- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Democrats on Capitol Hill yesterday accused the Bush administration of “unforgivable” and “unconscionable” failures to plan properly for the post-Saddam Hussein hostilities in Iraq that had claimed more than 60 American lives.

The Washington Times disclosed in yesterday’s edition a secret report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff that said planning for the rebuilding phase was late in starting and not ready for activation when the war began March 19.

“Our brave men and women in uniform have been left without adequate plans and support for their ongoing mission in Iraq,” Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement responding to the story in The Times.

“This is unconscionable, and the Bush administration must take immediate steps to provide the fundamentals for a successful strategy,” said Mr. Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Why have they been hiding this report and why have they not been upfront with the American people in explaining the situation in Iraq?” he said.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they want the administration to lay out a clear vision for the extent and length of a U.S. commitment in Iraq before they will approve an expected emergency budget request. Military operations and reconstruction are costing $1 billion a week. L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, says many more billions are needed.

“I do think the administration was premature in declaring victory and premature in their estimation for the cost, both in terms of human life as well as in resources required,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

“The problem, of course now, is that we still don’t know how much longer, how many more resources will be required, what kind of personnel will be called upon and for how long a period of time,” he said. “These are basic questions that I think Congress and the American people have a right to know.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said he was not surprised by the Joint Chiefs report’s findings, though he had not seen it. “It’s unfortunately confirming what many of us thought,” he said.

Mr. Dodd said a problem became “quite obvious to many of us” last spring. That was when retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, Iraq’s first U.S. administrator, turned down an invitation to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about postwar plans.

“Now we know why,” Mr. Dodd said, adding that it was “unforgivable” that the administration did not plan adequately and had “no real anticipation of the kinds of problems” that would happen during Iraq’s reconstruction.

“They’ve created a real mess that’s going to take us years to correct,” he said.

Republicans generally came to President Bush’s defense.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration’s planning efforts were improving.

“It’s been refined,” he said, “and those of us who have been calling for that should rejoice in that, as opposed to wondering why now.”

He noted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s efforts to get the United Nations more involved and said the administration was on the “right track” in getting Iraq’s oil fields back into production to generate revenue.

Mr. Lugar said he was not surprised at the report’s findings. “I’ve been critical that planning to begin with was very inadequate,” he said.

The White House referred questions on the report to the National Security Council, which in turn referred inquiries to the Department of Defense.

“Our comment would be to talk to the DoD about it. It’s a Department of Defense internal report,” said NSC spokesman Sean McCormack.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Saddam, not the Bush administration, is the true culprit of problems in postwar Iraq.

He said the oil refineries are damaged beyond repair and that people in southern Iraq have been “oppressed and decimated.”

“I think you could criticize all of us in government for not knowing the full extent of how Saddam Hussein raped his own country,” Mr. Graham said. “We underestimated the extent to which he raped his own country. And I don’t think you could really find that out until you occupied the territory.”

Mr. Graham said the solution is to infuse more money into the reconstruction effort and to send more civil affairs officials, military police trained in riot control, and specialists to help rebuild Iraq’s legal system and medical infrastructure.

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed reservations about war planning last winter. “I don’t think we gave enough thought,” he said.

Mr. Weldon said he started urging big energy companies in March, before the war began, to make plans for doing business in Iraq.

“I wasn’t pleased with what I saw. We weren’t doing enough through the government,” Mr. Weldon said.

Mr. Weldon also said he believed security planning was flawed and that the ground force of 140,000 was insufficient.

In February, Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was the Army chief of staff before his retirement in June, proposed a peacekeeping force of “several hundred thousand.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld repudiated that stance.

“Unfortunately, there was a big battle between Shinseki and Rumsfeld,” Mr. Weldon said. “I thought Shinseki was in the right direction to kind of redirect the Army. It was Shinseki who told us both privately and publicly we weren’t providing enough security in postwar Iraq. I happen to think he was right.”

The secret report prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, titled “Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned,” said planning was so rushed that there was not enough time for detailed interagency discussions on how to rebuild Iraq and maintain security.

Pentagon officials said the report follows a military tradition of providing an honest assessment of its performance in each operation as well as frank criticism so mistakes are not repeated.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said after a trip to Iraq that the guerrilla war launched by Saddam loyalists was not foreseeable. “It was difficult to imagine before the war that the criminal gang of sadists and gangsters who have run Iraq for 35 years would continue fighting, fighting what has been sometimes called a guerrilla war,” he said.

On planning for the post-Saddam period, the Joint Chiefs report says, “Late formation of DoD [Phase IV] organizations limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination. Command relationships (and communication requirements) and responsibilities were not clearly defined for DoD organization until shortly before [the war] commenced. … Phase IV objectives were identified but the scope of the effort required to continually refine operational plans for defeat of Iraqi military limited the focus on Phase IV.”

On the search for weapons of mass destruction — the chief reason Mr. Bush gave for toppling Saddam — the classified report said, “Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) elimination and exploitation planning efforts did not occur early enough in the process to allow CentCom to effectively execute the mission. The extent of the planning required was underestimated. Insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission.”

Joseph Curl contributed to this story.

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