Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Missing Men Attended the Global Test

Andrew Sullivan feels justified in saying, "I told you so". In the Daily Dish, he says:

Now, Bremer: The main criticisms this blog has directed at the conduct of the war have been the insufficient troop numbers and allowing the looting and disorder to spread after the liberation. Now comes Jerry Bremer to say exactly the same thing:

"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the ground."

That's a big admission. Why doesn't Edwards bring that up directly tonight with Cheney? And since it was so obvious so soon, why didn't the administration do anything to change that policy once its failings had become so glaring? Pig-headedness? Ignorance? Hubris? Or merely Rumsfeld - shorthand for all three?

Sullivan's source for Bremer's remarks is the Washington Post which begins its story this way:

The former U.S. official who governed Iraq after the invasion said yesterday that the United States made two major mistakes: not deploying enough troops in Iraq and then not containing the violence and looting immediately after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, administrator for the U.S.-led occupation government until the handover of political power on June 28, said he still supports the decision to intervene in Iraq but said a lack of adequate forces hampered the occupation and efforts to end the looting early on.

What Bremer actually said was:

"We paid a big price for not stopping it (looting) because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said yesterday in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "We never had enough troops on the ground."

From that quote the "Washington Post" concluded that:

Bremer's comments were striking because they echoed contentions of many administration critics, including Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who argue that the U.S. government failed to plan adequately to maintain security in Iraq after the invasion.

Bremer's own interpretation of his own comments was rather different. He claimed the coalition was shorthanded when it arrived in Baghdad.

"I believe that we currently have sufficient troop levels in Iraq," he said in an e-mailed statement. He said all references in recent speeches to troop levels related to the situation when he arrived in Baghdad in May 2003 -- "and when I believed we needed either more coalition troops or Iraqi security forces to address the looting."

Before we dismiss Bremer's statement as a belated attempt to split hairs and return to the Party Line it is important to remember one simple fact. The US arrived in Baghdad in May, 2003 minus nearly half the mechanized force intended for the operation. The Fourth Infantry Division which was scheduled to attack downward from Turkey and sweep through the Sunni heartland never arrived in large part due to the opposition of countries like France in the Security Council. Instead, it was forced to re-embark and ship around to the Gulf where it marched north up the Tigris in the path of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd ID, for its part had to continue its attack north to partially subdue the towns in the Sunni triangle. It was a double-whammy. Not only was the 4th ID missing from the order of battle, the 3rd ID had to send units out of Baghdad. to continue the fight further on. Here's what the Christian Science Monitor had to report on February 21, 2003, just weeks before OIF actually began:

A US-led war in Iraq without Turkey as a pivotal ally was once a remote possibility. But months of prickly negotiations between Washington and Ankara are coming to a head and the US is dangerously close to its first setback - one that would force drastic changes in the war plan, military officials say. Already 30 to 40 US cargo ships are either waiting off the Turkish coast or scheduled to arrive there soon, officials say. The Bush administration says Turkey must decide Friday whether tens of thousands of US troops can be stationed here.

"They would have to change their entire strategy as a result," says one US military official.

Some 20 to 30 US cargo ships bound from Texas ports and another 10 headed from Northern Europe are carrying 4.5 million sq. ft. of cargo including tanks, trucks, and other heavy equipment for the 16,000-strong division. It would take 18 to 21 days to divert these ships from the eastern Mediterranean to Kuwait via the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, with additional delays possible from winter high seas and traffic in the Suez Canal. The roll-on, roll-off cargo ships of the ready reserve fleet travel at about 14 to 16 knots. Once in Kuwait, finding pier space to offload the cargo, and additional staging grounds, could also take time, officials say.

Turkish President Ahmet Sezer says that the US must first win international legitimacy before launching any military operation in Iraq, arguing that a second UN Security Council resolution beyond Resolution 1441 be passed. Bush administration officials will seek a vote at the Council next week, requiring 9 out of 15 votes for the measure to pass. But even if it does not, Bush has said, the US may go ahead and launch a war led by a "coalition of the willing."

The Fourth Infantry Division, at that time the most modern armored force in the Army, was not absent due to the "Pig-headedness? Ignorance? Hubris?" of Donald Rumsfeld. It was missing directly as a result of the machinations of those supposed to administer Kerry's Global Test to America in the United Nations, who were large part responsible for closing Turkey to the United States. To continue Sullivan's quote: "Why doesn't Edwards bring that up directly tonight with Cheney?" Cheney should. And to Sullivan's question: "since it was so obvious so soon, why didn't the administration do anything to change that policy once its failings had become so glaring?" one might answer that it did, re-embarking the 4ID and sailing it a total of 1/5th of the way around the world into congested ports which had never planned to receive them, before marching it 600 kilometers up to Baghdad.