Buried Scathing Critique Resurrected

A report containing a scathing critique of the Bush administration's planning for post-war Iraq was recently leaked to The New York Times after being hidden for two-and-a-half years. The report, commissioned by the U.S. Army and based on a study by the Rand Commission, faults most of the major players and agencies involved in the invasion and its aftermath.

The Rand Corporation regularly receives federal funds to perform research for the military, The content of the study should be of no surprise to anyone who was paying attention to discussions during 2003 and 2004 of the way the war was conducted and to the criticisms coming from a host of voices experienced in military planning and international relations. Nor should it be a surprise : given an administration that has prized secrecy and avoided accountability on a range of important issues : that the study, originally intended for publication, was instead locked away.

The fate of the report does not detract from its usefulness. For in 18 months of study and interviews with more than 60 civilian and military officials, the researchers concluded that planning for the war and its aftermath was as flawed as many suspected. According to The Times, the Rand report began its critique with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice (then the National Security adviser) for having failed to resolve differences and "tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department.

It continued with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who, according to the report, was given responsibility for managing the postwar period even though his department lacked "the capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution." Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell came in for criticism for developing a plan for the future of Iraq described as of "uneven quality" and further, "did not constitute an actionable plan." Then the assessment of General Tommy R. Franks was that he and his Central Command had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what was required of the military to secure postwar Iraq.

What is easily extrapolated from the Rand Corporation's work, though it points to events of the past, are important lessons for the future. The report serves as a reminder to the American people and their leaders that an administration blinded by ideology and deaf to wisdom that contradicts its ideological assumptions is prone to incompetence and significant error. We saw it in war abroad. We witnessed it in response to natural disasters at home. We see it still in the serious depletion of U.S. standing in the world.

Commentary:

This report was neither initiated nor conducted by extremists with axes to grind; rather, it was sponsored by the United States Army itself and conducted by the Rand Corporation. The Bush administration buried the report purposefully because its conclusions were so obviously embarrassing. Truth again becomes the first casualty of an unpopular and misdirected war.

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