Thursday, August 24, 2006

'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq'.

'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq', Thomas E. Ricks

ABC's Kerry O'Brien interviewed Washington Post's senior military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks about his latest book 'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq':
KERRY O'BRIEN: Tom Ricks, if the war in Iraq really has been a fiasco, then what have been the milestones to measure it by?

THOMAS RICKS, SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think the milestones of the fiasco you've had here in Iraq are a lousy run-up to the war, a war plan that arguably was one of the worst in American history that helped create the conditions that followed, the failure to recognise the insurgency in the summer of 2003, especially by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and then a US military that was very good at conventional operations, really was not prepared for the task at hand in Iraq of putting down an insurgency.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is it fair to say, as you assert, that America helped create the insurgency in the first place by dissolving the Iraqi army, the police, the security - all 500,000 of them - and in the process, creating - quote - "a vast pool of humiliated, antagonised and politicised men"?

THOMAS RICKS: That's a good question. There is actually no one document I can point to in which the insurgency says, "This is what created us". But if you look historically at the Iraqi insurgency, there are three things that any insurgency needs as it's coming together - recruiting, arms and financing. In Iraq, the US military and US civilian officials took care, to a large extent, of those three problems. Ambassador Bremer's decision to dissolve the military and to ban senior members of the Baathist party from public life, created this pool of leaders and of armed and angry men.

The second problem is arming, and there were not enough troops around Iraq to stop the large weapons caches, some of them many square miles in size, from being protected. And because the Iraqi army had been dissolved, they couldn't use those troops either. It also meant they couldn't seal the border because they didn't have enough troops. One of the classic tenets of counter-insurgency is close the borders, get control over the borders. The US didn't have enough troops to do this and so financing, documents and leadership could go back and forth, especially from Baghdad up to Syria.
click on quote and check out what he says about Abu Ghraib. Next, an online Q&A through the Washington Post in which readers complimented him, or chastised him:
Annandale, Va.: The war is not over--yet you label it a fiasco. I didn't read your story and I didn't read your book. But I congratulate you on being the typical cynical, pessimistic, liberal Washington Post reporter that the rest of this country looks down on as somethign wholely un-American and frankly I just can't say enough about morale-destroying you probably are to our troops. I'm glad my WWII-era military father is gone so he wouldn't have to pick up the Post in the morning and see your trash on the front page of the paper. You can report all you want on the nasty stuff of the war but putting "Fiasco in Iraq" only serves denigrate our country and fighting people. You have no response to this. There is no good in that title for your book. I served in the military and we always laughed at the Washington Post and how they were completely out of tune with the rest of the country. Maybe you feel comfortable at 15th and K at the Post headquarters or in some other liberal bastions of this country--but in the rest of the country -- the solid majority of hard-working Americans who believe in freedom. You don't see squat.

Tom Ricks: This is an interesting question because it brings home to me how polarized the country is by this war.

It especially bothers me that there seems to be little room for "loyal dissent." People who try to make honest criticisms are attacked instantly.

I am seeing this on the left as well as the right, by the way. I sometimes think that the left would only be happy if we started labelling all their enemies liars. I noticed that one leftish blogger criticized me for quoting generals who said in 2003 that we were winning the war. I don't think he understands that part of my job is to quote people accurately--even if I don't agree with what they are saying.

again, click on quote for the full transcript


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