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››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

It has long been a truism of this administration that it corrupts everything it touches -- that anyone who associates themselves with it for an extended period of time sees his or her reputation stained beyond repair. Of course, that's usually the least of anyone's problems when it comes to things like lost, unnecessary wars, the torture of innocent people, the bankrupting of the federal treasury, the destruction of the environment, etc., etc.

One institution that has suffered particularly from its association with the Bush administration has been the military. It's not the military's fault that it has been so misused by Bush and company or that it has no hope of meeting its recruitment targets with qualified individuals anymore. But its top officers could have stood up for themselves more powerfully than they did. The military practically declared war on Bill Clinton when he wanted to let gays serve honorably, but when it comes to Bush's destruction of so much that's honorable and valuable about the institution, they have rolled over for him like scared schoolboys.

Look at the treatment of this study of what went wrong in Iraq by the RAND Corp., requested and paid for by the military:

According to Michael Gordon of The New York Times:

After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called "Rebuilding Iraq." RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

[...]

"After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army," Mr. [Timothy] Muchmore said in a statement. "Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities."

[...]

"The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army," [Lt. Gen. James Lovelace] said.

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. "The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

Here are just a few of the things we would have learned had the Army not chickened out on publishing the unclassified version of the study:

A review of the lengthy report -- a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times -- shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.

The study chided President Bush -- and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned -- as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. "Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff," it said.

The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its "lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution."

The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of "uneven quality" and "did not constitute an actionable plan."

Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.

[...]

One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration's assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.

"Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself," it said. "Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support."

Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. "There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security," the study said.

One result was that "the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced." The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military's responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.

General Franks's command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq's police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there "were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat."

A "shortfall" in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army's First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were "significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation."

The poor planning had "the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency," as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on "negative effects of the U.S. security presence." The American military's inability to seal Iraq's borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.

That's all here.

And there is plenty more we don't know yet. Here's the thing. Virtually all of those mistakes were made by civilian leaders, and also Bush supporter Tommy Franks. The Army had no reason not to release it except to protect Bush and Co.'s posterior. And yet, the institution stained its own honor and attempted to suppress the study instead. It would rather not learn the lessons of Iraq -- and would rather allow soldiers to die unnecessarily next time and future operations to fail -- than allow an honest and fully informed discussion to take place on the basis of RAND's unclassified findings. That's where we are today, thanks to this uniquely awful leadership with which providence has cursed our country.

Kudos to Gordon and the Times for this scoop. Attention needs to be paid and Congress needs to demand that report (along with all of the rest of the scandalous and criminal activity that the administration continues to cover up).

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jim Reuss
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming

Someone at Media Matters may wish to count the number of times mention has been made of Republican candidates and office holders have "pimped out" their children by way of comparison to the Chelsea Clinton event. I seem to recall that the Clintons needed to go to extraordinary (even by politicians' standards) measures to ensure some degree of privacy for their daughter as she was growing up, and even then stories about how homely a child she was made regular (if not frequent) appearances in the press. So, let's look at the Bush twins, Lynne Cheney, etc., and see how they have been portrayed.

Name: CNW
Hometown: Philadelphia

I don't think the evangelicals view the "Jews" as a political, or even a religious group. Rather, I think it is more accurate to say that they view them as "Hebrews" or "Israelites" in the biblical sense. In many parts of the country where the evangelicals are, I don't imagine that there are many Jews at all. I think the evangelicals have a conception of the Jewish people that fits into their religious beliefs, especially regarding the second coming of Christ which, ironically, the Jews do not believe is imminent.

P.S. Learn to fingerpick now, you won't regret it.

Name: Roger H. Werner
Hometown: Stockton

Wilson makes several very interesting observations about the attitudes of Evangelical and Conservative Christians towards Jews and Israel. It seems to me that the Pew surveys cited by Wilson presuppose that Evangelical and Conservative (Fundamentalist) Christians think rationally. I'm trying to think of an instance when this has ever occurred and I honestly can't. This is not to suggest that Ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic Jews, or, fundamentalist Muslims or Hindus are any better. I think the Pew polls suggest that faith is probably a fine idea when it isn't taken to extremes since fundamentalism of any stripe tends to blind one's judgment and promotes irrational thinking.

I agree completely with your observation that Evangelical and Conservative (Fundamentalist) Christians are enamoured with "The Jews" but would just as soon have nothing to do with individual Jews. I suspect this has much to do with the wacko fundamentalist notion of premillennial dispensationalism and the need for "The Jews" to rebuild the Temple. According to this extra-canonical belief, Temple reconstruction event must occur before the Second Coming. Frankly, Eric, this nonsense simply supports what I already said about the irrationality of Evangelical and Conservative (Fundamentalist) Christians. What makes this observation doubly intriguing is that it flies in the face of historical Christian attitudes towards "The Jews." During the Medieval Period, Christian didn't draw much distinction between Jews as a group and individual Jews. I'm thinking of the specific instance during the First Crusade, Crusaders marched across what is today Southern Germany killing Jews and wiping out whole communities because "they killed the Savior." I'd be interested in your views what may have caused this rather startling change in attitude.

Name: Larry Murray
Hometown: Seattle WA

Hi Eric,

Your review of Joe Henry's album is spot on; I also think the Willie Mays tune ("Our Song") is deeply moving. Just one small correction: the song "Daughter" was actually written by Peter Blegved, a wonderful British (though American-born) songwriter/cartoonist. His version is well worth hunting down.

Eric replies: Correction noted. Glad I didn't ask him to sing it ...

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