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Ex-Defense Official Assails Colleagues Over Run-Up to War
Feith's disdain for Armitage, with whom he sparred at NSC deputies meetings, is palpable. Powell's deputy, he says, "reflexively opposed any idea originating at the Pentagon."
In an introduction to the manuscript, Feith writes that he has tried to avoid polemic and seeks only to contribute to the historical record. He argues, as have other Iraq hawks such as Richard Perle -- a former Reagan administration Pentagon official and outside Rumsfeld adviser -- that the administration's careful approach to Iraq, including a swift transition to Iraqi control, was prevented from succeeding by ill-informed or disloyal subordinates.
The idea to which Feith appears most attached, and to which he repeatedly returns in the book, is the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority. Feith's office drew up a plan for the body -- to be made up of U.S.-appointed Iraqis who would share some decision-making with U.S. occupation forces -- in the months before the invasion. But while he says that Bush approved it, he charges that Bremer refused to implement it.
The key mistake that the United States made in Iraq, Feith asserts, was "the mishandling of the political transition." The good that Bremer did, he concludes, "was outweighed by the harm caused by the fact of occupation."
In an interview yesterday, Bremer disputed Feith's narrative, saying he believes that Bush gave up on the idea of a quick transition shortly after Baghdad fell and widespread looting broke out in April 2003.
"By the time I sat down with the president on May 3, it was clear that he wasn't thinking about a short occupation," Bremer said. After consulting his records, Bremer also said that at a White House meeting on May 8, Vice President Cheney said, "We are not yet at the point where people we want to emerge can yet emerge." He said that Feith omits that comment. On May 22, he added, the president wrote to him, saying that he knew "our work will take time."
Others have criticized Feith's plan as relying too heavily on Iraqi exile politicians, including Ahmed Chalabi. Feith says that he considered Chalabi one of the most astute and democratically minded Iraqis but that he had no special brief for him. Instead, he charges that the State Department, the CIA and the military's Central Command were pathologically opposed to the exiles and to Chalabi in particular.
Feith continually denounces the CIA, accusing it of producing poor intelligence, intruding on the formulation of policy, and then using leaks to the media to defend itself and attack its bureaucratic opponents. Most notably, he charges that intelligence officials ignored and refused to investigate possible links between al-Qaeda and Hussein's government.
He reports, as others have, that Franks, who commanded the U.S. invasion force, treated him disrespectfully, sometimes rolling his eyes when Feith asked a question. But he indicates that Franks's disregard grew partly out of the general's lack of interest in planning for the postwar period. When Feith tried to talk to him about one aspect of that, Franks walked around the table, leaned over and said, "Doug, I don't have time for this [expletive]." He concludes that Franks failed in part because of advice he received from his advisers at the CIA and the State Department.
In contrast with the reputation of Gen. Richard B. Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for pliability, Feith reports that Myers grew irate at what he saw as administration attempts to get around the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners following the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Myers, he writes, threatened to bypass Rumsfeld and take his concerns directly to Bush, but calmed down after being told that the administration would distinguish between legitimate prisoners of war and al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
In summarizing his view of what went wrong in Iraq, Feith writes that it was a mistake for the administration to rely so heavily on intelligence reports of Hussein's alleged stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and a nuclear weapons program, not only because they turned out to be wrong but also because secret information was not necessary to understand the threat Hussein posed.
Hussein's history of aggression and disregard of U.N. resolutions, his past use of weapons of mass destruction and the fact that he was "a bloodthirsty megalomaniac" were enough, Feith maintains.
He blames both the CIA and Powell, who outlined the weapons case in a February 2003 speech at the United Nations, for overemphasizing the threat. But Feith appears to ignore the crucial role that statements from Cheney and Rice, about the imminence of "mushroom clouds" emanating from Iraqi nuclear weapons, played in the case the administration made for war.