False premise for war
The Bush administration stretched the facts, and the truth, in order to make the case to invade Iraq, and get the American people behind it. In reality, George Tenet at the CIA told the president what he wanted to hear—that Saddam possessed WMD — when in fact Tenet had no real evidence to support this claim. Collin Powell was sent to the United Nations to make the case, but didn’t have anything either. George W. Bush’s invasion was based on the assumption, indeed the hope, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Installations without land title
After the initial stages of the invasion in 2003, the United States military was grabbing land to build camps for Coalition soldiers. These FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) were built on land that was taken by the U.S. without any steps to find the owner, or compensate the owner even if he was located. Although much of Iraq is desert, land records do exist, and are maintained at 19 Land Registration Offices across the country.
Waste of money
The waste of U.S. taxpayer money in Iraq is beyond description. Pallets of shrink-wrapped U.S. currency were taken out of the Federal Reserve bank in New Jersey, loaded on military transports, and flown to Iraq to dole out to whoever needed it. Many of these same pallets were stored in the basement of Saddam’s Republican Palace in Baghdad, much of it ‘disappearing’ over time because no one was placed in charge of it. Hundreds of millions found its way into the suitcases of Iraqi officials, who left the country as fast as they could get on a plane out of their country.
190,000 lost weapons
As the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTCI, called “min-sticky”), David Petraeus was responsible for ‘standing up’ a brand new Iraqi Army after the original one was disbanded by Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Part of his job was to equip new Iraqi soldiers, meaning they needed AK-47s and 9mm semi-automatic pistols issued to them. MNSTCI ordered 190,000 weapons, but they never showed up. They disappeared without a trace. David Petraeus was the commander of the unit that ordered these weapons, but nothing happened to him as a result of this disaster, other than another promotion.
Total confusion of organization
The Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTCI) was the component of the U.S. responsible for standing up a brand new Iraqi Army, after the original one was disbanded by Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the CPA. MNSTCI was first commanded by David Petraeus, and then by Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was the most dysfunctional organization I have ever been associated with. It had so many components, all working at cross-purposes, there was no possible way it could help the Iraqis, whose army we had dissolved. I was once asked by an Iraqi while discussion a problem we were dealing with: “Mr. Mike, if you Americans can land a man on the moon, why can’t you take care of this?” There was nothing I could say or do, other than shrug my shoulders.
Inadequacy of the Iraqi army
When Paul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army, he fired every soldier down to the lowest private. They were all put out on the street. It was MNSTCI’s job to start over from scratch, and build a new Iraqi army from nothing—in the midst of a war. Because Donald Rumsfeld didn’t send enough ground forces to stem the tide of insurgency, the new Iraqi Army was nothing but an empty suit: young men wearing nifty camouflage uniforms, but with no ability whatsoever to fight a determined enemy. The current disaster with the Islamic State, and the Iraqi Army’s inability to stand up to it, shows what America has done to this once half-decent fighting force.
“Coalition of the Willing”
The so-called “Coalition of the Willing” was mostly a political catch-phrase. Of the many nations who sent soldiers to Iraq, only a small handful actually sent combat forces of appreciable size and effectiveness. Britain’s Tony Blair was severely criticized by his countrymen for participating in the Iraq War, as was Australia’s Prime Minister, John Howard. Non-American officers and civilians were placed in positions of leadership throughout the Coalition, able to direct and give orders to military and civilians who weren’t from their own country. Although this arrangement has been seen before, it is extremely difficult to manage effectively, and produces marginal results.
All wars require weapons and supplies. In America, these are manufactured by private corporations, who sell their products to the government at huge profits. What happens when these wars end, but the companies are still there, with shareholders wanting their dividends to continue? This small scenario gets to the heart of what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” in 1961. In reality, these corporations and their lobbyists play a major role in the continuation of our conflicts, and some might say in their creation. The Iraq Wars are no exception. The influence and power of major defense contractors over decisions made in the White House, and laws passed in Congress, is as big today as it was after the Second World War—and just as dangerous.
An informed, insightful, timely and brutally honest assessment of the political deception and operational mismanagement during America’s two Iraq wars. In his new book, America’s Destruction of Iraq, Michael M. O’Brien deftly weaves his personal, on-the-ground experiences at the most critical stage of the Iraq conflict with a broader strategic analysis, especially the ideological currents underlying the 2003 decision to go to war, the bungled and wasteful attempts at nation-building and its consequences, the expansion of militant Islamic fundamentalism in the region. Valuable and compelling.
Colonel Lawrence Sellin PhD, U.S. Army Reserve (retired), Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.
Colonel Lawrence Selin PhD, U.S. Army Reserve (retired), Iraq and Afghanistan