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What Congress may have known pre-Iraq invasion
Tuesday, 22 May 2007 23:09
by Burton H. Wolfe

The members of Congress may have known far more than they are revealing to the public in their excuse that they depended solely on information which they received from the Bush administration

In the process of reviewing Cobra II:The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq for BookPleasures*, I was struck by a brief mention of how U.S. Army officers in Iraq informed their superiors, before the George Bush-generated invasion occurred, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was thoroughly contained, Hussein was cooperating with United Nations inspectors who had found no evidence of hidden weapons of mass destruction, and military action was unnecessary. It made me wonder whether or not that information had been passed on not only to the Bush administration and the Defense Department, but also to members of Congress.

For possible answers to that question, I wrote to the authors of the book, New York Times chief military correspondent Michael R. Gordon and retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor. They have not responded to my letters. So, I am left, as the public is left, with the question of whether or not the members of Congress claiming that they approved the invasion of Iraq solely on the basis of information they had from President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, plus the CIA, are telling the truth. Their story smacks of fraud.

Only one aspect of the story remains certain: there is a whole lot left that has not yet been explained.

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"Cobra II" was the code name for the land operations plan formulated for the invasion of Iraq. The 569 pages in the Vintage paperback version of the Gordon-Trainor book are devoted mostly to the details of the plan and its outcome. I was not interested as much in all of those details as I was the co-authors' summation of the errors in the plan that was based upon the Bush/Rumsfeld theory that the size of the invading force was unimportant: rather, "speed, agility, and precision" (the formula as Rumsfeld expressed it) would provide the winning combination. The main object of the operations, as set forth by Bush and Rumsfeld, was to place before the regimes and people of the Near East (Mideast) a display of American power which in itself would be sufficient to touch off a democracy in Iraq that would then generate more democratic regimes in the region.

"But President Bush and his team committed five grievous errors," Gordon and Trainor explain. "They underestimated their opponent and failed to understand the welter of ethnic groups and tribes that is Iraq. They did not bring the right tools to the fight and put too much confidence in technology. They failed to adapt to developments on the ground and remained wedded to their prewar analysis even after Iraqis showed their penchant for guerrilla tactics in the first days of the war. They presided over a system in which differing military and political perspectives were discouraged. Finally, they turned their back on the nation-building lessons from the Balkans and other crisis zones and fashioned a plan that unrealistically sought to shift much of the burden onto a defeated and ethnically diverse population and allied nations that were enormously ambivalent about the invasion. Instead of making plans to fight a counterinsurgency, the president and his team drew up plans to bring the troops home and all but declared the war won."

The results of this blindness, the authors continue, were these: "There were not sufficient troops to seal the borders, guard the copious arms caches, and dominate the terrain," all of which allowed major parts of Iraq "to become a sanctuary for insurgents."

More of this blindness than has been mentioned in mass media analysis is attributed to operations commander Franks, whom the authors depict as a Neanderthal militarily and generally. "Tommy Franks never acknowledged the enemy he faced nor did he comprehend the nature of the war he was directing," they write. When his subordinates told him he was facing an entirely different enemy than the one he had contemplated and a drastic change in tactics was needed, Franks told them to shut up and threatened to fire them if they disobeyed.

Though I understand that the authors intended to limit the focus of their book, nevertheless there are three vitally important aspects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath that they should have discussed at least briefly in some depth: the lies of President Bush and his cronies, the abysmal failure of the mass media to explain to the public what was happening and why, and how much the members of Congress actually knew about the situation. That third aspect entails the question of whether co-authors Gordon and Trainor did or did not discover exactly which members of government were informed by military officers in Iraq that an invasion was unnecessary. Did that assessment get beyond the Defense Department and the CIA? Were members of Congress privy to it?

That such critically important aspects of the story were not presented constitutes a disappointing flaw in the book Cobra II. Otherwise, the book is and will remain for a long time a valuable source of information on the Iraq disaster for future historians.

*For my review of the book, go http://bookpleasures.com and type "Burton H. Wolfe" into the search bar. You will note when you get there that editor Norm Goldman, himself one of the most skilled book reviewers in North America, did an interview with me in which I discuss current trends in the book publishing business that might interest you.
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