Diplomat: ‘U.S. Had No Post-Conflict Plan’


Latest appraisal of Iraq debacle comes from an unlikely source: the magazine for mercenaries.

Our deputy in Iraq: If the Iraq Army hadn’t been disbanded in 2003 by Jerry Bremer (above), military officials tell Charles Ferguson, “we could have nipped this insurgency in the bud.”

The latest piece of evidence that the Bush regime bungled post-invasion Iraq — and one of the first bits we’ve read from a high official that it likewise bungled Afghanistan’s “reconstruction” — comes from the unlikeliest source: the trade journal for mercenaries like Blackwater.

Career diplomat Robert Pearson, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey during the Iraq invasion, treats the re-destruction of Iraq as a given — merely background for his article about how the mercenary industry can pitch in to help around the world.

Quite unintentionally, what Pearson says dovetails neatly with Charles Ferguson‘s response to preposterous pasha Jerry Bremer‘s op-ed about who didn’t do what in the early stages of the Iraq disaster. (All you need see is Ferguson’s journalistically groundbreaking video letter to the editor, “The Debacle of Disbanding the Iraqi Army – 9/14/07.”

If Bremer and the White House hadn’t disbanded the Iraq Army, there wouldn’t have been as much chaos, and “private security contractors” from companies like Blackwater wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in such numbers. There are an estimated 129,000 private contractors of all types in Iraq, almost as many as the number of U.S. soldiers before the “surge” began last January.

Pearson matter-of-factly writes, on page 11 of the September/October issue of the super-jingoistic and wonderfully named Journal of International Peace Operations:

In 2003, global attention focused on U.S. stabilization roles in two key fragile states. In Iraq, it was apparent that the U.S. had no post-conflict plan ready to implement. [Emphasis added.] The civil administration began with a quarrel between Washington and General Jay Garner, the dismissal of Garner, and the arrival of Paul Bremer to head the CPA.

In Afghanistan, NATO began operations in Kabul, its first ever deployment outside Europe. While the move was applauded, in reality it was a coalition of the willing inside NATO, as the U.S. and its allies made individual decisions about the effort. Clearly, the U.S. was entering onto a new phase of experimentation in managing international crises, despite its long experience in dealing with such challenges.

What a mess! In this magazine that features a full-page ad for Blackwater — the main U.S. mercenary company and the one now being driven out of Iraq — Pearson, an ally of Colin Powell‘s, notes that serious planning for post-invasion Iraq began in the fall of 2003.

Yes, that’s six months after the U.S. invaded.

Even then, the White House refused to go along. Oh, at first, SecDef Don Rumsfeld did. But the regime refused to fund State’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS, as it was known):

Secretary Powell wanted a contingency fund of about $200 million to allow S/CRS to react promptly with all its assets in case of need. Senators Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) strongly supported this fund, but the U.S. Office of Management and Budget repeatedly refused to include the request in the Administration budget. In the end, the Administration was content to live with the promise rather than the reality of a truly serious international reconstruction effort led by the U.S.

Wait. It gets worse. At least we had this S/CRS in place. But while Iraq and Afghanistan veered quickly into chaos, S/CRS had to fight to find some fighting elsewhere to fight. Pearson writes:

This shortfall forced S/CRS from the beginning to fight for both personnel and operating resources, limiting its intended purpose and focusing it on short-term survival tactics.

Looking for a reason to prove its worth, S/CRS became involved in rebuilding efforts in Haiti and then in Sudan at the Department’s direction.

These moves, though worthy on their merits, still detracted from the office’s original aims and roused the jealousy of USAID, now fearing that S/CRS might be intended to be a State Department ploy to replace USAID’s core mission. The commitment to training, gaming and overall widespread preparation for responding to overseas emergencies on a serious scale suffered badly. The result was a loss of focus on S/CRS’s original scope and purpose.

This episode also illustrates the struggle between Powell and Rumsfeld over the Bush-Cheney regime’s “war on terror.” It was a battle that Powell continually lost.

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming a mercenary, especially now that Blackwater has been kicked out of Iraq and there’s nobody left to guard Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. officials have been forbidden to leave Baghdad’s Green Zone, be sure to attend the “annual summit” of the International Peace Operations Association on October 28-30 in D.C.