Douglas Feith gave a speech Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute, in which he blamed Paul Bremer for "abandoning" the Bush administration's supposed plan for a quick transition of power in Iraq:
A former top Pentagon official blamed the Bush administration's top official in Iraq for abandoning a plan for a quick transition to Iraqi leadership in the summer of 2003 and instead keeping the U.S. government in control of the country for more than a year.
The decision to carry out "a lengthy occupation was, I believe, the single biggest mistake the United States made in Iraq," said Douglas J. Feith, who as undersecretary of defense for policy was a key figure in the drive to war.
Feith, in a speech last night at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, provided his most extensive public remarks on the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. When he briefed President Bush on U.S. plans for post-invasion Iraq, he recalled, "The original concept was not that the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] would be around for many, many months." But, he said, L. Paul Bremer, who ran the U.S. occupation authority in 2003 and 2004, decided that Feith's plan "was not implementable" and instead embarked on a course that antagonized Iraqis and spurred an insurgency.
After describing his differences with Bremer, Feith said, "I don't view this as an attack" on him, but rather an attempt to explain how reasonable officials advanced contrary views.
Bremer, in a brief telephone interview last night, took issue with Feith's account. "His argument isn't with me" but with Bush, Bremer said. The career diplomat said that Bush told him in May 2003, before he headed for Baghdad, to "take our time setting up an interim administration." Even before he left Washington, Bremer added, he thought the U.S. occupation "was going to take a couple of years." Bremer said Feith's view that there was a major change in course that summer is incorrect.
Maureen Dowd tears Feith to shreds:
The man crowned by Tommy Franks as “the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet” just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.
Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us into Iraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was the headliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute.
The room was packed as the former No. 3 at the Pentagon, previewing his upcoming book, “War and Decision,” conceded that the case could be made that “mistakes were made.” His former boss, Paul Wolfowitz, and the former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle sat supportively in the front row.
But he wasn’t self-flagellating. He was simply trying to put an egghead gloss on his Humpty Dumpty mishegoss.
“At the end of the day, here we are, and as of now there’s a reasonable chance that the country is going to remain united,” he said. Not quite the original boast of democracy cascading through the Middle East.
Feith also inanely noted that his personal view was that his de-Baathification policy — which created a huge, angry pool of unemployed men that fueled the insurgency — “was not basically a big error. It’s been criticized very severely. I think there actually was a lot of good thought that went into the de-Baathification policy.” It just spiralled out of hand, he said. Mistakes were made.
He noted that in battles through American history, “the military fights better over time.” This from a guy who sent our military into Iraq without the right armor, the right force numbers or the right counterinsurgency training.
“A strategic alliance of the ousted Baathists and foreign jihadists was something that our intelligence community did not anticipate,” he said, continuing to spread the blame.
Shorter Feith: We didn't expect the pipsqueaks would fight back. Lance Mannion calls it the "three against a thousand debate":
Back when we were kids, my friends and I used to have long, fierce debates on the playground about how many United States Marines it would take to defeat an attacking horde of whatever historical enemy we were interested in that day. How many Marines would it take to fight off a band of Vikings, say? Or how many Marines would it take to whup an army of Saracens? Or how many Marines would it take it to polish off a tribe of Apache warriors?
It was always a given that the Marines would win, although not necessarily handily. Vikings, Saracens, and Apaches were tough customers, that's why we picked them as the bad guys for these imaginary fights. So the question included not just how many Marines would be needed to defeat them, but how many casualties the Marines might suffer in the fight. The answer to both parts of the question was never more than 10, but never less than 3.
I don't remember our debates taking into account the fact that the Marines would be armed with automatic weapons and grenades, machine guns and mortars while the Vikings and Saracens would be armed with swords and the Apaches with bows and arrows and maybe a Winchester or two, except as signs of the Marines' superior fighting skills, as if choosing to carry an M-16 was something your average Viking would have done if he'd been smarter about picking out his weaponry for the day. At any rate, the Vikings and Saracens and Apaches always attacked in such overwhelming numbers that the Marines' weapons could be assumed to provide no real advantage. The Marines triumphed because they were American fighting men and to prove it we often allowed into the debates the possibility that they'd run out of ammo at some point and have to fight it out hand to hand, bayonets against battle axes, scimitars, and tomahawks.
Debates like this have taken place on playgrounds all over and since the invention of boys. Our tribe can whip any other tribe has always been one of the first lessons little kids in the tribe learn.
I call these arguments the Three Against a Thousand Debate after the Bob Hope routine in Fancy Pants in which Hope, as a valet pretending to be a British noblemen, regales a group of partygoers with the story of how he took part in a terrible battle to defend a fort against enemies of the Raj back in "Inja". It's a bloody tale, with bodies falling all around Hope and desperation mounting for the defenders of the fort as the implacable enemy keeps on coming and coming, undeterred by any punishment Hope and his friends can dish out, and Hope punctuates it regularly with the refrain, "Three against a thousand."
The story ends with the last of the three falling dead in the dust, which stuns Hope's audience to hear, because there's Hope, still alive to tell the tale. How did he survive? Wasn't he one of the three?
Of course the punchline to the story is, "When it was all over, we all agreed that those were [...] three of the toughest blighters we'd ever fought."