Did you know that Rummy had absolutely no idea that all of the Army’s reconstruction expertise was redeployed out of Iraq right after Mission Accomplished? It’s true!
Well, sort of. In his new memoir, General Ricardo Sanchez recounts his surreal 2006 exit interview, in which Rummy shares a memo:
In the memo, Rumsfeld stated that one of the biggest strategic mistakes of the war was ordering the major redeployment of forces and allowing the departure of the CENTCOM and CFLCC staffs in May/June 2003.
"This left General Sanchez in charge of operations in Iraq with a staff that had been focused at the operational and tactical level, but was not trained to operate at the strategic/operational level." He went on to write that neither he nor anyone higher in the Administration knew these orders had been issued, and that he was dumbfounded when he learned that… the forces would be drawn down to a level of about 30,000 by September….
"Mr. Secretary, when V Corps ramped up for the war, our entire focus was at the tactical level. The staff had neither the experience nor training to operate at the strategic level, much less as a joint/combined headquarters. All of CFLCC’s generals, whom we called the Dream Team, left the country in a mass exodus. The transfer of authority was totally inadequate, because CENTCOM’s focus was only on departing the theater and handing off the mission. There was no focus on postconflict operations. None! In their minds, the war was over and they were leaving. Everybody was executing these orders, and the services knew all about it.
…"Sir, I cannot believe that you didn’t know I was being left in charge in Iraq."
"No! No!" he replied. "I was never told that the plan was for V Corps to assume the entire mission. I have to issue orders and approve force deployments into the theater, and they moved all these troops around without any orders or notification from me."
"Sir, I don’t … "
"Why didn’t you tell anyone about this?" he asked, interrupting me in an angry tone.
Better yet was the outcome of the inquiry Rummy commissioned (and then buried) to look into how such an enormous move could have been made without his knowledge [eye roll]:
…When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero Phase IV ["after combat action"] planning…. In fact, CENTCOM had originally called for twelve to eighteen months of Phase IV activity with active troop deployments. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that the war was over and Phase IV was not their job.
That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq…. And I was supposed to believe that neither the Secretary of Defense nor anybody above him knew anything about it? Impossible! Rumsfeld knew about it. Everybody on the NSC knew about it, including Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Colin Powell. Vice President Cheney knew about it. And President Bush knew about it.
Sanchez does not speculate as to the why, and I have difficulty imagining what kind of upside BushCo. saw in proactively courting failure. Maybe they figured that if Iraq stabilized too quickly, Dubya wouldn’t be able to run as a Heroic War President in 2004? Not that there was ever any chance of that happening.
I am also struck by the unreality of Rummy’s steadfast denials that he had any idea what was going on, as if claiming to be completely detached and out-of-the-loop is some kind of brilliant defense. It’s reminiscent of AG2‘s claims that he didn’t know about the US Attorney firings, or Dubya’s claims that he didn’t know about the October ’07 Iran NIE or how the Iraqi Army was disbanded ("Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff").
I guess incompetence is an excuse.
(Note: Sanchez is not exactly a good guy, so it’s probably best to take this all with a grain of salt. I don’t doubt that the Bushies deliberately blew off the post-invasion, though.)