Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, May 20, 2006

  "The police are working." How Iraq was lost (Pt. 1966)

Michael Moss and David Rohde publish a devastating assessment of the Bush administration's neglect, nay indifference, toward the need to train and support a new police force in Iraq: Misjudgments Marred U.S. Plans for Iraqi Police. A series of plans were developed, even before the invasion, to send large numbers of trainers to Iraq, which the experts all thought to be essential for the future stability of the country. Yet each of these plans in turn was rejected, forgotten, promised but not implemented, or nickled-and-dimed. Never did the problem receive adequate attention from the Bush administration.

What Iraq ended up with was a mere shell of a training program, introduced far too late, with little supervision of the police after they'd been trained, and woefully inadequate background checks on them before they were trained. One mark of how incompetently managed the entire program has been is this: The man initially selected to head up police training in Iraq was the infamous Bernard Kerik.

Here is an overview of the initial bungling.

Before the war, the Bush administration dismissed as unnecessary a plan backed by the Justice Department to rebuild the police force by deploying thousands of American civilian trainers. Current and former administration officials said in interviews that they were relying on a Central Intelligence Agency assessment that said the Iraqi police were well trained. The C.I.A. said its assessment conveyed nothing of the sort.

After Baghdad fell, when the majority of Iraqi police officers abandoned their posts, a second proposal by a Justice Department team calling for 6,600 police trainers was reduced to 1,500, and then never carried out. During the first eight months of the occupation — as crime soared and the insurgency took hold — the United States deployed 50 police advisers in Iraq.

Disaster loomed already in March, 2003. A prewar plan, developed under Jay Garner by a policing expert, called for 5000 trainers to be sent immediately after the invasion. A month earlier, a former official at the N.S.C. had also recommended a training force of 6000. Yet Rumsfeld had been complaining publicly about post-war planning as nation-building, which he asserted would create a "culture of dependence". At an N.S.C. meeting in March 2003, Garner's proposal was pushed aside without any decision being taken.

But at the meeting with N.S.C. officials, General Garner's proposal was met with skepticism by council staff members, who contended that such a large training effort was not needed. One vocal opponent was [Frank] Miller.

"He didn't think it was necessary," General Garner said in an interview.

Mr. Miller, who left the government last year, confirmed his opposition. He said the assessment by the C.I.A. led administration officials to believe that Iraq's police were capable of maintaining order. Douglas J. Feith, then the Defense Department's under secretary for policy, said in an interview that the C.I.A.'s prewar assessment deemed Iraq's police professional, an appraisal that events proved "fundamentally wrong."

But Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., said the agency's assessment warned otherwise.
"We had no reliable information on individual officers or police units," he said. The "C.I.A.'s written assessment did not judge that the Iraqi police could keep order after the war. In fact, the assessment talked in terms of creating a new force."...

John E. McLaughlin, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2004, said intelligence officials made it clear in prewar planning sessions that the police were troubled....

At the White House meeting, Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, said the administration would revisit the issue after Mr. Hussein was removed from power, General Garner said. The meeting then moved on to other issues....

Ms. Rice did not respond to a request for comment.

When have Ms. Rice, or for that matter Mr. Feith, ever faced up to their own blunders? Iraq erupted in chaos after the invasion because, as anticipated, the police could not be relied on.

As American forces advanced across Iraq in late March and early April of 2003, Iraqi police officers abandoned their posts by the tens of thousands. In the resulting security vacuum, mobs looted and burned police stations and government ministries.

American troops stood by, having received no orders to stop the looting. When General Garner and other American officials arrived in Baghdad, 16 of 23 major government ministries were stripped shells....

On May 18, Mr. Kerik arrived in Baghdad and found "nothing, absolutely nothing" in place. "Twelve guys on the ground plus me," he recalled. "That was the new Ministry of Interior."

Incredibly, the Garner plan was simply forgotten after he was replaced by Bremer. An emergency working group from the Justice Dept. eventually drew up a new plan, to send 6,600 police trainers immediately. DynCorp, a company from Texas (naturally), was hired to provide them. And nothing was done because Bush & Co. never provided the money, though Bremer says he kept asking for the trainers.

Mr. Miller, the former National Security Council official, said Mr. Bremer never made the need for field trainers a major issue in Washington.

"If at any point Mr. Bremer had said, 'I just saw a report and I need 6,600,' that would have made this a front burner issue," Mr. Miller said. "I don't recall that as an issue."

The new plan got pared back several times until finally, by Dec. 2003, an extremely modest training program was opened in Jordan. Meanwhile, all sorts of thugs and insurgents were given badges in the desperate hope of reviving the former police force. The administration pretended that it was all going swimmingly.

no American officials publicly sounded the alarm about the troubled situation. In fact, after spending three and a half months in Iraq, Mr. Kerik returned to the United States and praised the police during a news conference with President Bush on the South Lawn of the White House.

"They have made tremendous progress," Mr. Kerik said. "The police are working."

There in a nutshell is the Bush administration's MO: Bald-faced lies.

Mr. Bremer said he repeatedly complained in National Security Council meetings chaired by Ms. Rice and attended by cabinet secretaries that the quality of police training was poor, and focused on producing high numbers.

"They were just pulling kids off the streets and handing them badges and AK-47's," Mr. Bremer said....

A year and a half after the invasion, the police barely functioned, if at all.

That was when DynCorp (from Texas) received another contract to train police. It achieved relatively little. Employees of the company are however under criminal investigation for spectacular examples of fraud committed in Iraq.

Here is the Times' overview:

Like so much that has defined the course of the war, the realities on the ground in Iraq did not match the planning in Washington. An examination of the American effort to train a police force in Iraq...reveals a cascading series of misjudgments by White House and Pentagon officials, who repeatedly underestimated the role the United States would need to play in rebuilding the police and generally maintaining order.

"A cascading series of misjudgments" would be a fitting epitaph upon this war--or, for that matter, upon the Bush administration.


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