Shocking, Read with “Squandered Victory”,
The book starts with a very useful timeline of events, and the opening premise that Paul Wolfowitz was wrong on virtually every promise and claim made to Congress.
The author’s strategic view, threaded throughout the book, is that the U.S. effort in Iraq never had coherent “supreme commander” type leadership, that virtually all elements (U.S. Army and U.S. Marines excepted) lacked both intelligence and integrity, and that this was one of the most incompetent, ignorant occupations in the history of mankind. He does seem to avoid pointing out that Rumsfeld demanded complete military control of the country, relegated the diplomats to the back room, and did not even tell Bremer for a year that there was a diplomatic plan for nation-building. This is on Rumsfeld and Bremer. History will judge them harshly.
The author documents that the US Government knew in advance that there was no plan for the peace (the State Department efforts not-withstanding) and no way of creating an effective plan.
The author is powerful in showing that “shock and awe” warfare made the transition to peace virtually impossible. 17 out of 21 Ministry headquarters buildings were completely destroyed (and then the occupying force allowed for the looting of all offices, all museums, all universities, and all stockpiles of ammunition and explosives needed for the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that have killed so many of our troops. The oil infrastructure was not protected, was completely looted, and this lost the chance for paying anything with oil in the early years.
Immortal quote on page 40: “…a circus, a Looney Tunes version of government, hatched on the fly, delivered at random, and operating without instruction.”
Reconstruction cost estimate: $2.4 billion. Actual cost: $30 billion and rising. Results after several years: less than 10% of the needed work. Money unaccounted for: $18 billion.
The author differs from those who supported sanctions in pointing out that the sanctions virtually destroyed Iraq’s health system.
Psychologically, the author suggests that the months of lip service to freedom and reconstruction raised hopes that were then dashed. One is reminded of the Davies J-Curve from the 1970’s–revolutions occur not among the oppressed, but among those who have been shown the prospect of freedom and prosperity, and then had it taken out of their grasp.
On contracting, one’s stomach turns with every page. Cost plus, no incentive to save; U.S. companies doing for millions what Iraqi companies would do for tens of thousands; U.S. contractors earning $60K and more, foreign laborers imported for $3000 a year. The author specifically quotes contractors as saying they knew they could steal the process blind in the first year, which would be “open season.”
I consider this book to be the eventual final nail in the coffin of the Private Military Contractors. The author documents how the military’s very unwise reliance on private contractors for combat zone logistics led to a need for private contractors to provide security, to the point that 22% of the reconstruction dollars are going toward Private Military Corporations (PMC).
My global reading program suggests that the Bush-Cheney Administration will go down in history as having pulled off the most blatant program of planned lies to the public, Congress, and the United Nations, and the most blatant slight of hand in switching the burden from a properly staffed military command to a war-profiteering mélange of PMCs. There is no question in my mind but that we need to eliminate PMCs along with Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) in the future, and we need to properly fund four forces after next: big war force, small war and gendarme force, peace force, and homeland security force. The US military today is a Cadillac built for the superhighway, when we need 10 jeeps, 100 motorcycles, and 1000 bicycles.
The author condemns both the U.S. Government in all its parts, and the PMCs in all their parts, for issuing frantic and confused orders and never really getting their act together. This book is the obituary for Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Paul Bremmer, among others.
EDIT of 10 Dec 07: Since then war crimes of contractors have become an issue, see Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror and varied media stories.