Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. The tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.
ANNOUNCER: It is the war that defined the presidency.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Ctr. for Strategic and Intl. Studies: All of a sudden, the Iraqi people started looting.
Col. THOMAS GROSS (Ret.), Office of Humanitarian Assistance: And it's been downhill from there.
ANNOUNCER: The inside story of the war that no one expected-
Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR (Ret.), Military Strategist: You've got chaos in the country.
DEXTER FILKINS, The New York Times: There's so many different ways to die there.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: My answer is bring 'em on.
ANNOUNCER: -and no one had planned for.
Gen. JACK KEANE (Ret.), Army Vice Chief of Staff, 1999-'04: Nowhere in there is a plan to defeat the insurgency. So we had no military strategy to defeat the insurgency.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dpty. Secy. of State, 2001-'05: There needed to be some changes.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: We're moving in precisely the opposite direction.
ANNOUNCER: Part II of a special FRONTLINE series.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Americans have never retreated in the face of thugs and assassins, and we will not begin now.
ANNOUNCER: Bush's War.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision.
NARRATOR: On March 17th, 2003, the president delivered his final ultimatum.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.
NARRATOR: Two days later, the president authorized the commencement of hostilities to begin at 8:00 in the evening Washington time.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: Rice at that point goes to her office because when this happens, there's not a whole lot to do at the White House.
NARRATOR: Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, who had staked his reputation on the intelligence that justified the war, was also waiting. Then his phone rang.
TODD PURDUM, Author, A Time of our Choosing: George Tenet of the CIA got an extraordinary tip. He thought he knew where Saddam Hussein would be that very night. And he rushed in his car down the Potomac, across to the White House, and he met with President Bush and the other members of the national security team for several hours.
ELISABETH BUMILLER: Condi Rice was summoned quickly into the Oval Office because Tenet's got a sort of a crude hand-drawn map and he's telling the president that, "We think that Saddam Hussein is in this bunker," at a place called Dora Farm in Baghdad. And they think they've got him there. They've gotten some very good intelligence.
NARRATOR: There was confusion, uncertainty and a heated debate. Tenet talked to General Tommy Franks.
Gen. MICHAEL DeLONG (Ret.), Dpty. Cmdr., CENTCOM, 2000-'03: We're sitting around, getting ready to go to war, but then Tenet calls Franks. And of course, I'm on the other phone. And he said, "Here's what we have, uncorroborated, but I think it's a good target." Well, first of all, we got nothing set to do this. Of course, the expletives are rolling out of Franks like crazy right now. [laughs] So they talk about it, get a brief together, go to the president. The president said, "Didn't you guys hear what I said?" Said, "I gave him 48 hours. That's my word." And they go, "Well, he may not be there then."
ELISABETH BUMILLER: The president asked all of his senior advisers what they thought. But at the end, he kicked everybody out and sat alone with Cheney. And Powell later remarked that he thought it was quite interesting that at the end of the day, Cheney had the last word.
NARRATOR: General Franks ordered two Stealth bombers to hit Tenet's new target. They calculated the exact time it would take to fly to Baghdad and drop their bombs.
Lt. Col. DAVID TOOMEY, U.S. Air Force: We knew that it was a high priority mission with someone on the ground or somebody, some group of people on the ground, but we didn't know who it was. So we attacked the city with one coming in from the east, one coming in from the west. And we dropped simultaneously on the target just to the side of the river there.
NARRATOR: Minutes after the deadline expired, they arrived.
MARK GARLASCO, Defense Intel. Agency, 1997-'03: The first thing I did when I got into the Pentagon was I picked up the phone and called my counterpart over at the CIA and I said, I was, like, "Dude, what'd you get? What happened?" And he's, like, "We got him. We got- the war is over, Mark. Pack it in. You don't have to worry about it. You can go home right now." And I said, "All right, what have you got?" And he's, like, "Well, I can't go into the details, but we have an unimpeachable source, and this is it. So take us a little while to check on things, but you got nothing to worry about. Saddam is dead."
NARRATOR: Saddam, of course, was not dead.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: [March 20, 2003] [subtitles] The criminal junior Bush committed his crime that he was threatening Iraq with, and humanity, as well.
JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: The next occasion that he appeared was on television, on Iraqi television. And he was in a bunker. He looked like he had aged about 20 years. He looked shaken.
NARRATOR: And then it began.
NEWSCASTER: A rapid series of 40 explosions lit up Baghdad in the early morning hours-
NEWSCASTER: Military officials have been using the term, "shock and awe" to describe the assault on Iraq.
NEWSCASTER: -severe sandstorms-
NEWSCASTER: -direct combat against Saddam's Republican Guard-
NEWSCASTER: Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division pushed past the city of Karbala, southwest of Baghdad-
NARRATOR: It was over in three weeks. Saddam's army disappeared. So did Saddam.
NEWSCASTER: -set the stage for an assault on Baghdad expected to begin soon.
NARRATOR: And so did Saddam's statue.
NEWSCASTER: Hundreds of Iraqi civilians have taken to the city streets, cheering U.S. soldiers and ripping up-
NEWSCASTER: The president watched efforts to pull down Saddam's statue-
NEWSCASTER: -and history was made. This giant symbol of Saddam's regime was torn from its pedestal-
NARRATOR: At the White House, they were quietly celebrating.
NEWSCASTER: -said the White House was definitely a "gloat-free zone," to use his term-
KANAN MAKIYA, Adviser, Iraqi National Congress: We had just seen the pictures come of a statue come tumbling down. The president was very emotional and happy. Condoleezza Rice was there and the vice president was there.
ELISABETH BUMILLER: Condi Rice was ecstatic. There were tears in her eyes and she was very moved by this.
BOB WOODWARD, Author, Bush at War: Cheney has a dinner at the residence and has his chief aide, Scooter Libby, Wolfowitz, Ken Edelman and Cheney's wife. And it's a kind of celebration that they'd done it. And they talked at that dinner about, "We're going to find weapons of mass destruction. Don't worry," you know? And it was a celebration.
NARRATOR: Across Washington, the other architect of the war was also taking a victory lap.
DONALD RUMSFELD: [April 9, 2003] The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are breathtaking!
[www.pbs.org: Chronology of the invasion]
Col. R. ALAN KING, (Ret.), U.S. Army: People were just- pure exhilaration. At that point in time, you think, "This might just work." And I remember seeing a guy with a- carrying a huge couch on his back, and he turns and says, "Yay, America!" you know?
JOHN BURNS: There were flowers. There were shouts of joy. There were people clambering on the tanks and kissing the tank crews. But by the time this happened, and within a matter of an hour of the Marine tanks coming up the Canal Expressway, of course, the looting had begun.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Ctr. for Strategic and Intl. Studies: All of a sudden, the Iraqi people started looting, attacked the ministries, basically created a series of events which didn't stop with that. Less than two U.S. brigades were in isolated positions in a city of more than five million people, having no idea of what might come next.
LAITH KUBBA, Iraqi Opposition Leader: This was not normal. It's not a sign of liberated people. I think it's a sign of people who sense there is no authority. Iraqis are used to military coups. When they take place, they tune in to their radios and they obey orders, and people know exactly how to respond to it. Instead, there was a day, two days and three days of no authority.
NARRATOR: General James Conway commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. They were smack in the middle of the looting.
Gen. JAMES CONWAY, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 2002-'04: If we had been told to stop the looting and secure key elements of the city, we could have brought a force to do that.
MARTIN SMITH, FRONTLINE: Did you get on the phone and say, "Why aren't we defending these buildings? Why are we letting this country be looted?"
Gen. JAMES CONWAY: No.
MARTIN SMITH: You didn't do that.
Gen. JAMES CONWAY: No.
JOHN BURNS, Baghdad Bureau Chief, NYT, 2003-'07: When we questioned General McKiernan, 3rd Infantry Division commander, as to why there had been no greater attempt to impose order, he said Saddam- counting military and paramilitary, secret police and others, Saddam had 250,000 people to maintain order and the U.S. military had arrived with 7,000.
Gen. DAVID McKIERNAN, Coalition Land Commander: You had no Iraqi institutions to coopt into this, no Iraqi army, no Iraqi police, prisoners let out of prison, no local or national government organizations. Ministries didn't exist.
NEWSCASTER: The Iraqis are looting on a grand scale. It is a clear sign that while war might be ending, there is trouble ahead.
DONALD RUMSFELD: [Press conference, April 11, 2003] Stuff happens! Freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and to commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here.
NARRATOR: The secretary of defense and his oldest political ally, the vice president, had led the effort to take down Saddam Hussein's regime. They had a simple plan for post-war Iraq: Hand it over to their hand-picked candidate, an Iraqi exile, Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the INC.
KAREN DeYOUNG, The Washington Post: It was primarily Wolfowitz who was in charge of the INC and Chalabi. Their idea was that Chalabi would go in and set up an interim government for Iraq.
NARRATOR: The secretary of state, along with his deputy, Richard Armitage, strongly opposed Chalabi.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dpty. Secy. of State, 2001-'05: It was both a policy dispute, and it became, unfortunately, quite personal.
INTERVIEWER: In what sense?
RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, friendships were dashed, et cetera- I mean, long-standing, 20-year, 25-year friendships.
INTERVIEWER: You and who?
RICHARD ARMITAGE: Me and Wolfowitz, for instance. We'd worked together handsomely for years and years, and unfortunately, our friendship has soured over this.
NABIL MUSAWI, Iraqi National Congress: The whole government turned into two camps. One of them is totally opposed to Chalabi, and the other one was so pro-Chalabi.
MARTIN SMITH: What should have they been thinking about?
NABIL MUSAWI: Iraq!
NARRATOR: The week the statue of Saddam fell in Baghdad, the U.S. military, under orders from the civilians at the Pentagon, delivered Ahmad Chalabi into southern Iraq.
KANAN MAKIYA: The plan was to allow Iraqis to participate in their own liberation in some form or another. And of course, the State Department was dead against it. Everybody was dead against it. They were irritated at the fact that Chalabi was being flown in. And it took the personal intervention of friends of Mr. Chalabi in the Pentagon to make it happen.
NARRATOR: They called it Operation Crescent Rising, Chalabi and his 700-troop militia.
AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi National Congress: What I wanted to do was participate in the liberation of Iraq and also to show that we are- can operate on Iraqi territory without much U.S. help.
NARRATOR: The Americans hoped Chalabi and his army of exiles could get in on the fighting so he could be seen by Iraqis as a potent leader.
Gen. MICHAEL DeLONG (Ret.), Dpty. Cmdr., CENTCOM 2000-'03: People wanted to trust him. If he worked out, he was the answer to everything. He could come in with his own army and help us take Iraq. He could run Iraq. He could put people in there and run the ministries. I mean, it could all be in one package. That's where I think it was coming from.
NARRATOR: Few in Iraq had heard of Chalabi. In the beginning, he drew a curious crowd of onlookers.
AHMAD CHALABI: [subtitles] The era of the tyrant is over!
NARRATOR: But his efforts to inspire Iraqis to rally behind him quickly failed.
Gen. JAMES CONWAY: My overarching observation is that those folks were generally not well received. People were not responding to them like we might have hoped. They were never significantly engaged. They never significantly contributed, at least to my mind.
NARRATOR: So Chalabi was removed to a military base to keep him out of the way. It would take him a week to pull enough strings to get to Baghdad. Any hope Rumsfeld and Cheney had for a quick handoff was over.
In Baghdad, matters were going from bad to worse.
Amb. BARBARA BODINE, Office of Humanitarian Assistance: The looting, of course, went from the spontaneous looting of ministries- it pretty soon got into the homes, the neighborhoods, the shops. It then became carjackings and kidnappings and unstructured crime and organized crime. And you could even probably do a DNA chain to the insurgency. That was the spark.
NARRATOR: The administration refused to admit they had trouble in Iraq. Rumsfeld was the chief spokesman.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about "Chaos!" "Violence!" "Unrest!" And it just was, "Henny Penny, the sky is falling!" I've never seen anything like it! Just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country!
NARRATOR: To keep the lid on in Iraq, Rumsfeld had a backup to Chalabi, retired Army general Jay Garner. Garner was known as a good man to have in a humanitarian crisis. He'd delivered food, shelter and medicine to the Kurds in northern Iraq after the first Gulf war. But Rumsfeld had hired Garner only eight weeks before the war began.
Gen. JAY GARNER (Ret.), Dir., Office of Humanitarian Assistance: Everybody was focused on the war. They were focused on regime change. And that took all of their energy. And so I wasn't a central focus of them at that time because the spotlight wasn't on me yet.
NARRATOR: When Garner arrived at the Pentagon, there was no plan and no staff. And when he began to hire one, he walked into a political buzzsaw.
Amb. BARBARA BODINE: I was very surprised at how bitter and nasty the relations were between State and DoD. It was not one of differing views to serve the president, it was a full-scale war.
THOMAS RICKS, Author, Fiasco: On the one hand, the vice president's office and the Pentagon, on the other hand the State Department, really didn't trust each other on Iraq.
NARRATOR: It all started the year before the war, when the State Department had met with Iraqi exiles to prepare a post-war plan.
RICHARD BOUCHER, State Department Press Secy.: We've organized the Future of Iraq project to draw upon both independent Iraqis and representatives-
NARRATOR: But the "Future of Iraq Project" was Colin Powell's. Rumsfeld had forcefully argued Iraq should be the Pentagon's province.
JOHN HAMRE, Dpty. Secy. of Defense 1997-'99: This is typical Don Rumsfeld. He said, "You can hold me 100 percent accountable for this, but you have to give me 100 percent of the responsibility, as well. Let me run the thing, and you can hold me completely accountable." And I think the president likes that kind of a stand-up guy.
NARRATOR: The State Department program was shut down. And when Jay Garner tried to add some of the people from the Future of Iraq Project to his staff, Rumsfeld personally stepped in.
THOMAS RICKS: Garner is told again and again, "Get these State people off the team. Get Pentagon people" - that is, loyalists - "on your team."
THOMAS WHITE, Secy. of the Army, 2001-'03: The Defense Department is going to exercise rigid control over this whole operation, and therefore, none of those people, some of whom Jay Garner apparently wanted to hire, are deemed to be acceptable. And so we just exclude that.
BOB WOODWARD, Author, Bush at War: And Powell finally called Rumsfeld, said, "What the hell is going on?" And Rumsfeld says, "On higher authority, I was told these people are not to be part of the team." Well now, there's only two higher authorities, clearly the president, and presumably Cheney. So Powell backed off, but it deprived the process of some of this expertise. Whether it would have made a difference or not, who knows.
Gen. JAY GARNER: Any time you have the clash of titans and you're caught up in the middle of that, there's- that's- it's somewhat of a problem.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld and Cheney had Garner in place for the moment, but their larger strategy had always been to find a way to leave.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: The idea is we could act unilaterally. We would win big, and then other nations would see our success and would want to join in. That was the plan. I've heard a former American diplomat refer to this as the "Ding dong the witch is dead school of regime change." But that's what it was. You know, we go in, you kill the wicked witch, the Munchkins jump up and they're grateful. And then we get in the hot air balloon, and we're out of there.
NARRATOR: Only one week after the fall of Baghdad, the Pentagon signaled as much.
REPORTER: What's your feeling about being here in Baghdad, sir?
Gen. TOMMY FRANKS: Oh, I think it's absolutely terrific. You know why?
REPORTER: Why, sir?
Gen. TOMMY FRANKS: Because I get a chance to visit these people who've been doing this damn hard work for a while. That's probably about all I'm going to tell you right now, OK?
MICHAEL GORDON: A very striking thing happened. General Franks gave guidance that his commanders should be prepared to withdraw all American forces, except for a little more than a division, which would remain, by September 2003.
NARRATOR: One hundred ten thousand troops were being told to prepare to leave.
Garner and his team arrived in Baghdad almost two weeks after the statue fell.
JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: It was a completely impossible situation for them to be placed in. All we could see was that they were completely under equipped, undermanned, and seemed to have to have very little idea where to start.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, The Washington Post: There was this power vacuum. Nobody quite knew what was the plan. The soldiers thought they were all going home.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld had sent no clear instructions for what to do. So Garner began his mission by appearing in a series of photo ops.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Nobody told Garner, "This is what we're going to do," so Garner was just sort of flailing around.
NARRATOR: Garner worried Iraq was on the verge of spinning out of control. He decided it needed its own government right away. He surprised Washington by beginning to plan elections.
Gen. JAY GARNER: I did immediately start talking to them about elections. "Let's get elections started. Let's start writing a constitution. Let's get a leadership group here. Let's transition, if we can. Let's transition into an interim government. Let's start handing over functions back to the Iraqi people," et cetera, et cetera, yeah.
NARRATOR: But there was trouble. Ahmad Chalabi had different ideas about the future of Iraq. He showed up for a meeting with Garner. It didn't go well.
Gen. JAY GARNER: I immediately didn't like him. He immediately didn't like me, either. To this day, I think Chalabi worked both sides of the street. I think he was working with Iranians. He was lying to us. I don't think he's a good man. I think he's a bad man.
NARRATOR: Chalabi began to undermine Garner.
AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi National Congress: I kept saying, "Where is Garner? The place needs him. He's supposed to be in charge of reconstruction. The area is falling apart."
NARRATOR: Chalabi complained about Garner to the press and the Pentagon.
AHMAD CHALABI: The problem with Garner was that he was employing Ba'athists in senior positions. And the U.S. press got hold of that. And they went ahead and put it in The New York Times that Ba'athists were being made to run the university, the Ministry of Health and other places. And that created a big fuss.
MARTIN SMITH, FRONTLINE: You, in fact, were pushing very hard for the spotlight to be- to be placed on that.
AHMAD CHALABI: Oh yes. Very hard.
MARTIN SMITH: I mean, you were talking to journalists about the fact.
AHMAD CHALABI: A lot.
MARTIN SMITH: You disagreed with him.
AHMAD CHALABI: Entirely disagreed with him.
NEWSCASTER: There's an absence of authority, a vacuum of authority-
NARRATOR: The complaints about Garner made their way to the White House. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, already uneasy about the looting, began to worry that Rumsfeld had lost control of Garner and was losing his grip on Iraq. Still, Rice was wary of stepping into Rumsfeld's territory.
STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: She, of course, suffered because she was competing against, in Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney, three senior very self-confident if not condescending cabinet members who had in some cases opposing but certainly very clear ideas of where they wanted to go.
Amb. ROBERT D. BLACKWILL, Natl. Security Council, 2003-'04: That then poses a special challenge for any national security adviser who tries to adjudicate between and among these elephants, if I may call them that.
NARRATOR: Insiders say Rumsfeld didn't respect her.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: Well, he viewed her as a glorified Russian studies graduate student. The run-up to the war, it was Rumsfeld who really was withholding major war planning information. Condi Rice is the national security adviser of the United States, and she had to basically employ spies on her staff to go over and ferret information out of the Pentagon. You know, one of her staff members would put on his military uniform and go over and pretend to be visiting friends, and- to pull out information she needed on troop strength.
NARRATOR: Rice did have a power base, her personal relationship with the president.
MICHAEL GORDON: Condi Rice didn't go in to be Brzezinski. She wasn't going to be Henry Kissinger. She saw herself really, I think, more as a kind of personal adviser to the president, with whom she is exceedingly close.
ELISABETH BUMILLER: She had an extraordinary bond with the president, and she really became the president's friend.
NARRATOR: Now, worried deeply about Jay Garner's free-wheeling in Iraq, Rice confronted Rumsfeld. He told her he already had a solution to the problem. Rumsfeld had secretly chosen a replacement, a little known diplomat vetted by the vice president's office named L. Paul Bremer III.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER III, Admin. Coalition Provisional Auth.: Well I was contacted by two people, Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense, and Scooter Libby, who was the vice president's chief of staff, both of whom I'd known for decades.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Bremer is old friends with Scooter Libby, who is Cheney's chief of staff. And Libby put Bremer's name forward. And Bremer was sort of the right kind of conservative.
NARRATOR: In L. Paul Bremer III, Rumsfeld got a businessman, a diplomat, managing director of Kissinger and Associates.
THOMAS RICKS: Here's a guy who had worked for Henry Kissinger but doesn't know a whole lot about the Middle East, doesn't speak Arabic, doesn't know the region.
JAMES DOBBINS, Fmr. Asst. Secretary of State: What he lacked was the practical experience, and it was that lack of experience that commended him, in large measure, to the Bush administration.
MICHAEL GORDON: Given where the Bush administration was coming from, these apparent lack of qualifications was seen as a plus because he didn't have the Middle East mindset of the State Department and he wasn't contaminated by the Clinton-era thinking. But there were really huge gaps in his resume.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, in Baghdad, at just this time, Jay Garner and his team were moving into Saddam's shattered Republican Palace.
Gen. JAY GARNER: I get back in the palace, and it's kind of in shambles. We're all trying to find a place to- to sleep. And there's no bathrooms or- you know, there's no running water or anything. This kind of is a mess. And the phone rings. And I pick it up and it's Secretary Rumsfeld. And he says, "Hey, I'm calling just to tell you what a great job you're doing. It looks like things are really moving. I watched everything going on, and just keep up the good work," and all that. "And by the way, I wanted to let you know that today the president chose Jerry Bremer to be his presidential envoy, and he'll be coming over there." And he said, "I don't know when the president's going to announce that, but it could be today or it could be tomorrow, it could be next week." And so that was that. So essentially, I guess, the first day I got to Baghdad, I was a lame duck.
[www.pbs.org: Read Gen. Garner's interview]
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [May 6, 2003] Today, it's my honor to announce that Jerry Bremer has agreed to become the presidential envoy to Iraq.
NARRATOR: The president now had someone new to handle the day-to-day in Iraq. For Cheney and Rumsfeld, the focus was on the larger strategy of trying to get American forces out by convincing coalition partners it was safe to send peacekeeping troops in.
MICHAEL GORDON: Some of these countries were nervous about coming in. And his basic intention was to signal, "Hey, it's OK. The water's fine. We're moving out of the combat operation into another phase. The big fighting's over. You can come in and do the peacekeeping so we can leave."
NARRATOR: The president even strapped himself into a fighter jet, flew 30 miles off the coast of California to reassure the world that the major combat phase of the war in Iraq was over.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.
THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: Bush never said "Mission accomplished," but that banner was hanging up right behind his head as he gave that speech. And it really was a premature victory speech that didn't recognize what was going on in Iraq.
NARRATOR: The hoped-for arrival of a large number of peacekeepers from other nations would never materialize. In early May, Special Envoy Bremer arrived in Iraq.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: We flew on a C-130 into Baghdad. The thing that was striking to us was the fact that a lot of the buildings were on fire.
NARRATOR: Baghdad had been burning for a month.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: There'd be buildings on fire. The fires would just have to burn themselves out because there was no fire department.
Amb. CLAYTON McMANAWAY, Amb. Bremer's Deputy: There was no government. There were no police. The army was gone.
NARRATOR: As they drove into the city, Bremer made a decision and promptly announced it to his new staff.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: I did one thing that wasn't very smart, which was suggest to the staff meeting that I thought we should shoot the looters, that our military should have authority to shoot the looters, which they did not have at that time.
DAN SENOR, Adviser to Amb. Bremer: His point was you only needed to shoot a few of them to make that point and the looting would stop.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: It wasn't very smart to do because somebody on the staff immediately told the press that I had suggested shooting the looters, and we had a problem.
THOMAS RICKS: That day, I was embedded with Teddy Spain, the M.P. commander for Baghdad, essentially the U.S. police chief for Baghdad. And I turned to him and I said, "Hey, Colonel Spain, I'm reading in this New York Times story that you're going to shoot looters." And he said, "Uh-uh! Nobody's told me that!"
Col. H.R. McMASTER, U.S. Army: Well of course, it's against our code of honor. There just is not sufficient justification to shoot somebody because they're carrying a computer out of the old Ministry of, you know, Education building.
THOMAS RICKS: And I think one thing Bremer found out that day was he had no command of the military.
NARRATOR: And so ended Bremer's first day.
THOMAS RICKS: He thought he was coming in to be the proconsul. A proconsul runs the politics and the military. He had no military command. He couldn't tell the U.S. military what to do. And they were at odds with him. They didn't like him. They didn't want to listen to him.
NARRATOR: Bremer carried with him a plan devised by Rumsfeld deputy Douglas Feith to treat Iraq like Nazi Germany, to remove all members of Saddam's Ba'ath Party from their positions.
Amb. ROBIN RAPHEL, Coalition Provisional Authority: Bremer hadn't been there very long, literally a day, and these papers were coming out of his briefcase. I was in the office outside of the front office and began reading them, and so on.
Gen. JAY GARNER (Ret.), Dir., Office of Humanitarian Assistance: I'm walking down the hallway, and Ambassador Robin Raphel says, "Have you seen this?" She has a piece of paper. I said, "No. What is it?" She says, "De-Ba'athification order." I said, "Wow." So I read it real quick there in the hall. I said, "This is too deep."
Col. THOMAS GROSS (Ret.), Office of Humanitarian Assistance: He was very, very, very angry. And Jay's very personable. His head was down. He was walking fast-paced all over. I could tell he was very upset about it.
Gen. JAY GARNER: I walked down, and the CIA guy, a great guy, was coming across the hall. And I said, "Hey, Charlie, have you read the de-Ba'athification?" And he said, "Yeah, that's why I'm here." I said, "Let's go in and talk to the ambassador."
THOMAS RICKS: Garner had briefed Rumsfeld on de-Ba'athification. He had briefed Condi Rice on de-Ba'athification. And he had, I thought, a fairly cold-hearted but realistic assessment, which is the Ba'athists are an Iraqi problem, and more or less let the Iraqis take care of it. They know who the really bad guys are and they will kill them. And he was pretty content to let that happen.
Gen. JAY GARNER: So we went in and we talked to Ambassador Bremer for a few minutes. And I said, "You know, this is too deep." I said, "Give Charlie and I about 45 minutes to an hour. Let us digest this thing and then let us recommend some changes to you and come back here, and we'll get on the phone with Rumsfeld to see if we can't soften this a bit."
THOMAS RICKS: And Bremer kind of says, "Look, you don't understand. I'm not asking you, I'm telling you this is what I'm going to do. I'm not asking for your advice." And they argue a bit more. And finally, Bremer said, "Look, I have my orders. This is what I'm doing."
Gen. JAY GARNER: And so I said, "Well, Charlie, what do you think?" And to the best of my memory, Charlie said, "Well, if you do this, you're going to drive 30,000 to 50,000 Ba'athists underground by nightfall. And the number's closer to 50,000 than it is 30,000."
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: He may have come in and spoken to me at great length about it. I just don't remember it, honestly don't remember it.
INTERVIEWER: You don't remember these guys coming in and saying, "This is 30,000 to 50,000 people, and my God, what are you doing?"
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: I just- you know, I was working 20 hours a day in that period, as well. This wasn't the only thing on my list of things to do the first five days I was there. I had a lot of other things to do.
INTERVIEWER: But this is a big one, right?
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: There were a lot of big things that first five days. There were a lot of big things the first 48 hours. So I don't remember every meeting. I don't say it didn't happen, all I'm- I knew there were concerns. I knew the agency made the assessment that there were about 20,000 people to be thrown out of work. And I judged, in the end, that was a risk that we were worth- we were willing to take.
[press conference, May 15, 2003] And those who were on high before, in particular the Ba'athists, who used their power to repress the Iraqi people, will be removed from office. I will issue an order on measures to extirpate Ba'athists and Ba'athism from Iraq forever. We have and will-
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Ctr. for Strategic and Intl. Studies: I think, frankly, there wasn't a single person in the CPA who understood what order number one meant. It created a climate where people could be expelled as university teachers or grade school teachers, not simply people who had some kind of tie to the senior structure.
Col. THOMAS GROSS: Two reasons we wanted to keep the Ba'athist Party intact. One, the only folks who have experience running the government, so we needed to keep them. Number two, the Sunnis need to have a voice. And if you don't give people a voice, they have relatively few options. And what the Middle Eastern history and Middle Eastern- what it tells you is their next option is violence.
NARRATOR: And then seven days later, another decisive and controversial announcement, CPA order number two, the decision to dissolve the Iraqi military.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: I think the decision not to recall Saddam's army, from a political point of view, is the single most important correct decision that we made in the 14 months we were there.
NARRATOR: This time, the policy had been designed by Bremer and then approved by the civilians at the Pentagon, Feith, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
WALTER SLOCOMBE, National Defense Adviser, CPA: We believed, Bremer believed, and I think the leadership in Washington believed that it was very important to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that whatever else was going to happen, Saddam and his cronies were not coming back.
NARRATOR: THE U.S. commanders disagreed with the civilians. Desperate for boots on the ground, they had been counting on a pacified Iraqi army to do the grunt work.
Col. THOMAS X. HAMMES (Ret.), Counterinsurgency Adviser, CPA: We actually had people negotiating with Iraqis to bring them back, and there were a lot of Iraqis saying, "OK, we can bring back units."
Col. PAUL HUGHES (Ret.), Office of Humanitarian Assistance: They were clearly anticipating, at least as late as 9 May, of having available Iraqi forces for us to use in the reconstruction effort.
Col. THOMAS X. HAMMES: Now you have a couple hundred thousand people who are armed because they took their weapons home with them, who know how to use the weapons, who have no future and have a reason to be angry at you.
Col. THOMAS GROSS: Who knows how many folks got disgruntled and went to the other side? I will tell you this, 72 hours after the decision was made, the first major attack from the airport road took place. And I got two of my military police killed. And it's sort of been downhill from there.
[www.pbs.org: Key early decisions]
NARRATOR: At the White House, they were also surprised by the announcement.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: The decision to issue an edict dismantling the army is a decision that's made without the knowledge of Condi Rice or Colin Powell. They learn about it after the fact.
NARRATOR: Rice and Powell were surprised because CPA order number two was different from what the president had agreed to after a briefing just nine days before the war started.
FRANKLIN C. MILLER, Natl. Security Council, 2001-'05: The briefing recommended that the regular Iraqi army be maintained as an institution because we believed that it would be dangerous to put 300,000 men on the street with guns, without jobs.
NARRATOR: Condoleezza Rice, who once worried Rumsfeld had lost control over Jay Garner, now was beginning to be concerned about control of Bremer.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: She thought Bremer was becoming the emperor over there, that he was making decisions without telling anybody in Washington.
NARRATOR: The fallout from CPA order number two reverberated even among Rumsfeld's generals. It didn't sit well with Tommy Franks.
Gen. MICHAEL DeLONG (Ret.), Gen. Franks Deputy: All the recommendations that we were making weren't being taken by Bremer or Rumsfeld. That's when Franks said, "I'm done." They said, "Well, you can be chief of staff of the Army." He said, "No, I'm done. What would I do?" The president asked him, "Nope."
NARRATOR: And then the top military commanders in Iraq all chose to leave.
THOMAS RICKS, Author, Fiasco: It's a real sign of official inattention that almost the entire leadership of the U.S. military changes over. General Franks retires. The ground commanders, McKiernan and the people around him, and Wallace, are gone, replaced by the most junior lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, Ricardo Sanchez, who until that point had been commanding one division of about 17,000 people, suddenly is commanding 150,000 troops.
JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: Here was a guy who had been only two or three years before a one-star general. Now he's a three-star general, rapidly promoted and finds himself commanding American forces in the may- in the most important military challenge that they've had in 40 years, utterly unequipped for it.
THOMAS RICKS: So across the board, it's almost like people are wiping their hands, saying, "Great job, fellows." You know, " You guys play the next game. We're out of here."
NARRATOR: In Iraq, Bremer and General Sanchez didn't get along, but they had to share power. Early on, they did agree on one thing, Iraq would be a better place without a relatively unknown Shi'ite cleric named Muqtada al Sadr.
JOHN BURNS: They know Muqtada al Sadr for what he is. He's a murdering thug. He gave evidence of it within 24 or 48 hours of the capture of Baghdad. The United States flew a very senior ayatollah, al Khoei, back to Iraq. And what happened to him? He was murdered, and murdered most brutally, almost at the doors of Muqtada al Sadr's home.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: I felt this was a very dangerous man, and I thought we should move against him before he got stronger.
DAN SENOR, Adviser to Amb. Bremer, CPA: Bremer's point was it's going to be ugly no matter when we confront him. Wouldn't it be better to confront him when his militia is 200 people, rather than 1,000 or 2,000?
Amb. ROBERT D. BLACKWILL, Nat'l Security Council, 2003-'04: Jerry Bremer persistently tried to persuade Washington to take him on from the very beginning and failed.
Amb. CLAYTON McMANAWAY, Dpty. Administrator, CPA: I think three times we were ready to go. Sanchez was ready to go. We had the plans made. The Iraqis were going to do it. We were going to back them up. It was all done and ready to go, and Washington got cold feet every time.
NARRATOR: Rice's National Security Council and Rumsfeld simply delayed making any decision about al Sadr.
Amb. ROBERT D. BLACKWILL: Jerry would make the argument, and people would worry. And it wasn't an analytical process by which, "Well, let me tell you the seven reasons why we shouldn't act." It was rather, "Well, let us get back to you on that. We're worried about it." So he never got the authorization and the military never got the authorization to act.
NARRATOR: Sadr's influence would continue unchallenged.
NEWSCASTER: With the president's political rivals on the attack, the public's view of the war effort appears to be shifting-
NEWSCASTER: The administration has begun to prepare the American people for a longer than expected presence in Iraq.
NARRATOR: By early summer, an unease was settling over Washington about what was happening in Iraq.
NEWSCASTER: -Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, 45 percent think the Bush administration hid important elements of-
NARRATOR: At the White House, they knew one thing would stop the critics, finding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. But that also wasn't going well.
RICHARD KERR, Fmr. Deputy Director, CIA: Early on in the war, it seemed quite clear that they were not going to find major stockpiles of weapons.
CARL W. FORD, Jr., Dir. State Dept. Intel. 2001-'03: Everybody was confident. Everybody was certain. "We'll find it." Even when they didn't find it from the interrogations, didn't find it in the sweeps, didn't find it in the documents, there was still a very deep belief, "We just haven't found it yet."
NARRATOR: Finding the weapons was left to the CIA. They hired former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay. Before long, he called Tenet.
DAVID KAY, Chief Weapons Inspector, 2003-'04: From very early on, I said, "Things are not panning out the way you thought they existed here." And it was specific cases, whether we're talking about the aluminum tubes or we're talking about the nuclear program in general or the biological program or the chemical program.
NARRATOR: It hit George Tenet hard.
JOHN BRENNAN, Dpty. Exec. Director, CIA, 2001-'03: It was difficult. I think everybody, you know, did assume that there was going to be things found in Iraq. And when things were not found, for whatever reason, I think it was, you know, a surprise to a lot of people. And I think George recognized that not only was he, George, sort of out front on this issue as far as, you know, being the representative of the intelligence, but the CIA and the intelligence community was going to be called to task, you know, if it didn't pan out.
NARRATOR: Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had staked his reputation on charges that Saddam had the weapons, watched the case unravel in slow motion.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dpty. Secy. of State, 2001-'05: They were not finding things. And frankly, we'd assumed we'd discover this stuff rather rapidly. But three or four weeks in, when we didn't and we started spending a lot of time looking, then doubts started to creep in. But it wasn't actually, I think, until Mr. Kay came back the first time that we really realized that, "Oops, we may not find these." I think we were all somewhat flabbergasted.
NARRATOR: Often, Powell heard the news directly from George Tenet
LAWRENCE WILKERSON, Chief of Staff, State Dept., 2002-'05: I remember these scenes where he would come through my door and he'd say, "Well, George just called me and he took another pillar out. Another substantial aspect of my presentation is gone."
He took it like a soldier, but it was a blow. I mean, it was a blow to me. I mean, I wrote out my resignation. I put it in my center drawer, typed it myself. I wouldn't even make my staff assistant type it. "Dear President Bush, I've come to the point in my service where I no longer can serve, given the nature of your foreign policy," and so forth,"and therefore, I respectfully submit my resignation.'
And once a week or so, I would take it out and look at it and fold it back up carefully and put it back in my center drawer, never having the intestinal fortitude to submit it. You know, I won't speak for Colin Powell, but I can tell you it really affected me.
NARRATOR: Of all the president's inner circle, it was the vice president who had pushed the case about WMD the hardest.
DAVID KAY: I think it's fair to say the vice president was- was and remained for a considerable time more skeptical of my judgment that there were no weapons, and hoping that they would come.
[www.pbs.org: Read Kay's interview]
NARRATOR: To the vice president, the news spelled trouble. And sure enough, one day on the op-ed page of The New York Times, there it was.
["I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."]
Amb. JOSEPH WILSON, State Department, 1976-'98: I sat down and wrote this article, 1,500 words, for The New York Times entitled, "What I did not find in Africa," and basically laid out the trip, laid out my conclusions.
NARRATOR: It was all about that yellowcake uranium story and those 16 words the president had said in his State of the Union speech.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 28, 2003] The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
NARRATOR: When Cheney read Wilson's allegations, he wrote a note to his staff.
["Have they done this sort of thing before, sent an ambassador to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us, or did his wife send him on a junket?"]
NARRATOR: Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer, which for Cheney and others offered further evidence that they were involved in a war behind closed doors with the CIA.
STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: There was a substantial group of people in the White House who believed that elements of the Central Intelligence Agency were opposed to the president's reelection and might even be running a quasi-covert action to prevent the president's reelection.
NEWSCASTER: The president's team is facing another stinging critique over what-
NARRATOR: Also in the news, CIA officers leaking inside stories about the flawed intelligence.
NEWSCASTER: -intelligence community feel they're taking the heat for the failure-
RICHARD KERR, Fmr. Deputy Director, CIA: There have been more leaks and discussions kind of outside what I would consider to be the appropriate level than I've ever seen before. One of the effects is it really irritates the White House, and that is not a useful situation to be in.
NEWSCASTER: -terrible couple of weeks dealing with this issue of Iraq and uranium-
NEWSCASTER: -there are questions about the uranium claim-
NARRATOR: A media firestorm ensued.
NEWSCASTER: -down-played the significance of the faulty charges-
NARRATOR: The White House decided to fight back by blaming the 16 words on the CIA and George Tenet. During the run-up to the war, the Cheney/Rumsfeld team had challenged the CIA and had created a competing intelligence unit to justify the invasion.
MEL GOODMAN, Fmr. CIA Officer: Cheney was very unhappy with the intelligence he was getting from the CIA.
JAMES BAMFORD, Author, A Pretext for War: And so he put pressure, I think, on Rumsfeld and on the Pentagon to come up with their own estimates.
NARRATOR: Tenet had eventually become a willing partner with Rumsfeld and Cheney, incurring along the way intense criticism.
DAVID KAY: George Tenet wanted to be a player. And he understood that if you didn't give the policy makers what they wanted, he believed, I think wrongly, that you weren't a player, and therefore, your views wouldn't be taken and you wouldn't be invited into the closed meetings, et cetera. He traded integrity for access, and that's a bad bargain any time in life. It's particularly a bad bargain if you're running an intelligence agency.
NARRATOR: Tenet has said, "Never did I give policy makers information that I knew to be bad. We said what we said about WMD because we believed it."
In the end, though, the president decided Tenet would take the hit. It happened as the president toured Africa. Condoleezza Rice called Tenet to tell him the bad news.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: Rice took a very tough line. There's a lot of bad blood between Rice and Tenet as a result of that. And to this day, she says, "It was the CIA's responsibility."
NARRATOR: In Uganda, reporters were invited in to ask the question the president was prepared to answer.
REPORTER: [July 11, 2003] Take a question, sir?
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Sure.
REPORTER: Why- can you explain how the erroneous piece of intelligence on the Iraq-Niger connection got into your State of the Union speech? Are you upset about it? And should somebody be held accountable?
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.
STEVE COLL: I don't know what George Tenet felt as he saw that unfold, but I can imagine that he was dismayed and increasingly resentful that he was being singled out for blame. At the same time, he's such an operator and such a student of Washington that surely, he understood what was happening, that he was being asked, in effect, to fall on his shield so that the president could be reelected.
[www.pbs.org: Assessments of Tenet's tenure]
NARRATOR: Eventually, it came to this.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [June 3, 2004] Today George Tenet, the director of the CIA, submitted a letter of resignation. I met with George last night in the White House. I had a good visit with him. He told me he was resigning for personal reasons.
NARRATOR: And over at CIA headquarters, in the farthest reaches, the weapons inspector David Kay was consigned to a different fate.
DAVID KAY: It's almost comical to me. And in fact, I'd laughed at the time because it was so much like a poor spy novel. I was given an office that didn't have a working telephone, that was surrounded by packing cases, you know, at the depths of Langley, with a secretary that usually wasn't there.
And I mean, you know, you'd have to have been pretty dumb not to have caught the signals. What it said to me is these guys really don't want the message. The message wasn't, "There are no weapons there," the message was "Our system completely broke down and failed." It gave not only the wrong answer, it mishandled every piece of evidence that we have.
NARRATOR: By summer, Iraq had become very dangerous place.
Col. R. ALAN KING (Ret.), CPA: The first week in June, the military had been disbanded. The sheiks were telling me that the insurgents were paying them money, paying them up to $500 per operation. If they could videotape to show that they had killed someone, they got a bonus.
Col. THOMAS GROSS: It's got a military spin on it. Now you weren't seeing looting, criminal things, as much as you were seeing grenades off of bridges, all types of things.
STEPHEN BIDDLE, Council on Foreign Relations: What's going on isn't the maneuver of tank brigades against the Republican Guards, it's car bombings and it's assassinations and it's sniping, and it's all of this stuff that looks like Vietnam.
Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR (Ret.), Military Strategist: You've got chaos in the country. People don't even know how many troops we have in Iraq. They're not sure where they are. They don't know who's coming and going. There are no uniform or coherent policies.
NEWSCASTER: In Iraq, it's been another violent day. Two car bombs-
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.
NEWSCASTER: There has been another spasm of violence in Iraq-
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We were in a state of denial.
NEWSCASTER: A car bomb killed at least five Iraqis-
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We were looking on these as sort of a small group of isolated diehards that we could largely ignore.
DONALD RUMSFELD: [press conference, June 24, 2003] In Iraq, difficult work remains. Coalition forces have captured now some 32 out of 55 of the most wanted. They're making progress against the dead-enders who are harassing coalition forces.
NARRATOR: The idea of making Iraq look safe for the allies was falling apart. And even the generals who were closest to Rumsfeld began to admit they'd never considered things could get this bad, this fast.
Gen. JACK KEANE (Ret.), Army Vice Chief of Staff, 1999-'04: It's a shared responsibility, let me say up front, you know, between national civilian leaders and senior military leaders.
NARRATOR: General Jack Keane was acting Army chief of staff. He accepts some of the responsibility for the lack of a plan.
Gen. JACK KEANE: I think it's driven, in part, by my own failures, when I was there as a senior military leader contributing to General Franks's plan, that we never even considered an insurgency as a reasonable option.
[www.pbs.org: Read Gen. Keane's interview]
DEXTER FILKINS, The New York Times: So this insurgency bloomed across the Sunni triangle, and the Americans weren't ready for it.
Col. THOMAS X. HAMMES (Ret.), Counterinsurgency Adviser, CPA: We refused to accept there was an insurgency going on. The denials from the very top of the Pentagon are absolutely stunning.
NARRATOR: Then, a defining moment. Any debate about whether there was an insurgency was settled. It began with a car bombing at the Jordanian embassy.
THOMAS RICKS, Author, Fiasco: August 2003 is when the real war for the future of Iraq began. August 7th, the Jordanian embassy gets blown up. A few days later, the U.N. gets blown up.
DAN SENOR, Adviser to Amb. Bremer, CPA: I am in Ambassador Bremer's front office. We get the news and we go into his office, and that's where things take off.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: It was a very emotional situation for everybody involved, and I wound up doing these television interviews at the site itself.
[August 19, 2003] We will leave no stone unturned to find the people who did this.
REPORTER: With this new kind of an attack, how can you secure this city and this country?
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: We'll do our best to find these people before they attack and deal with them. And we will.
NARRATOR: To the experts, it was clear America was still at war.
Col. THOMAS X. HAMMES: I knew for absolute certain when they had the series of bombings - the police station, the Jordanian embassy, the Red Cross and the U.N. - that was clearly a campaign to drive out all of the elements that could help the United States govern a country.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld's plan, delivered by Gen. Tommy Franks, to send more than 100,000 troops home by the end of the summer was now out of the question.
In September, the secretary of defense boarded a C-17 Globemaster to go see Iraq for himself. Impatient, he kept asking all the brass that traveled with him the same question.
THOMAS RICKS: "When are you going to get this thing wrapped up?" That's the phrase I've heard Rumsfeld use. "When are you going to get this thing wrapped up?"
[www.pbs.org: Rumsfeld and the generals]
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld spent a couple of days looking around and realized his commanding general, Ricardo Sanchez, didn't know what was happening.
JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: They had absolutely no intelligence. Sanchez said, "No intelligence." He said, "That's not a term of art. We had no intelligence on the enemy. We didn't know who we were fighting. We didn't know what resources they had. We had no strategy for fighting this enemy." And the demand from Washington was for intelligence.
NARRATOR: Sanchez, desperate, pushed his commanders hard. Thousands of Iraqis were swept up in raids that fall.
Col. R. ALAN KING: It was their reality that, you know, we had these dragnet arrests. You'd go into a village and just arrest everybody.
Spc. ANTHONY LAGOURANIS, Interrogator, U.S. Army, 2001-'05: They were telling us all the time, "We need timely actionable intelligence."
Sgt. ROGER BROKAW (Ret.), Interrogator, Army Reserve: Because they were picking up people for anything, just the drop of a hat. There was quotas, quotas on interrogating so many people per week and sending reports up the chain of command.
NARRATOR: Sanchez needed a place to hold and interrogate the prisoners. There was one not far from Baghdad, Saddam Hussein's most-feared prison, Abu Ghraib.
Gen. PAUL KERN (Ret.), U.S. Army, 1967-'05: It was a dangerous place to serve. People were being killed and hurt by mortar attacks. And emotions ran very high in there. People were getting hurt. Americans were getting hurt.
NARRATOR: The MPs were overwhelmed, 380 guarding thousands of inmates, and they weren't getting anywhere near the kind of intelligence Rumsfeld wanted.
When he was there, Rumsfeld himself got in a helicopter and headed for Abu Ghraib. He decided they needed to get tougher with the detainees, in the way they had done at the military's other big prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For interrogations there, Rumsfeld had signed this document authorizing the harshest techniques ever used by American soldiers.
[www.pbs.org: More on the "torture" memos]
MARK DANNER, Author, The Secret Way to War: When you read the documents, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was involved very personally in approving procedures that went beyond the line of what is allowed in military law, and for that matter, in civilian law, when it comes to what can be done to prisoners.
NARRATOR: They would use isolation facilities, deprivation of light, 20-hour interrogations. They could remove religious items and clothing, exploit detainees' individual phobias, such as the fear of dogs.
That fall, with the approval of General Sanchez, Abu Ghraib became the laboratory for many of the Guantanamo techniques.
JOHN BURNS: General Sanchez identified that moment as the moment where he-he had made a critical mistake in accepting that this was what the Pentagon had approved, what had been tried at Guantanamo, what conformed with American military law, instead of applying his own insistent personal review. And why? Because they were already beginning to think that this was a war that could be lost and that they needed intelligence.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld also took a hard look at what Paul Bremer had been doing. He told Bremer the DoD had decided it wanted Iraq given back to the Iraqis as soon as possible.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER, Administrator, CPA: The policy side of the Pentagon was saying, "The best way to cut all of this short is simply to hand over power to some Iraqis. Find us some Iraqis. Give them authority. We'll end the occupation. We'll get out of here."
NARRATOR: But Bremer had no idea who to hand the government to. He had formed a governing council of various Iraqi leaders, including Ahmad Chalabi, -but had no confidence in them.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: And I told Secretary Wolfowitz, who was pushing this idea of early sovereignty, just handing sovereignty over, I didn't think the governing council was up to this. They couldn't organize a two-car parade. They were simply not able to make decisions in a timely fashion, or any decisions.
[www.pbs.org: Read Bremer's interview]
NARRATOR: Frustrated, Bremer began to strike out on his own.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: Bremer started out as someone who reported to Rumsfeld. But once he was out in Iraq, Bremer became his own Rumsfeld. He was in charge. He was the viceroy.
THOMAS RICKS: I think, effectively, Bremer didn't report to anybody. I mean, Wolfowitz told me flatly that Bremer ignored him.
NARRATOR: Bremer devised a complicated seven-stage, multi-year plan to bring democracy to Iraq. But instead of running it up the chain of command to Rumsfeld and the White House, he unveiled it in the newspaper.
THOMAS RICKS: Bremer lays out this plan in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.
MICHAEL GORDON: It came as a surprise to people in the government.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, Author, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: That wasn't sent up to Rumsfeld. It wasn't sent to Colin Powell or to Condi Rice. He was his own man. He was the viceroy.
NARRATOR: The president's envoy announcing multi-year plans for Iraqi democracy in a newspaper didn't sit well at the White House. Condi Rice knew she'd have to rein Bremer in. That meant she'd finally have to take on Don Rumsfeld.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Early on, it was difficult for Rice to sort of stand up to Rumsfeld. It wasn't until Rumsfeld demonstrated an inability to manage Bremer that provided Rice with the opening to go in and say, "Look, we've got to bring him under my control."
NARRATOR: To help her go one on one with Rumsfeld, Rice hired Ambassador Bob Blackwill.
MICHAEL McFAUL, Hoover Institution: Bob has a reputation for being a kind of no-nonsense guy, willing to crack heads, willing to call somebody an SOB. And I think he was kind of brought in as the muscle for the White House.
NARRATOR: The president supported Rice. She would now do the talking to Bremer. Rumsfeld, who hadn't been told Rice had hired Blackwill, was now out of the loop.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: He took me aside and said that his impression was that I was dealing with her, and directly with the president through her, on political matters, so- and I said, "Well, yeah. She's certainly very active in this thing." And I got the impression, at that point, that he was essentially going to focus now almost entirely on the security aspects, and the political stuff was going to be left to the, you know, Rice channel.
NARRATOR: Rice had just taken half of Rumsfeld's control of Iraq away from him. From the sidelines, he'd have to watch Blackwill and Rice try to get Bremer to back off the multi-year plan.
Amb. ROBERT D. BLACKWILL, Natl. Security Council, 2003-'04: I immediately believed that we are not going to be able to sustain our position in Iraq on that three-year timetable. I immediately spoke with Condi Rice and Steve Hadley about this and we discussed, "Well, what is a reasonable timeline for this?" And we decide that it is the following summer, that it is June of the following year.
NARRATOR: Rice sent Blackwill to tell Bremer. But Bremer wouldn't take orders from Rice. He would have to hear it from the president himself.
THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: Bush doesn't like personal confrontation. He's unhappy with it. I think they'd much rather make the decision without ever saying it, really. When I imagine that meeting between Bush and Bremer, I think there was sort of a sense of, "You're doing a hell of a job, Jerry. Let's go work out. Oh, and by the way, we're out of there in July." "OK, Mr. President."
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: It was the death of his grand agenda. That was the referendum on Bremer's plan, and Bremer's plan lost.
THOMAS RICKS: And basically, the new policy is three words, "We're outta here."
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him! Saddam Hussein was captured Saturday December, 13th, at about 8:30 PM local in a cellar in the town of Adwar, which is about 15 kilometers south of Tikrit.
1st SOLDIER: Two hands appeared. The individual clearly wanted to surrender. That individual was removed from the hole.
2nd SOLDIER: He said that, "I'm Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq. And I want to negotiate." And then the response from the U.S. soldiers was, "President Bush sends his regards."
NARRATOR: Some hoped Saddam's capture would calm the insurgency, but the violence was increasing. As winter 2003 turned to spring of 2004, Bremer still hoped he could make his deadline for turning sovereignty over to the Iraqis. But then one incident threatened to undo everything. Up in the Sunni triangle, in Fallujah, four American contractors were murdered.
Col. THOMAS X. HAMMES (Ret.), Counterinsurgency Adviser, CPA: Dragged around and hung off the bridge. Two of the bodies are hung off the bridge. This creates a "We must do something" response.
NARRATOR: The president wanted revenge. For the first time, he reached into the process and ordered the Marines to retaliate.
Col. GARY ANDERSON (Ret.), Counterinsurgency Adviser, DoD: Marines understand an order. So they shaved off their mustaches, fixed bayonets and went in and did what Marines do best.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH, Consultant, DoD: Fallujah even becomes kind of an Iraqi Alamo. Only in this case, the defenders survive.
DEXTER FILKINS, The New York Times: Americans were moving into the city. They were killing people. Al Jazeera was showing images of, you know, mosques on fire and civilians, you know, being injured and killed.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: The impression is portrayed that the Americans are going in and wantonly killing civilians along with the insurgents.
DEXTER FILKINS: And it was unsustainable for the Iraqi leadership, which at the time wasn't elected, to continue.
NARRATOR: The spectacle of heavy Iraqi casualties threatened to cause Bremer's governing council to fall apart. The June handoff of sovereignty hung in the balance.
Amb. ROBERT D. BLACKWILL: Once it flies apart, there's no one to transfer sovereignty to. And we can't put Humpty-Dumpty back together again in two months.
NARRATOR: Bremer and Blackwill appealed to the president to stop the Marines. The president pulled back.
GARY ANDERSON: The same guys who had- a couple of weeks before who had wanted blood, saw a lot of blood, and quite frankly, you know, they realized what they had done. So they told the Marines to stop.
NARRATOR: The people of Fallujah reacted as though they had liberated the city. The Marines were now ordered to simply surround Fallujah and contain the insurgents.
MICHAEL WARE, TIME Magazine: And it was in the hothouse of Fallujah that those that had not coalesced began to coalesce. Those that had lost or hadn't found structure began to find it.
ABU MOHAMMED, Iraqi Resistance Commander: [through interpreter] Fallujah was a moment of transformation for the resistance. It became a secure area for the resistance to work in. The groups grew more and more. And leadership started forming. These groups fall into two main categories, the national resistance and the religious resistance.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: This is a double loss. The Americans look indecisive. They look incompetent. And they also look inhumane in the eyes of a wide number of people in the Middle East.
NARRATOR: That same month, Muqtada al Sadr entered the fray. His militia, the Mahdi Army, now being partially financed by Iran, had grown to several thousand. He ordered them into battle.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER, Administrator, CPA: It became clearer and clearer that this man was not only dangerous, he was really dangerous and was- effectively had learned everything he knew from Saddam, Hussein.
THOMAS RICKS: April/May 2004 was an astonishing time in Iraq. It's when it really brought home that this thing wasn't working. What I knew, just as a reporter knocking around Iraq, was this was really bad. This was much worse than people were telling me.
NEWSCASTER: Demonstrators gathered outside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison today, protesting-
NEWSCASTER: -in shocking snapshots that embarrassed the Pentagon and enraged the Muslim world-
NEWSCASTER: The abuse scandal won't go away. Today, two more incriminating photos-
NARRATOR: In late April, the photos from Abu Ghraib became public. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon had kept the pictures secret since January.
Sen. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: [May 7, 2004] I'm gravely concerned that many Americans will have the same impulse as I did when I saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. And we risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam war, they may turn away from this one. Now, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to know, what were the instructions to the guards?
DONALD RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I've indicated has been undertaken is determining.
Sen. JOHN MCCAIN: But Mr. Secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward question.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, the- the- as the chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people, they're not trained to interrogate. They're not-
NARRATOR: There were calls for Rumsfeld's firing. And the White House was not happy.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, The New York Times: The president was furious. Bush reprimanded Rumsfeld for not telling him about the Abu Ghraib pictures, keeping the president out of the loop, and for the scandal itself. Now, interestingly, in a White House that almost never leaks, this leaked out very quickly. I was one of the reporters it leaked to. Obviously, what was going on here is the president wanted to distance himself from the scandal and put some blame on Rumsfeld.
NARRATOR: It was a rare public shaming for Rumsfeld and an opportunity for a high-level anonymous source.
[New York Times, "A person close to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, speculated that Ms. Rice, who has a history of tense dealings with Mr. Rumsfeld, might not be unhappy if he resigned."]
NARRATOR: The next day, the vice president responded on the record.
[New York Times, "Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had. People ought to let him do his job."]
NARRATOR: One day later, the president, with the vice president and the war cabinet, arrived at the Pentagon.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your hospitality. And thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You're doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.
NARRATOR: It was a show of solidarity. Even Colin Powell was there.
ELISABETH BUMILLER: The president has a hard time firing people. This is not unique to Rumsfeld. And the president also thought that it would be a sign of weakness and a sign that he felt the Iraq policy was a failure if he replaced the architect of that policy, the defense secretary.
NARRATOR: On June 28th, 2004, Paul Bremer pushed through an interim constitution, formed a new government and handed Iraq back to the Iraqis.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: -sincerely, L. Paul Bremer, ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. [laughter]
NARRATOR: It was time to go home.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: The intelligence was suggesting that the terrorists and the insurgents were planning a major series of attacks on June 30th to embarrass us, make it look as if we were being chased out of Iraq, not that we were leaving on our own.
[www.pbs.org: Assessments of Bremer's tenure]
NARRATOR: They were worried about surface-to-air missiles.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: So we had to devise a way to get out that didn't involve a C-130. And we had to keep, of course, all of it secret.
NARRATOR: For the cameras, Bremer appeared to leave on this airplane.
Amb. L. PAUL BREMER: And we pulled up the stairs and we just sat in the C-130. We sat there for about 15 minutes while the press and everybody went away, and then we went off, out over the cargo that was in the C-130 in the back, and flew on a helicopter to another part of the airport. And instead of going out on a C-130, went out on a government plane, a smaller government plane, to Jordan, safely.
Amb. BARBARA BODINE: It says a lot about the security in the country by the time we did turn over sovereignty that that is the way that we had to leave.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: It was sort of an ignominious departure. It was yet another metaphor.
NEWSCASTER: -there's been another spasm of violence in Iraq-
NEWSCASTER: -chaos returned with a vengeance-
NEWSCASTER: -three young men abducted, tortured-
NEWSCASTER: -Iraq towards civil war-
NEWSCASTER: The insurgents have stepped up their attacks since an interim Iraqi government was installed late last month-
NARRATOR: The summer of 2004 was the height of the political season. The president was running for reelection. The insurgency was still raging. The last thing the White House wanted was any more bad news from Iraq.
NEWSCASTER: The top military officer in Iraq is being replaced.
NEWSCASTER: The Pentagon is expected to replace-
NARRATOR: Sanchez was out.
NEWSCASTER: General Ricardo Sanchez as the top-
NARRATOR: It was time to try a new general.
NEWSCASTER: General George Casey, Jr., would take over from three-star Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld reached into the Pentagon bureaucracy for a four-star general and found George Casey.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH, Consultant, DoD: We still don't know a lot about General Casey. He is one of the most anonymous senior generals in American military history.
THOMAS RICKS, Author, Fiasco: He's a second generation Army general. His father was a general who died in Vietnam. He goes out to Iraq, yet he's never led troops in combat.
DEXTER FILKINS: Here's a guy in charge of the biggest American war since Vietnam, and nobody knows who he is.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: You can name any major war that the United States has been in, and the principal generals will pop out- you know, General Grant, General Patton, General MacArthur, Eisenhower, Westmoreland, Abrams. Casey?
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld had a new exit strategy. Casey was ordered to minimize American casualties, to train and shift responsibility to the Iraqi army ASAP.
FREDERICK KAGAN, Military Historian: The objective is to get Iraq under control at a basic level, train up Iraqi security forces, turn over responsibility to the government and leave.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Our strategy can be summed up this way. As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
NARRATOR: standing up the new Iraqi force would take years. Until then, Casey would have to keep the lid on without adding more American troops.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: Rumsfeld's prescription was to reduce the footprint, not to step up our efforts to win.
DEXTER FILKINS, The New York Times: The challenges were gigantic. You're trying to stand up an army, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious army in a country that never had much of a national identity to begin with, and you're trying to do that in the middle of a very, very violent insurgency. You know, no small order.
NARRATOR: And then General George Casey flew to Baghdad to assume his first ever combat command. At his headquarters at Camp Victory just outside Baghdad, Casey put Rumsfeld's "light footprint" idea into action. The American force would retreat to large bases and only engage the insurgents when absolutely necessary.
THOMAS RICKS: You had war tourism- units based on big forward operating bases, FOBs, going out and doing patrols from humvees, usually not foot patrols but mounted patrols, and then coming back to their base. If that's the way you're operating, you're not in the war, you're simply a war tourist.
Gen. JACK KEANE (Ret.), Army Vice Chief of Staff, 1999-'04: When you look back on that and analyze it, it's a short-war strategy. Nowhere in there is a plan to defeat the insurgency. So we had no military strategy to defeat the insurgency.
NARRATOR: And almost immediately, there was a challenge to the light footprint strategy. It came from the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al Sadr.
MUQTADA AL SADR: [subtitles] The battle of Holy Najaf has unified Iraqis. Say with me, No to the occupation!
CROWD: [subtitles] No, no occupation! No, no occupation!
NARRATOR: Al Sadr's militia had taken up arms in the holy city of Najaf and controlled of part of the city.
Col. WILLIAM HIX, Chief Strategist to Gen. Casey: The challenge to the new coalition authority was such that it really couldn't be ignored.
NARRATOR: He had set up his headquarters inside the Shrine of Imam Ali Mosque, daring the Americans to attack. They did.
DEXTER FILKINS: I actually was with the Mahdi Army when this battle was going on. And the Americans were kind of, you know, just dropping bombs literally right next to the shrine and just kind of wiping out the Mahdi Army.
NARRATOR: Al Sadr was surrounded, but the White House didn't want to risk destroying the mosque. They ordered Casey to cut a deal.
Maj. THOMAS MOWLE, Gen. Casey Strategy Adviser: I don't think it was ever called a ceasefire or a peace agreement, but essentially, it was. Al Sadr agreed to have his militia not oppose the Americans. We bought back a lot of weapons from his militia. And that part of Baghdad became very peaceful.
NARRATOR: The payoff to al Sadr was substantial. Casey spent $1.2 million buying back some weapons and $330 million more in what were called "reconstruction funds." They hoped they had bought some peace and quiet.
NEWSCASTER: Four car bombs went off almost simultaneously this morning-
NEWSCASTER: The attacks came during the busy Baghdad commute-
NARRATOR: Now the threat was from the Sunni insurgents.
NEWSCASTER: At least 35 people have been killed in a huge car bomb attack-
NEWSCASTER: -shredded everything in their path-
NARRATOR: Ground zero was familiar territory for the American military, Fallujah.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: Fallujah becomes a kind of sanctuary for insurgents, for radicals, for al Qaeda elements in Iraq.
DEXTER FILKINS: Bomb factory after bomb factory after bomb factory. I mean, they were just making the car bombs and shipping them to Baghdad.
THOMAS RICKS: The problem that Casey faces and his advisers are telling him is, "You're not going to be able to hold elections here as long as Fallujah is out there."
NARRATOR: Throughout the fall of 2004, Casey waited. Everyone on his staff knew Fallujah was on the agenda, they just didn't know when.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [November 3, 2004] I want to thank my superb campaign team. I want to thank the architect, Karl Rove.
NARRATOR: Four days later, Casey gave a green light for the attack on Fallujah.
Gen. GEORGE CASEY: Tonight, Iraqi security and coalition forces kicked off offensive operations in Fallujah.
DEXTER FILKINS: We went into Fallujah at about 10:00 PM, and the fighting started immediately. It's pitch black outside. And we all started piling out of the troop carriers. We went in on foot. You could see the RPGs sailing out of the city towards us. And I thought, "My God, man, what have we gotten into here?"
NARRATOR: The battle raged for 10 days.
THOMAS RICKS: Fallujah 2, first of all, is an extraordinary, difficult and violent battle, I think the most intense combat U.S. forces had seen, certainly, since the Vietnam war.
Col. KALEV SEPP (Ret.) Gen. Casey Adviser: Much of the city was simply flattened by the attack.
THOMAS X. HAMMES: Fallujah is, at that point, a victory for the United States.
DEXTER FILKINS: The city was basically destroyed after that.
NARRATOR: There was jubilation among many of the commanders. They believed the insurgency had been irreparably harmed.
Gen. GEORGE CASEY: With the liberation of Fallujah, they no longer have any safe havens anywhere in Iraq. And it was driven home to them that they cannot defeat the coalition forces.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN, The New Republic: I think there's a resurgence of optimism and that the worst is behind us.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: In the battle for Fallujah, the terrorists hid weapons in the cemetery. They hid ammunition in private homes. They hid bombs in mosques. But they could not hide from the United States Marines!
NARRATOR: In Washington that winter, the battle of Fallujah was considered a success. The president had been reelected and now it was time to clean house.
BOB WOODWARD, Author, Bush at War: I think the discord within the foreign policy inner circle around Bush is very, very high. It became personal between Powell and Cheney. It also became personal between Powell and Rumsfeld.
THOMAS RICKS: I think these guys have rubbed each other wrong for a long time. It's a different outlook, a different history, a different approach.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, Dpty. Secy. of State, 2001-'05: Secretary Powell had previously told the president that he, the secretary, didn't believe the national security team was working, that you had some square pegs in a round hole, that he should leave or Don should leave or both of them should leave, but there needed to be some changes.
KAREN DeYOUNG, Author, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell: They went off to Camp David - Bush, Rice, Andy Card - to talk about new Cabinet appointments.
NARRATOR: The president's chief of staff, Andy Card, strongly recommended the president fire Rumsfeld. Rice agreed. But the vice president defended his longtime ally and friend.
KAREN DeYOUNG: When they got back, Powell got a call from Andy Card saying, "Well, Colin, the president's decided to make a change. And you're it." This was on a Wednesday he got this call. He said, "We want your resignation letter by Friday." Powell didn't tell anybody. He went home. He typed it himself.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [November 16, 2004] Good afternoon. I'm pleased to announce my nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be America's secretary of state.
NARRATOR: Powell was out. Rice was in. Rumsfeld had survived.
In January of 2005, Iraq was about to hold its very first general election. One question concerned the Americans: Would the fallout from the bloody battle of Fallujah cause the Sunnis to boycott the election?
DEXTER FILKINS, The New York Times: I got up that morning at 7:00 o'clock, went out in the streets, and there was no vehicular traffic allowed anywhere in the country.
Lt. Col. DONALD G. ROSE (Ret.), Gen. Casey Adviser: It was a day of incredible tension.
DEXTER FILKINS: So the streets were empty. And I remember thinking, "Oh, my God, no one's going to come out to vote." People started to trickle out. By 10:30 in the morning, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people out to vote.
Lt. Col. DONALD G. ROSE: The stories that started coming in about millions of Iraqis lining up to vote were quite encouraging.
DEXTER FILKINS: And it was a really extraordinary thing, people wearing their best clothes, husbands and wives with their children, people lining up.
Lt. Col. DONALD G. ROSE: And the pictures of the people with the purple fingers started to be broadcast around.
NARRATOR: There were celebrations. But something important had been overlooked.
DEXTER FILKINS: If you look at the January election, it was a big turnout, but the Sunnis didn't vote.
NARRATOR: As the votes were being counted, Casey's inner circle knew there was a problem.
Lt. Col. DONALD G. ROSE: The effects of the Sunni boycott were available reasonably soon.
Maj. THOMAS MOWLE, Gen. Casey Strategy Adviser: We never imagined a boycott by the Sunni Arabs could be that complete. It appears that overall Sunni Arab turnout was probably about 10 percent.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Everybody understood very quickly we'd elected a government that divided the country. And everyone who had to work in the Green Zone or the area knew that beneath this political structure, there was a virtual vacuum.
Col. WILLIAM HIX, Chief Strategist to Gen. Casey: And so in that vacuum, the insurgency began to step back up in an effort to undermine that political process and undermine the legitimacy of the new government.
Gen. JACK KEANE (Ret.), Army Vice Chief of Staff, 1999-'04: When we did not secure the population, the enemy realized that the population was fair game. We were not securing them. The Iraqis couldn't do it yet. So what did they do? They began to kill people.
NEWSCASTER: We're following reports today of two suicide bombings-
NARRATOR: The administration told a different story.
Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: I think the level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint, I think will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally.
Gen. JACK KEANE: The rhetoric that the president was evidencing in his remarks - he would use terms like "win," "We're going to defeat the insurgents," "victory" - that all - that all would lend itself to a military strategy whose purpose was to defeat the insurgency. We never had that as a mission in Iraq.
NARRATOR: Instead, Rumsfeld and Casey were sticking to their "light footprint" strategy, staying on bases, not going out to defeat the insurgency.
The new secretary of state would immediately challenge that strategy. In her first public appearances, she sent a different message: U.S. troops might be in Iraq for a long time to come.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, Secretary of State: ["Face the Nation," January 30, 2005] And so the message should be to the Iraqi people, "We intend to finish the job."
["Late Edition," January 30, 2005] I really believe that we should not try and put artificial timetables on this. We need to finish the job.
["This Week," January 30, 2005] My response to all of the talk about what we might do is to say let's- let's do the job.
NARRATOR: In another move, Rice even sent one of her closest confidants to Iraq.
PHILIP ZELIKOW, Counselor, State Dept., 2005-'06: I ended up going to Iraq about a dozen times over a couple of years.
THOMAS RICKS: It's unusual for the secretary of state to be obtaining his or her own military assessment of events.
NARRATOR: Zelikow found Casey and Rumsfeld's "light footprint" and reliance on Iraqi forces wanting.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: It seemed to be a strategy the dominant theme of which, this is an exit strategy. And the objective of an exit strategy is to exit, and then you don't really develop any strategy for success independent of exit.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: Phil Zelikow begins to write to her increasingly alarmist and bleak memos. He's increasingly, aggravated and frustrated by Rumsfeld, who he feels, rightly, just wants to get the troops out.
NARRATOR: It was in northern Iraq that Zelikow would find a strategy for victory that he could support.
Col. H.R. McMASTER, U.S. Army: The situation when we got into Tal Afar was very bleak. The enemy had essentially established control over the city. This was sort of a franchise operation of al Qaeda in Iraq.
NARRATOR: Colonel H.R. McMaster's approach was to systematically clear sections of the city. Then U.S. troops stayed and secured the population and focused on rebuilding. It was known as "Clear, hold and build."
THOMAS RICKS, Author, Fiasco: It meant having outposts across the city, so that your good intentions were backed up by actions, that people who allied themselves with you were not then killed when they went home because you had troops out there, watching for insurgents and protecting people.
Col. H.R. McMASTER: What is amazing is once you're able to lift the pall of fear off of these populations, how life just flows back into these cities. But what's important is to keep security there because we're battling a very ruthless, a murderous enemy, who's determined to come back into these areas.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN, The New Republic: The lesson of Tal Afar was that you had to be in the city among the population, living there in small units.
NARRATOR: McMaster's "Clear, hold and build" approach was a significant departure from U.S. military strategy.
Gen. JACK KEANE: What McMaster did in Tal Afar was certainly the right thing to do, but it was sheer force of will on his part. I mean, in a sense, he was fighting the much larger policy.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: It was suggestive of what was possible with a lot of investment of effort and manpower in a relatively small area.
THOMAS RICKS: He goes up to Tal Afar, he sits down with Colonel H. R. McMaster, and he actually picks up that phrase, "Clear, hold and build." He says, "Oh, actually, there is a strategy that's working out here, it's just not anything that anybody in the Pentagon seems to be aware of."
PHILIP ZELIKOW: What's remarkable about Tal Afar is, why isn't that being done in different forms all over the country?
NEWSCASTER: They've retaken this city from terrorist members of al Qaeda in Iraq-
NARRATOR: Zelikow advised Rice "Clear, hold, build" could be a strategy for victory.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: My argument was that we needed to make another major push on Iraq with a much stronger and more articulated strategy to succeed, and resource what it would take to succeed.
[www.pbs.org: Read Zelikow's interview]
NARRATOR: Rice decided to champion "Clear, hold, build" before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The secretary of state proposing military policy was a direct and very public challenge to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: [October 19, 2005] Our political military strategy has to be to clear, hold and build- to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable national Iraqi institutions.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld was not happy.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: I heard later that the secretary of defense was upset. And I heard, actually, that General Casey was upset, that here we were trying to articulate strategy. That was their job.
REPORTER: There have been some critics who have said that you don't have enough troops to do this clear, hold and build strategy.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, please, let me just stop right there. Anyone who takes those three words and thinks it means the United States should clear and the United States should hold and the United States should build doesn't understand the situation. It is the Iraqis' country. They've got 28 million people there. They are clearing, they are holding, they are building. They're going to be the ones doing the reconstruction in that country!
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary-
DONALD RUMSFELD: And we do not have- with 160,000 troops there, the idea that we could do that is so far from reality. Nor was there any intention that we should do that.
NARRATOR: Clear, hold, build seemed dead.
In early 2006, the war had been going on for nearly three years. Iraq was riven with sectarian violence. The government, police and military, dominated by Shia, were beginning to face off against the Sunni insurgents. The Americans, from their bases, were holding their breath. And then Iraq exploded.
NEWSCASTER: -explosives detonating just after 7:00 AM this morning underneath the golden dome of the Askaria mosque in the town of Samarra-
NEWSCASTER: The golden dome turned to rubble and sand-
NEWSCASTER: -one of the country's most holy Shi'ite religious shrines.
NEWSCASTER: A huge explosion nearly completely destroyed one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN: I think the February 22nd bombing of the Samarra mosque will be remembered as this war's Tet.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: A kind of a diabolical attempt by al Qaeda to stimulate a civil war and to create a conflict between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis, making Iraq essentially ungovernable and chaotic and an entity that the Americans can no longer control.
JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: You would have to say the attack on the Samarra Mosque was an act of evil genius, and very nearly brought, I would say, the whole American enterprise in Iraq to the point of complete catastrophe.
Col. WILLIAM HIX, Chief Strategist to Gen. Casey: That bombing in Samarra broke the floodgates.
NARRATOR: Over the next 10 days, Sunni mosques were attacked, imams were killed, their bodies dragged on the streets.
MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE, Iraqi National Security Adviser: We knew this is going to be the beginning of a new era. Al Qaeda in Iraq, by blowing up that mosque, has succeeded in triggering a sectarian rift between the two communities.
NARRATOR: Hundreds died in the violence. There were numerous reports of police standing idly by, or in some cases, joining the killing.
LAITH KUBBA, Iraqi Govt. Spokesman, 2005-06: Nobody could control it. When the state failed to protect Shia neighborhoods from the growing attacks, a lot of Shia started to argue that, "Look, you're not protecting us. You're not even protecting the holy shrines. We cannot rely on you." And I think that was the turning point when violence increased and the militias amongst the Shias became unruly.
NARRATOR: The Sadr militia's impulse for revenge was unleashed.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN, The New Republic: All bets are off. The Shia begin to fight back with the Sunni, and what was a one-sided insurgency becomes a two-sided civil war.
Gen. JACK KEANE (Ret.), Army Vice Chief of Staff, 1999-'04: They got the overreaction that they wanted on the part the Shia militias. Drive the level of violence up higher than it had ever been and bring it to a state where it would be fractured, start to fall apart, disintegrate. The United States has to leave under those kind of conditions, and they begin to achieve their political objectives, in their minds.
NARRATOR: In the weeks before the destruction of the Golden Dome, there had been elections in Iraq. The Shia parties had won. Secular candidates backed by the Bush administration had fared poorly.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Ctr. for Strategic and Intl. Studies: I think one of the great ironies of the election is democracy produced just the opposite result from the one most people thought it would. It created for the first time a government dominated by Shi'ite religious politicians acting not necessarily without regard to the nation's interest, but primarily on the basis of their own agenda.
NARRATOR: As for Ahmad Chalabi, his coalition did not win a single seat. The new leader was a Shia, Nouri al Maliki, unknown and untested, but he had helped implement Bremer's de-Ba'athification.
JOHN BURNS, New York Times: Nouri Kamal al Maliki was a kind of default choice. And Maliki is a man who- not to be unkind, I think you'd-if you were sitting on a local school board, you'd worry about appointing him to be principal of your local high school. And here's a guy who's been put in charge of a nation of 30 million people.
NARRATOR: In Washington, the president's party was desperate. The war was going poorly, his ratings were in freefall, and the 2006 mid-term elections were looming.
PHILIP ZELIKOW, Counselor, State Dept., 2005-'06: There was a lot of pressure to try to get a fundamental war council in which the president would take a hard, roots-up look at what we're doing in Iraq.
NARRATOR: The idea was to get the president to pay attention to some new strategies, like Rice's "Clear, hold, build." The administration headed for Camp David, two days of uninterrupted talk about the war.
MICHAEL GORDON: This Camp David meeting, in the view of the staff at the State Department and the NSC, was really intended to be the beginning of a much more serious administration review.
NARRATOR: On the first day, plans to overhaul Rumsfeld's "light footprint" were presented, including Rice's "Clear, hold, build." But on the second day, they were surprised when the president abruptly left.
MICHAEL GORDON: The whole event is somewhat truncated. President Bush sneaks out the back door and goes on a clandestine trip to Iraq.
NARRATOR: The team that had assembled at Camp David were left to watch the event on secure video screens.
MICHAEL GORDON: All of a sudden, remember, he materializes in Baghdad and he goes to see Maliki and look him in the eye. And this becomes a big media event at the time.
NARRATOR: The president wanted to see if he could trust Maliki to take responsibility for the security of Iraq.
JOHN BURNS: A Secret Serviceman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come with me," didn't tell me why. And in walks President Bush. He was in a euphoric mood. "I've come to see- look Nouri Kamal al Maliki in the eye and see if we have a partner, and we do." And I'd have to say on that evening that he had satisfied himself, after talking to Maliki and General Casey, that he had a military strategy and he had an Iraqi political partner who could make that military strategy work.
[www.pbs.org: Read Burns's interview]
NARRATOR: The president was in Iraq five-and-a-half hours. His gut told him Maliki and Casey were on the right course. Rice's group at Camp David, hoping for an overhaul of Iraq strategy, were disappointed.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: The substantive review of the strategy that some of us who had been supporting the Camp David sessions had hoped for- that didn't really unfold.
NARRATOR: The president was staying the course, betting the outcome of the mid-term elections on the "light footprint." And over at the Pentagon, they brought General Casey back to announce troop reductions.
Gen. GEORGE CASEY: We're down to about 126,000 right now. That's 12,000. But as I said, I think there'll be continued gradual reductions here as the Iraqis take on a larger and larger role.
NARRATOR: But once again, the administration's plan was overtaken by events.
DEXTER FILKINS: For me, what I remember of the summer of '06 was simply the collapse of order in Baghdad.
THOMAS RICKS: I think, actually, the violence was much worse.
DEXTER FILKINS: There's so many different ways to die there, and it was all kind of happening. And it was all unraveling.
NARRATOR: Within days, the fires in Baghdad consumed Casey's plan to bring some of the troops home. As Baghdad burned, the president attended a tense National Security Council meeting.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, Rice Biographer, An American Life: The president starts asking tough questions about, "What are we going to do?" And Rumsfeld is still taking about troop withdrawals and talking about, "They've got to learn how to ride the bike themselves." And at this point, the president says, "Yeah, but if you fall of the bike," you know "somebody has to help them get back on." And it's an implication that, "We got to help these guys." And it's really the beginning of the end for Rumsfeld.
NARRATOR: Rice's idea of "Clear, hold, build" was revived.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: The White House and the president intervene to reset the assumptions.
MICHAEL GORDON, Co-Author, Cobra II: Within a matter of weeks, we're moving in precisely the opposite direction. We're adding 7,000 troops to Baghdad for something they call Operation Together Forward 2.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: -launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad.
NARRATOR: It was a limited version of Rice's idea.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Side by side, Iraqi and American forces are conducting operations in the city's most violent areas.
NARRATOR: Casey moved his troops off the bases and into Baghdad.
Col. H.R. McMASTER. U.S. Army: It's the most important battleground to the various parties in Iraq. So this is where they were really pitted against each other for the prize of the capital city.
NARRATOR: But there simply weren't enough American troops available.
Gen. JACK KEANE: Once we had made up our minds that we were going to clear, but we didn't have enough resources to hold, I knew that the operation would fail.
THOMAS RICKS: The U.S. answer becomes, "OK, we can clear, then the Iraqi troops will hold."
NARRATOR: Many of the promised Iraqi troops never deployed to the capital.
MICHAEL GORDON: There's this very frustrating effort to get the Iraqis to send troops to Baghdad.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH, Consultant, DoD: Iraqi brigades are not being committed. The government withholds them.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We couldn't trust the Iraqi police, although we said we would, and we really couldn't trust most of the Iraqi army.
JOHN BURNS: As a result, the gains in the first phase of that "Clear, hold, and build" were rolled back. There weren't enough American troops.
Gen. JACK KEANE: Our chances to succeed in Iraq were just slipping past us. We needed to change the strategy, or else this thing was going to go off a cliff.
CRITIC: Our nation's treasure in blood and dollars continues to be squandered under Secretary Rumsfeld's-
NARRATOR: The failure of Operation Together Forward 2 sent a shock wave through the Republican Party.
CRITIC: Don Rumsfeld and the civilian leadership of the Pentagon have to be held responsible.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, it's a political season, and everyone's trying to make a little mischief out of this and make- turn it into a political football and see if we can't get it on the front page of every-
NARRATOR: Many congressional Republicans were begging the president to throw Rumsfeld overboard.
DONALD RUMSFELD: So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult.
NARRATOR: In mid-September, Jack Keane, a retired general Rumsfeld had always respected, was invited to a private meeting with the secretary.
Gen. JACK KEANE: We had a very frank discussion. There was a sense of frustration that was not in his words but in his body language, and a sense of also general resignation about things. By every indicator, you know, the strategy was failing, and I think that's what he was indicating to me in body language.
NEWSCASTER: Democrats took control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
NEWSCASTER: Democrats will have the upper hand in the new Congress.
NARRATOR: The pundits blamed the president's Iraq war policy.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [November 8, 2006] Say, why all the glum faces? Look, this was a close election. The- if you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumpin'.
NARRATOR: They expected the president to back off, maybe begin to withdraw, but he was determined to go the other way. Now the "light footprint" was a thing of the past, and so was Don Rumsfeld.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.
STEVE COLL, The New Yorker: The congressional election created the opportunity, and even an imperative for the president to act.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: It becomes, I think, a very attractive option to say, "Look, this is Rumsfeld's war, not Bush's war. Time for a change."
NARRATOR: It was Condoleezza Rice who had convinced the president.
ELISABETH BUMILLER: She knew that the president wanted to get rid of Rumsfeld. That was hardly a secret. She also knew that he was not willing to do it until he found somebody else he was comfortable with. So she enthusiastically recommended her old friend, Bob Gates, to the president.
NARRATOR: Gates had been around - CIA, NSC - and was a Bush family friend. The president might finally have peace and quiet in the inner circle.
STEVE COLL: Well, there was a profound shift in the balance of power inside the president's cabinet. While it didn't end the vice president's influence, it diminished it temporarily.
NARRATOR: Now Rumsfeld was out, Powell was out, Tenet was out. The vice president was diminished.
In Iraq, Muqtada al Sadr's supporters had become powerful members of Nouri al Maliki's government. Their influence was broad and deep, especially at the Ministry of Interior, the Iraqi police. They watched as Saddam Hussein was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
JUDGE: [subtitles] The court has decided to sentence Saddam Hussein al Majid to be hanged until he is dead for crimes against humanity.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: [subtitles] Long live the people! Long live the nation!
NARRATOR: A group of Sadr's men took Saddam from U.S. custody to the gallows. Before hanging him, they would taunt him.
SADR'S MEN: Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!
THOMAS RICKS: The key moment in the execution of Saddam Hussein is the chant in the background, "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!" That's the verdict on who the loser was in Iraq and who the winner was, whether we like it or not.
NEWSCASTER: Perhaps as early as Wednesday night, President Bush will announce details to send more troops to war.
NEWSCASTER: -the troop surge, increasing ground forces-
NARRATOR: In 2007, the plan Condoleezza Rice had advocated, "Clear, hold build," became the official strategy in Iraq.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.
NARRATOR: The president announced combat troop increases that would temporarily surge the total American Force to 160,000.
STEVE COLL: That decision, at a minimum, guaranteed that his presidency would not end with a defeat in history's eyes, that by committing to the surge, he was certain to at least win a stalemate.
[www.pbs.org: The strategy behind the surge]
NARRATOR: Violence is down in Iraq. They are cautiously calling "Clear, hold, build" a success. But at a cost. The troops and reserves are stretched dangerously thin. The military worries how long the surge can be sustained.
In his last State of the Union address, George W. Bush made a final plea to history.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 28, 2008] The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our nation, but it is in the vital interests of the United States that we succeed. We must do the difficult work today so that years from now, people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.
NARRATOR: Soon Bush's war will be handed to someone new.
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ANNOUNCER: There's much more to explore at our Web site, where you'll find one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism on the Iraq war and the war on terror. It draws on FRONTLINE's 40-plus hours of documentaries and more than 400 interviews conducted since 9/11, plus new interviews conducted for this program. View our annotated chronology anchored by 150 video clips that lay out the war's behind-the-scenes battles, key events and turning points in Washington and on the ground in Iraq. Plus, watch the entire Bush's War series again on line, along with related links in the video that with a click take you to interviews, maps, timelines, documents and video. And then join the discussion about this program at PBS.org.
Next time on FRONTLINE, a platoon called "Bad Voodoo" sent back to a changed war-
Sfc. TOBY NUNN, Platoon Sergeant: We're rolling around in armored vehicles, waiting to get blown up.
ANNOUNCER: -battling their frustrations-
Spc. JASON SHAW: I don't like the whole reason that we're over there. But when are they going to start bringing guys home?
ANNOUNCER: -and their fears. Bad Voodoo's War. Watch FRONTLINE.
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