Friday, June 27, 2003

Nothing to see here:

BAGHDAD - Whoever was responsible at top levels in the Pentagon for postwar planning should be fired.

But then no one would be fired. Three weeks in Iraq makes very clear that no one in the Bush administration made serious postwar plans before the start of the Iraq war.

That lack of foresight is largely responsible for the huge occupation problems the Bush team now faces - as Iraqi anger mounts over lack of security, electricity, water, sewage and jobs. Unless the Bush administration invests many more resources into its Iraq venture, soon, it could lose the peace.

Why was the Pentagon so unprepared for the Day After? Because top officials convinced themselves that the aftermath would be easy - and cost-free.

Back in November, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told me he believed that the London-based Iraqi opposition (headed by Ahmad Chalabi) would return to Baghdad and assume the reins of power, just as Gen. Charles DeGaulle and the Free French returned triumphantly to postwar France.

Top White House and Pentagon officials refused to listen to warnings that Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles did not command sufficient support inside Iraq. Nor did they heed warnings that Saddam's highly centralized government structure would collapse once he was ousted.

"The expectations at the Pentagon were that [government] ministries would emerge unscathed" and take over the running of the country, one senior U.S. official told me when I was in Baghdad. No one foresaw the virtual collapse of many ministries, nor their physical destruction by looters.

"We failed in our duty on the looting," the official continued, a reference to the fact that the military failed to secure ministries, key infrastructure and suspected weapons sites. "I didn't think [the administration] would let it get so out of hand."

Oh, but there's more:

Worst of all, the Pentagon provided no communications system for the civilian occupation team - even though U.S. bombs had destroyed Baghdad's phone network. The civilians tasked with running the country couldn't even talk to each other until the end of May, let alone to the Iraqi ministries they were supposedly running. Only now are they getting a limited cell-phone network.

Why the delay? In part, due to political machinations back in Washington over the phone contract. Guess who got the $45 million no-bid deal? MCI/WorldCom, the company that bilked its shareholders out of $11 billion and has very little experience in building wireless networks.

What does this tell you about how serious the Pentagon is about rebuilding Iraq?

Thanks to Atrios for the link.