Prisoners of war
Bob Woodward begins exclusive extracts from his new book, which is shaking the White House with its revelations of a dysfunctional presidency that ignored the truth about Iraq
In early January 2003, Jay Garner, a retired general, picked up an incoming call on his mobile phone from the Pentagon.“We want to talk to you. Can you come over?”What do you want to talk about? Garner asked.“It’s a little sensitive on the phone.” Garner found himself being hired by Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, to take over the post-war humanitarian mission after the imminent invasion of Iraq. He had been picked because in 1991 he had run Operation Provide Comfort, coming to the rescue of thousands of ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq after the Gulf war.
Garner passed around copies of his handout, an 11-point presentation, and dived right in. Addressing the nine basic assignments he had been given in the presidential directive, 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 weapons of mass destruction, 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...
...Garner next described how he intended to divide the country into regional groups, and moved on to the inter-agency plans. Garner explained how they planned to maintain stability in Iraq after combat. He said they were going to use 200-300,000 soldiers from the defeated Iraqi army. “We need to use them. They have the proper skill sets.”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 internationalise the post-war 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 internationalise this thing. It’s a US operation.”
...Garner’s tenure as head of the post-war planning office for Iraq turned out to be both brief and frustrating. Throughout the invasion and the early days of the war he struggled just to get his team into Iraq.Two days after he arrived, Rumsfeld called to tell him that Paul “Jerry” Bremer, a 61-year-old terrorism expert and protégé of Henry Kissinger, would be coming over as the presidential envoy, effectively replacing him. After clashing repeatedly with Bremer, particularly over the new envoy’s decision to disband the Iraqi army — which dashed Garner’s plan, approved by the president, to use it for reconstruction — he returned to the US in the beginning of June...
...“We’ve made three tragic decisions,” he said.“Really?” Rumsfeld asked.“Three terrible mistakes,” Garner said.He cited the first two orders Bremer signed when he arrived, disbanding the Iraqi military and banning as many as 50,000 members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party from government jobs — effectively sending them underground. Now there were hundreds of thousands of disorganised, unemployed, armed Iraqis running around.Third, Garner said, Bremer had summarily dismissed an interim Iraqi leadership group that had been eager to help the United States administer the country in the short term. “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...”