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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Fri. May 07, 2004

Training, Planning, and Spending

Abu Ghraib is certainly the hot topic today, but to me, it’s just part of a year long flow of evidence that the Bush administration put great care, planning, and effort into the invasion (“Mission Accomplished”), and ever since has offered mostly a strangely opposed incompetence during the occupation.

For example, Phil Carter points us to an article in the Army Times which says: “U.S. occupation authorities employ 20,000 hired-gun civilian security workers in Iraq to protect senior officials, contractor teams and non-military facilities and convoys, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disclosed in a May 4 letter to a leading lawmaker. The armed security personnel ‘provide only defensive services,’ and have been operating for more than a year without clear regulatory guidance [...] Rumsfeld’s reply noted that regulations governing the discipline or contractors are still being drafted by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

So … 20,000 “hired guns” have no regulations for guidance and discipline (one would assume this includes the civilian interrogators in question at Abu Ghraib), the Abu Ghraib jailers say they got no training in jail procedures or even the Geneva Convention, and we know the Third ID knocked over Baghdad and then found that they entered Phase IV, i.e. “stability and security operations,” in what they called an “absence of guidance.” In other words, the Pentagon did not have a structured plan for them to follow once Saddam fell, and they had to transition from a battle force to peaceful occupation and security on their own initiative. Phase IV was a blank page.

It appears that in some very important areas, significant portions of our forces (civilian and military) have not been given firm regulations, proper training, or guidance since, oh, maybe April 9 of last year. Certainly not from the Pentagon.

In fact, it now appears this “gap” has become so obvious at the Pentagon that they are finally considering a new postwar planning office: “The Bush administration is considering setting up an office to plan for postwar operations after any future conflicts, a top Defense Department official said Tuesday.

About a year and a half too late, I’d say. You might think, well, at least they’re finally getting on the right track, but I have my doubts. Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, who headed the Office of Special Plans, and is thought by many to be partially responsible for the post-war “lack-of-planning,” makes an incredible statement when asked about post-war actions in Iraq.

I think that it’s something that is best left to historians to sort out, rather than ask people in the middle of everything to step back and evaluate their own work.

Yes, let’s keep barreling ahead with our mistakes, and not waste any time stepping back and evaluating what we’re actually doing. That’s what historians are for. It’s much better to have a preconceived notion of reality, and when contrary evidence appears … stay the course! Don’t admit you might have been wrong, or need to take a slightly different path.

That’s weakness, not leadership.

With a mindset that infested, and inoculated against contrary evidence, the civilian command of the Pentagon gives the appearance it is completely out of touch with the shifting reality it is encountering in Iraq.

There’s a host of armed Americans in Iraq that the Pentagon now has admitted did not get proper training, nor proper regulatory guidance. I’m one of many people who believe that the Pentagon’s plans for post-war Iraq represent at the very least unimaginable negligence, and I’ve even called it “unconscionable malpractice.” (more than once).

Now it appears they can’t even spend money well. The nearly $20 Billion Congress approved last October to rebuild Iraq? In the seven months since then, they’ve barely managed to spend 5% of it.

Seven months after Congress approved the largest foreign aid package in history to rebuild Iraq, less than 5 percent of the $18.4 billion has been spent and occupation officials have begun shifting more than $300 million earmarked for reconstruction projects to administrative and security expenses.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, cited “bureaucratic infighting” and a “loss of central command and control” at a hearing yesterday as he sharply questioned top administration officials: “I have very serious concerns about the pace of assistance in Iraq and the management of those funds.”

Of the $18.4 billion in Iraqi aid approved by Congress in October, just $2.3 billion had been steered to projects through March 24, the CPA told Congress this month. Only $1 billion has actually been spent, the authority’s inspector general told congressional aides Monday. In January, the CPA had said it had planned to spend nearly $8 billion during the first six months of this fiscal year.

Washington Post: “Rebuilding Aid Unspent, Tapped to Pay Expenses”

So here’s how it appears to summarize to me. The Pentagon, and the US military, came up with an excellent invasion plan, and executed it brilliantly. Even in the “absence of guidance,” most of the visible rebuilding progress has been accomplished not by the CPA and its civilian contractors, but by US military units themselves, using the discretionary funds they’d been allotted. Men and women trained to be nothing but soldiers have adapted to do the civil engineering and even help villages establish small scale democratic processes. They have done astounding things, despite their lack of training in those areas, and with the resources they had at hand.

The CPA has, by contrast, been a virtual no-show. They live in a hardened camp in Baghdad, with only a few other “offices” around this very diverse country. They’ve adopted and then abandoned three different plans for converting to an Iraqi led government. The one they are pursuing now is no more certain of success than the others that preceded it. There’s going to be some handover of power in about 50 days … but no one yet knows who the power will be handed over to. After over a year.

To put it in stark terms, this has been a failure to ensure strategic success after tactical victory had been won. With American blood. As Thomas Freidman put it, “If the Pentagon leadership ran any U.S. company with the kind of abysmal planning in this war, it would have been fired by shareholders months ago.

But lately, I’ve seen one Big Clue that some are begrudgingly admitting that maybe the plans for post-war Iraq have been botched. The clue? They’re beginning to blame Colin Powell: “The utterly bungled aftermath is somewhat but not fully [Rumsfeld’s] fault; let’s remember that authority in Iraq was taken away from his man and given to Powell’s man.

I’ve already called bullshit on this, in great evidentiary detail. Rumsfeld hand picked Bremer himself, not Powell. Bremer and the CPA report directly to the Pentagon. Always have, and likely always will. Those who try to paint this as Powell’s mess are not only ignoring a year of factual evidence, they are ignoring the common denominator between Rumsfeld and Powell.

Neither of them were elected to their current positions. They were both hired by the same guy. The same guy who supposedly directly oversees their efforts. There’s not a layer between them, no middle manager who can be blamed. But it appears that for many, in the Bush administration, the Buck stops only on the Secretary’s desk. Therefore, it can be blamed on that guy who’s not really a part of the Bush administration, Colin Powell.

I’m becoming a broken record, but it fits so many circumstances. We now live on a Planet of Victims, where no one ever has to take responsibility for their actions or their consequences, as long as they retain the strength to lift a finger and point it at someone else.

But it is impossible to blame a full year of Pentagon controlled actions (or inaction) on Colin Powell. You can not blame Powell for the obviously widespread lack of training, the initial lack of guidance, and today’s lack of spending on reconstruction. You’ve got the wrong Secretary.

And even more importantly, you’ve got the wrong Boss.


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