it to you."
On April 4, toward the end of another NSC meeting, somebody mentioned that the electricity was off in Iraq's capital city, which U.S. forces had not yet reached.
"Who turned out the lights in Baghdad?" Bush asked.
"Most probably the regime to reposition its forces," Franks said on the video screen. "But we don't know for sure."
"Well, then, if it's the regime, put the word out that we didn't do it," Bush said.
Still, the president appeared confident. "Only one thing matters: winning," he said at one NSC meeting, as he dismissed "second-guessing regarding the post-Saddam world." In a private moment, Hadley asked him how he was doing.
"I made the decision," Bush said. "I sleep well at night."
"I don't know how long it's going to last, and I don't know how much it's going to cost," Rumsfeld told his staff often. On April 2, he sent a one-page memo to the service secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Feith, Franks and other key people in the Pentagon. He directed them to support Garner "as required," and said Garner's mission was "to help create the conditions for transition to Iraqi self-rule and the withdrawal of coalition forces upon completion of their military objectives." In Kuwait, Colonel Tom Baltazar on Garner's staff got a copy. The memo had been written because Garner's group just couldn't get cooperation from the military commands. Amazing, he thought. The president's signature on the National Security Presidential Directive of January 20, saying, in effect, "support them," isn't good enough for these guys. We've got to get Rumsfeld's signature as well.
Besides being the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi was the head of a group of exiled Iraqis who had received some American-sponsored military training. But everything about the military group had been a bust. Besides training only a tiny fraction of the number who were supposed to be armed and ready, there had even been a fight over what the group should be called. Chalabi's band was eventually given the alliterative but redundant name Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters.
By early April, Chalabi was clamoring to get into Iraq. Despite the support of his patrons at the Pentagon and in Washington, the American generals in the Middle East had little use for him. The last thing they wanted to do was drop Chalabi with his small army in the middle of the war zone, but there was pressure to do just that.
Abizaid finally relented. "Okay, let's put the son of a bitch in there and see if he can do what all of them think he can do," he told Garner. "And I'll tell you he can't."
The U.S. flew Chalabi, the Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters and other Chalabi associates into Nasiriyah aboard one of its durable, take-off-and-land-anywhere C-130 Hercules transport planes. Spider Marks was there when Chalabi landed. He thought the INC leader was trying to emulate MacArthur's return to the Philippines. Chalabi was wearing a black sport shirt with a bush hat, leading a group of his people. So these are the Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters, Marks thought. "Check your wallets. Boy, that's a nasty crowd."
Reports started to come in that the Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters were carrying out reprisals, stealing and looting.
Marks and another intelligence officer, Colonel Jon "Jake" Jones, were riding in an open-air Humvee one night with their weapons pointed outward, wondering whether they might get into a firefight with some unknown enemy.
"Slow down," Jones said, spotting four or five bearded Iraqis gathered around a fire at the side of the road. They were cooking some kind of animal on a spit—a sheep or a dog maybe—and dancing around. It looked as if they were smoking dope, the officers thought. It was almost a scene out of Lord of the Flies.
Jones and Marks looked at each other and reached the same conclusion, in stereo. "Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters," they both said, before hitting the gas.
Christopher "Ryan" Henry had gone to work in February as principal undersecretary of defense for policy, making him Doug Feith's top deputy. A retired Navy captain and a former top official at the defense contractor SAIC, Henry had a unique connection to the secretary of defense. His wife, Delonnie Henry, was Rumsfeld's confidential assistant and chief secretary, the woman who typed his snowflakes and kept his files. Rumsfeld was still pressing on control of the Iraqi ministries, and on April 6, Henry called Garner with Defense's new list of people. "Ryan, that's great," Garner said. "When are they going to get here?" "Well, we don't know. We haven't even notified some of them yet."
"Ryan, let's be reasonable on this. You'll never get them here on time." Major combat would soon be over. U.S. troops were nearing Baghdad.
"No," Henry said, "we're going to work this hard."
Garner and Bates knew the problem was soon going to be in Baghdad. As they'd been saying for months, the question was going to be who was going to be in charge. Garner had an idea. "Here's what you have to do to be successful," he told Rumsfeld. "You bring John Abizaid in the country and you promote him." As Franks's deputy, Abizaid was too much out of the real action. "Make him a sub-unified commander, because you need a four-star. And put me in charge of all the reconstruction, civil administration. Put McKiernan in charge of all the security and military operations."
Rumsfeld balked, but he wouldn't say why he didn't think it was a good idea. Garner persisted. He felt it was the solution, ensuring unity of command in the theater, with both McKiernan and him reporting to Abizaid.
"I'm not talking about this anymore," Rumsfeld said in another phone call.
About the third or fourth time Garner raised the suggestion, Rumsfeld said, "Look, Jay. We've discussed this before and you know my position." He slammed down the phone. Bush and Rice had made it clear that no military man was going to get the job. Imagine, Rice thought: "President John Abizaid."
Rice thought Garner was sitting in Kuwait too long. All the important things—running the government, getting the ministries up and running in Iraq—were not getting done. She understood that Iraq had a pretty good civil service, and she assumed it would still be there. But several days into the war, she received reports that the government workers, including oil workers, could not be found.
"What do you mean you can't find the oil workers?" she asked.
There was a brittleness in the country, she concluded. As a Soviet expert she had studied what happens to totalitarian systems when they collapse. She recalled reading about the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin. For five weeks the Soviet Union ceased to function. Nobody could do anything because everybody counted on direction from the very top. Iraq seemed to have cratered in the same way or worse. But history predicted it would be temporary. In the end, she was confident, order would reassert itself, as had happened in the old USSR.
The XTF—the artillery brigade turned WMD-hunting unit—had to scale back. The plan had been to send five teams to travel with the combat forces and catalogue or quickly deal with whatever WMD they came across, and to field three more teams with greater expertise to systematically visit the sites on the WMD master list. With too few people and vehicles, they pulled back to four teams with the invading units, and two teams of between 12 and 25 people—called MET units, for "mobile exploitation team"—to do the most intensive inspections.
On April 8, Colonel Richard McPhee, the XTF commander, rolled into Iraq with one of the two MET units, on their way to its first inspection in a small town south of Baghdad, where the WMD intelligence suggested they would find a form of chemical weapons agent. There was nothing. Buried where they thought they were supposed to look, they found only 55-gallon drums of gasoline.
Part of the team hurried on to another suspected site at Karbala, about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad, where they heard a rumor about an Iraqi man who had passed a note to U.S. forces saying he was a scientist who had worked on WMD, had information for the coalition, and wanted to turn himself in. After a 24-hour chase through the Iraqi desert, the unit tracked down the soldiers who had the note, and then found the Iraqi scientist.
Colonel McPhee left the team and flew quickly back to Kuwait by helicopter to meet with Marks. Tension was growing over whether the teams should keep going down the list of WMD suspect sites, or if the better idea was to follow new leads, such as the site the scientist suggested.
"I've got to tell you, this is as important as it gets," McPhee told Marks, and described the Iraqi scientist, who didn't ask for anything from the Americans. McPhee wanted clearance to dedicate a significant effort to focus on this one assignment.
"Rich, you don't have to do that, man," Marks replied, meaning McPhee didn't have to fly back to Kuwait and ask for permission to do his job. "Absolutely. Got to go for it."
Marks wrote briefly about the meeting in his daily diary. "WMD testing—keep expectations low." Even with his chagrin at the quality of the intelligence, Marks had been thinking: 946 sites! They couldn't be wrong about all of them, could they? Even if they were right on only 30 percent of the sites, that would still be a heck of a lot of WMD. Batting .300 was enough to get a ballplayer into the Hall of Fame. "We're all going to Cooperstown," Marks thought. But news of the Iraqi scientist was still a welcome relief.
McPhee went back to Iraq, and the MET unit spent about a day and a half with the scientist, first searching exactly where he'd thought the WMD materials had been buried, and then spreading an arc around the area and continuing the search.
McPhee contacted Marks by secure radio and classified e-mail. "No joy," he reported.
It was a watershed moment for Marks. "No joy" said it all.
General Franks was on a secure video line on April 9, piped into the National Security Council meeting at the White House. The war was going well, he said. "In the south all the enemy formations are destroyed. There are small groups operating with no threat. The Marines and the Brits are squeezing the Iraqi divisions."
In the Baghdad region, they'd destroyed 90 percent of the Iraqi forces' equipment, Franks reported.
"Are we picking up the bad guys?" Bush asked.
"We've distributed pictures of the top 55. There aren't a lot of refugees yet. Some bad guys will slip through but we're doing everything we can to cut the main routes."
The humanitarian crisis, the burning oil fields, and the WMD attacks hadn't happened, Franks said. Nine hundred of the 1,000 southern oil wells were under control, and the last 100 would be under control within 48 hours. "The population of Umm Qasr"—Iraq's largest deep-water port, just over the border from Kuwait—"in a week has gone from 15,000 to 40,000. Water is better than prewar, electricity is restored, food's available," Franks said. There were some problems in other cities, but they were mostly under control.
Bush told him to make sure that somebody was compiling statistics on what prewar Iraqi life was like under Saddam.
"We cannot have people coming into one of these cities and say, the conditions here are appalling, and measure it against an American city. You have to measure it against the city prewar, the way it was," Bush said. "This guy's spent 20 to 30 years ruining this country. It's going to take a while to rebuild it."
We're moving McKiernan's headquarters up to Baghdad, Franks said. Eventually Garner's team would follow. "Sensitive site exploitation will continue." So far there had been no WMD stockpiles found.
In a few days, Franks said, there would be a conference of Iraqi representatives in Tallil, outside Nasiriyah, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. "It'll be an organizational meeting without commitment," meaning it was preliminary.
"Very wise," Bush replied. "It'll be a focal point for the world to see that we're not parachuting our own choice in. You know, 'Do we believe in democracy? Yes.' We're bringing these guys together."
"We've got to win the story in the peacetime era," Bush told British Prime Minister Blair. "We've won the war. We cannot have people define the peacetime era for us."
Rumsfeld dispatched Larry DiRita, his special assistant, to Iraq. DiRita was in Qatar that same day, April 9, waiting to catch a plane to Kuwait, where he would link up with Garner.
In the airport, DiRita watched on television as an amazing scene unfolded in downtown Baghdad, broadcast live throughout the world. A team of U.S. Marines who had swept into the city were helping a group of Iraqis topple a 20-foot statue of Saddam, using an armored vehicle with a chain. It marked the symbolic end of Saddam's regime.
That night, after DiRita landed in Kuwait, Garner's people gave him a series of briefings in a small dining room in one of the villas at the Kuwait City Hilton. One discussion turned to the benefits that the Iraqis would enjoy as a result of American reconstruction plans.
As Colonel Paul Hughes remembers, DiRita slammed his fist on a heavy oak table, and said, "We don't owe the Iraqis anything! We're giving them their freedom. That's all we should give them. We don't owe them any other benefit."
DiRita does not recall the remarks, but says his point was that the U.S. had to help the Iraqis do it for themselves. If the United States came in with large amounts of cash flowing out of everyone's pockets, it would tell the Iraqis to stand back. Rumsfeld wanted them to stand up.
A few days later, DiRita met with Garner's senior staffers at the Kuwait City Hilton.
"We went into the Balkans and Bosnia and Kosovo and we're still in them," Hughes recalls DiRita saying. "We're probably going to wind up in Afghanistan for a long time because the Department of State can't do its job right. Because they keep screwing things up, the Department of Defense winds up being stuck at these places. We're not going to let this happen in Iraq."
The reaction was generally, Whoa! Does this guy even realize that half the people in the room are from the State Department?
DiRita went on, as Hughes recalled: "By the end of August we're going to have 25,000 to 30,000 troops left in Iraq."
DiRita had heard Rumsfeld talk privately many times about foreign occupations. "It's like a broken bone," Rumsfeld said. "If you don't set it right at first, it is always somewhat broken." Rumsfeld said later, "I think I used the characterization of a broken arm. If you don't set it, everything grows around the break and you end up with that abnormality there." Too many occupations like Kosovo and Bosnia had been approached as if they would be permanent; and sure enough, that was what they became.
Others in the room that day don't recall DiRita's words being quite so stark, but most of the State Department people there instinctively knew there was no way they could run Iraq the way Defense envisioned. Invading and quickly departing didn't seem just physically impossible, it was morally dubious. Robin Raphel's eyeballs were on the ceiling, as she thought to herself: What is Larry DiRita smoking? The poor baby. He just doesn't get it.
The next day, April 10, Ryan Henry called Garner again.
"Hey, we've got a real problem in the ministries," Henry said.
Well, Henry explained, the White House had learned about the Defense Department list of people for the Iraqi ministries. "And they want to know why they're not appointing people and why are we doing it. So we've got to send the list to the White House, and we think they're going to redo it, so it will be a little while longer."
"Fine," Garner said sarcastically. "Whenever you get them together and go get them trained and ship them over here, we'll welcome them with open arms."
Rumsfeld just didn't think Garner's group was the A team. It hardly mattered, though. In Garner's opinion, Rumsfeld and Henry didn't have a clue what was going on.
Several days after Saddam's statue fell, Prince Bandar went to the White House to see the president. Rumsfeld was leaving as he arrived.
"We'll accelerate the withdrawal," he told Bandar. "Don't worry."
Bandar expressed concern about stability in Iraq to Bush. The United States military had occupied the country, but Rumsfeld was talking about a fast withdrawal. Bandar repeated what he had told Bush before the war. There would be a power vacuum in Iraq for sure. The Baath Party and the military, including the Iraqi intelligence and security services, had run the country.
"Take the top echelon off because of their involvement and their bloody hands," Bandar said. "But keep and maintain the integrity of the institutions. What you should do, announce all of the military report back to their barracks and keep, let's say the colonels on down. Somebody has to run things." And do the same thing with the Iraqi intelligence and security services. "Look, their intel service was the most efficient. Take off the top echelon and keep the second line and let them find those bad guys, because those bad guys will know how to find bad guys." They could find Saddam.
"That's too Machiavellian," someone said. The Saudi notes of the meeting indicate it was either Bush or Rice.
"Let bad people find bad people, and then after that you get rid of them," Bandar said. "What's the big deal? Double-cross them. I mean, for God's sake, who said that we owe them anything?"
No one responded.
Saudi Arabia shared a 500-mile border with Iraq, and stability in the aftermath was a major concern. Chaos or an extremist, pro-Iranian Shiite regime would be a nightmare for the Saudis, conceivably worse than the relative stability provided by Saddam.
The Saudis estimated that there were some 3 million retirees in Iraq, sitting at home, getting about the equivalent of $6 a month. "Go and pay them for six months, for God's sakes," Bandar advised. "Each of them supports a family, mind you. So from 3 million you could get the support of literally 10 million people. Suddenly you have a major constituency for you because you have paid them off."
It was the Saudi way. Paying 3 million retirees would amount to about $100 million. Bandar proposed doing the same with the Iraqi military. Chop off the top echelon, and then pay the rest for three to six months. That might be another $100 million. After liberation, people in Iraq were going to have high expectations, Bandar said. Don't disappoint them. "You have to make people feel that their life is going to get better."
Saddam's party and army—the instruments of repression—could be instruments of stability. The total cost of the buyout program would be about $200 million. It might be the best $200 million the U.S. ever spent, he said.
Bush indicated it was up to Rumsfeld.
Amidst the jubilation of the swift military victory, the news in the U.S. was increasingly filled with images of looting and chaos. Robin Raphel, who had 28 years of diplomatic experience, chiefly in South Asia and the Middle East, was the senior State Department official among the ministry advisers. As she and others watched television in Kuwait, waiting for their chance to move up into Iraq, they grew increasingly concerned about the state of affairs. Was Garner's team, only about 200 strong, supposed to run the entire country? It was pure fantasy.
"Don't worry," Raphel said to some of the more junior members of Garner's team. "The truth is we can't actually do this. So don't worry. We really just have to kind of put our finger in the dike, get there, and within weeks we're going to be on our knees to the U.N. and the international community." She meant to be reassuring.
"I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it," Rumsfeld exclaimed during a Pentagon news conference on April 11. "I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it was just Henny Penny—'The sky is falling.' I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that is being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free."
Rumsfeld's remarks were punctuated by a PowerPoint presentation of photographs shown to the journalists. The images bore captions or file names such as "Iraqis share a laugh with a U.S. Army soldier"; "Jubilant Iraqis cheer U.S. Army soldiers"; "Happy Iraqis pose with a U.S. Army soldier"; and "Two young Iraqis give the thumbs-up sign to coalition soldiers."
"Let me say one other thing," Rumsfeld continued. "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases?' "
Both Rumsfeld and the press corps laughed. "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?" he asked.
Bush echoed the comment in a press conference two days later. "You know, it's amazing," he said, "the statue comes down on Wednesday and the headlines start to read: Oh, there's disorder. Well, no kidding. It is a situation that is chaotic because Saddam Hussein created conditions for chaos."
"Fri. Apr. 11, D + 23," Spider Marks wrote in his war diary. "No WMD."
The next day, he flew to Baghdad with McKiernan. Even with the euphoria of setting foot in Iraq for the first time and the hundreds of things on his mind, WMD kept percolating to the top. It wasn't just the failure to find the weapons; it was the concern that they might fall into someone else's hands. "Think about the worst thing that could happen," Marks wrote on April 13 after a session with General Franks. His shorthand answer: "Foreign Jihadists w CBW," meaning chemical or biological weapons.
On April 19, "D+31," after a meeting with General McKiernan, Marks recorded the coalition's two top objectives: "maintain integrity of Iraq's borders," and "WMD—id/elminate."
But they weren't finding anything. Part of the problem seemed to be the intense looting and the "limited number of forces available to secure sensitive sites," according to a report later written by Chief Warrant Officer Richard "Monty" Gonzales, the officer in charge of one of Colonel McPhee's MET units.
"Targeted destruction of specific items was evident at nearly every site," the report continued. "On one occasion, at an Iraqi Intelligence Services headquarters in Baghdad, the team was amazed to find Iraqis actively attempting to destroy materials, even while U.S. forces were scouring the area. In an urban environment—without adequate security—the tasks of eliminating looters, stopping deliberate destruction efforts, and safeguarding the team became a nearly impossible task."
without mentioning it to Garner, Rumsfeld was working on a plan to replace him with a new presidential envoy to Iraq, a significant upgrade over Garner's position. The new envoy would be more like a super-administrator or even a viceroy. On April 8, Rumsfeld gathered a group in his Pentagon office so Ryan Henry could brief them on a list of potential candidates. Steve Herbits, who had set up a formal system for Rumsfeld on major personnel decisions that required that the jobs and goals be defined precisely, was present. "By the end of this meeting," Rumsfeld said, "I want Herbits to take this presentation and redo it."
Henry's list of possible envoys included 100 names. It included former Tennessee Senator and Reagan White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, former Secretaries of Defense James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, former California Governor Pete Wilson, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. There were some Brits on the list—former U.K. Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington was one—as well as a couple of Democrats—Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Herbits knew the Democrats were not serious options. Absent from the list were the people who had experience in postwar stabilization operations, such as Richard Holbrooke, the former Clinton U.N. ambassador who had negotiated a peace agreement among warring factions in Bosnia in 1996, and James Dobbins, Mr. Postwar, the former State Department official who had the most experience in post-conflict situations. They were not considered because of their association with Clinton nation building.
After listening for about an hour, Rumsfeld told Herbits privately, "I want you to do this, but understand that this is for the president."
Over the next 48 hours Herbits rewrote the job description. It boiled down to security, reconstruction and politics. He cut the list of candidates down to the top 10.
He wrote that the best candidate was former Secretary of State George Shultz, who had once headed Bechtel Corporation, a major government contractor. Shultz, 83, had stature as one of the world's most respected statesmen. Herbits called him "an international adult." Upsides included, "Capable of holding ground against all comers in press and in negotiations," and "Prevents DOD from being blamed for acts committed or omitted."
The downsides included: "Not known for taking direction. . . . Older—may falter if stressed too long. . . . may be more tolerant of State's viewpoints than DOD person. . . . May be accused of taking on the duties in order to further Bechtel's interests."
But Herbits had a dark-horse candidate for the job. In his view the perfect person to run Iraq was Paul Wolfowitz. He composed a separate four-page memo that would eventually be sent to President Bush and find its way into the hands of Vice President Cheney.
"Getting Post-Iraq Right," Herbits typed as the heading on April 10, 2003. "Since the diplomatic first phase has fallen short in achieving a broadly-based consensus for action," he wrote, firing a shot at the State Department, it was critical to get the phase after military action right. Herbits, who had been part of the Bletchley II group 16 months earlier and had concluded that the U.S. was in for a two-generation war with Islamic extremists that had to start with Iraq, wrote that success could mean Bush would have "a model for the creation of a Palestinian state" and even eventual "Iranian overthrow."
Under the heading, "Benchmarks to Measure Success," Herbits wrote, "In the months after the shooting stops, it is essential that there be no civil war. Civil wars, rightly or wrongly, hearken back to Vietnam. The president's strategy will die in the embrace of such a comparison.
"An orderly and healthy life for Iraqis must quickly be established on a self-sustainable basis." The interim domestic civilian government had to become a "cherished model for the rest of liberty-desiring peoples and governments."
The presidential envoy had to have absolute authority "on all Iraq questions outside of military activity ... report to the president if possible and the SecDef as only other option."
"Why the Presidential Envoy Should Be DepSecDef Wolfowitz," Herbits typed, starting a new section. Wolfowitz's appointment would provide "clarity to the world" about the president's vision of freedom and thwart "traditional Department of State resistance to seeking change in the region."
Because he was already the deputy defense secretary, Wolfowitz "has all the necessary authority in his current position.
"But perhaps most important and exclusive to Paul personally are the facts that he enjoys the widest support among Iraqis." In this context, of course, "Iraqis" meant "Iraqi exiles," especially Chalabi. "To say that he is not essential could be seen as saying that they are not important." His selection "would unequivocally demonstrate the importance of the Iraqi Diaspora is, indeed, central. He is the best long-term symbol of the overall strategy."
Then Herbits added, "His being Jewish is a plus: It is a reminder that this is not a war against religion, it is a clear signal that the position is temporary, that the former ambassador to the world's largest Muslim nation for three years"—Wolfowitz had been ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989—"has experience in being culturally sensitive."
The next afternoon, Herbits took the memo to Rumsfeld. The proposal was the kind of jolting, out-of-left-field thinking that greatly appealed to the secretary. He called in Delonnie Henry.
"Take off Herbits's name," Rumsfeld instructed her. "Put the following cover on it, and send it over the president's private fax." He wrote out a brief note saying that a good friend and associate had written this excellent paper, adding, "I'm available all weekend if you'd like to discuss."
Over the weekend, Herbits was at Cheney's house for lunch to brief him on a conference at the American Enterprise Institute. He took a copy of his Wolfowitz memo.
"I'd like you to see this," Herbits told the vice president, handing him the copy, "because it might come your way."
Cheney looked at the paper. "I've seen it."
"I went over to Rumsfeld's house for dinner last night and he wouldn't let me eat until I read it." He paused. "Good paper," Cheney added, giving one of his half smiles.
• • •
Steve Hadley read the Herbits memo and agreed with it. Wolfowitz was his candidate. But Rumsfeld was sending lots of memos, papered everyone including the president with snowflakes. Picking Wolfowitz would be seen as tantamount to endorsing Chalabi, and the president was adamant that the United States not be seen as putting its thumb on the scales. In addition, the president knew that Wolfowitz did not have a strong reputation as a manager. The deputy secretary of defense was a thinker, but he could barely run his office.
Both Herbits and Rumsfeld told Wolfowitz that he was being proposed as the Iraq envoy.
"If that's what they want," Wolfowitz told Rumsfeld, "I'd be happy to do it."
Rumsfeld's recollection is different. "Paul came to me and said he'd like to be considered. He asked me to do that and I did it."
Notwithstanding Herbits's suggestion that Wolfowitz's Jewish background was a plus, both Rumsfeld and the White House worried that putting a Jewish viceroy in the middle of the Arab world would be difficult.
Rumsfeld never told Wolfowitz why he had not been selected. "Probably the Jewish factor weighed heavily in their minds," Wolfowitz later told an Iraqi-American friend.
Garner wanted desperately to get to Baghdad. He believed the only way to reconstruct the country was through contractors. They had to get the American and Iraqi civilians who would be doing the rebuilding hired so they could start work. But only three of the 13 main contracts had been signed. Franks's plan said that Garner and his team should not go into Iraq until the invasion was over and Phase IV stability operations began.
Garner flew to the Qatar headquarters of Central Command to make a personal plea to Franks. His mission was in jeopardy. Chaos was the mother of all Show Stoppers.
"You have got to get me in there," Garner implored his old friend.
"Jay," Franks said, "there's still fighting in there." Baghdad was still a hot combat zone. Back in January he had promised only to get Garner in after major combat was over. "Think about this. It isn't going to do either of us any good to get a bunch of your civilians killed in Baghdad."
"Look, Tommy. Baghdad has vacuums in it that are being filled up with things you and I don't want it to be filled up with, and we're not going to be able to get rid of those things unless we get in there now." The violence and looting were beyond the scale anyone had expected. "If you don't get me in there we're going to have more problems than a few civilians shot up."
"Okay, damn it," Franks finally said. "I'll call McKiernan and see if he can support this." They both knew that in the middle of a war the last thing the ground commander needed was a handful of civilians. "Jay, he's got his hands full right now."
"I know that," Garner said sympathetically, "and I'll try to be as easy on him as possible but you've got to get me in there."
Franks called Garner that night. "You've got a green light. I've talked to McKiernan. He said he's going to have a hard time supporting you, but he's willing to give it a try. God bless you. Be careful."
On April 21, Garner and eight of his people flew into Baghdad. Everything was filthy. Basic supplies were low. Electricity was on, then off. Garner went to the sewage plant, and found that it was not running. The heat was unbearable. His chief of staff, Bates, set off with the rest of the team in a caravan of nearly 150 new Chevrolet Suburbans in a 400-mile road march from Kuwait to Baghdad. Garner and his pickup team took over a 258-room palace-like former government building located near the center of the city.
The president was still concerned that the U.S. was losing the propaganda war. Whatever it was called—public affairs, global outreach, public diplomacy, strategic communications—they were losing.
One of Rice's NSC staffers, Jeffrey Jones, a retired Army colonel, had presented a SECRET briefing to the NSC principals called "Phase IV Iraq Information Strategy" full of charts, tasks, organization schemes, objectives and themes. It went nowhere. Karen Hughes, Bush's information czar and White House counselor, believed the State Department was not aggressive enough in explaining Bush's foreign policy. She persuaded Margaret Tutwiler, the grande dame of Republican communications strategy during the Reagan and Bush senior years, to take the top job in the State Department as the undersecretary for public diplomacy.
Tutwiler, 52, described in a Washington Post article as a "one-woman psychological operations team," was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and had a deep, confiding southern accent. She had worked nonstop as communications and political adviser to Jim Baker for 12 years while he served as White House chief of staff and treasury secretary for Reagan and then as secretary of state for George H. W. Bush. She had one interest and focus: Baker's image and success.
Tutwiler was serving as U.S. ambassador to Morocco when she received her Iraq assignment—Do for Garner what you did for Baker.
When Tutwiler arrived in Baghdad, she was overwhelmed by the government and societal meltdown—no showers, no reliable electricity. She was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Garner personally taught her how to cook military field rations—MREs, or "Meals, Ready to Eat." Chicken tortellini number 19 turned out to be her favorite. Mess and gunk and garbage and waste were everywhere. There was no privacy in the rooms, if it was possible to call them "rooms," with no doors or windows. Sleep was almost impossible.
"It's just so damn hot," she told Garner. "I'm just burning up."
"Here, Margaret," he said, proposing an old soldier's solution. "Here's what you do. Take your clothes off, as much of them as you're comfortable with. If you've got enough bottled water, just pour it all over and rinse your body and then lie on top of your bed inside the mosquito net. It's going to evaporate off of you and you'll be cooler."
The next morning Garner asked her if it had worked.
"I drenched my body," Tutwiler said, "and I got in and I was soaking wet and I closed my eyes and I went to sleep. When I woke up I was choking and I couldn't stand it. We had that big sandstorm. I was nothing but a mud ball."
Iraq was such a catastrophe, Tutwiler concluded, that even Jim Baker would not have been able to fix it. The country had neither a functioning society nor a functioning government. But she knew from experience that every White House wanted total control and instant results. Soon she was getting calls from the White House and Pentagon complaining about the pictures of the looting and chaos on television and in the newspapers. Get those pictures off, they said.
Tutwiler told everyone in Washington that the political power and infrastructure vacuums were of unimaginable magnitude. This surpassed anything she had ever seen.
Tutwiler liked Garner. He was a genuine patriot, she thought, without a personal agenda. But he was no Jim Baker. Garner did not know how to line up all the players in the Washington game, the interagency process—how to make the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the White House and Treasury all happy. Garner seemed to have the right ideas, but he just didn't have the contacts or clout in Washington, and he didn't have the manpower in Baghdad.
Garner complained to Tutwiler that he'd been under orders not to talk to the press since he'd left Washington, when he'd shown indifference toward Chalabi and the INC at his press conference. It was ridiculous. Communicating and explaining were part of his job. The press was suspicious, madder than hell that he would not talk.
Tutwiler tried and failed to get the embargo lifted. She talked to her own contacts in the White House, the Pentagon and State Department. No one wanted Garner talking to the press. They didn't want him making policy statements. He seemed too quick on the draw. Tutwiler even received complaints that Garner wasn't showing proper respect for the Iraqis because he went around the country without a coat and tie.
Garner finally called Rumsfeld to complain.
"You're not embargoed," Rumsfeld said, "you can talk to whoever you need to talk to."
Tutwiler immediately arranged a press conference, but about 45 minutes later she told Garner, "You've been reembargoed."
"I'll call Rumsfeld," Garner said.
"It won't do any good," she replied. "It's from the White House." That meant from Karen Hughes.
Tutwiler then set up a partial solution. She would tip off reporters when Garner was moving so he could be "ambushed" by one news organization or another about once a day and give brief comments. She then would handle Washington, telling them, "He just got ambushed and he had to say something. The cameras were going. It would just be worse if he didn't say anything."
But the little snippets of news or comments were terribly unsatisfying for both Garner and the media.
Tutwiler became friendly with Hero Talabani, the wife of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. In one discussion, Hero turned to her and said something that Tutwiler remembered for years: "We expected more from you Americans."
Weeks into the war, more and more paper was flying around Rumsfeld's office and the Pentagon about how to organize the aftermath. One classified SECRET draft chart was titled "Restoration: Civil Primacy," with SecDef at the top and everything flowing down through the Central Commander, General Franks. Another had the president at the top, then Rumsfeld and then a new "Coalition Administrator." Garner was listed as the deputy for civil affairs, and General Abizaid was proposed as the deputy for security and support. Both would report to the new "Coalition Administrator." Another chart listed a deputy for security and support, but did not name Abizaid.
Herbits was still searching for the perfect envoy. By April 22, more than a month after the invasion, he'd completed a list of necessary characteristics: commitment to the president's mission, responsiveness to the president's and Rumsfeld's direction, judgment, stature, presence and ability to communicate, empathy, political negotiation skills, bipartisan respect, ability to work with senior military officers, interagency skills, availability and stamina. The organization chart had Garner reporting to the new, unnamed special envoy, separate from the military chain.
Under the section concerning key tasks for the transition to an interim Iraqi government, all the economic and political issues were listed under the heading "Not Currently Addressed." That was everything from debt, credit and oil policy to the tasks of reform, rule of law and political process for the new government. This was two weeks after the fall of Baghdad.
Since anyone associated with the Clinton administration was automatically disqualified, one name kept popping up on Herbits's short list: L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, a 61-year-old terrorism expert who had 23 years in the foreign service. A protégé of Henry Kissinger, Bremer had been U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands from 1983 to 1986, and then the State Department's ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism, but he had retired from the foreign service so he had not been tainted by serving in the Clinton State Department. He had been managing director of Kissinger Associates, the former secretary of state's consulting firm, for more than a decade before heading the 2000 National Commission on Terrorism. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks he had publicly predicted that the U.S. homeland would be struck. Boyish with a thick head of hair, Bremer projected utter self-confidence and a toughness that bordered on smugness.
On April 24, Rumsfeld called Powell to propose Bremer. Powell said he would have to think about it. He and Armitage reviewed Bremer's 23-year foreign service career and his close association with Kissinger and the State Department. "Yeah!" cheered Armitage. Bremer was a likely ally. But they didn't want to express too much enthusiasm. That would kill the appointment for sure.
Rumsfeld was a little defensive about his role in selecting Bremer when I interviewed him in 2006.
"Jerry Bremer, of course, was a presidential envoy, and as such he reported to the president and to Condi and the NSC staff," Rumsfeld said.
"You picked him," I said.
"Just a minute," Rumsfeld said. "We all agreed on him, that he was the guy. I think I've forgotten where his name came from, but it might have been George Shultz had recommended him."
"That is not correct," Shultz said later when I told him of Rumsfeld's recollection. "Don called me and had a list." Shultz said he told Rumsfeld he thought well of Bremer. "But he also had on his list Howard Baker, and he would be the ideal person because he was a politician and could reach out to others."
I mentioned to Shultz that he initially was at the top of the Pentagon list to be the Iraq envoy.
"That's the first I heard of that!" Shultz said, almost gasping. Neither Rumsfeld nor anybody else ever raised the possibility with him, he said.
The Pentagon apparently felt he might lean too much to the State Department and could not be controlled, I said.
"I was never able to be controlled," Shultz said.
The two Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, longtime rivals and leaders of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, had largely set aside their differences in a pragmatic effort to promote the Iraqi Kurds' future. In April 2003, the two men put out word that they wanted to form an interim government in Baghdad.
Garner was alarmed. Certainly it was part of the U.S. strategy to put an Iraqi face on an interim government, but Iraq was majority Shiite. The Kurds were a minority like the Sunnis. A new government would have to have more of a Shiite face. On April 22, just after arriving in Baghdad, Garner and Larry DiRita flew up north to see Barzani and Talabani. Both men were old acquaintances of Garner from Provide Comfort, though he had not seen them in more than a decade. "This day, for me, is like coming home," Garner said to a crowd of Iraqi Kurds who greeted his arrival.
Barzani and Talabani welcomed him with hugs and kisses. Garner took the two leaders aside. "One of the reasons I came up here is, number one, I wanted to see you," Garner said warmly. "But number two, I understand you're planning to form a government in Baghdad. I've got some problems with that."
"We're not forming a government," Talabani said.
"That's what I was told," Garner replied.
"No. We're going to put together an advisory group, a face of leadership for you. Don't you think you need it?"
"Absolutely," Garner said. "I want to do that. Who will that be?"
Well, Talabani said, "it will be all of us that worked with Zal." Zalmay Khalilzad of the NSC had been working with them for about a year and a half, and had been designated the "ambassador-at-large for the Free Iraqis." Talabani listed three of the Iraqis he thought should be involved. There was Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni octogenarian who had been Iraq's foreign minister and ambassador to the U.N. before Saddam Hussein had taken power. Next, there was Ayad Allawi, the Shiite leader of a London-based exile opposition group called the Iraqi National Accord. Finally, inevitably, there was Ahmed Chalabi.
"Look, here's the problem I have with that," Garner said. "All those guys except you two are expatriates, and you two are Kurds. What about someone from inside the country who's been here who's an Arab?"
"We're going to bring in Hakim," Talabani said, referring to Mohammed Bakir Hakim, the spiritual leader of the biggest Shiite party in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "We thought we'd bring in Jafari"—Ibrahim al-Jafari, a Shiite exile and vehement Saddam opponent—"and we'll bring in a Christian."
"Okay, that will work out," Garner said, but added, "the one thing I'm uncomfortable with is Hakim. He's too Iranian."
"Jay," Talabani said, putting his hand on Garner's leg, "it's better to have Hakim inside the tent than outside the tent."
"That's pretty damn good advice," Garner said. "Let's go along with that. I want you in Baghdad in a week, all of you. I want you to bring your deputies. I want you to set up a deputies committee." It would work directly with Garner's team.
"We'll do that," Talabani said.
"Look, if this works I'll make you a provisional government," Garner told the two leaders. "You'll still work for me but I'll make you a provisional government."
He turned to some practical considerations. "What are we going to do about a constitution, because we've got to get people involved," Garner asked.
"We already thought about that," Talabani answered. "We'll have a big-tent meeting and we'll bring in somewhere between 200 and 300 people. Jay, this will be a mosaic of Iraq. It will be all the ethnic groups, all the religions, all the professions ... the genders. We'll write this constitution. We'll give you the list of people and you can take off anybody you don't want and you can add anyone you want to it."
"How quick can we do this?" Garner asked, mindful that he'd promised his wife he'd be home by July Fourth.
"We'll have it started on the first of July," Talabani promised.
Immediately after the meeting, Garner called General Abizaid to explain the plan.
Abizaid wondered if it would work.
"I don't think we have a choice," Garner said.
"I don't think we do either. Let's go ahead and go with it."
"I want you to get safe passage for Talabani and Barzani from the north down into Baghdad," Garner said.
Garner told DiRita to call the Pentagon and let them know what was happening. He called Powell himself.
"What are you doing down there?" the secretary of state asked.
Garner described the plan for a provisional government, bringing in everyone under a big tent.
"Interesting," Powell said. It sounded like one of those tent-event sale-a-thons advertised on television by big car dealers. He knew the issue was vastly more complicated. There were so many competing efforts. The Pentagon and Cheney obviously were promoting Chalabi. At one point, Khalilzad had presented "Megabrief Two," a secret plan on the Iraqi political process, to the principals—Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Myers and Tenet. It was a scheme about organizing Iraqis at the local level, taking a census, beginning the effort to build political parties, then establishing local governments and working up from there to the national level.
By modest estimate this would entail years of work. The principals quickly sidelined both the idea and the "Megabrief." They decided that it should not be presented to the president.
Bush had agreed to put a super-administrator in charge over Garner.
But the president wanted to see the organization chart on the U.S. side and also how the government in Iraq would be put together.
Hadley called a deputies committee meeting, but they did not come up with the final organization chart. He indicated that the president was antsy, and said that he wanted key people from each department and agency to stay behind and work, such as Frank Miller, Elliott Abrams, someone from State and a CIA representative. Hadley quipped that he was going to keep them locked in the Situation Room until they finished.
Doug Feith, who was representing Defense, got up to leave. Feith's deputy, William Luti, a retired Navy captain who had been an aide to Newt Gingrich and to Cheney, rose also. "Well," Luti said, "I've got to go back with Doug. He's my ride."
"You heard what Steve said," Frank Miller interjected, "We're going to sit here and work."
"We will try and send someone back," Luti replied and left, but no one came back from the Pentagon.
For about two hours, the group struggled to come up with a chart with the U.S. administrator at the top. An Iraqi Council of Elders and a United Nations representative would consult with the administrator, but the chain of command went from the American administrator to the Iraqi ministries, which would at first be headed by a U.S. official with Iraqi advisers. Over time Iraqis would take over and the U.S. representatives would become advisers. Some of the less important ministries would transition to Iraqi control quickly, but the crucial ones like Defense and Interior would stay under U.S. control for a long time.
The scheme envisioned a long occupation.
The next day the chart and diagram were presented to a principals meeting. Rumsfeld came in swinging. "This isn't an interagency product," he said. "My people weren't involved."
"Mr. Secretary," Miller said, "Hadley said to do it. Your people left and said they might send somebody back. There was no other option. Your people left the game."
Rumsfeld didn't respond, but charts and diagrams were only so much abstraction. Under the president's directive, NSPD-24, he was in charge.
though technically outside the government since 1999, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich threw himself into the mix, publicly blaming the State Department for the failed diplomacy and for the ideological warfare within the administration. "The State Department is back at work pursuing policies that will clearly throw away all of the fruits of hard-won victory," he said on April 24 in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
Armitage responded for Powell: "It's clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy."
A few days later, the staff threw a small party in Armitage's seventh-floor office for his 58th birthday. Tenet sent a large poster depicting a cartoon version of Armitage lifting weights, straining and dripping sweat. The caption read: "Off His Meds and Out of Therapy. Happy Birthday."
Garner knew little about all the meetings and squabbling in Washington. As far as he knew, the postwar responsibilities were his. On his arrival in Baghdad, a reporter had asked how long the U.S. would be in Iraq and whether he was the country's new ruler.
"I don't think I would put 90 days as a mark on the wall, but we will be here as long as it takes. We'll leave fairly rapidly," Garner replied, adding, "The new ruler of Iraq is going to be an Iraqi. I don't rule anything."
The situation in Iraq was clearly different from what they had anticipated. The worst-case scenarios they had anticipated hadn't happened: oil fires, displaced people, refugees, epidemics, mass casualties from chemical warfare. But in many ways the problems were more insidious because they were so widespread and deep. On April 23, Garner sat down and made a list of nine things he wanted to accomplish before the July 1 "big-tent meeting" and his planned departure. It was basically an ambitious good-government agenda, covering everything from police to sewers.*
In Baghdad on April 24, Garner met with General McKiernan to go over the nine objectives.
There's a 10th you've got to add on there, McKiernan pointed out— security. There was still some fighting going on but no huge outbreak of violence. Garner agreed and added security as the 10th objective. Neither pointed out that McKiernan, who was in command of roughly 150,000 American and British troops, was subtly shifting responsibility for security to Garner, whose organization numbered only about 200.
The looting was intense. Colonel Tom Baltazar on Garner's staff later recalled watching "a freaking boat, a 25-foot boat, being dragged by a car down the middle of a main street there in Baghdad. Not on a trailer." Some guy had chained it to the back of a car, and was pulling it, completely wrecking the hull as he drove along. Another car drove past, pulling an antique cannon, one of two that the British had left as ceremonial decorations outside an Iraqi military academy in 1924.
Baltazar implored McKiernan: "You have got to stop this," he said. "Our mission is to reestablish the government, and we can't do it if everything's being destroyed."
"Tom, I don't ever want to hear that from your lips again," Baltazar recalled McKiernan saying. "This is not my job."
Nevertheless, Garner felt he was working exceptionally well with McKiernan. McKiernan's staff was the best Garner had ever seen, with one- and two-star generals heading sections that might have had only a colonel in charge in a comparable organization. They agreed to put a flag
* Garner's to-do list of things to accomplish before July 1 included: (1) Bring all Iraqi government ministries back to a functioning level. (2) Pay the salaries of all the public servants across the country, including the army and the police. (3) Restore the police, the courts and the prisons. (4) Ensure basic services to Baghdad—water, electricity, sewage and so forth. This would have an added benefit, Garner reasoned, because most of the foreign reporters who covered Iraq were centered in Baghdad. They'd be happier—and might write better stories—if they had air-conditioning and hot showers. (5) End the Iraqi fuel crisis. (6) Purchase the Iraqi harvest—tons of barley and wheat. (7) Reestablish the food distribution system. (8) Restore interim local governance by arranging for the election of town councils in each of Iraq's 26 cities with 100,000 or more people. (9) Ensure the public health system was working, and continue to avoid epidemics.
officer—at least a one-star general or admiral—in charge of each of Garner's 10 objectives, and Garner would assign a senior civilian from his group to each, creating a military-civil team. Junior flag officers got things done in part because they wanted to become senior flag officers. There was no more conspicuous bundle of energy than a one-star general with a mission.
In Baghdad, Garner noticed that U.S. forces were deployed all about in tanks and armored personnel vehicles. He wanted them to reduce the visibility of the force. He called the tanks "sidewalk crushers" and at one point he suggested to one unit, "Quit riding your goddamn tracks and tearing up the sidewalks and curbs." He even spoke with one of McKiernan's deputies and said they ought to do more dismounted patrols, get out of the body armor and Kevlar helmets. Garner refused to wear a flak jacket or travel in armored vehicles. It would send the wrong signal.
But there was a tension in the city, and the U.S. forces were spring-loaded for action. They generally stayed in full armor and in combat mode.
"you have a call in from SecDef," Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, Garner's executive assistant, told him about 6 p.m. on April 24.
"Hey, you're really doing great," Rumsfeld said when he got on the phone. "We're proud of what you're doing." He said he understood that Garner's team was arriving in full, and it really looked good from what Rumsfeld could tell.
"Yes, sir," Garner replied.
"By the way," Rumsfeld said, "one of the reasons I'm calling is to let you know that the president has selected Jerry Bremer to be the presidential envoy." He didn't know when this would be announced, but he wanted to make sure Garner knew beforehand.
"Well," Garner said, taken by surprise, "if he's already selected somebody then I'll come home."
"No," Rumsfeld objected. "I don't want you to come home."
"It doesn't work that way," Garner said. "You can't have the guy who used to be in charge and the guy who's now in charge there, because you divide the loyalties of the people. So the best thing for me is just to step out of here."
"Don't do anything until I come to Iraq. You and I will talk," Rumsfeld said. He was planning to arrive in a few days. "Jay, this has always been the plan. You know that. This has always been our plan."
"Well, that's true. I have to give you that," Garner said. It was happening earlier than he'd thought.
"I want you to call Jerry Bremer," Rumsfeld said, and gave him the phone number.
"I'll do that."
After hanging up, Garner recalled in an interview, he felt betrayed. "I was thinking: Those sons of bitches. I busted my ass. I dropped everything I had. I walked away from everything I was doing. I thought I had done an incredibly good job at that time. In my head I thought I had." He said he felt cheated. "I was naive enough to think that I could get all this started and there would be such a groundswell among the Iraqis ... I thought, 'I've got everything going.' And all they were going to have to do is wait and see it come to fruition and it's not going to take long for that to happen.
"What really got me," he said, "is they never really announced what they were doing. Suddenly Bremer's coming and it looks like they fired me, which they may have.
"I think to the outside world I was seen as the envoy to Iraq, whatever you want to call it, the first governor and all that. Inside the administration, inside Defense, I was seen as a mechanic. 'We hired this guy.' I certainly never had the status I had to the outside world."
a few hours after Rumsfeld called Garner, he made another call. The president had traveled to Lima, Ohio, that day for a campaign-style appearance at a factory that makes the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, where Bush had singled out Jay Garner for praise. "We've followed up with a team of people, headed by this man Garner who's got one overriding goal, to leave a free nation in the hands of a free people," he said. He also praised the $4.3 million, 70-ton Abrams tank as "the most safe vehicle for our fighting personnel, precise enough to protect innocent life." Nine hundred Ml tanks had crossed the borders the previous month in the Iraq invasion.
Rumsfeld called Andy Card to complain that the Lima Abrams tank plant had been picked for a presidential visit. The Abrams tank was a thing of the past, not the light, quick, transformational weapon of the future. The president was sending the wrong message. They should speak with one voice: Transformation! This would not have happened when he had been chief of staff, he told Card.
Unbelievable, Card thought. Rumsfeld was out of control. Not only was the secretary in the military chain of command by law, but he played it for all it was worth.
Card found he could pretty much call the other cabinet secretaries— Powell, for example—and get them to play ball and carry out presidential orders and requests. But not Rumsfeld.
Bremer had strongly supported the decision to invade Iraq. He believed it was the only moral course, that the alleged WMD were an incontestable, imminent threat. In April, he later wrote, he'd been contacted by both Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, asking if he'd be interested in taking over in postwar Iraq. Garner was never intended to be the permanent head of the reconstruction effort, they told him. They needed someone who knew diplomacy and politics.
Bremer got his wife's blessing and was quickly brought in to talk with Rumsfeld, whom he'd known since they worked in the Ford administration. Soon after, he met with the president.
"Why would you want this impossible job?" Bush asked him, according to Bremer's account.
"Because I believe America has done something great in liberating the Iraqis, sir. And because I think I can help."
In Baghdad, Bremer's impending arrival was greeted with shock.
"What the hell are they doing that for?" Abizaid said when Garner told him.
"John, I don't know."
McKiernan was surprised. Tutwiler said she was stunned. "Can you believe this?" Robin Raphel exclaimed.
"Come on, you're kidding," DiRita said when Garner told him. He was concerned not so much by the decision to switch to a more experienced diplomat, but by the left-footed way it was being handled. "That can't be right."
"Paul, this is not good," DiRita told Wolfowitz. The message being sent was that Garner had failed. "I mean, it's a problem. Somebody needs to go out today and explain what the hell's going on."
But the decision had already been made and no one was stepping up to explain.
Garner ran into Khalilzad, the presidential envoy. "Bremer's coming over here and I'm leaving," he said.
"What do you mean he's coming over here?"
"He's coming over here to be the presidential envoy."
"Then I'm quitting."
"I don't think you can quit, Zal," Garner replied. "You've got too much invested here. You're too important a guy. You can't quit."
Khalilzad just walked off. He would return two years later as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
Garner called Rumsfeld to see if Bremer's arrival could be delayed for several months.
"I have a lot of things on the fire and I think I can get them all done by the first of July," Garner pleaded.
"I can't do that," Rumsfeld said. "That's not my call."
When Garner went to his office the next morning to call Bremer, the phone was ringing.
"You're doing a great job over there," Bremer said, echoing Rumsfeld, but with the skill of a diplomat.
"The optics are pretty bad over here in the newspapers," Bremer said on a later call. The television and newspapers were filled with images of looting and chaos.
"Jerry," Garner replied, "if you're going to try to run Iraq based on what's in The Washington Post, you're in for a long haul." He added that he didn't know what was in the newspaper. At that moment, he said, he didn't even have electricity.
"Yeah, but you've got to manage the optics," Bremer repeated. "You've still got to be wary of what's being said about you."
"When you get here you can do that."
Garner's team was trying to function in buildings that had been torn apart; 17 of the 23 ministry buildings were virtually destroyed. Doors, doorjambs, windows, windowsills, plumbing and electrical wiring had been ripped out. In some cases, looters had set the empty husks of buildings on fire. Soot, dirt, filth and human waste littered the floors. Ministry workers had fled. Some of Garner's people had gone out into Baghdad to look for them, asking almost at random, "Do you know anybody that was in the Ministry of Transportation?" or "Do you know anybody in the Ministry of Health?"
• • •
"Have you seen this?" he asked.
He showed Hughes a one-page document, an English translation of a directive that had been issued by the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam's intelligence service.
The memo listed 11 things that the Mukhabarat would do "in the event, God forbid, of the fall of our beloved leader." Each local Baath cell, each squad of Fedayeen, and each individual Mukhabarat agent would be responsible for assassinating collaborators, burning the ministry buildings, looting, burning public documents—doing things that would lead to chaos. It said nothing about sectarian violence, nothing about exploiting the divisions among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. It said that it would be up to all the independent agents of the Baath Party to figure out how to raise hell if Saddam's government fell.
Hughes was stunned. He saw that the U.S. and coalition forces were up against a lot more than they had imagined.
In his book, Bremer recalled being shown a similar document, but not for another three months, in late July or early August. Dated January 23, 2003, the Mukhabarat memo Bremer was shown was addressed "To All Offices and Sections," and offered a contingency plan for what to do if the country were invaded. "Burn this office," the memo began, and continued on to describe a strategy of "sabotage and looting" and ordering subordinates to "scatter agents to every town. Destroy electric power stations and water conduits. Infiltrate the mosques, the Shiite holy places."
"I can't believe that son of a bitch, what he has done," General Myers said in the Tank at the Pentagon. Myers couldn't get General Franks to answer questions, couldn't even get him on the phone. Now, he heard, Franks wanted to leave the combat zone and come to Washington for the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 26. Leave a combat zone for a party? Myers was dumbfounded. Rumsfeld had to pass the word to Franks that he should not attend.
Spider Marks was now living the challenge that he had outlined to the DIA smart guys at the Pentagon more than six months earlier. It no longer mattered whether failure to find WMD was an intelligence problem or an operational problem. The simple fact was that they weren't finding anything. In a moment of frustration, he put the blame squarely on the shoulders of General Franks's Central Command. If he couldn't share his personal hell with his boss, he had to express it somewhere.
"They are completely asleep at the switch. No one anticipated or executed on the req. to get details of WMD," Marks wrote in his war journal on April 28, abbreviating "requirements" as "req." "How idiotic are these guys! Incredible."
That same day, Marks learned that DIA would be taking over the WMD hunt. The Iraq Survey Group, as the effort was going to be called, would be commanded by a two-star general named Keith Dayton, the head of DIA's human intelligence section.
Marks got in touch with Dayton. You're going to have a massive coordination program, Marks said, but maybe if you have the authority of the secretary of defense's office, you'll be able to move things around and find some WMD. "When you come," he said, "make shit happen."
Dayton said he was delaying his arrival in Iraq to attend his son's college graduation. It meant that Marks and Dayton would barely overlap.
Rumsfeld flew to Iraq on April 30. All the ambiguity on the ground was there for him to see. It was over but it was not over. He addressed 1,000 troops of the 3rd Infantry Division in a large aircraft hangar at the airport.
"You've rescued a nation," he told them. "You've liberated a people. You've deposed a cruel dictator and you have ended this threat to free nations. You've braved death squads and dust storms, racing across hundreds of miles to reach Baghdad in less than a month." He could not resist a dig at those who had written or said that the war had moved slower than the administration had predicted. "Some people called that a quagmire."
Traditionally in war, taking the enemy's capital meant the end. So Rumsfeld and the others—even Garner—were feeling very muscular. Garner made some remarks to reporters that were totally unrealistic. "There's not much infrastructure problems here," he said, "other than connecting some stuff back together."
Rumsfeld videotaped an optimistic message to be broadcast to the Iraqis from the military's Commando Solo psychological operations aircraft: "Let me be clear: Iraq belongs to you. We do not want to own or run it," Rumsfeld said, perhaps trying to refute Powell's warning that the U.S. would own Iraq. He added, "We will stay as long as necessary to help you do that—and not a day longer."
In an interview later, Rumsfeld said he realized that "the Iraqi infrastructure had been neglected for decades. I went over and looked at an electric power plant, I can remember. It was being held together with chewing gum, bobby pins and baling wire. And I looked at [it] myself and said, My Lord, this took 30 years to get there." Saddam had ruled for over 30 years. "It's going to take 30 years to get out of here, to get that— not us out—for them to get back to looking like Kuwait or Jordan or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or their neighbors. And I said, My goodness, that's going to be their job over a long period of time, because it just takes that long. You can't—and they have wealth. They've got water. They've got oil. They've got industrious people. They clearly are going to be the ones that are going to have to do that."
Rumsfeld also met privately with Garner to talk about Bremer's impending arrival.
"I want you to stay here, keep working," he said. "You're doing a great job and I want you to transition Jerry in and all that."
"I'll stay for a short time," Garner promised, "but it won't be a long time."
Bush and his staff were borderline giddy. The president's speechwriters, including Michael Gerson, drafted an address that echoed the formal surrender of Japan on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri at the end of World War II. The draft borrowed General MacArthur's memorable remarks—"the guns are silent"—and according to Rumsfeld included the line "Mission Accomplished."
The Missouri was not available—it was now a memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii—but the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was at sea off the coast of San Diego.
"I took 'Mission Accomplished' out," Rumsfeld recalled. "I was in Baghdad and I was given a draft of that thing and I just died. And I said, it's too inclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back. They fixed the speech but not the sign."
On May 1, Bush, the former Texas National Guard pilot, landed dramatically on the Lincoln, riding in the second seat of a Navy antisubmarine warplane. Later, after trading his military flight suit for a suit and tie, he addressed the nation and the world, standing before 5,000 of the crew under a huge banner reading "Mission Accomplished." The Lincoln's crew had been told over the ship's public address system that after the president officially came aboard, "you'll be allowed to cheer as loudly as possible, and you'll be encouraged to show your affection." The White House later claimed the "Mission Accomplished" sign had been the Navy's idea. Rumsfeld is the first to say "Mission Accomplished" was in the White House speech draft.
Giving the revised, Rumsfeld-approved version of the speech, Bush declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." He stopped just short of formally declaring victory in Iraq, not only because of Rumsfeld's objection, but also in part because of the implications that declaration would have under international law. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," he said. "And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."
The president signaled that a new phase of work was beginning. "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools for the people. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq."
In Baghdad, one of Garner's team's computer printers was humming, churning out copies of a new Ministry Teams Newsletter dated May 2. It was an internal update on the ministries.
A major project was to "requisition and provide plastic sheeting and tape for use in covering over broken windows and holes in buildings." The Interior Ministry—the organization in charge of intelligence, security and police forces—was completely out of control. "HQ building occupied by 'family' or tribe," the newsletter said. "Need to remove occupiers and return to police control." The Agriculture Ministry was devoid of any security and could not be opened until someone could post guards. "Islamist faction in bldg that needs to be evicted; workers will not return without the eviction and guard." Even the National Library was "occupied by religious group; ministry officials request removal of group and posting of security."
A report to Garner on May 4 begins: "Security continues to be the top concern of all ministry and senior advisors. . . . Scheduled trips to ministries continue to be canceled due to insufficient numbers of military police escorts; advisors have stressed that such cancellations undermine their credibility with ministry staff, particularly given that advisors rarely can contact staff to let them know of changed events." U.S. advisers reached the Ministry of Defense building for the first time, nearly a month after the collapse of Saddam's government, to find that it had been heavily looted. There was gunfire in the streets as they arrived. The team carted off a thousand pounds of highly classified documents, the report said, but there were still many more documents left behind, uncollected and unguarded.
"MEMORANDUM FOR Director," begins another document, this one dated May 6 and written by Colonel Paul Hughes in the formal style of official military correspondence. "Subject: Meeting with Iraqi Military Officers—INFORMATION MEMO."
The day before, Hughes had met with a group of senior Iraqi military officers who claimed to represent about 30,000 army officers, soldiers and Iraqi civilians from the Ministry of Defense. A colonel with the group named Mirjan Dhiya translated.
"Before and during the war," Hughes wrote, these Iraqi officers and others "removed computers and files from the MOD and placed them in their homes." They'd now heard that the coalition was going to give a $20 emergency payment to every government worker in the other ministries, and they hoped they could get the same deal for the former soldiers. Among the officers was a brigadier who had been the comptroller of the Iraqi army. They had all the pay records, and the group was "willing to turn all of its information over to the Coalition."
Hughes wrote that he'd explained to the group that they could not be paid salaries, but that the $20 emergency payment might be possible. "I also informed them that this money was originally Iraqi money being returned to them, something that overwhelmed all of them with a deep sense of gratitude."
Hughes met with the Iraqi officers again two days later, and the list of Iraqi soldiers they claimed to be able to organize had grown to 137,000. On May 8, a document was prepared for the signature of another member of Garner's team, Major General Carl A. Strock, who was acting as the interim senior adviser to the Ministry of Defense, authorizing the Iraqi generals to work with the coalition at the Baghdad building where Garner's team was headquartered. The computers began printing out page after page of records of Iraqi soldiers. Hughes was very excited, believing he had stumbled on an opportunity to get the former Iraqi army on the coalition's side and help them retain some honor. It was what General Grant had done in the Civil War after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, he thought. For $20 a head—less than $3 million for all 137,000 soldiers on the lists—they could offer parole to part of the Iraqi military, and get them invested in the post-Saddam society. He just needed the money.
jerry Bremer had just over two weeks from the first time he met with Bush in the Oval Office until he left for Iraq. While he had a long career in foreign policy and counterterrorism, he was not a Middle East expert. In essence, he was putting together a new pickup team to take the place of Garner's pickup team. The issue that would likely define the Bush presidency was being handled by a series of pickup teams.
At one point, James Dobbins, the post-conflict expert and former State Department official who worked for the RAND Corporation, brought Bremer a draft of a study estimating that 500,000 troops were needed in postwar Iraq, three times as many as currently deployed.
Bremer sent a summary of the draft to Rumsfeld with a cover memo saying, "I think we should consider this." He never heard back, and Bremer never followed up.
After 1 p.m. on May 6, with Bremer by his side in the Oval Office, Bush formally announced his appointment as presidential envoy to Iraq. "He's a can-do type person," Bush said, bestowing one of his greatest compliments. "The ambassador goes with the full blessings of this administration and the full confidence of all of us in this administration that he can get the job done." The press generally described Bremer as a buttoned-down, conservative organization man who contrasted with the informal, unbuttoned Garner.
Four days before his departure, Bremer had lunch with Bush alone at the White House. He raised the "unity of command" issue, but not about the military, as Powell and others had done. "I could not succeed if there were others in Iraq saying they too represented the president," Bremer later wrote—meaning especially Zalmay Khalilzad, the NSC staffer who still bore the title "presidential envoy."
Bush said he understood and agreed. By Bremer's account he also mentioned the RAND study calling for 500,000 troops, but got no response, and he never pursued it with the president.
After their lunch, Bush led Bremer into the Oval Office for a meeting with Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice and Card. As they filed in, "Bush waved me to the chair beside him and joked, 'I don't know whether we need this meeting at all. Jerry and I have just had it.'
"His message was clear," Bremer wrote. "I was neither Rumsfeld's nor Powell's man. I was the president's man."
On May 9, Bush put it in writing, appointing Bremer as his envoy, "reporting through the Secretary of Defense." He was in charge of everyone except Rumsfeld and General Franks.
That day, Bremer met with Feith and his deputy, William Luti, a retired Navy captain and veteran of Cheney's office.
"I have my letter," Bremer said, referring to his appointment letter from the president. He proudly patted the breast pocket of his suit jacket.
Feith had a draft de-Baathification order, and Bremer recalls that Feith was going to have Garner issue it.
According to Bremer, he replied, "Hold on a minute. I agree it's a very important step, so important that I think it should wait until I get there." Bremer later recalled that Feith agreed and said it was to be carried out "even if implementing it causes administrative inconvenience." For his part, Feith has recalled that it was Bremer pushing a de-Baathification order and another order to disband the Iraqi army.
Garner's deputy, Ron Adams, had come down with severe pneumonia in early April, and was evacuated back to the U.S. to recover. As he recuperated, he resumed work at the Pentagon as Garner's liaison.
"Everything's changed here," Adams told Garner in one of their daily phone conversations. "They don't like us."
After a month, Adams finally got clearance to return to the Middle East, and he flew to Kuwait on May 6. It took four frustrating days for the retired three-star general and deputy director of the organization still officially in charge of postwar Iraq just to get a seat on a military airplane to travel the 350 or so miles from Kuwait to Baghdad.
"Sunday 11 May D + 53," begins another entry in Spider Marks's war diary. "No WMD," he wrote again.
It was almost too late to worry about it. There was no such thing as un-invading Iraq. They still had to drive on, and check all 946 sites on the list, even if he was now nearly as sure there was nothing to find as he had previously been positive that the weapons were there.
Where is WMD?
What a kick if he has none
Sorry about that
On May 11, Garner flew to Qatar to meet Bremer at Franks's headquarters. The two shook hands briefly, and after a routine military briefing, Garner handed Bremer a copy of his list of the 10 major objectives to be accomplished before July 1.
"Okay," Bremer said. "Thanks."
General Myers had flown with Bremer to Qatar en route to Iraq. He had been out of the loop on the Bremer decision, and thought Garner should have stayed in place as a kind of civilian number two to General Franks.
Myers and Garner later talked privately. Garner pushed his idea of making Abizaid the military commander in Baghdad, but giving him a fourth star so he would have greater authority.
"Bring Abizaid in here as the sub-unified commander," Garner said. "Let Bremer do the civilian stuff. Keep McKiernan here. He's got a great staff." Abizaid could then arbitrate the inevitable disputes between Bremer and McKiernan. Franks was heading for retirement, and had left Iraq. Abizaid was the man for the job.
"I agree with you, but I can't get any headway on that," Myers told Garner. He'd made the same proposal to Rumsfeld. The chart in the Pentagon that showed the transition from military to civilian control never had a timeline on it, and that was for a reason. This new idea of putting Bremer in control was happening too abruptly in Myers's view. "We've had that discussion," Myers added in obvious frustration. Rumsfeld "just won't listen."
Bremer and Garner spent a day in Basra before flying on to Baghdad. Bremer later recalled his feeling on arriving in the Iraqi capital. "I was driving down the muddy road in a fog at 100 miles per hour," he said. That night, he and Garner gathered about 30 senior staff members into a small conference room at the so-called palace. Bremer was gracious, thanking Garner and his team and emphasizing that they knew the challenges better than he did.
"The media coverage of the unchecked looting makes us look powerless," Bremer said. "When the American-led forces occupied Haiti in 1994, our troops shot six looters breaking the curfew and the looting stopped. I believe we should do the same thing here, even if it means changing the military's Rules of Engagement." But he never got the rules changed to allow that kind of shooting.
About 7 a.m. on May 14, Bremer's first full day in Baghdad, Robin Raphel ran up to Garner.
"Have you read this?" she asked.
"No," Garner replied. "I don't know what the hell you've got there."
"It's a de-Baathification policy," she said, handing him a two-page document.
Garner read quickly: "Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 1—De-Baathification of Iraqi Society." The Baath Party was organized by rank, and the order said that all "full members"—those in the top four ranks—would be immediately removed from their posts and banned from future government employment. Additionally, the three top layers of management in the ministries would be investigated for crimes and as possible security risks.
"We can't do this," Garner said. He still envisioned what he had told Rumsfeld would be a "gentle de-Baathification"—eliminating only the number one Baathist and the personnel directors in each ministry. "It's too deep," he added.
"That's exactly why you can't go home," Raphel said.
Garner ran into Charlie, the CIA station chief.
"Have you read this?" Garner asked.
"That's why I'm over here," Charlie said.
"Let's go see Bremer." The two men got in to see the new administrator of Iraq around 1 p.m. "Jerry, this is too deep," Garner said. "Give Charlie and I about an hour. We'll sit down with this. We'll do the pros and cons and then we'll get on the telephone with Rumsfeld and soften it a bit."
"Absolutely not," Bremer said. "Those are my instructions and I intend to execute them."
"Hell," Garner answered, "you won't be able to run anything if you go this deep."
Garner turned to Charlie. The experienced CIA man had been station chief in other Middle East countries.
"Charlie, what's going to happen?"
"If you put this out, you're going to drive between 30,000 and 50,000 Baathists underground before nightfall," Charlie said, according to notes taken by Kim Olson, Garner's assistant. Charlie said the number was closer to 50,000 than 30,000. "You will put 50,000 people on the street, underground and mad at Americans." And these 50,000 were the most powerful, well-connected elites from all walks of life.
"I told you," Bremer said, looking at Charlie. "I have my instructions and I have to implement this."
Garner called Rumsfeld and tried to get the depth reconsidered and the language of the order softened.
"This is not coming from this building," he replied. "That came from somewhere else."
Garner presumed that meant the White House, NSC or Cheney. According to other participants, however, the de-Baathification order was purely a Pentagon creation. Telling Garner it came from somewhere else, though, had the advantage for Rumsfeld of ending the argument.
The next day, May 15, Robin Raphel brought Garner another draft order. This was Order Number 2, disbanding the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior, the entire Iraqi military, and all of Saddam's bodyguard and special paramilitary organizations.
Garner was stunned. The de-Baathification order was dumb, but this was a disaster. Garner had told the president and the whole National Security Council explicitly that they planned to use the Iraqi military—at least 200,000 to 300,000 troops—as the backbone of a corps to rebuild the country and provide security. And he'd been giving regular secure video reports to Rumsfeld and Washington on the plan.
Moreover, Colonel Hughes had been meeting with his former Iraqi generals with their lists of some 137,000 who wanted to rejoin their old units or sign on with new units if they each received a $20 emergency payment. The CIA had also compiled lists and was meeting with generals and arranging for a reconstitution of the Iraqi military. The former Iraqi military was making more and more overtures, just waiting to come back in some form.
Garner went to see Bremer for the second day in a row. "We have always made plans to bring the army back," he insisted. This new plan was just coming out of the blue, subverting months of work.
"Well, the plans have changed," Bremer replied. "The thought is that we don't want the residuals of the old army. We want a new and fresh army."
"Jerry, you can get rid of an army in a day, but it takes years to build one." Garner tried to explain that it was not just about a soldier in the field, or getting a bunch of riflemen. "Any army is all the processes it takes to equip it and train it and sustain it and make it last." Bremer shook his head.
"You can't get rid of the Ministry of Interior," Garner said.
"You just made a speech yesterday and told everybody how important the police force is."
"It is important."
"All the police are in the Ministry of the Interior," Garner said. "If you put this out, they'll all go home today."
Bremer, looking surprised, asked Garner to go see Walter B. Slocombe, Bremer's director of defense and national security. Slocombe, 62, had been the defense undersecretary for policy during most of the Clinton administration, Feith's predecessor. A Rhodes Scholar, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and a prominent tax attorney, Slocombe felt that as a matter of international law the U.S. invasion meant Iraq was under military occupation. It was not an elective status and the U.S. should not be shy about asserting authority. The governmental system had imploded and the Iraqi army had dissolved, he believed. Everyone—the Iraqis and the United States—needed there to be a new government and a new army in Iraq. Saddam's army had been a principal instrument of repression. In Slocombe's opinion it could hardly be used as the shield for a new democracy.
But Slocombe agreed to excise the Ministry of Interior from the draft so the police could stay. Bremer soon signed the order, which canceled all military "rank, title or status." In his book published in 2006, Bremer did not recount his exchanges with Garner over disbanding the Iraqi army, but he made clear his belief that by the time he got to Iraq, there no longer was an Iraqi army—it had "self-demobilized." Signing the order abolishing the old regime's military services "would not send home a single soldier or disband a single unit," he wrote. "All that had happened weeks before." He was also convinced that the Kurds, who hated and feared the old army, would secede if it was brought back.
But over the next year, every one of the officers and sergeants who made up the new Iraqi army came from the old Iraqi army.
Bremer huddled in a tiny office in the Republican Palace with four of his aides: Scott Carpenter from State, whom Liz Cheney had put in charge of the Iraqi governance issue; Meghan O'Sullivan, the State Department official who had come over to Garner's team with Tom Warrick, only to be chased out by Cheney's office and sneaked back in with the tacit approval of Rumsfeld and Hadley; Ryan Crocker of the State Department; and Roman Martinez, a 24-year-old Harvard graduate who had worked for Feith at the Pentagon. Each of the five had a copy of the de-Baathification order.
"The White House, DOD, and State all signed off on this," Bremer said. "So let's give it one final reading and, unless there's some major screwup in the language, I'll sign it."
The next morning, May 16, Bremer signed the de-Baathification order. Later that day, he wrote in his book, he e-mailed his wife back home in the United States, as he tried to do each day, to tell her about the response he'd heard from the Americans on the ground. "There was a sea of bitching and moaning with lots of them saying how hard it was going to be. I reminded them that the president's guidance is clear: de-Baathification will be carried out even if at a cost to administrative efficiency. An ungood time was had by all."
About 4 p.m. that day, Abizaid, the likely successor to General Franks as CENTCOM commander, flew to Baghdad to meet with Garner. Both men were worried about the combat continuing north of Baghdad. Some Iraqis weren't giving up, but they were so ill equipped for the fight that they were being slaughtered. One way to stop the pointless resistance and carnage, Garner and Abizaid agreed, was to show the Iraqis convincingly that there would be a new government, and Saddam's rule was over. They turned to the policies on de-Baathification and disbanding the army.
Garner told Abizaid, "John, I'm telling you. If you do this it's going to be ugly. It'll take 10 years to fix this country, and for three years you'll be sending kids home in body bags."
Abizaid didn't disagree. "I hear you, I hear you," he said. He asked Garner to stay on in Iraq.
"I can't stay," Garner said.
On Friday, May 16, Bremer and John Sawers, Britain's ambassador to Egypt, who had been sent to Iraq as the top U.K. representative to Bremer's organization, officially called the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), hosted a dinner meeting with the Iraqi leadership group that Garner had put together. Bremer had resisted meeting with the leadership group earlier in the week, he later recalled, in part because he "wanted to show everybody that I, not Jay, was now in charge."
Bremer explained he was dedicated to fighting terrorism. Brimming with self-confidence, he conveyed a sense that the Iraqis were almost superfluous. He then said it explicitly: "One thing you need to realize is you're not the government. We are. And we're in charge."
At least it was candid, no cat-and-mouse pretense. But Garner realized that the imperial takeover that he had been warned about and worried about at his rock drill three months earlier had come to pass.
The next day Garner's interim group went home. The face of Iraqi leadership was now an empty room.*
Hadley first learned of the orders on de-Baathification and disbanding the military as Bremer announced them to Iraq and the world. They hadn't been touched by the formal interagency process and as far as Hadley knew there was no imprimatur from the White House. Rice also had not been consulted. It hadn't come back to Washington or the NSC for a decision. But Rice didn't find the order surprising. After all, the Iraqi army had kind of frittered away.
One NSC lawyer had been shown drafts of the policies to de-Baathify Iraq and disband the military—but that was only to give a legal opinion. The policy-makers never saw the drafts, never had a chance to say whether they thought they were good ideas or even to point out that
* Over the months, Bremer would set up his own interim governing council and it would be made up mostly of the same people Garner had in his group. The first two interim Iraqi prime ministers, Allawi and Jafari, would come from Garner's initial attempt at putting an Iraqi face on the government, as President Bush had approved two days into the war.
they were radical departures from what had earlier been planned and briefed to the president.
Instead, from April 2003 on, the constant drumbeat that Hadley heard coming out of the Pentagon had been "This is Don Rumsfeld's thing, and we're going to do the interagency in Baghdad. Let Jerry run it."
General Myers, the principal military adviser to Bush, Rumsfeld and the NSC, wasn't even consulted on the disbanding of the Iraqi military. It was presented as a fait accompli.
"We're not going to just sit here and second-guess everything he does," Rumsfeld told Myers at one point, referring to Bremer's decisions.
"I didn't get a vote on it," Myers told a colleague, "but I can see where Ambassador Bremer might have thought this is reasonable."
Rumsfeld later said he would be surprised if Wolfowitz and Feith gave Bremer the de-Baathification and army orders. He said he did not recall an NSC meeting on the subject. Of Bremer, Rumsfeld said, "I talked to him only rarely. And he had an approach that was different from Jay Garner's. No question."
Bremer was swamped. De-Baathification and disbanding the military were only part of his first five days, according to his notes. Within hours after he landed in Baghdad, someone wanted to know if they should let Baghdad University hold its elections for university officers. Bremer said to go ahead. He rescinded one of Saddam's laws that prohibited professors from foreign travel. He set up a television station and newspaper. They were trying to arrange cell phone service. Bremer visited the Baghdad children's hospital, and ordered emergency generators for all of the city's hospitals. He made arrangements for emergency deliveries of gasoline and propane to Baghdad. None of the Iraqi civil servants had been paid since before the war, now going on three months. "It'll take us three months to design a coherent pay grade system," one of his advisers said.
"You've got three days," Bremer replied. They put together a radically simplified wage structure with four levels of pay. It amounted to $200 million every month.
It was a staggering to-do list, and decisions had to be made on the tightest deadlines. There was no time to set up a system, to farm decisions back to the U.S. or to delegate. Besides, Bremer thought, no one in their right minds who had any experience with the U.S. government bureaucracy would refer crucial decisions back to Washington.
Robin Raphel, who was a Bremer contemporary in the State Department and had known him for years, said they needed to raise $150 million to buy Iraqi farmers' wheat and barley. "We've got to do something right away, because the crop is already being harvested," she said. She and Bremer went to the U.N. lead officials in Baghdad, who could release money from the U.N. Oil-for-Food program—commonly known as OFF—to buy the national grain crop.
"Mr. Ambassador," the U.N. official told him, "the OFF money belongs to the Iraqi government, and I can't release it without the approval of their government."
"I am the Iraqi government for now," Bremer said. "And on behalf of that government, I am asking the United Nations to release these funds immediately." He eventually got the money.
Everywhere there were problems. "My God," he said to himself, "this place needs fixing. Let's get on with it."
Electricity flickered on and off. "Go fix the electricity," Bremer told Clay McManaway, one of his most trusted deputies. "Go find out why we can't get it back up."
McManaway, 70, was one of the first people Bremer had coaxed into joining him. He'd brought him along for just this kind of mission. McManaway had spent 30 years in the foreign service, along with time in the Defense Department and the CIA. He'd been all over the world, including five years in Vietnam. He knew how to function in dysfunctional places.
Things were even worse with the Baghdad sewer system, another portfolio Bremer gave McManaway. Raw sewage was backing up all over the place. They could see it and smell it everywhere. Literally going down into the system, McManaway found things were a total mess. There were two or three separate sewage systems under the streets of Baghdad. They weren't connected, and none of them was working. They had only one American trying to fix the problem, a sanitation engineer from Pennsylvania.
"Aw, shit," McManaway said.
Garner awakened on Saturday, May 17, thinking about Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese general and military strategic thinker. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu cautioned that you don't want to go to bed at night with more enemies than you started with in the morning. By Garner's calculation the U.S. now had at least 350,000 more enemies than it had the day before—the 50,000 Baathists, the 300,000 officially unemployed soldiers from the army, and a handful from the now defunct Iraqi leadership group.
Later that day he hosted a major meeting with Abizaid, McKiernan and the flag officer-civilian teams dealing with his top 10 issues. It was hot and the room was full, with lots of people crowded around a large table. One entrance led directly outside to a courtyard; across the courtyard were Bremer's offices.
The first of the staff generals was beginning his report when McManaway came through the doorway from the courtyard.
"Bremer wants to see you," McManaway said, indicating Abizaid.
"As soon as we finish this meeting," Abizaid said.
McManaway indicated, "Now."
Abizaid looked at Garner as if to say, What do I do?
"Go on in there," Garner said. "Look, he called for you."
Several minutes later McManaway came in and said Bremer wanted to see McKiernan.
"Do you want me to go?" McKiernan asked Garner.
"Well," another general inquired, "do you think we ought to go on with this meeting or is it over?"
"Let's go ahead and finish it because everybody's put a lot of work in it," Garner said. After all, he realized, the issues on the table were only the ministries, back pay, police, water, electricity, sewage, fuel, food, governance, health and security. Just the essence of Iraq's future. Who could possibly give a shit?
"I was disgusted," recalled Ron Adams. "We were being marginalized."
When the meeting was over, Garner marched into Bremer's office. He shut the door behind him with a gentleness and control he did not feel.
"Don't you ever do that to me again."
"What do you mean?" Bremer asked.
"If you ever have me in a meeting and you start pulling people out of it—" Garner began. He cut himself off, and added, "You give me more respect than that. I'll tell you what. I'll make it easy on you, Jerry. I'm going home."
Bremer jumped up. "You can't go home."
"I can't work with you, and I'm leaving. What you just did in there— I've never had anybody do something like that to me before, and I'll never let you do something like that again."
"I didn't know what was going on," he said.
"That's bullshit. You knew exactly what was going on."
They went back and forth for a minute or two.
"Look, Jay," Bremer said, stopping them both. "You and I may not agree on anything, but we both have the same objective."
"I don't think so," Garner interrupted.
"Yes, we do. Our objective is to make our nation successful in this endeavor."
"You're right," Garner agreed. "You're right about that."
"Well, if you believe in that strongly enough, as I do, then you need to stay for a while. You've got to help me do that."
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Jerry. I'll work on a day-to-day contract with you. The next time you piss me off, I'm gone. There's a couple of things that I'd like to finish, and I don't think it'll take me long. And once I finish with those things then I'll come shake your hand and leave."
"Okay, let's try to work that way," Bremer agreed.
"You've got to make the staff available to me," Garner said.
Bremer thought for a moment, and finally said, "I don't think I can do that."
He and Garner would give conflicting guidance, Bremer said, but he said he would think about it.
"I don't think I can get anything accomplished if I don't have a staff," Garner said.
"Let me think about that."
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. The one thing that has to happen immediately is we've got to get the public servants and the police paid. It's a very complicated and difficult process. I'm going to stay here until I'm sure that process is in place. And when I'm sure of that then I'll either make a decision to stay a little longer or to leave."
"Okay," Bremer said. "And I'll get back to you on staff."
Later, Bremer said that while he recognized he needed a smooth transition from Garner's group to his own, he was already growing angry at people—he assumed they were Garner's people—who had leaked details of his plans and meetings to the media. One such leak had sparked a news story about Bremer's suggestion that the military start shooting looters. "I wanted Jay's expertise in logistics," Bremer wrote, "but I wouldn't be sorry to see the leakers go."
Within hours after the confrontation, Garner and his executive assistant, Colonel Olson, got the heck out of Baghdad and headed south to the city of Hillah. Olson thought that if Bremer just stroked Garner some or gave him some assignments, especially away from Baghdad, Garner would stay and help. But, she felt, Bremer was making a classic leadership mistake: not figuring out how to use the talent that was sitting there at his disposal.
Robin Raphel wanted Garner to stay. She thought he had a better sense than Bremer about what needed to be done. Garner and his core group had worked hard to get a foothold in Iraq, but politically they were in way over their heads. In one of her few criticisms of him, she agreed with the White House about Garner's habit of not wearing a jacket and tie. He didn't seem to understand that Iraqis liked formality.
Bremer was wired. He dressed every day in a suit with a white shirt and a tie. The tan Timberland boots he wore with his dark suit were already a trademark. He surrounded himself with an entourage of energetic 20-somethings. Some of them ridiculed Garner because he didn't have an official daily schedule. Garner's group had nicknamed themselves the "Space Cowboys," after a Clint Eastwood movie in which retired astronauts get together for one final mission. Bremer's young staff was referred to as the "Neocon Children's Brigade," or even more derisively by some military officers, in a play on the CPA's initials, as "Children Playing Adults."
Bremer recognized that the challenges were immense. "I'd settle for MacArthur's problems," he later recalled saying. "Conditions weren't this complicated for him." But still, he just seemed so confident that he would succeed. Was it his nature, Raphel wondered, or did it stem from the religious faith he shared with the president?
In late May, the day before Larry DiRita left to return to Washington, a report came that an explosion had gone off on the road to the Baghdad airport—called the BIAP highway—as a Humvee passed by. No one was killed, but DiRita thought to himself, "Wow, that's kind of interesting. I wonder what that was all about." It seemed out of the ordinary, since the airport road was almost like an American superhighway, where everyone traveled without security, armor or escorts.
It was his last day in Baghdad, and that night, around 11 p.m., he and several of Bremer's staff piled into a car and drove halfway across Baghdad to have dinner at a packed restaurant. Everyone else there seemed to be Iraqi, and DiRita's group ate dinner and had a few beers. A couple of U.S. soldiers came walking down the street, and people in the restaurant ran out to greet them and thank them. It was a memorable evening, very pleasant, almost a scene from liberated Paris after World War II.
When DiRita returned to the Pentagon he reported to Rumsfeld on the way Iraqis felt and described his last-night-in-Baghdad restaurant outing.
This thing, Rumsfeld said, is on the right track.
early in May 2003, terror attacks rocked Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, targeting a U.S.-linked business and three housing compounds used mainly by Westerners. Eight Americans were among the 34 killed. Hundreds were wounded. It was one of the worst terror attacks since September 11, 2001. Bush sent Tenet to warn the Crown Prince.
Al Qaeda is here in the Kingdom, Tenet told Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. They will kill you. They are using your country as a launching ground for attacks on the United States. If that happens, it is all over with U.S.-Saudi relations, he warned.
Abdullah agreed to massive joint intelligence and police security operations within the Kingdom. Soon, the CIA was giving the Saudis access to more and more sensitive U.S. intelligence, including transcripts of NSA intercepts inside Saudi Arabia and the region.
Saudi intelligence said that was not good enough. The Saudis did not trust the American translations. The Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, wherever, was all different. Eventually, the NSA started giving the Saudis actual audio voice cuts of some of the intercepts so that more accurate translations could be made, and some of the voices might be traced or recognized by Saudi security forces, informants or detainees.
Garner mostly stayed out of Baghdad and away from Bremer after their row. He encountered a British lieutenant colonel in southern Iraq who said he had about $ 1 million in discretionary funds to spend in his sector. Garner couldn't move a dime on his own. He went to Babylon, the ancient city once known for its wealth and extravagance, about eight miles from Hillah on the lower Euphrates River.
"We're just never going to get this right," he said, according to Kim Olson's notes.
Bremer wrote a memo to President Bush, sending it through Rumsfeld a week after he'd arrived in the country. Reflecting his new tough line, Bremer said, "We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished." He claimed, "The dissolution of his chosen instrument of political domination, the Baath Party, has been very well received." This accompanied "an even more robust measure dissolving Saddam's military and intelligence structures to emphasize we mean business."
On the other hand, Bremer wrote, "we must show the average Iraqi that his life will be better. We face a series of urgent issues involving the resolution of basic services. We have made great progress under Jay Garner's leadership. There has been an almost universal expression of thanks to the U.S. and to you in particular for freeing Iraq from Saddam's tyranny. In the northern town of Mosul yesterday, an old man, under the impression that I was President Bush (he apparently has poor TV reception) rushed up and planted two very wet and hairy kisses on my cheeks."
"Why would we want to pay an army we just got through defeating?" Walt Slocombe asked Jerry Bates, Garner's chief of staff.
"Because we don't want them to suddenly show up on the other side," Bates answered. "We need to get control of them."
Slocombe and Bates had worked in the Pentagon together during the Clinton years. Bates liked Slocombe and thought he was smart. But on this issue they vehemently disagreed, and Bremer was clearly of the same mind as Slocombe. The army had melted away, Bremer said. "They don't exist, so we're not paying them."
On May 19, 2003, Bremer sent Rumsfeld a two-page memo informing him that he was going to issue the order disbanding the Iraqi military. He was not really recommending it or asking permission. "In the coming days I propose to issue the attached order."
In the days after the order disbanding the military, vehicles traveling the road between Baghdad and the airport started coming under attack more regularly. Crowds began to gather to protest the order, although reports differed greatly as to how many people turned out each time. On May 19, about 500 people demonstrated outside the Coalition Provisional Authority's gates. A week later, on May 26, a larger crowd gathered to demonstrate. Some Arab media reports that were later translated and given to Bremer's team said there were as many as 5,000 protesters. "We demand the formation of a government as soon as possible, the restoration of security, rehabilitation of public institutions, and disbursement of the salaries of all military personnel," said one of the leaders of the protest, an Iraqi major general named Sahib al-Musawi. His speech was carried over the Arabic-language television network Al Jazeera, and later translated for the CPA. "If our demands are not met, next Monday will mark the start of estrangement between the Iraqi army and people on the one hand and the occupiers on the other."
Paul Hughes now had to deal with the former Iraqi officers who wanted their soldiers to be given the $20 emergency payments, but who were now shut out under the Bremer order. Hughes stalled for a while but finally went to see the officers.
"Colonel Paul, what happened?" asked Mirjan Dhiya, their English-speaking spokesman.
"I don't know," Hughes said. "I can't tell you what happened. I'm as shocked as you are."
"Colonel Paul, we have men who have families. They have no food. They are running out. We need to do something."
Hughes finally got Slocombe's chief of staff to meet with the former Iraqi military representative. There was still a possibility that they might get the $20 each, but things were moving very slowly.
Garner was out at Baghdad International Airport to meet with a visiting congressional delegation on May 26. He drove back on the BIAP highway in his unarmored Chevy Suburban to the so-called palace where his team had been working, for a little going-away party in his honor. It was a bit of a joke among some of the staffers whether Bremer would show up, but he was there, and was gracious.
That same day, three American cavalry scouts whose job was to escort or go ahead of convoys of supply trucks were also on the BIAP highway, riding in the first of a team of two armored Humvees. They drove over what looked like a backpack in the middle of the road.
The backpack exploded, tearing into their Humvee and throwing one of the soldiers from the vehicle. Ammunition started to cook off, causing more explosions.
The soldiers in the second Humvee slammed on the brakes and manned their machine gun, looking frantically for the enemy. One soldier got out and ran quickly to the fallen man, Jeremiah D. Smith, a 25-year-old Army private from Missouri, one of the first American soldiers confirmed to have been killed by hostile fire in Iraq in weeks.
Paul Hughes was at the palace at Garner's farewell party. He heard a report: "We just lost two Humvees on the BIAP highway."
"I was pissed," Hughes later recalled. He presumed Iraqi soldiers were behind the attack, and was equally sure that the U.S. had missed its best opportunity to keep the Iraqi army under control by working with the Iraqi generals and colonels. "I had them by their balls. They would have stood on their head in the Tigris River for me as long as we were dealing fairly with each other. It was just so tragic, so needless."
The next day, one of the U.S. intelligence agents at the palace had a stark, matter-of-fact assessment. "These guys all have munitions in their garages," he said. "They're pissed off. This is the beginning."
On May 27, Garner wrote a formal memorandum to the president. A copy later turned up with a stamp on the first page reading "SECDEF HAS SEEN."
"As I near the end of my service," he said, "I want to thank you for allowing me to serve the country and you in this important mission. I believe we have set a baseline that will bring stability to Iraq, although there will certainly be ups and downs in the period ahead. We have assembled a wonderful team of professionals, and Jerry Bremer is a fine choice to take the team to the next level and help create the conditions for true political and economic reform in Iraq."
He listed some of the main tasks ahead—from food to security—putting the most positive possible spin on the accomplishments. Garner did not mention or even hint that he had concluded that Bremer had already made three huge mistakes—broad de-Baathification, disbanding the military, and rejecting the Iraqi council Garner had set up. Instead, the ex-general closed simply, by thanking the president again for the chance to serve. "It was challenging, exhilarating, and rewarding. Thank you, too, for your inspired wartime leadership."
It was ironic, Garner thought, that though Rumsfeld had been eager to ensure that the Defense Department controlled the postwar effort, almost everyone in a position of power within Bremer's new CPA came from the State Department. Bremer, who had been an ambassador but had otherwise never managed a large organization, had wrested control of the effort from Rumsfeld.
But Bremer didn't know how to delegate, Garner thought. Every decision had to come to him, which meant that nothing moved quickly.
Rumsfeld's consultant and personnel expert Steve Herbits wrote a scathing, four-page confidential memo to Rumsfeld on Doug Feith's performance as undersecretary for policy.
"After nearly two years, Doug's leadership has not improved; his style and approach to his job continue to produce a significantly under performing team. His negatives continue to accumulate. Six months of post-Iraq planning is now widely regarded as a serious failure, both in substance, personnel selection, cooperation within Department of Defense and in interagency relations."
Within the interagency process at the NSC, he continued, "Policy's nickname is 'The lunatic Feith and his evil spawn.' " He reported that Victoria A. "Torie" Clarke, the Pentagon spokesperson, said that Feith lacked "respect and trust."
Herbits suggested to Rumsfeld that confirmation of these views could be provided by Wolfowitz, Pace and other consultants.*
At the NSC, Hadley knew that Feith was much criticized, but he thought Feith had a few things in his favor. He was one of the few Rumsfeld trusted, one of the few who could get a decision from Rumsfeld and get it to stick. He generated an enormous number of good ideas and provided the interagency with intellectual leadership, Hadley thought, and he could prepare briefings and memos in a form that Rumsfeld would sign off on rather than sending them back 10 to 15 times. And finally, he was loyal to Rumsfeld.
* In an interview in 2006, Pace said he did not agree at all with Herbits's assessment, and that he thought Feith was "super-smart" and had done a good job. Feith later sent me a letter saying that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz also strongly disavowed the Herbits assessment, which Feith called "a piece of gutter name-calling" that should not be in my book. "His memo is just libelous musings from a marginal figure," Feith wrote. "It harms me without shedding any true light on anything."
When Feith got in trouble publicly, Hadley concluded, it was always because he was carrying out Rumsfeld's policy. Hadley felt strongly that Feith went undefended, hung out to dry. The problem was not Feith. It was Rumsfeld.
Feith was practically pulling his hair out, Frank Miller of the NSC staff could see. Bremer wouldn't speak to him. He had his deputies answer Feith's memos. His message was very clear: "I work for the President of the United States," skipping over Feith and therefore Rumsfeld.
Miller found the decision to disband the Iraqi army jarring. They'd been telling Bush for months about the plan to use 300,000 Iraqi troops for reconstruction. Miller counted Walt Slocombe, Bremer's point man on the military, among his close friends, but he thought it was silly when Slocombe and others justified the decision by saying that the Iraqi army had disbanded itself. That's what we told them to do, he thought—the CIA had dropped leaflets over Iraqi positions saying, "Go home. Put down your weapons and go home."
But with Bremer on the scene, Miller's interagency group working on postwar Iraq plans, the Executive Steering Group, had disbanded. The feeling at the White House was the same as it was at the Pentagon— Bremer didn't need them looking over his shoulder. But reports flowed into the NSC, from the British and through the media, and from Frank Miller's military contacts, although not from Bremer himself. Looting was still going on. Iraqi civil servants weren't getting paid. There was a report that 40,000 teachers had been fired because they were Baathists.
Bremer was making statements and holding press conferences suggesting he expected to be in Baghdad for a long time.
"Occupation is an ugly word, not one Americans feel comfortable with, but it is a fact," Bremer told a reporter from The Washington Post, as they flew together in a C-130 transport plane from Baghdad to the southern city of Umm Qasr on May 28. "President Bush has always said that we will be here as long as it takes to do the job, and not a day longer. At the same time, we should make sure we don't leave a day earlier."
"We found the weapons of mass destruction," President Bush declared in an interview with a Polish television reporter on May 29. "We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
Bush was on a whirlwind, seven-day trip through Europe and the Middle East, and he made similar remarks about finding WMD in an interview in France. The only problem was that the weapons hadn't actually been found. The military's 75th Exploitation Task Force was running into massive problems in the Great Hunt for Saddam's WMD, not the least of which was a series of highly publicized false positives. Each time they seemed to have found something that could be portrayed as a smoking gun—an alleged stockpile, a vat or even a small vial of biological weapons—it would soon be discredited.
Unknown to the president, four days before his TV interview, the DIA had dispatched a nine-member team of civilian experts to Iraq to examine the two mobile labs that had been found. The team had sent back a three-page field report the day before Bush's statement with their conclusion that the labs were not for biological weapons. Their secret 122-page report, finished the next month, said the labs had nothing to do with WMD. All the evidence was that the labs were most likely for manufacturing hydrogen to be used in weather balloons.
A day after Bush's remarks, at a Pentagon press conference, Rumsfeld's undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steve Cambone, and Army Major General Keith Dayton, the head of the human intelligence service at DIA, officially announced the creation of the new Iraq Survey Group. Now, Dayton said, his new, 1,400-member group would take over the hunt, but they would have other tasks such as gathering intelligence on terrorism and war crimes. His unit would be based in Qatar, some 400 miles south of Iraq on the other side of the Persian Gulf, where the military's Central Command had sophisticated communications systems in place for sending information back to the U.S.
Spider Marks was ready to go back to the U.S. Colonel Rotkoff was exhausted. He was ready to retire from the Army, and he'd arranged for a desk job in Washington for a few months while he figured out what to do in the civilian world. Just before he left the Middle East, he summarized his thoughts on the war, the fear, the stunning military victory, the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, and the chaotic aftermath—in one of the final haiku in his journal.
We knew how to fight
Not so; building a NATION
We may lose the PEACE
On June 2, about 1,000 ex-soldiers gathered in Baghdad outside the gates of the CPA headquarters to protest the army's disbanding. An internal CPA memo recounted the event, focusing on the widespread coverage in Arabic-language media like the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya television networks, and in the English-language Reuters news service.
"There have been public statements by some former MOD [Ministry of Defense] members that they will resolve to suicide attacks if their grievances are not addressed," the memo said. "Other protesters have continued to state that they will organize armed units to fight against the CPA and occupation."
"The entire Iraqi people is a time bomb that will blow up in the Americans' face if they don't end their occupation," one protest leader told reporters after he'd met with an official from the CPA.
"All of us will become suicide bombers," declared another protester, a former military officer. "I will turn my six daughters into bombs to kill the Americans."
"We're not going to be blackmailed into producing programs because of threats of terrorism," Bremer said in response. Besides, he noted, the demonstrations marked the first time in decades that anyone had dared protest outside Saddam's presidential palace. Wasn't that progress?
Bush flew to Qatar for a stopover on the Middle East leg of his trip, and Bremer came down from Baghdad to meet him. The two men talked in the back of Bush's limousine as they headed from Central Command headquarters near the airport to the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
"How's the overall situation?" Bush asked, Bremer recalled in his book.
"I'm optimistic for two reasons, Mr. President," Bremer began, and gave an explanation that sounded as if it came from Encyclopaedia Britannica. "First, Iraq has excellent resources, plenty of water, and it's fertile, besides the huge oil reserves. And, the Iraqis are energetic and resourceful folks."
At the same time, Bremer added, the Iraqi people were "psychologically shattered" after living so long under Saddam.
Without mentioning the de-Baathification policy or disbanding the military, which had left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis without work, Bremer told the president, "Our most urgent problem is unemployment. We think it's about 50 percent, but who really knows? Also, Iraq's got a young population, with about half of them under the age of nineteen. That's an explosive combination."
In a discussion with Rumsfeld and Bremer, Bush had asked the two men point-blank who was in charge of finding the WMD. Who had the hunt as their primary, exclusive mission? Given that it was one of the main reasons for war, there was a heck of a lot riding on the outcome.
Bremer indicated it was Rumsfeld's responsibility.
Rumsfeld said Bremer was in charge.
Bush just about exploded. He said the task would go to someone else. He wanted someone in charge, someone for whom it would be his one mission in life. Since the CIA had insisted Iraq had WMD, the agency could go find the weapons. So finally, two and a half months into the war, the administration was going to give some focus to the hunt.
Although Bremer technically was to report to Bush through Rumsfeld, Rice could see that the Pentagon did not have that much influence over Bremer, let alone control.
"It's not going well," she told Frank Miller. He'd been the NSC's point man on Iraq in the run-up to the invasion, with his Executive Steering Group, and now she wanted him to reprise his role in the postwar era. "Reconstitute the ESG," she said.
the afternoon of Thursday, June 5, David Kay, one of the world's foremost experts on nuclear weapons inspections, was at CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia. Kay, 63, a short, intense, outspoken Texan with a Ph.D. in political science, had been the chief United Nations nuclear weapons inspector inside Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and had led the successful effort to uncover Saddam's secret nuclear program, which was six to 18 months away from building a bomb. It had been one of the major intelligence shocks of the 1990s.
As a member of a so-called Gray Beards panel of old hands, Kay was now at Langley to review a highly classified report on North Korea's clandestine efforts to reprocess plutonium for nuclear weapons. The initial report was pretty poor in Kay's view because the U.S. surveillance flights close to North Korea had been halted for fear of losing a plane. Kay had recommended that the CIA report be up front and say the data was not reliable. Just say you simply don't know, he advised, because the technical data was open to any interpretation.
Afterward, John McLaughlin, Tenet's deputy at the CIA, asked Kay to stop by his office. "George would like to see you," McLaughlin said.
Kay had just returned from Iraq, where he had spent a month working as an expert analyst for NBC News, following the work of the military's WMD-hunting task force. He'd even tagged along on some of their searches. Once he'd gone with them to search a chicken farm where the WMD Master Site List suggested there were banned substances. It turned out to be just a chicken farm.
"What do you think?" Tenet asked. "Why aren't they finding anything?"
"These guys probably couldn't find it if it was in front of them," Kay said bluntly. "They're not organized, equipped or led to do it."
"Okay. If you were king, what would you do?"
"First of all, you've got to have a group that is dedicated to the task that has the expertise necessary," he said. The 75th Exploitation Task Force did not have a clue. "You're not going to get there with the military leading it because the military has shown a massive lack of interest. They were interested in deterring their use, and they didn't view finding WMD as a military task."
Second, it was a mistake to start the search based on the WMD Master Site List, with its 946 locations, some of which had been labeled suspect sites for more than a decade. It was a catch-all catalogue of maybes. Kay had seen the list in Baghdad in May. A large number of the sites were places he'd inspected himself in 1991 and 1992, and found nothing.
"You simply cannot find weapons of mass destruction using a list," he said. "You have to treat this like an intelligence operation. You go after people. You don't go after physical assets. You don't have enough people in the country. It's too big a country. You can't dig up the whole country. So you treat it by going after the expertise, the security guards that would have been there, the movers, the generals that would have seen it, the Special Republican Guard."
Instead of looking for stockpiles or warheads, it was more important and easier to look for the capability—find the scientists who made the weapons, those who worked at the production facilities, the guards who provided security, the truck drivers who transported the weapons. If Iraq had WMD, then they had to have either produced them or bought them somewhere.
"Yeah, that makes sense," Tenet said.
Kay knew names, and he rattled off a list of key Iraqis, explaining how he thought they should find and question them. He thought Spider Marks had been pushing the WMD Master Site List, thinking they would find it if they only went to every site. Kay had been told that when the CIA station chief in Baghdad had tried to set up a meeting for Kay to talk to General McKiernan, McKiernan had declined, saying, "I don't have any interest in WMD. Why should I talk to Kay?"
The things that Kay had seen going wrong with the 75th XTF didn't seem to be any better with General Dayton's new group, the Iraq Survey Group, he said. They were already off to a bad start. What were they doing in Doha, Qatar, hundreds of miles away from Iraq? Why were they talking about missions besides WMD?
"You don't start the search from Doha. You put people in the field. If they aren't, you've got to move them there. You need to focus on a single mission," Kay said.
"Fucking military can never get anything organized," Tenet said. "We need to find them. We don't want this job. The military should have done it. But we're going to be stuck with it. I know we're going to be stuck with it. The president's unhappy with what's happening." Tenet added, "The military has screwed this up so much. I don't want it now." Left unmentioned was that most of the intelligence and conclusions about the "slam dunk" intelligence about WMD had come from or through Tenet's CIA.
That weekend, Kay and his wife were on a getaway in Virginia when he got a call on his cell phone from Stu Cohen, the 30-year-veteran CIA analyst who had been acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council when the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on WMD in Iraq had been approved.
"The White House has agreed to put George in charge," Cohen said. "And he wants you to do it. George wants to know if you'll take the job."
Kay was surprised that the CIA would look outside its ranks for someone to run the WMD hunt, but he wanted the job.
"Yeah," Kay agreed, but added a caveat—"if all the conditions that I talked about with George were to hold true."
Kay was convinced that Saddam had WMD stockpiles. His experience after the Gulf War had seared itself into his head. When he had gone to Iraq for the U.N. after the Gulf War in 1991, he did not expect to find a nuclear program. Israeli intelligence, for example, was convinced that their strike in 1981 on the Osirak nuclear reactor about 10 miles outside Baghdad had ended Saddam's program. Instead Kay had uncovered the covert funding for a nuclear program code-named "PC3" involving 5,000 people testing and building ingredients for a nuclear bomb such as calutrons, centrifuges, neutron initiators, high-explosive lenses and enriched-uranium bomb cores. Saddam was on a crash program to build and detonate a crude nuclear weapon in the desert as a demonstration to the world, to say, "Now we've got one."
Kay vividly recalled how shocking it had been to Cheney, then secretary of defense, and Wolfowitz, the policy undersecretary. "I don't know what we would have done, if we had known," Wolfowitz had said. There might have been no Gulf War to eject Saddam from Kuwait. The Saudis might have tried to buy their way out of the problem as was their habit. In 1991 Kay's fellow U.N. inspectors also had uncovered hundreds of gallons of VX nerve gas, the deadliest known nerve agent, and biological weapons, including hundreds of liters of anthrax and some botulinum toxin.
Leading the new inspection effort in 2003 meant that Kay would have to become an official CIA employee. On Tuesday, June 10, he took a lie detector test and underwent a psychological evaluation. "Anyone who could take this job obviously fails the psychological test," Kay said, "so just flunk me."
He passed, and since he had the security clearances from his previous work, that afternoon Tenet swore him in as special adviser to the director on WMD and head of the Iraq Survey Group. Tenet was crowing about getting someone through CIA personnel in 12 hours—an apparent record for the agency—and he said the plan was for Kay to fly that evening for Baghdad, the next day at the latest.
"George, I can't do that," Kay objected. "I haven't been read in to all your evidence. I've got to talk to the analysts. I've got to talk with the people that are doing collection. I need to talk to Defense. Look, I can't just jump on a plane and go do this."
Over the next week or so, Kay embarked on a crash course in WMD intelligence. Since he had not worked the Iraq WMD case since the 1990s, he expected some new treasure trove as he spent 15- to 18-hour days reading and sitting through CIA and Defense Department briefings. He was shocked at what was not there.
"It was nothing new," he recalled. Anything with a strong or reasonable factual basis came from before 1998, when the U.N. inspectors had left. "Everything after that either came from a defector or came through a foreign intelligence service in an opaque sort of way."
For example, Kay found that all the prewar intelligence about the mobile biological weapons labs that Powell had described at the U.N. in February, and that the president had declared had been discovered on May 29, had come from a single source, the Iraqi defector used by German intelligence code-named Curveball.
Powell had told the U.N. and the world there were four sources for the allegation, based on the CIA information, but in truth three of the sources only provided information about Curveball's career or about an alleged mobile lab facility of some kind. "They had no knowledge of the biological program," Kay said later.
The surprises kept coming. Kay was aghast to realize that the CIA had never even independently interviewed Curveball, but relied instead on the Germans' reports of 112 interrogations they conducted. Worse still, it appeared that the Germans had warned that Curveball was an alcoholic, although this had been downplayed in the U.S. files.
On the alleged Iraqi effort to restart its nuclear program, Kay found that the conclusion hinged on only one piece of physical evidence— "high-specification aluminum tubes" Powell had told the U.N. that Saddam kept trying to acquire. "Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium," Powell said.
The CIA file on the aluminum tubes ran hundreds of pages, and contained information from foreign sources suggesting that Iraq had tried to purchase 60,000 such tubes to be used as artillery shells. That was a lot by any standard, Kay agreed. But he had learned back in the 1990s that the Iraqis would overspend and buy much more of what they thought they needed. It was a far more serious offense under Saddam for someone in a government program to fail to procure enough than to buy too much.
After several days, the lyrics to an old Peggy Lee song began running through Kay's head: Is That All There Is? He said later, "The more you look at it, the less is there. It was an eye-opening experience. But realize, (a) I still believed they were there. And (b) I thought the answer was not going to be found in Washington or Doha. It was going to be found in Baghdad, in Iraq. So I was anxious to get out in the field and see what I can do."
At the end of the week of Kay's WMD crash course, Tenet arranged a lunch for the two of them with Rumsfeld at the secretary's Pentagon office. Generals Myers and Franks were there, along with Steve Cambone.
Tenet proposed that they share responsibility for Kay, and have him report to both Rumsfeld and himself.
"Absolutely not," Rumsfeld said. It was Tenet's responsibility now.
Kay could see that Rumsfeld deserved respect as one of the best bureaucratic infighters of all time. Presuming Kay found WMD, it would validate the CIA estimates. If he didn't find WMD, no good could come from being associated with the unsuccessful search. It was not a winnable proposition, so Rumsfeld opted out.
Franks was still on his victory lap. He was to retire later in the month and his replacement, General Abizaid, had been announced.
"I want to be sure you and Keith Dayton get along," Rumsfeld said, "and you don't fight over this."
"You don't have to worry," Kay promised, "because if we don't get along, I tell you, we will be there longer than either of us wants to be."
"I like that attitude," Franks said, bursting into laughter.
"I understand that attitude," Rumsfeld added.
Before leaving for Baghdad, Kay expressed a final concern to Tenet. "Look, I don't have any base in the CIA," Kay said. "I don't want to have to fight people for resources once I'm out there."
"Don't worry," Tenet said. "You'll get whatever you want. You have any problems, John and I will take care of it." Putting his arms around Kay in a big Greek hug, Tenet said, "Don't fuck up."
It was his standard farewell to those going into the field.
On June 12, 2003, The Washington Post ran a front-page story by Walter Pincus reporting that an unnamed "retired U.S. ambassador" had been sent to Africa in 2002 to see if Iraq had tried to get uranium from Niger. The retired ambassador disputed that there was any evidence of a deal. This ran contrary to President Bush's assertion in his State of the Union address before the war, in 16 words that would become famous: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The next day, a Friday, I interviewed a senior administration official, someone who did not work in the White House, for my book Plan of Attack. Near the end of the one-hour-and-30-minute background interview, our conversation drifted to a gossipy interchange that is common after a long, substantive discussion. I said I knew the "retired U.S. ambassador" on the CIA mission was Joseph C. Wilson, who had been ambassador to the African country of Gabon under George H. W. Bush, and who had worked on the Clinton National Security Council.
"His wife works in the agency," the official said. "She is a WMD analyst out there."
He said Wilson's wife had proposed him for the mission because Wilson knew Africa. We moved on to another subject.
After the interview, I told Pincus what I had heard about Wilson's wife working as a WMD analyst at the CIA, without saying who I had learned it from. Pincus later said he did not recall our conversation.
A few weeks later, on July 6, Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times and said it was "highly doubtful" that any Iraq-Niger deal had taken place. Eight days after that, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" and had been instrumental in his going to Africa. The Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into how Wilson's wife's CIA ties were revealed to the press and whether it meant an undercover agent had been revealed. A special prosecutor was soon named to take over the investigation, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago.
Jay Garner basically hid out for a couple of weeks when he returned to the U.S. in the beginning of June, not wanting to see anyone at the Pentagon or talk about his experience in Iraq. Larry DiRita called several times. "You've got to get over here and see Rumsfeld," DiRita implored. Finally, Garner agreed to go over on Wednesday, June 18.
When he was alone with Rumsfeld around the small table in the secretary's famous office, where they had met back in January, Garner felt he had an obligation to state the depths of his concerns.
"We've made three tragic decisions," Garner said.
"Really?" Rumsfeld said.
"Three terrible mistakes," Garner said, laying out what he'd omitted from his May 27 memo to the president. He cited the extent of the de-Baathification, getting rid of the army, and summarily dumping the Iraqi leadership group. Disbanding the military had been the biggest mistake. Now there were hundreds of thousands of disorganized, unemployed, armed Iraqis running around. It would take years to rebuild an army. They'd taken 30,000 or 50,000 Baathists and sent them underground, Garner told Rumsfeld. And they'd gotten rid of the Iraqi leadership group. "Jerry Bremer can't be the face of the government to the Iraqi people. You've got to have an Iraqi face for the Iraqi people."
Garner made his final point: "There's still time to rectify this. There's still time to turn it around."
Rumsfeld looked at Garner for a moment with his take-no-prisoners gaze. "Well," he said, "I don't think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are."
He thinks I've lost it, Garner thought. He thinks I'm absolutely wrong. Garner didn't want it to sound like sour grapes, but facts were facts. "They're all reversible," Garner said again.
"We're not going to go back," Rumsfeld said emphatically. Discussion over. "Come on. Let's go in the other room."
In 2006, I asked Rumsfeld if he recalled Garner's warning about the three mistakes.
"Vaguely," Rumsfeld answered. "I remember having a very good discussion with him. I felt that he had not been properly recognized for what he had done. I think he's a fine retired officer and a very talented guy who cares a lot about Iraq."
After their discussion, Rumsfeld and Garner walked into the large conference room where most of Rumsfeld's top people were assembled—Wolfowitz, Feith, Ryan Henry, DiRita and Torie Clarke, General Pace and General Casey.
In a small ceremony, Rumsfeld pinned the Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Garner, who didn't want the medal.
Afterward, Rumsfeld and Garner held a press conference.
"I do want to thank Jay for the absolutely superb job that he has done," the secretary said, "laying the foundation for the Iraqi people to begin this process of rebuilding from the rubble of decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and to put themselves on a path towards democratic self-government."
Rumsfeld told the press corps that the water system in Iraq was now operating at 80 percent of its prewar level, and that close to 2 million Iraqi civil servants were being paid. He read off a list of impressive statistics: Basra had 24-hour electricity, and Baghdad's power was on 19 or 20 hours a day. Lines to buy gasoline were disappearing, there was no health crisis, and Iraqi children were returning to school. Eight thousand police officers were back on the job, he said. Two thousand of them were patrolling. As for the security situation, Rumsfeld said, "In those regions where pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute, General Franks and his team are rooting them out. In short, the coalition is making good progress. It was made possible by the excellent military plan of General Franks and by the terrific leadership of the stabilization effort by Mr. Jay Garner and his team."
When Garner finally had a chance to speak, he was more sober. "To all of you, I'd like to just say one thing. There are problems in Iraq and there will be problems in Iraq for a while. There's always problems when you've been brutalized for 30 years and you take people out of absolute darkness and put them in the sunshine. So I think there's more goodness, far more goodness than there is badness, and the glass absolutely is half full."
At the end of his remarks, Garner completely contradicted what he had privately told Rumsfeld, saying of Bremer, "I think all the things he's doing are absolutely the right things."
Next, Rumsfeld and Garner went to the White House to see Bush. It was Garner's second time with the president.
"Mr. Secretary, who's that famous man you have with you?" the president called out, coming through the doorway from the Oval Office. He reached out his hand. "Hi, Jay."
"Mr. President," Garner said, "you've got more important things to do for this nation today than take time out to talk to me, so all I want to do is shake your hand and thank you for the chance to serve."
Bush took Garner's hand and in one of his trademark moves pulled Garner in close physically.
"I do have time for you," Bush said, "and I'm going to take time. I want to be with you." Bush put his arm around Garner and propelled him into the Oval Office, stopping by one of the windows. "Look out here, Jay. Look out here on the lawn. If I wasn't spending this time with you, I'd probably be out there with the press corps or somebody kissing their ass. Or if I weren't with the press corps I'd probably be up there on Capitol Hill with a bunch of congressmen kissing their asses."
Bush led Garner over to the main pair of chairs in the Oval Office. "You sit here and I'll sit here," the president said, taking his usual position and offering the other chair to Garner. "Why wouldn't I want to be in this comfortable office in these two nice chairs sitting here with you kissing your ass?"
Cheney and Rice joined them.
"Mr. President, let me tell you a couple of stories," Garner said. It was his turn.
Garner had an overly long story and he recalls telling it this way to Bush: Buck Walters, a retired Air Force one-star who was Garner's man in charge of the southern Iraq region, called him one day when he was visiting Hillah, near Babylon. Malcolm MacPherson, a reporter for Time magazine, and Mike Gfoeller, a State Department officer who had a reputation for being an even better Arabic speaker than most Iraqis, were there. "Before you leave," Walters said, "I've got to take you up to see Darth Vader."
"Who's that?" Garner asked.
"He's the leading cleric here."
"Why do you call him Darth Vader?" Garner asked.
"Well, you'll understand that when you see him."
So Garner told Bush and the others that he went to meet the man. Out comes this giant guy, a Shiite cleric the size of basketball great Shaquille O'Neal dressed all in black. Black turban. Big black beard. He was said to be a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad. Everybody sits down. He speaks good English.
"Your Excellency," Garner began, "as you know we've been here several weeks now and we've done some things that were good and we've done some things that weren't good. And we've not done a lot of things because we didn't know to do them. And so what I'd like during this period of time is I'd like your evaluation on what we've done right and on what we've done wrong, and then I'd like your guidance on what we should do next."
"Good," said Darth Vader. "I've thought about this a while. Let me talk to you. Do you mind if I speak in Arabic? Do you have a translator?"
Garner told Bush and the others: I had the best translator in the United States with me. So Darth Vader talked in Arabic for the next hour.
"I've taken so long and I apologize for being this long," finished Darth Vader (later identified as Sheik Farqat al-Qizwini), switching back to English. "I shouldn't have taken this much of your time."
"No, this has been wonderful," Garner recalled. "I'm going to go back and we're going to work on these things that you brought up."
But Darth Vader said, "Let me summarize. What we need to do now is get a working government. But that working government has to be based on a constitution. That constitution has to be written by all the Iraqi people. It has to be founded on the democratic principles, and it must take care of everyone regardless of their religion, of their ethnic background.
"Once we have this, then we can have an Iraqi government. We can begin to be a democratic state. We can be a beacon of light in the Middle East."
Darth Vader began to raise his voice. "So we must follow these principles and we must put a democracy together and we have to write a constitution built on the principles of Jesus Christ."
Bush and the others loved it.
Garner continued quoting the cleric: "We'll have this government. Once we have this government you bring us in as the 51st state."
Garner then said he replied, "Your Excellency, that is a terrific idea. It's going to take me a little longer to work on this one than the other things, but I will come back to you and talk to you about that."
After the session, Garner said he and the Time reporter got in the car to drive away.
"Wow," the reporter said. "What are you going to do about that?"
"Hey, that's not my problem. The question is what are you going to do about that? Because no one is going to believe it when you put this in Time magazine."
"For Christ's sake, I'll never put this in Time. Nobody would believe it."
True story, Garner said. He was on a roll.
Every third day or so, Garner told Bush, he would try to go to the market, because that's where Iraqi people would recognize him and come up and talk to him. For the first 20 or 25 minutes, people would raise hell and bitch at him, Garner said, but then they'd start to run out of steam, and Garner would have a minute or so to make an "elevator speech," to rattle off all of their accomplishments. "You've got this many megawatts of electricity coming in now. We project this many more by next week. We're going to open schools at this time. We think we're going to be able to have provincial elections around this time. We'll start writing the constitution. Got this much water that we're bringing in. I know the fuel crisis is bad so we're bringing this many tankers of fuel every day. We are going to start buying the harvest next week."
If they had specific problems, Garner said, he would promise that the next day at 10 a.m. he would have some general come by there to work on their problems. And as he'd get ready to wind up, Garner said, he'd thank the crowd for their time.
"I'd get ready to leave," Garner said, "and this is true—as I leave they're all thumbs-up and they'd say, 'God bless Mr. George Bush and Mr. Tony Blair. Thank you for taking away Saddam Hussein.' That was in 70 meetings. That always was the final response."
"Oh, that's good," Bush said.
Garner told him about how the Baathists tried to take over the first post-Saddam elections at Baghdad University. That had led to some negative press. The Americans had felt forced to let elections at the school proceed so that there would be somebody in place and the school year could finish on time. But the Baathists on campus, unpopular as they were, were more organized than anyone else, and they won. The university had been plunged into chaos.
"That was bad," Bush said, indicating he knew about it.
"Mr. President, the one thing I'll tell you, I've had three weeks to work with Ambassador Bremer and he's one of the hardest-working men I've ever seen. He's a very bright guy. He's articulate and he'll get the job done. You made a good choice."
"I didn't choose him," Bush said. "Rumsfeld chose him just like he chose you."
Garner looked over at Rumsfeld. The secretary of defense had told him explicitly in late April that Bush had selected Bremer, and had added later that even the timing of Bremer's arrival was not his call. But now Rumsfeld didn't say a word.
As Garner go up to leave, Rice stopped him and extended her hand. "Jay, you've got to stay in touch with us," she said.
"I'd like to," Garner said, thinking to himself, How the hell am I going to do that? After all, he only talked with Rumsfeld.
On the way out, Bush slapped Garner on the back. "Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?"
"Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better... The women are prettier."
Bush laughed. "You got it. You got Cuba."
Of course, with all the stories, jocularity, buddy-buddy talk, bluster and confidence in the Oval Office, Garner had left out the headline. He had not mentioned the problems he saw, or even hinted at them. He did not tell Bush about the three tragic mistakes he believed that Bremer, supported by Rumsfeld, had made—de-Baathification, disbanding the army and dumping the Iraqi governing group. Instead, he had said Bremer was great and had painted a portrait of an Iraq where a Shiite cleric envisioned an Iraq governed on the principles of Jesus Christ and joining the union as the 51st state. On top of that, he told Bush that everyone on the Iraqi street loved him. Once again the aura of the presidency had shut out the most important news—the bad news.
Later, I asked Rumsfeld about the obligation to make sure the person at the top knows the bad news. "Oh, I think the president knew that there were big disagreements over de-Baathification. And big disagreements over the military. There's no question that the president was aware of those issues."
But I could find no evidence that was the case.
On October 16, 2005, during a four-hour interview at Garner's home on a lake outside Orlando, Florida, I asked him about his decision not to mention the three tragic mistakes.
"Didn't you owe the president that?"
"I didn't work for the president," Garner answered. "I worked for Rumsfeld. I'm a military guy."
I recalled for him my time as a junior officer in the Navy. "I reported to the operations officer on the ship I was on. And if I thought we were making even half a tragic mistake, I'd tell my boss, but I'd make sure the captain knew."
"No," Garner said.
I said that was perhaps why I didn't do so well in the Navy.
"No," Garner repeated, "my view was I did my job. I told my boss in what I thought were pretty stern terms on the mistakes we'd made."
"Now suppose you said, 'Mr. President, I just told the secretary the following and I want you to hear it from me, because when he reports it to you I want it to be—' "
Garner interrupted. "I'd have no idea how he'd have reacted, but I think he would have said, 'Well, you know, Rummy's in charge of that' or something like that."
"Three tragic mistakes," I said.
"Yeah," Garner said softly, exhaling.
"Because the three tragic mistakes we're living with now two-plus years later. You realize that?"
"Absolutely," Garner replied.
"You watch the news."
"Yeah," he said.
"You don't feel you should have kind of, particularly at the upper levels there ..."
"I think Rumsfeld's the upper level. No, if I had that to do over again I'd probably do that the same way." He said that he did not know of anything that Rumsfeld had done that had been overturned by the president. "I'm not the only one who thought that," he added.
"If you'd said it to the president, and you could save one life—" I stopped, leaving the second half of my question unasked. "Because you're a pretty smart guy. You've been around—"
"Yeah. You know you put it—" Garner started, but he didn't finish his sentence. "But you've got to remember, I didn't look at in that context. I looked at it like, I, Jay Garner, do not think this was the right thing to do. I, Jay Garner, said this over there to the guy in charge and I've said it to the guy that I work for. I've done that. I didn't even really think of bringing that up" to President Bush.
Two months later, on December 13, 2005, at a long breakfast at my home in Washington, D.C., I again raised the question of what he did not tell the president.
"That was more of a happy-glad than it was a business meeting," Garner said.
I asked, "Do you wish now that you said, 'Mr. President, as I just told the secretary of defense, in my view, I've been there and I need to make sure you understand what I think I understand. We've made three tragic mistakes.' Boom, boom, boom."
"You know, I don't know if I had that moment to live over again I don't know if I'd do that or not. But if I had done that—and quite frankly, I mean, I wouldn't have had a problem doing that—but in my thinking, the door's closed. I mean, there's nothing I can do to open this door again. And I think if I had said that to the president in front of Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld in there, the president would have looked at them and they would have rolled their eyes back and he would have thought, Boy, I wonder why we didn't get rid of this guy sooner?"
I laughed and started to ask another question.
"They didn't see it coming," Garner added. "As the troops said, they drank the Kool-Aid."
It was only one example of a visitor to the Oval Office not telling the president the whole story or the truth. Likewise, in these moments where Bush had someone from the field there in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought. The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news, and a good time had by all.
david Kay left Washington for Qatar on June 18, the same day Garner met with Bush. He quickly realized that his Iraq Survey Group was a pretty typical military organization. There were 1,400 people assigned, but that included a lot of support staff, even a military chaplain and others in charge of morale and recreation. The core people included between 25 and 40 CIA operations officers, and some analysts and other people from the DIA and other intelligence agencies. His missile team had between 12 and 15 people, and there were about a half-dozen experts on biological weapons. There were a few hundred translators with varying levels of skill.
Kay immediately stopped the daily trips to suspect sites. "We're going to be led as an intelligence operation," he told Dayton and the others, "so it means you've got to know something about what you're doing. So we'll divide the teams up into chemical and biological, missiles, and nukes, and a team for procurement."
The contract awarded to the company providing them with translators stipulated that they couldn't be sent into the combat zone. So documents in Iraq had to be shipped back to Qatar for translation. They had developed a list of a couple hundred key Arabic words and phrases, such as "nuclear weapons," "biological weapons," "anthrax" or "botulinum toxin." If any of these words or phrases was found in a quick review of captured documents, they were assigned a higher priority and reviewed carefully.
But it took too long to get the documents back, and then Kay found nothing new in the documents with one major exception—the personnel directory of the Military Industrial Commission.
"We don't have an interest in the personnel record of a ministry," one of the ISG military officers said.
"Well," Kay said, "actually you do." The directory would lead to people. People were the key.
Some of his group resisted going to Iraq until they had permanent facilities set up to eat, sleep and live in.
"No," Kay said again. "We can eat MREs and sleep in tents or whatever, but we're going forward because you can't—you're not going to find the weapons in Doha."
"Stop searching," Kay ordered when they got to Baghdad. Forget about the WMD site list, he repeated. "Start thinking and finding people."
Living conditions had improved since the Garner era. Kay slept in an air-conditioned shipping container at the airport, and they were able to move around the city and eat at restaurants. With nothing else to do, they worked late most nights.
Kay first had his team deconstruct Powell's February 5 U.N. speech to make sure they were pursuing all the allegations Powell had made. Supposedly it was the best intelligence, and he wanted to make sure that nobody could say later, "Well, Powell said this and you ignored him." The group had a list of Iraqis who had been involved in the WMD programs, and who had been interviewed at length by the myriad U.N. inspection teams in the 1990s. Within three weeks, they had tracked down 50 to 60 of them, including scientists, technicians and senior bureaucrats. They questioned them, went through their offices, and dug through documents. A fairly consistent picture began to emerge.
"The nuke story was falling apart," Kay recalled. "We were getting a clear picture of what their nuclear capability had been, and quite frankly it was worse, much worse, than it had been in '91 at the start of the first Gulf War."
More interesting was the state of the chemical and biological weapons program. There was nothing to back up the idea that there had been stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. They found nobody who had produced, guarded, transported or knew about those kinds of weapons.
On Sunday, June 22, about 2,000 Shiites protested outside Bremer's headquarters, saying they wanted elections so they could form a national government. "No Americans, no Saddam, all the people are for Islam," they chanted. The protesters were strongly supported by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the revered, infallible spiritual leader and guide to millions of Shiites in Iraq. Sistani refused to meet with Bremer directly, apparently because he would not meet with infidels. Sistani, then 73, had a role roughly equivalent to that of the Pope for Catholics. He was insisting on elections before a constitution was drawn up. How could they have a constitution written by people who were not elected?
In Washington at the NSC meeting the next day, the president was upset.
"How did we get on the wrong side of the question of whether or not the Iraqis ought to have elections?" he asked. Here the United States, this great democracy, has it backward. Maybe elections had to come first, before they tried to write a constitution and organize a new Iraqi society.
For Rice, it crystallized the problem. The majority Shiites were saying that only a legitimate government that had some kind of blessing from the people could write a constitution. After decades of minority Sunni rule, the Shiites didn't want appointed people—Saddam was always appointing people—writing a constitution. It seemed reasonable to her. But others were in charge, namely Rumsfeld and Bremer. Sistani added another dimension. On June 28, he issued a fatwa—an Islamic legal decree—rejecting any U.S.-picked constitutional council, and said Iraqis should elect the drafters of their constitution.
Bush appeared in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on July 2, 2003, to discuss a $15 billion U.S. effort to fight AIDS abroad. When he took a few questions from the press afterward, Iraq was Topic A.
One reporter noted that the number of attacks on U.S. forces and the casualty rate were rising.
"There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely," the president responded, shaking his head no. "They don't understand what they're talking about, if that's the case."
A reporter started to interrupt.
"Let me finish," Bush said. "There are some who feel like—that the conditions are such that they can attack us there." He swung his arm across his chest emphatically as he spoke. "My answer is, 'Bring 'em on.' We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."
It was an ill-advised comment, reflecting little understanding of guerrilla war, taunting and egging on the enemy, almost inviting more attacks.*
Armitage was at the White House for a briefing for the president around that time, and Hadley took him aside.
"Some people are saying your body language is very bad at the meetings," Hadley said.
"My body language is bad?" Armitage echoed.
You're telegraphing your discomfort, Hadley said. "You feel really tense."
"Steve, I don't like what the president is being told," Armitage said. "So yeah, I'm very unhappy. I am not unhappy with the president. I am unhappy with the brief we are getting. It is a sophomoric brief."
"I thought that was what it is," Hadley said. He indicated that the real work was being done upstairs in the Oval Office with the president, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Was that supposed to set him at ease? Armitage realized that once again he and Powell were window dressing, about as influential as a couple of potted plants. In the meetings upstairs, it was mostly Rumsfeld's positive spin, because there was no one to challenge him, and no NSC or interagency review to test his assessments.
In Saddam's Iraq, possession of a satellite TV dish, which gave unfettered access to uncensored news, had been punishable by six months in prison and a $300 fine. With the regime gone, satellite dishes sprang up like weeds all around the country, even in the poorest areas. Huts and hovels without running water or sewer hookups would have satellite television dishes on the roof or in the yard. It was so sudden, and the U.S. tried to move fast so that the coalition message could get on the air, and at least compete with all the Arabic-language television suddenly being beamed into and enthusiastically watched in Iraq.
The American defense contractor SAIC had been given an $82 million, no-bid contract to build up Iraqi television and radio networks.
* At a White House press conference nearly three years later, on May 25, 2006, a reporter asked Bush to name "which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret." Bush replied: "Sounds like kind of a familiar refrain here—saying 'bring it on,' kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner—you know, 'wanted dead or alive,' that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that."
Rice was skeptical: "SAIC doesn't do that kind of thing," she said, and sent a team over to check it out.
Eventually there was a U.S.-sponsored television network set up. To fill out its schedule, it broadcast Arabic-language reruns from elsewhere in the Middle East. As a result, some Iraqis took to calling it the "Lebanese Cooking Channel," especially after one day when most other major networks, like Qatar-based Al Jazeera, covered a significant news event live but the U.S.-sponsored network ran a foreign program on how to cook a rabbit.
Inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified roughly six-square-mile area where the CPA was headquartered, a group of consultants tried to figure out what kind of television programs Iraqis would like to watch. They talked about capturing the Iraqi stay-at-home mom market segment with some kind of Iraqi version of Oprah Winfrey's show.
"You know, we could go to Hollywood," Bush said later to Rice. "I know people in Hollywood. We can go to Disney. We can get people involved who can do this kind of thing."
"Oh, we've got it, Mr. President," Rice replied. "We've got it."
He kept after her: "Do something."
By summer 2003, Bush realized they were failing at communications. He told Tony Blair, "We're doing a lousy job here. If I haven't solved this by December, I'm going to just give this to the U.K." He probably wasn't serious, but it gave voice to his frustration.
The controversy over the president's reference to the discredited Iraq-Niger uranium deal was gaining steam, and was fast becoming a symbol of both the failure to find WMD, and the suspicion that the president had cherry-picked intelligence to make the case for war.
On Saturday, July 5, Tenet talked to the chief NSC spokesperson, Anna Perez. As best she could tell, the fact that the 16 words about the uranium had made it into the State of the Union address was the result of failures in both the NSC staff and the CIA. "We're both going to have to eat some of this," Perez said. Something should be done to correct the record on what the president had said in his speech.
Tenet had gotten the accusation pulled out of Bush's speech in Cincinnati the previous October, but Hadley, who had reviewed the final State of the Union address, had apparently forgotten the earlier warning. Tenet had not reviewed the final State of the Union draft as he was supposed to do.
Tenet agreed with Perez that all would share the blame. The plan was to work on a joint statement over the weekend that would be put out on Monday. Rice and Tenet spoke next and agreed that they had to put the issue to bed. Rice was with the president traveling in Africa. Hadley and some NSC staffers worked on a draft but they couldn't reach an agreement.
Tenet said he would put out a statement. On Tuesday, July 8, however, after Ambassador Joseph Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece cast doubt on the claim, the White House released a statement saying, "Knowing all we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech."
Democrats began calling for an investigation.
"What else don't we know?" asked Florida Senator Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a public comment.
On Friday, July 11, Bush and Rice were in the fourth day of the Africa trip. At the back of Air Force One, Rice engaged reporters in a discussion for nearly an hour about the matter. "I can tell you, if the CIA, the director of central intelligence, had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone without question," she said. "If there was a concern about the underlying intelligence there, the president was unaware of that concern, as was I." She later laid it out more starkly, putting the blame four-square on Tenet's CIA. "The agency cleared the speech and cleared it in its entirety," she said.
Bush adopted Rice's line. "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services," he said.
"Condi shoved it right up my ass," Tenet told a colleague. They had an agreement and had been working on a joint statement for two days. Now Rice had dropped a dime on him, blaming only the CIA. The problem was a classic. Two views of the Niger-uranium issue had existed inside his CIA. At the lower level, they believed a connection was possible. But Tenet had access to the highest-level, most sensitive intelligence from a foreign intelligence service that had an agent inside Saddam's government who discounted the Niger-uranium story.
Tenet decided to fall on his sword. The statement was retooled so he would take full responsibility. He released it that night to avoid a second-day story.
His long statement said in part, "First, the CIA approved the President’s State of the Union address before it was delivered. Second, I am responsible for the approval process in my agency. And third, the President had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president."
The next morning the front-page headline in The Washington Post read, "Bush, Rice Blame CIA for Iraq Error; Tenet Accepts Responsibility for Clearing Statement on Nuclear Aims in Jan. Speech."
It was 100 percent public grovel, and Tenet was privately furious. He had the CIA search all its records to see what had been passed in writing to the White House. The CIA found two memos sent to the White House just before the October 2002 Cincinnati speech voicing doubts about the intelligence that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa.
Instead of taking the memos to Rice or Hadley, Tenet took them to Andy Card, effectively dropping his own dime on the president's national security adviser and her deputy. Card heard Tenet out.
"I was not told the truth," Card said ominously. He directed that the White House investigate.
Full war was now on between the CIA and the White House.
Eleven days after Tenet's public mea culpa, Hadley went before the press to take his turn.
"I should have recalled at the time of the State of the Union speech that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue."
It was painful for the meticulous, careful Hadley. He was visibly shaken. "I am the senior-most official within the NSC staff, directly responsible for the substantive review and clearance of presidential speeches," he said. "I failed in that responsibility in connection with the inclusion of these 16 words."
At a long, grueling press briefing, he and Dan Bartlett, the president's communications director, nonetheless said that though the uranium claim did not rise to the high standard for a presidential speech, it was accurate because the statement in the president's speech had been attributed to the British.
"The real failing," Hadley said, "is that we've had a national discussion on 16 words, and it's taken away from the fact that the intelligence case supporting concerns about WMD in Iraq was overwhelming ... as strong a case as you get in these matters."
It was his own "slam dunk."
"These 16 words affect not one whit the decision he made which was based on the intelligence case," Hadley said.
Armitage was pretty sure that Hadley had taken a figurative bullet not for the president so much as for the vice president. It was Cheney who was the strongest advocate that Saddam had been reconstituting his nuclear program.
In private, Tenet told Armitage he believed that Hadley was a Cheney-Rumsfeld "sleeper agent"—an intelligence term for an undercover agent who lurks dormant without a mission for years, but who can be awakened to do the bidding of his handlers. It was a hyperbolic statement, but it reflected the growing animus between the CIA and the NSC.
First Tenet, and now Hadley, had taken the hit for the president. The public blowup opened up old wounds, such as the Tenet-Rice hostility and charges of basic incompetence at the CIA.
In July 2003 Bremer approved a 25-member Iraqi interim Governing Council, which met for days trying to determine who would be its leader. It was an expanded version of Garner's group. Reflecting the intense divisions of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the council finally reached an agreement: The presidency of the group would rotate among nine people, each of whom would be president for a month. Moreover, all but one of the nine had been exiles who had returned to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.
When word reached the White House, even the very controlled Hadley was disbelieving.
"Iraq was an abused child for 30 years," he said. Saddam Hussein had killed many of the elites, and most of those who weren't killed left the country and lived in exile. Now the exiles were back, but the country was so divided no one could agree on much of anything. At one meeting Hadley said sarcastically, "We say, 'Pick your president,' and they say, 'The first month it'll be this guy's president. The second month it'll be this guy's president. The third month it'll be this guy's president. The fourth month it'll be this guy's president.' And at that point you say, 'This is not ready for prime time. Who's going to lead this country?' That is what the president wants to know, 'Who is going to step up and lead this country?' "
For the moment it was Bremer.
David Kay was in almost daily contact with Tenet on video teleconferences, but officials from other intelligence agencies and the Pentagon—including Cambone, who was against the very idea of Kay's involvement—were always in on the discussions. So Kay e-mailed Tenet and McLaughlin directly once a week or so with his most important, secret, early conclusions.
On chemical and biological weapons, Kay wrote in a secure, private CIA e-mail, it was beginning to look very much like the Iraqis had adopted something like what the Soviets called surge capacity. It meant they would maintain some ability to make chemical and biological weapons, but they wouldn't actually produce and stockpile the weapons until they needed them. "You've got to start to understand that the puzzle may fit together that way," Kay wrote.
"Don't tell anyone this," McLaughlin wrote back, as Kay recalled. "This could be upsetting. Be very careful. We can't let this out until we're sure."
Around 3 a.m. one morning, Kay was asleep in his shipping container when someone from his communications shop banged on his door. "The vice president's office. He's on the phone."
Kay hustled over to the secure phone, where it turned out that it wasn't Cheney, but a staffer in his office. "The vice president wants to know if you've seen this communication intercept," said the staffer, going on to describe information that the NSA had picked up from Syria alleging a location of some chemical weapons. It was a highly classified Executive Signals Intercept that would be circulated only among the most senior officials, and that wouldn't normally be shared with the field in its raw form.
"Honestly, no, I haven't," Kay said, "but I will look at it."
Kay located his team's NSA representative, who dug out the intercept. It was innocuous—particularly innocuous at 3 a.m., Kay thought— and inconclusive. He was surprised that Cheney or his people were getting down to such detail. Kay didn't think intercepts were going to lead them to WMD because the intercepted conversations were almost always vague. It was rarely clear who was talking, or what the "it" might be they were discussing.
In late July, Bremer flew back to Washington. He met with George Tenet, and mentioned an issue that he'd raised in a cable he'd sent the Pentagon to be forwarded to the other NSC principals. Tenet had no idea what Bremer was talking about. He said he'd never seen the cable. Bremer worked it backward. He'd been sending all his reports back to Rumsfeld through military channels, and counting on Rumsfeld or the Pentagon to disseminate them to the others on the NSC. But it was now evident that Rumsfeld just hadn't done it, and was keeping the reports for himself. Rumsfeld was so wearing. Questions galore, always demanding answers, and here he wasn't even keeping the others informed.
"Rumsfeld's impossible to deal with," Bremer told a colleague. He was really steamed. It was total bullshit. Rumsfeld was throwing his weight around, and the rest of the NSC was just too weak to do anything about it. The whole interagency process was broken down. Where was Rice? Bremer went on the warpath, demanding the kind of diplomatic cable system ambassadors normally used to send messages back to Washington. Get it set up, he told McManaway.
A few days later on his way back to Baghdad, Bremer called his spokesman and close aide, Dan Senor, a tall, young, former Republican congressional staffer who had worked briefly for the White House. Bremer rattled off a to-do list covering some 48 items that had to be taken care of immediately on his return, including issues on medics, the economy, his political team, banks, mobile phones, polling, interrogations, corruption, mercenaries, the museums, an orphanage visit, new laws and various budgets—an overwhelming amount of detail.
Kay flew back to Washington, arriving on July 26. He was already coming to the conclusion that they might not find stockpiles of WMD anywhere in Iraq, and he wanted Tenet to get the CIA stations in the region to see if Saddam might have smuggled WMD out of Iraq before the war. Spider Marks and his team had seen trucks heading toward the Syrian border but they still couldn't improve on Marks's statement that the trucks might, for all they knew, contain Toys 'R' Us bicycles.
"Look, things may have gone across borders, but you're going to have to energi