Dan Senor Demolishes (Gently) Feith and Wolfowitz

Paul Wolfowitz’s admission that he and others were "clueless on counterinsurgency" at the Hudson Institute’s symposium on Douglas Feith’s "War and Decision" last week was certainly the lede as Eli Lake reported it in the New York Sun reported last week, but overlooked were the remarks on the same panel by Dan Senor who demolished – albeit very politely – just about everything Feith and Wolfowitz had to say.

I’m never been a fan of Senor – he has been a spokesman for Freedom’s Watch – and he was, of course, spokesman and a top adviser to Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) chief L. Paul ("Jerry") Bremer to whom he obviously retains some sense of loyalty. But his responses to the most basic point made by Feith in his book and Wolfowitz during the symposium – that things went bad when the U.S. declared an "occupation" instead of turning over the government to and empowering an Iraqi authority dominated by "externals" like Ahmed Chalabi and other members of the so-called "London Group" – were clear and irrefutable (at least by Feith and Wolfowitz) and also served to point up once again how completely ignorant the administration’s leading hawks were both about Iraqi society and the likely impact on it of the U.S. invasion.

The symposium, which Hudson has made available in both transcript and video forms on its website, was important, if only because it marked the first time that I know of that Wolfowitz, who was Feith’s nominal superior at the Pentagon, has spoken publicly at length about the Iraq War since he left the administration in 2005 to take over the World Bank (from which he was forced to step down last June). His contribution to the panel, which also included former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Rodman, consisted mostly of quoting passages from Feith’s book and agreeing with them.

In particular, he quoted Feith’s central argument: "The chief mistake [by the U.S. government] was maintaining an occupation government in Iraq for over a year, even though the dangers of occupation had been recognized throughout the Bush administration and even though the president’s policy had called for the early creation of an Iraqi interim authority. The central task of liberation was to bring about political transition in Iraq, but this was impeded beginning months before Saddam’s overthrow by the self-induced anxieties at State and CIA [always the bad guys for the neocons – ed’s note] about the presumed lack of legitimacy of the Iraqi opposition." According to Feith and Wolfowitz (and Richard Perle, for that matter), it was this decision that at least fueled – if it didn’t create – the insurgency.

But to Senor, the decision to declare and sustain a legal occupation was "irrelevant" given the basic fact that the "occupation" was a fact of life for the vast majority of Iraqis.

"To them, occupation was the fact that virtually every interaction they had with any official providing them a government service, whether it was the dispensing of basic essential services like electricity and water and gasoline, or providing basic security in those early months, was conducted by American men and women in uniform and our coalition forces. That is the fact. To them, that was occupation. For most Iraqis, occupation existed in their daily lives when they walked out their front door and there was a Humvee sitting around the corner and they had to drive through checkpoints that were manned by American military. Anywhere they need to go, those checkpoints were clogging up Baghdad. That to them is occupation.

"…And the idea that we could be tinkering with position papers and memos about how we define occupation and that would somehow change the perception of Iraqis’ sense of occupation day to day, I think, is somewhat disconnected from reality."

Moreover, the assumption by Feith and Wolfowitz that transferring power to the "externals" favored by the Pentagon civilians would have prevented or "tamped down" – rather than intensified – the resistance, particularly within the Sunni population, was simply unfounded, according to Senor. “Indeed, …[i]f you simply look at some of the actions they did take take when …we handed authority [for] de-Ba’athification over to the Iraqi Governing Council, they took [its] implementation …in a far more extreme direction than anybody envisioned." Indeed, Senor said, transferring authority to that group would have created "a sovereign government …dominated by Shiite Islamists."

Aside from the omnipresence of American soldiers, the basic problem faced by the U.S. in Iraq from the outset was the perceived disenfranchisement of the Sunni population, Senor stressed. "You have a community that represented some 20 percent of the population that for the entire modern life of Iraq, at least its modern-state life, had been in control of the country …in very possible way. …And the notion that we were going to go into Iraq, in a society that had deep and visceral inter-communal tensions and dislocate or disenfranchise or at least take this community and have their influence represent their proportionate representation in the population. And for that not to be the problem is something [that] at best we may not have seen coming…"

Feith and Wolfowitz admit that also they did not see it coming (although they tend to see the "Sunni" problem as an all-controlling "Ba’athist" conspiracy), but then they insist that no agency in the U.S. government foresaw it. In his presentation, Wolfowitz quoted approvingly again from Feith’s book:

"What was not anticipated by any office, as far as I know, was the Iraqi regime’s ability to conduct a sustained campaign against coalition forces after it was overthrown. When the CIA in August, 2002, analyzed how Saddam might attack, surprise, or otherwise foil us in a war, its analysis dealt only with actions Saddam might take while still in power. I never saw a CIA assessment of the Ba’athist after their ouster would be able to organize, recruit for, finance, supply, command, and control an insurgency, let alone an alliance with foreign Jihadists."

Wolfowitz noted that he, too, had never seen any such study.

Yet, we now know that two such studies did exist, although they were undertaken on the initiative of the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, Paul Pillar, of the National Intelligence Council and officially commissioned by the State Department’s Policy Planning Office. And they were theoretically available to all relevant policymakers, including Wolfowitz and Feith, well before the invasion. They were declassified by the Senate Intelligence Committee in May, 2006.

Here’s how Pillar summarized their findings in a Foreign Affairs article just before their declassification:

"Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any post-invasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq’s abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shiites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks – including by guerrilla warfare – unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.

"…[W]ar and occupation would boost political Islam and increase sympathy for terrorists’ objectives – and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.[Emphasis added]

Of course, the fact that these studies originated with the CIA and the State Department no doubt reduced their credibility for hawks like Wolfowitz and Feith who were so determined to go to war that they never bothered to check out what the National Intelligence Council or the State Department’s Policy Planning Office (which Wolfowitz at one time headed!) was producing. They much preferred the reassuring predictions they were getting from the exiles in the London Group, the same ones who, at least Senor now recognizes, either led them down the garden path or who, like Wolfowitz himself, had no clue about the Iraq to which the Pentagon was about to return them.

In any event, the Hudson transcript (or video) is certainly worth reviewing for the ease with which Senor takes apart virtually every point made by Wolfowitz and Feith and the apparent inability of Wolfowitz or Feith to rebut him. While Senor never suggests that he thinks the original decision to invade Iraq was a mistake, it’s pretty clear that he thought the decision was not very well thought out by its principal advocates at the Pentagon.

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service’s Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

Author: Jim Lobe

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service's Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

32 thoughts on “Dan Senor Demolishes (Gently) Feith and Wolfowitz”

    1. Let’s hope Barack Obama boots Dan Senor out of Federal government. I have bad memories of this man during the Iraq war coverage. His wife Campbell Brown (CNN) recently harped and harped on race during her shows. It’s time for a good Federal government douche of political appointees.

  1. Assertions by Feith and Wolfowitz that no one ever told them that a post-invasion Iraq might be messy is demonstrably false — even beyond the Pillar documented cited.

    In George Tenet’s memoir (p317) he writes about a paper given to senior officials at Camp David on August 13, 2002. The paper was called “The Perfect Storm: Planning for Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq.”
    According to Tenet, the summary said that following an invasion: “The US will face negative consequences with Iraq, the
    region and beyond which could include: Anarchy and the territorial breakup of Iraq; Regime-threatening instability in key Arab states; A surge of global terrorism against US interests fueled by deepening Islamic antipathy toward the United States; Major oil supply disruptions and severe strains in the Atlantic alliance.”

    On page 424 he cites several other studies that seem similarly prescient –studies that Feith and Wolfowitz now seem oblivious to.

    Tenet writes: “In a January 2003 CIA paper, we said: Iraq would be unlikely to split apart, but a post-Saddam authority
    would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so. Rogue ex-regime elements could forge an alliance with existing terrorist organizations or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare against the new government. In the early months after the forceful ouster of Saddam, stability in Iraq would depend partly on the perspectives of Iraqis towards whatever interim authority, military or civilian, foreign or indigenous was in control, as well as the ability of the authority to perform the administrative and security tasks of governing the country… . . . US-led defeat and occupation of Arab Iraq probably would boost proponents of political Islam. Calls by Islamists for the people of the region to unite probably would resonate widely. Fear of US domination and a widespread belief probably would attract many angryyoung recruits to extremists’ ranks.”

    Tenet’s point, was that the State Department and Intelligence Community did a pretty good job predicting what the Iraqis would do — where they were in the dark was in knowing what to expect from the U.S. government. Actions like having insufficient troops on the ground and the disbanding of the Iraqi army made the Intelligence Community’s worse case scenarios almost inevitable.

  2. 1999 war games foresaw problems in Iraq

    But since both Feith and Wolfowitz are neocons and have larger plans for the middle-east they do not really have it in their interest to have a stable Iraq…they are already using the instability to blame on Iran…this of course helps to sell another war.

    To quote another neocon, Michael Ledeen:
    “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/4/2002]

      1. I think you’re right to say that I have roots in the left, which is the point I was trying to make when I said I didn’t think of myself as a “conservative.” Leo Strauss once said that it was hard to understand how the word “virtue,” which once meant the manliness of men, came to mean the virginity of women. In like manner I am perplexed at how revolutionaries are now called “conservatives.” It’s very misleading, and very political. The left, which has become reactionary and counterrevolutionary, wants to stigmatize people who advocate democratic revolution, and so they use the word “conservative,” which for the left is an epithet.

        Michael Ledeen

        Did Leo Strauss really say that? And that piece of trash passed as a “scholar” and “erudite” at the University of Chicago?

        Must have been his pretentious German accent. Oh, I forget-it was the “political science” department, wasn’t it?

        1. Hey, Signor Ledeen–polentono–heresah ahhintah–Homer applies the Greek arete to, among other items, horses.

        2. And hey, Ledeen, dumbo–whadahdyudu wid omerta? You two-bit excuse for learning and intellect.

        3. Arete (Greek: ἀρετή; pronounced /ˈærÉ™teɪ/ in English) in its basic sense means “goodness”, “excellence” or “virtue” of any kind. In its earliest appearance in Greek this notion of excellence was bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function; the act of living up to one’s full potential.

          “The root of the word is the same as ‘aristos’, the word which shows superlative ability and superiority, and ‘aristos’ was constantly used in the plural to denote the nobility.” (see Aristocracy) The Ancient Greeks applied the term to anything: for example, the excellence of a chimney, the excellence of a bull to be bred, and the excellence of a man. The meaning of the word changes depending on what it describes, since everything has its own particular excellence; the arete of a man is different from the arete of a horse. This way of thinking first comes from Plato, and can be seen in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.[2].

          By the fourth and fifth centuries BC, arete as applied to men had developed to include quieter virtues, such as dikaiosyne (justice) and sophrosyne (self-restraint). Plato attempted to produce a moral philosophy that incorporated this new usage (and in doing so developed ideas that played a central part in later Christian thought), but it was in the work of Aristotle that the doctrine of arete found its fullest flowering. Aristotle’s “Doctrine of the Mean” (not to be confused with Confucius’s Doctrine of the Mean) and “The Four Causes” are good examples of Aristotle’s thinking.

          It is almost incredible, and a clear indication of the state of American higher learning, which is nowadays mostly middlebrow bric-a-brac, that someone like Leo Strauss, who was no more than a vicious and doubledealing ideologue, could masquerade for decades as a serious and learned interpreter of, among many others, Plato.

  3. “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/4/2002]

    My old grandmother ,bless her, told me to always ask who benfits first.

  4. It it clear that chaos wurks to the advantage of U.S./Israel..and is abhorred by the tyrants and helps the oil giants.. The only problem is when the people there get tired of being “played” One would think that the neocons would be concerned about the path that their brainchild would take from day ONE…..to be sure that THEIR ox [whatever it is] would be safe…You know they were not doing the war for the Iraqi people…. certainly not for the MILLION that perished as the dogs of war ripped Iraq asunder… If they were doing the war for the Iraqis, they would have made sure that fewer perished AND [at a minimum] kept count of the toll of Iraqi lives lost!! That is the telling fact, the fact they did not count the Iraqi lives they took!! [How else could one measure the success value of the endeavor without knowing its cost in lives?] Add to that the fact that it was the oil ministry which they protected in the first days they were in Baghdad…You know they were NOT doing it for the American people…Who would be catching the multi trillion dollar bill…& 8000 dead for what??? To see the dollar lose HALF ITS VALUE so every that American losses half their wealth No…. Who then were they doing this groutesque deed for?? For the Cheney oil boyz?? For them the chaos means never having to say goodbye, but staying [and pumping] until EMPTY….. Difficult to believe that it was ONLY the oil……

    1. To see the dollar lose HALF ITS VALUE so every that American losses half their wealth

      It is the overwhelming majority, but not “every American”. A tiny minority prosper beyond the wildest imagination of the rest.

      Some of it is incompetence, which is now systematic. But the directing vision is robbery and theft, and where there is robbery and theft there are robbers and thieves, even if they are known and know themselves under much different labels.

      Is Bernanke, for example, incompetent or a thief? Both actually, but on different levels.

      So with the deliberate destruction of Iraq–incompetence? Yes, but incompetents in the service of a few calculating, murderous, genocidal maniacs.

      1. Several 10s of millions of Dispensationalists got to dream of their fantasies of a Rapture, of the Second Coming of Jesus, of ruling the rest of us with a rod of iron at his side. Don’t underestimate the power of the irrational religious side of US society.

        How they will react when they finally lose hope of being Raptured away from their problems interests me. They’ll blame everyone but themselves.

  5. There will always be doubts and theories as to why America attacked and occupied Iraq – for oil, for Israel, out of ignorance, just because we could, etc. If we attack Iran, there can be no doubt – it was for Israel.

    1. Israel and oil and the Second Coming and incompetence, united behind Bsuh and Cheneym, are in no way mutually exclusive.

      In fact there was (and still is) a cunning synergy.

      More important, there are three distinct and major “domestic” groups involved–Neo-Cons, Corporate Fascists, and Christian Zionists.

      1. Eugene,
        I think you have it covered. But, still, if one needs to finger the key factor, the driving wheel, then I put my money on the Israeli Lobby. The corporate fascists are going after a target of opportunity (like hyenas that see a wounded prey going down); for them Sudan would work just as well as Iran and would offer better rewards. The Christian Zionists are just Israeli groupees; they love having their noses up Israel’s rear. Anyway, they are too stupid to do the heavy work of cranking out lies and poisonous propaganda.

    2. Strictly speaking, there was no reason at all to attack Iraq. They didn’t attack us, nor did they have the much-ballyhooed WMD. Not that those facts mattered, though. You see, the Israel Lobby wanted an attack on Iraq, and that’s the main thing. What AIPAC wants, AIPAC gets, you dig?

      Now there’s talk of an impending attack on Iran, God help us. Who’s whining for this? You guessed it–the Israel Lobby.

  6. While I am completely against the notion that this war was justified, I still feel compelled to at least ‘hear them out,’ testing my own perceptions about this conflict. However, I remain completely baffled how otherwise educated people can continue to make excuses for this mess. Here is an example by Michale Barone, talking about Feith’s book, and somehow tying ‘liberal gun control’ arguments to our handling of Iraq (and bringing up the Saddam-Al qaeda canard up AGAIN!?)…

    “One such narrative is, “Bush lied; people died.” The claim is that “neocons,” including Feith, politicized intelligence to show that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. Not so, as the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silberman-Robb Commission have concluded already. Every intelligence agency believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and the post-invasion Duelfer report concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice. There was abundant evidence of contacts between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Given Saddam’s hostility to the United States and his stonewalling of the United Nations, American leaders had every reason to believe he posed a grave threat. Removing him removed that threat.

    Unfortunately — and here Feith is critical of his ultimate boss, George W. Bush — the administration allowed its critics to frame the issue around the fact that stockpiles of weapons weren’t found. Here we see at work the liberal fallacy, apparent in debates on gun control, that weapons are the problem rather than the people with the capability and will to use them to kill others. The fact that millions of law-abiding Americans have guns is not a problem; the problem is that criminals can get them and have the will to kill others. Similarly, the fact that France has WMDs is not a problem; the fact that Saddam Hussein had the capability to produce WMDs and the will to use them against us was.”


    There are any of a dozen ways to attack this piece, but more importantly (and more frustrating) is how we have failed to convince these individuals of the multi-dimensional failures that this war represents. Speaking to an evangelical friend of of mine, I asked him if the US were attacked by terrorists while we were occupying Iraq, would he consider this strategy a failure? He said that he would not. However, if attacked after a pull-out from Iraq, he WOULD lay blame at the feet of whoever gave the order to leave Iraq. Huh?!

    I really don’t care to continue throwing stones, but really want to be able ‘change hearts and minds’ so that we do not make another similar mistake in my lifetime. I’m not naive enough to believe the odds are in my favor, but it is something we have to work towards.

    Peace be with you.

  7. Every intelligence agency believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and the post-invasion Duelfer report concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice. There was abundant evidence of contacts between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Given Saddam’s hostility to the United States and his stonewalling of the United Nations, American leaders had every reason to believe he posed a grave threat. Removing him removed that threat….

    A transparent apologist. Evey statement, innuendo, and implication an outright lie or misleading.

    My dear disguised Neo-Con, Intelligence Agencies don’t “bleieve”.

    Trained as a lawyer, are we?

      1. Then of course there is David Kay:

        Kay worked as the UN Chief Weapons Inspector from 1991 to 1992. Following that, he was Vice President of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) from 1993 to 2002. While at SAIC, he worked alongside Steven Hatfill until March 2002. Then, he was appointed as a Special Advisor for Strategy regarding Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Programs. He received the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Distinguished Service Award and the U.S. Secretary of State’s Commendation. (SAIC was contracted by the U.S. to build prototype Mobile Weapons Laboratories in fall of 2001)

        After the 1991 Gulf War, Kay led teams of inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq to search out and destroy banned chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he returned to the country, working with the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military in 2003 and 2004 to determine if Saddam Hussein’s regime had continued developing banned weapons. (See Iraq Survey Group)

        The research of his team determined that the Iraqi unconventional weapons programs had mostly been held in check, with only small amounts of banned material uncovered (this included a number of vials containing biological agents stored in the home refrigerators of Iraqi scientists, for example). However, none of these substances had been “weaponized” — no such agents were found in missiles or artillery, and none could be easily installed. In an interview with National Public Radio, however, Kay revealed that Iraq had been working on weaponizing ricin up until Operation Iraqi Freedom. These discoveries indicate that some of the primary reasons President George W. Bush used for going to war with Iraq did not reflect the true situation in that country, and contradicted statements made by Kay himself in the lead-up to the war.

        Before the 2003 war, as U.S. government officials were pushing the idea that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMD, many people would direct reporters toward David Kay to reinforce their point of view. In September 2002, Kay told U.S. News & World Report that “Iraq stands in clear violation of international orders to rid itself of these weapons.” His credibility as a former U.N. weapons inspector convinced many observers.

        On January 23, 2004, Kay resigned, stating that Iraq did not have WMD and that “I think there were stockpiles at the end of the first Gulf War and a combination of U.N. inspectors and unilateral Iraqi action got rid of them.” Kay was replaced in his role by Charles Duelfer and spent the following days discussing his discoveries and opinions with the news media and the U.S. political establishment. He testified on January 28, 2004 that “[i]t turns out that we were all wrong” and “I believe that the effort that has been directed to this point has been sufficiently intense that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed, militarized chemical weapons there.” However, Kay defended the Bush administration, saying that even if Iraq did not have weapons stockpiles, this did not mean the nation wasn’t dangerous. Kay also blamed faulty intelligence gathering for the prewar WMD conclusions. On February 2, 2004, Kay met with George W. Bush at the White House and maintained that Bush was right to go to war in Iraq and characterized Saddam Hussein’s government as “far more dangerous than even we anticipated” when it was thought he had WMDs ready to deploy.

        [wikipedia s.v.]

  8. Just because Switzerland doesn’t a Coast Guard doesn’t mean the Swiss are not dangerous.

    1. Switzerland is damned dangerous. Don’t they make all those Swiss army knives?!

  9. corr: Just because Switzerland doesn’t have a Coast Guard doesn’t mean the Swiss are not dangerous.

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case!”

  10. Just because no one is ever known to have captured Sasquatch and lived to tell about it does not mean that every missing female in Los Angeles has not been sold into White Slavery in Iran!

  11. Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
    Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before….

  12. Pistachio (in the sense of P. vera) was first cultivated in Western Asia. It reached the Mediterranean world by way of central Iran, where it has long been an important crop. Although known to the Romans, the pistachio nut appears not to have reached the Mediterranean or most of the Near East in any quantity before medieval times. More recently pistachio has been cultivated in California (first commercial harvest in 1976) and Australia. The word pistachio is a Persian loanword, coming into English through Italian, and is a cognate to the Modern Persian word پسته Peste’….


    “Your honor, I rest my case!”

  13. Spazio, l’ultima frontiera–questi sono i viaggi dell’astronave Enterprise, nells sua continua missione per esplorare nuovi mondi, per incontrare nuove forme di vita a nuove civilizzazioni, per andare dove nessuno e’ mai stato prima d’ora….

    DAH-de DAH-de DAH-de….

    1. “Spazio, ultima frontiera. Questi sono i viaggi della nave stellare Enterprise, la cui missione quinquennale è quella di esplorare strani nuovi mondi, entrare in contatto con nuove forme di vita e civiltà ed andare coraggiosamente dove nessun uomo era mai giunto prima.

  14. Saddam had been trying to establish a dialogue with Washington since the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. In 1993, the former Iraqi leader asked me to transmit a message to the Clinton administration. In Washington, I contacted official and unofficial persons linked to the White House, among them a Pentagon expert on Iraq, Phoebe Marr, and former Under Secretary of State Joseph Cisco.

    The thrust of the message was Saddam’s willingness to reach a comprehensive understanding with the US. It colorfully explained, “We cannot drink Iraqi oil,” adding, “the United States has the world’s best capacity to develop Iraq’s massive natural resources.” The response I received in Washington was: “We want the Iraqi body, but without the head.” I conveyed the reply to Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Barzan, then Iraq’s ambassador to Switzerland.

    From that time on, Saddam’s strategy was to gain time in the hope that international developments would blunt Washington’s aims. Simultaneously, he reorganized his military. Eight months before receiving the German intelligence evaluation on the certainty of war, Saddam issued a circular to senior Baath Party officials instructing them to be prepared for a US attack “at any moment.” The July 2002 circular warned: “Iraq will be defeated militarily due to the imbalance in forces.” The balance would be re-established by “dragging the US military into Iraqi cities, villages and the desert and resorting to resistance tactics.”

    Saddam Hussein had already been working for four years to adapt his military capacity to guerrilla warfare. In several private meetings he told me he thought Iraq’s military leadership was antiquated and needed fresh blood. He personally recruited leaders for new guerrilla units mostly under the age of 35, with some as young as 18. They assumed their posts soon after America’s “Desert Fox” bombing campaign in 1998. During my last visit to Baghdad in January 2003, I met with several officials, including Deputy Premier Tareq Aziz. He was certain war was imminent, adding a plan of resistance “was in the president’s mind.”

    Saddam established nationwide supplies of fighters, weapons and money before the invasion. Light weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, explosives, hand grenades and AK-47s are abundant. Weapons and ammunition are manufactured in secret locations scattered throughout Iraq. Money is even more available than weaponry. Some of the immense wealth Saddam piled up by skimming oil revenues was invested abroad. Last year, he started liquidating his foreign assets to build a series of domestic cash mountains.

    After the invasion, contacts were cut between the former president and most other high-ranking Baath officials. According to a member of the Aziz family, even Saddam?s personal bodyguards disappeared. Saddam abandoned his old companions, leaving them to face possible murder by angry Iraqis or arrest by US soldiers. Many of them surrendered to US troops before their vengeful countrymen could lay hands on them.

    To put together the resistance, Saddam adopted the theory that it should blend Iraqi nationalist, Baathist and Islamic ingredients. The leaders were to be independent, yet linked to a general commander Saddam himself. He reverted to Islamic history for the basic structure of the resistance. The main inspiration came from the Hijra, when the Prophet Mohammed left Mecca for Medina, later returning in triumph to declare the complete victory of Islam.

    After the fall of Baghdad in April, several party officials took refuge in other Arab countries. Their instructions were clear: disappear and wait. Their role was to serve as a link between the resistance in Iraq and the Arab masses in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco and Mauritania, where Baath Party cells have existed since 1968.

    The first of the three groups comprising Saddam’s faceless army is the Mujahideen. They include non-Baathist Iraqi and Islamic volunteers who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Their only Baath Party members are non-Iraqi Arabs. Their numbers cannot be determined, although one clue came from Iraqi intelligence chief General Taher Jalil Habboush, whom I met in January. Habboush said about 6,000 Arab and Islamic fighters were in Baghdad at that time, most trained in guerrilla warfare.

    The second element, Al-Ansar (the supporters), includes Baath Party fighters chosen personally by Saddam, who kept their involvement secret from the party?s “old guard.” Al-Ansar members are present throughout Iraq. Communications between cells are primitive but safe. Written messages are prohibited, as is the use of radio or satellite telephones. Each cell has messengers whose task is to relay oral messages to other cells.
    The third component, Al-Muhajirun (the emigrants), includes a few members of the established leadership and some Baath officials, including physicians, engineers and military strategists. They represent the core of a new regime Saddam hopes to lead after defeating the Anglo-American occupation.
    Units inside all three of the resistance groups are both militarily and financially autonomous.

    On April 8, 24 hours before the fall of Baghdad, Saddam summoned to Baghdad his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, from his military post in Basra. As false reports circulated that Majid had been killed, he was meeting with Saddam in Baghdad’s Al-Aathamiyeh district. The meeting, like all similar gatherings, lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. Saddam charged his cousin with leading the new resistance should he be eliminated.

    Former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was captured in Mosul on Tuesday, was assigned to command Al-Ansar because of his long experience with the Iraqi People’s Army. Saddam also appointed the former deputy commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, overall commander of the Mujahideen. Duri, well connected with Islamist figures in the Arab and Muslim world, was responsible for Islamizing secular Iraqi society after 1992.

    Saddam abandoned the rest of the former Baathist hierarchy, primarily due to their old age and because of their high-profile recognition.

    Ali Ballout September 5, 2003

  15. By the way, there were completely open source indications of Saddam Hussein’s plans for a guerrilla long before the Second Gulf War began.

    Also, contra Schwartzkopf, it is clear that Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath had a workable strategy for the First Gulf War, which was to suck the US and allied troops into Basra.

    Schwartzkopf, and in typically American fashion, publically denigrated the Iraqi miltiary competence after the First Gulf War.

    In fact his end run to Baghdad had circumvented it, and he was denigrating his own abilities.

    In the First Gulf War Saddam Hussein was not prepared for guerrilla warfare deep in Iraqi territory.

    Nor was Schwatzkopf prepared to force the Iraqis into it.

    So the agreement to end the war, which was a draw, then undermined by the Americans, including Clinton.

    The First Gulf War was stupidity (it could easily have been settled by negotiations). The Second Gulf War is pure idiocy. Attacking Iran is suicide.

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