Encore Introduction: The Corporo-Republican Party
Part Two of Introducing: The Corporo-Republican Party
I thought I would do tonight is go through the ten crucial mistakes to this point that we've made.
I think the first mistake that was made was misjudging the success of containment.
I heard the president say, not too long ago, ... that "containment did not work." That's not true. Administering those sanctions was done pretty effectively I thought. In the entire U.S. Central Command, in my time there, on any given day we had less troops in the entire region than show up to work at the Pentagon any morning. Think about that. On any given day ... on an average day in CENTCOM, we had about 23,000 troops, soup to nuts. ... 23,000 troops, the whole region.
During that time, when we asked allies in that region to join us in other conflicts, like Somalia, they came. Egyptians came. Pakistanis came. The Saudis came. The Kuwaitis came. The Emirates came and provided forces. They joined us in the Balkans. They joined us elsewhere on operations when we needed them.
We built a magnificent coalition of forces, without ever once signing a piece of paper - and we contained Saddam.
We bombed him almost at will. No one in the region felt threatened by Saddam.
So to say containment didn't work, I think is not only wrong from the experiences we had then, but the proof is in the pudding. ... [Containment] certainly worked against the Soviet Union, has worked with North Korea and others.
The second mistake I think history will record is that the strategy was flawed.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing ... that the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad, when just the opposite is true - the road to Baghdad led through Jerusalem. You solve the Middle East peace process, you'd be surprised what kinds of others things will work out: the idea that we will walk in and be met with open arms; the idea that we will have people that will glom on to democracy overnight; the idea that strategically we will reform, reshape, and change the Middle East by this action.
We've changed it all right.
We had a basic flawed strategy. All those [who] believed this was going to be the catalyst for some kind of positive change out there, or some sort of revolutionary change in the region, I think got more than they bargained for[. They] didn't understand the region, the culture, the situation, and the issues, and the effect that ... was going to have on those.
The third mistake, ... one we repeated from Vietnam, we had to create a false rationale for going in to get public support.
The books were cooked, in my mind. The intelligence was not there. I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one month before the war, and Senator Lugar asked me: "General Zinni, do you feel the threat from Saddam Hussein is imminent?" I said: "No, not at all. It was not an imminent threat. Not even close. Not grave, gathering, imminent, serious, severe, mildly upsetting, none of those." I predicted that the fighting would be over, the organized resistance in three weeks. To Tommy Franks' credit, he did it in 19 days. He beat my prediction. He did a magnificent job, as did our troops. But the rationale that we faced an imminent threat, or a serious threat, was ridiculous....
... Number four, [We failed] to internationalize the effort.
To the credit of President Bush 41, he set a standard that held up throughout the post-cold war period up until the Iraq war very well. He went to the United Nations before we undertook the operation to expel Saddam from Kuwait. Tremendous diplomatic effort to get a resolution from the United Nations to authorize the use of force and then a tremendous diplomatic effort on his part to create what I think is one of the most remarkable coalitions, the coalition we had in the Gulf war, where we had Arab countries, Islamic countries, European countries, contributions from the Far East all over the world.
That model was extremely successful, and if you think about it, every intervention we had since we used the model, and it worked.
... The fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task.
I think those of us that knew that region, ... former combatant commanders of U.S. Central Command, beginning with Gen. Schwarzkopf, have said you don't understand what you're getting into. You are not going to go through Edelman's "cakewalk;" you are not going to go through Chalabi's dancing in the streets to receive you. You are about to go into a problem that you don't know the dimensions and the depth of, and are going to cause you a great deal of pain, time, expenditure of resources and casualties down the road.
The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles, the infamous "Gucci Guerillas" from London.
We bought into their intelligence reports. ... We ended up with a group that fed us bad information - that led us to believe that we would be welcomed with flowers in the streets; that led us to believe that this would be a cakewalk. These exiles did not have credibility inside the country or in the region. ... It was clear that the information they were providing us many times was not correct and accurate. We believed in them. We also brought them in with us and [put] them into the governing council ... The reception by Iraqis ... has not been great.
The seventh problem has been the lack of planning.
I testified [before] the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, right behind the panel of planners from the State Department and the Department of Defense, and I listened to them describe a "plan." ... I didn't hear anything that told me that they had the scope of planning for the political reconstruction, the economic reconstruction, social reconstruction, the development of building of infrastructure for that country.
In my time at CENTCOM, we ... actually developed [a plan for reconstruction] at CENTCOM because I though that we, the military, would get stuck with it. In my mind, we needed formidable teams at every provincial level - 18 teams.
The size of the CPA was about the size we felt we needed for one province, let alone the entire country of [Iraq]....
The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground.
There were a lot more troops in my military plan for operations in Iraq. ... It was more the (Eric) Shinseki model ... Those extra divisions we had in there were not to defeat the Republican Guard. They were in there to freeze the security situation, because we knew the chaos that would result once we uprooted an authoritarian regime like Saddam's.
The ninth problem has been the ad hoc organization we threw in there.
No one can tell me the Coalition Provisional Authority had any planning for its structure. 144 bodies scraped from embassies around the world, people that I know, for fact, walked in and were selected ... and put in the positions, never quite fully manned-up until well into the operation, never the kinds of qualifications or the breadth, [the] scope and depth ... needed to work the problems down to the grassroots level. Changing horses in mid-stream - General Garner.
I guess we can't say that he's fired. I found out tonight from Mark Thompson that the Defense Department claims he wasn't fired. But Jay Garner leaves, and in comes Jerry Bremer, third quarter, you're down seven, bring in the back-up quarterback and part of his job is to create the game plan while he's out there.
... The tenth mistake, and that's a series of bad decisions on the ground.
De-Baathifying ... you've alienated the Sunnis ... you have stopped having qualified people down in the ranks, people who ... know how to make the trains run on time. Businessmen who I ran into ... out there ... who wanted to re-start their business, ... were told by the CPA, "You can't do business because you were a Baathist!" They said to me, "I had to say I was a Baathist. You don't do business in Iraq under Saddam if you're not a Baathist."
... Disbanding the Army ... this is one I'll never understand, because when I arrived at CENTCOM as the commander there was an on-going program started by my predecessors to run a psychological operations campaign against the regular Army. Every time we struck Iraq, we dropped leaflets on regular Army formations and garrisons saying "If you don't fight when the time comes, we'll take care of you." We sent messages to them to this affect through people in the region. When I did interviews on Al Jazeera TV and other Arab networks, I would always mention the poor Iraqi soldiers of the regular Army - victims of Saddam. We had always intended if they didn't fight, we'd get rid of the leadership, we'd keep them intact, we'd provide for some of their training, and we would have the basis for a ready-made force to pick up some of the security requirements. But they were disbanded.
... Lack of a dialogue or identification of the leadership in the Sunni and the Shia areas. The inability to connect with ... somebody like Sistani ...
We have now found ourselves in a position to date for these series of mistakes and many, many more ... You know, there's a rule that if you find yourself in hole, stop digging. ... We have dug this hole so deep now that you see many serious people - Jack Murtha, General Odom, and others - beginning to say it's time to just pull out, cut your losses. I'm not of that camp. Not yet. But I certainly think we've come pretty close to that.
I would do several things now.
But clearly the first and most important thing you need is that UN resolution.
That's been the model since the end of the Cold War, that has given us the basis and has given our allies the basis for joining us and helping us and provided the legitimacy we need. ... It's time for ... the permanent five members of the Security Council to sit down and come up with some agreeable, mutually developed UN resolution that would allow other countries ... to participate. ... There are many out there at different levels, especially in the region, that would want to participate, and help, before it comes too tough and too costly. We need to get them in.
It will probably mean ... others will want to have a say in the political reconstruction and economic reconstruction, but so what? If we create a free economy in Iraq, someday ... some oil minister is going to cut a contract with the French. ... That's inevitable.
We need the UN resolution, that's the number one priority.
After getting that, I would first go to the countries in the region asking their help.
I would ... ask the countries to give us five or six officers for each of our [units], five or six Arab officers that have attended our schools, ... that have gone to our command and general staff colleges, that not only speak English but know us [as] we know them. I'd put them on the planning staffs of these units, as advisors, as planners.
I would ask these countries in the region to allow us to build camps along the borders of Iraq to train police, border security, and Army.
I would lure the young men into these positions by considerable pay for what they are about to do, and they would deserve it.
I would ask the Europeans and the others to help us build a training program, one that would last a long time, maybe even a year, to develop truly competent security forces with high morale, organizational coherence, the equipment and the pay that would make them proud.
I would ask those countries that can commit ... forces to help us, not only in patrolling cities that may be casualty traps, but in securing the borders. ... Forces that protect road networks - that isn't a casualty intensive or difficult task - those are the kinds of forces under a UN agreement, that I think we can get in there to perform those missions, to use the Powell doctrine and putting some overwhelming force on the critical nodes, and the critical routes, and the critical infrastructure we need to protect.
I would hold a conference somewhere in the region, ask the Arabs to sponsor it .... I would invite every Iraqi business man I can convince to come, and I would invite foreign investors, and I would ask them to come together, hold this conference over a period of weeks, to define what these business men need to establish their business, to make it grow, to re-establish it, to protect it, the kind of investment they need, the infrastructure. But the key is jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs for Iraqis. I would go to the contractors in there, and say, I don't want to see truck drivers that are coming from Peoria, Illinois. I want to pay truck drivers that are Iraqis. It doesn't take a hell of a lot of talent to drive a truck.
Why aren't Iraqis driving trucks for their own reconstruction and redevelopment? Why are people from outside coming in, where they have no investment in protecting and providing for the security and the movement of those goods? The Halliburtons and Bechtels and, and others ought to be encouraged to hire locally, unless there is a skills set that isn't present there. But I almost can't believe that you couldn't find that in there.
I think we need to start talking about the kind of government we're going to eventually have in this nation.
Is it a confederation? A federation? What kind of local autonomy are the Shi'a, the Kurds, the Sunnis, going to have? What will be the status of Baghdad? No one has talked about that structure publicly. We're about to turn this over to some interim council and we're heading towards ... an election where the electorate is educated on how to vote Friday prayers from the pulpit. There's no system of education for the electorate. There are no political parties that I see and have been developed openly - there are certainly some growing that I would be suspicious of.
I think that unless we come to grips with the form of government, unless we work openly and in a transparent manner to develop political parties ... under international UN supervision, and unless we run a program of education for the electorate, we're not going to like the results we see by the end of January when the supposed elections are going to take place.
Those are just a few ideas. It takes quality people on the ground to be able to implement these. It takes international authority and not the U.S. ... because that's not acceptable anymore.
It's going to be a period of time where we're going to have to bear the burden of the most severe security responsibilities. But we ought to at least plan for a time when we can turn that over, and at least share some of the less demanding security experiences and variances. And I'm convinced that if we open this up and get the UN resolution, there will be those that will come in and stand by our side, boot-to-boot, on some of the tougher missions.
We also have to stop the tough talk rhetoric. One thing you learn in this business is, don't say it unless you're going to do it.
In this part of the world, strength matters. If you say you are going to go in and wipe them out, you better do it. If you say you're going to do it and then you back off and find another solution, you have lost face.
We have got to stop the kind of bravado and talk that only leads us into trouble out there. We need to be more serious and more mature in what we project as an image.
Our whole public relations effort out there has been a disaster. I read the newspapers from the region every night online, and if you watch Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, or even some of the more moderate stations out there, and you read the editorials in the newspaper, there is a different war being portrayed in that region, a different conflict than we're getting from Fox, CNN, CBS, etc. We better get the two jibed somehow, because that has been a massive failure. ...
We could use advice from the region as to how to go about it.
Thank you for you attention. I'd be glad to take any questions you may have."
Iraq wasn't the only failure of BushCo. The economy is going just about as well as the discovery of WMD or the capture of Osama. Would you be willing to examine some of the domestic failures of the Bush (mis)Administration?
Inflation appears to be stirring from its hibernation. Consumer prices are advancing in the first four months of this year at a pace twice as fast as the increase for all of 2003. That in turn is increasing chances that the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates next month, according to a growing number of analysts.
They point to a string of economic reports, from sizable gains in the nation's payrolls to brisk manufacturing activity, that paint a picture of an economic resurgence that is beginning to fan inflation. "The economy is just taking off and is taking inflation with it," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com. "I think it is just too much for the Fed to ignore, and they will have to tighten policy in June."
From January to April, consumer prices rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.4 percent, compared with a 1.9 percent increase for last year, the Labor Department reported Friday. This year's pickup has been led by sharply higher energy prices, especially for gasoline. The core rate of inflation, from which energy and food prices are excluded, has risen so far this year by 3 percent, outpacing the 1.1 percent rise for 2003. "Inflation is peeking out from underneath the covers," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at MFC Global Investment Management, though economists don't view the price acceleration as particularly worrisome at this point.
On inflation, some companies, which have had to keep a lid on price increases during the economic slump, are finding it easier to raise prices now that the economy is rebounding. Wholesale prices in April posted their biggest increase in a year, the government reported Thursday. While recent economic reports show inflation moving higher, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues indicated at their meeting last week they are not yet worried. "Long-term inflation expectations appear to have remained well contained," they said in their report of the session. Thus, the Fed decided to hold short-term interest rates at a 46-year low of 1 percent, unchanged since last June. The central bank signaled, however, that rates could move higher now that the economic recovery has firm roots.
An increasing number of economists now believe the Fed will begin raising rates at its next meeting June 29-30, saying Friday's inflation report, along with a recent batch of mostly strong economic data, would justify such a move. "Put a fork in the 1 percent funds rate. It's done," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "The steady, upward creep in inflation continues and will have to be addressed fairly soon by the Fed."
Analysts don't believe inflation threatens the recovery, but the upward movement in inflation marks a big change in the pricing climate from a year ago. Then, the Fed worried about the possibility of deflation, a prolonged and widespread price decline.
In April, consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent, while core prices went up 0.3 percent. Energy prices, which increased 0.1 percent in April, soared in the first four months of this year at annual rate of 28.3 percent. Prices for gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas were up sharply during the period. Strong global demand and tensions in the Middle East have catapulted oil prices in recent days. Food prices, meanwhile, rose 0.2 percent in April and so far this year have gone up at a 1.5 percent annual rate. Airfare prices, which jumped 1 percent last month, rose at a 13 percent rate in the first four months of this year, reflecting in large part higher fuel costs, economists said. Costs for medical care rose 0.4 percent in April and were up at a 5.4 percent rate so far this year. College tuition and fees, which increased 0.6 percent last month, rose at a rate of 9.3 percent so far this year.
That was expensive! Does this mean the end of the Bush (mis)Administration? Is this how the vote will go?
The conventional wisdom on this presidential election is wrong.
It's frequently said that John Kerry is the man in trouble. Yes, Kerry does have a gift for getting in his own way. But President Bush is the candidate with big problems.
It's also said that the country is so polarized that there is no moderate vote that matters. On the contrary, there is a very big middle that has shifted back and forth between Kerry and Bush over the last several months. That middle will decide this election.
That does not mean the election will be about who can successfully mouth centrist mush. The middle will move on the basis of events and also on judgments about which of these candidates can solve the problems these voters care about -- in Iraq and on health care, education costs, jobs and wages. The issue is problem-solving, not positioning.
The polls over the last week portray a president in trouble. The most recent, the Pew Research Center's survey released on Wednesday, found that only 44 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of his job, down 14 points since early January. In a two-way contest, Kerry led Bush by 50 percent to 45 percent. Even when Ralph Nader was included as a choice, it was Kerry 46 percent, Bush 43 percent.
But the poll's details are what should trouble Bush.
While Kerry and Bush have overwhelming support among their own partisans, Kerry led Bush among independents by seven points. Many other polls have shown independents moving away from Bush and holding pessimistic views of administration policy.
It's a long way from November, so it's useful to look at voters who say they are sure of where they stand. The Pew poll found 42 percent of registered voters saying they were certain they would vote for Kerry and 36 percent who were certain they'd vote for Bush. The hard core on each side is committed. Among conservative Republicans, 85 percent said they were certain for Bush. Among liberal Democrats, 90 percent were certain for Kerry.
But look at the middle. Among moderate and liberal Republicans, only 59 percent were certain for Bush. By contrast, 73 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats were certain for Kerry. And, again, independents are a problem for Bush: 40 percent of them were sure for Kerry, only 32 percent sure for Bush. Bush thus faces the prospect of substantial defections among moderate Republicans and has huge work to do among independents.
The central truth about presidential elections is that when an incumbent is on the ballot, the incumbent is the issue unless the challenger is utterly discredited. The Bush campaign has been spending its vast treasury not on making the case for the president, but on trying to turn Kerry into an unacceptable alternative. While the Bush side has made some progress in denting Kerry's image, it has not been enough.
Hostility to the president is such that, for now, voters are willing to take a chance on Kerry.
Bush's weakness in the middle reflects not only the failures in Iraq but also the president's abandonment of his "compassionate conservative" agenda in favor of a martial presidency that gambled all on the current war. He thereby made himself hostage to events far away.
Until very recently, voters in the middle who are worried about wages or the costs of health care and college haven't heard much from Bush on these subjects.
David Winston, a Republican pollster, is passionate in arguing that up to 30 percent of voters are in play this year and that the incessant focus on each party's political base misunderstands who will decide this election. The uncertainties about Bush among independents and moderate Republicans and the big shifts between Bush and Kerry over the last six months suggest he's right. As Winston notes, there is time between now and Election Day for the economy to grow and for the situation in Iraq to improve. And Kerry could keep playing into the stereotype the Bush campaign is creating for him. If Kerry seems to be moving toward the political center in an entirely mechanical way, the very middle to which he's appealing could come to mistrust him. You also have to wonder why Kerry couldn't just embrace that Chevy Suburban his family owns and thank God it was made in America. But on the current numbers, Kerry will win if he's simply good enough.
Bush's task is harder: to seem a whole lot better than he does now to voters who already know him well.
"You are getting sleepy, ... your will is totally under Republican control, ... Kerry bad, Bush good! ... "
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