Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bonus Quotes du Jour

Steve Coll has excelled in covering the War on Terror and his book "The Ghost War" is the best on the subject to date. The journalist reviews "Cobra II" in the current New Yorker, a book by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor that lends further credence -- as if that is necessary at this late date -- to the fact that the Bush administration was utterly delusional in the run-up to the war.

Coll comments on a profile of Saddam Hussein in a secret U.S. military study on his decision making prior to the war that has been supressed by the White House for obvious reasons:
The study portrays the Iraqi President as a fading adversary who felt boxed in by sanctions and political pressure. Saddam’s former generals and civilian aides . . . describe their old boss as a Lear-like figure, a confused despot in the enervating twilight of a ruthless career: unable to think straight, dependent upon his two lunatic and incompetent sons, and increasingly reliant on bluff and bluster to remain in power. Saddam lay awake at night worrying about knotty problems, and later issued memos based on the dreams he had when he drifted into sleep. As the invasion approached, he so feared a coup that he refused to allow his generals to prepare seriously for war. Instead, he endorsed a plan for the defense of Baghdad that essentially instructed his generals to talk with no one, think rousing thoughts, and await further orders. The generals knew that to question their leader or his sons was suicide, so they just saluted. “We’re doing great!” the Minister of Defense wrote to his field commanders on April 6th, as Baghdad fell.
Coll further notes that when the U.S. and Iraqi armies finally did meet:
The professional officers fighting the war had in common a rich disdain for the self-styled strategists who had sent them into battle. Gordon and Trainor’s extensive interviews with the Army and Marine generals and colonels who commanded the invasion show that they had almost as little faith in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his aides as their Iraqi counterparts had in Saddam and his sons. Indeed, the American officers featured in “Cobra II” are remarkably open about the war’s many errors of conception and execution. Of course, they do not seem to believe that any of the big mistakes were their fault—they blame the C.I.A. for repeatedly getting the battlefield intelligence wrong, and they blame Rumsfeld and his pliant subordinates for sending them to occupy Iraq with a force of inadequate size. The Army and the Marines have paid an extraordinarily high price for the war’s compounding blunders, and, presumably, the officers are speaking candidly now not just to settle scores but to avoid such bungling in the future.

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