the invasion of iraq
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james fallows
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, has written two major articles on the Pentagon's planning for the invasion of Iraq and the postwar realities: "Blind Into Baghdad" (January 2004) and "The Fifty-First State" (November 2002), for which he won a National Magazine Award. In this interview he discusses the bitter prewar struggle between the Pentagon and the Army over troop levels for the war, and the Bush administation's failure to heed warnings from a range of experts in the U.S. government about postwar problems. "As a military operation, the ousting of Saddam Hussein's regime will be studied for years as a success, " he says. "As a strategic decision about how to deploy U.S. force, in the largest sense, I think the campaign as a whole will be studied for its failures."

frederick w. kagan
Frederick W. Kagan is a professor of military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In this interview he offers his views on Donald Rumsfeld's vision of war and how to use the military. He also talks about the performance of American ground commanders and the Iraqi military, and the missteps made by the U.S. in preparing to take charge of postwar Iraq. "The problem was simply that we didn't have enough troops, that the troops we had were not trained to transition from war to peacekeeping, and that there was no clear plan in place for how we would do the peacekeeping…."

Todd Purdum
Todd Purdum is a correspondent for The New York Times and the author of A Time of Our Choosing, a comprehensive account of the war in Iraq. In this interview he discusses the key debates and decisions in the prelude to war, the significant battles and turning points, and the invasion's overall successes and failures."There's no doubt that Rumsfeld and Franks's plan succeeded militarily. It toppled a dictator," he says. "There also seems to be no doubt that postwar occupation of Baghdad was not what it should have been."

Thomas E. Ricks
Ricks, The Washington Post's Pentagon correspondent, covered the war from Washington, drawing on Post reporters' dispatches from the front lines. He has also visited Iraq twice in the postwar period. In this interview he talks about the speed and boldness of the advance on Baghdad, the pivotal battles, the unexpected successes, and the ugly surprises at war's end. "I think one of the questions is whether a war plan that at the time looked brilliant, [did it] in retrospect … create the problems that followed? … Had it been a more grinding, bloodier war, had it fought its way through the Sunni Triangle, had a lot more Iraqis died, you might have had a better peace that followed."

Thomas White
Thomas White was Secretary of the Army from May 2001 to May 2003. In this interview he discusses the prewar debate within the Pentagon over force levels, the big events of the war, and the war's failures, including the lack of good intelligence. "I think we are all disappointed that it wasn't better. … We're basically still going into fights blind." Regarding the war's aftermath, White says, "We lost the ability to accomplish the peace quickly and efficiently [when the war ended]. We just underwhelmed it and we're paying the price for that."

Military Commanders

Lt. Gen. Raad Al-Hamdani
Gen. Al-Hamdani was in charge of Iraq's Republican Guard south of Baghdad, down to Najaf. In this interview he explains how he knew with certainty that Iraqi forces did not have weapons of mass destruction to use in the war. He also talks about the strategic and tactical mistakes made by the Iraqi military, his own personal experiences in the war, and he describes the ferocity of the battle on April 2-3 in which his forces were slaughtered. "From the dawn of April 3 until sunset, the Air Force destroyed anything that moved. Then the Americans broke through. … Anything that moved was hit by tanks, armored vehicles, Apaches, and jet fighters, whether it was civilian or military." Not long after the war ended, Gen. Al-Hamdani turned himself in to American authorities and was later released. This interview was translated from Arabic.

Lt. Gen. James T. Conway
Conway was commander of the 50,000-strong 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I-MEF). While the Army's 5th Corps was to advance through the desert west of the Euphrates River, the Marines were to attack through the inhabited areas east of the Euphrates in the advance on Baghdad. In this interview he discusses the quality of intelligence provided his forces, the Marines' deadly battle at Nasiriya, the Fedayeen attacks, the British go-slow strategy in dealing with resistance in Basra, the war's civilian deaths, and finally, whether there are valid lessons that can be drawn from this conflict.

Lt . Gen. David McKiernan
McKiernan was comander of combined allied land forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. From the war's sudden, early start to the taking of Baghdad, he offers details on some of the strategies, tactics and jolting setbacks, such as the bloody battle in Nasiriya and the fierce ambush on Apache helicopters the same day. He also talks about the difficult transition to the postwar realities. "The back end of the campaign is significantly different than the front end … much more blurry. … You try to adjust your tactics, techniques, but there's no quick end to this. … This is a process that is not going to happen in 16 days like the movement from the Kuwait border into Baghdad. It's going to take a lot longer."

Lt.. Col. Ernest 'Rock' Marcone
Marcone is battalion commander of the 69th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade. His unit has been described as the "tip of the tip of the spear" in the advance toward Saddam International Airport on April 3-4. Marcone's brigade also successfully fought off a counterattack on a key bridge the night of April 2. In the following excerpts from his interview he details these operations and talks about how his forces expected -- and were prepared for -- Iraqi chemical weapons as they advanced through the Karbala Gap.

Col. David Perkins
Perkins is commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade. In a campaign marked by bold maneuvers and risk-taking, his two "Thunder Runs" into the heart of Baghdad on April 5 and April 7 were among the war's most aggressive tactics. His brigade was also selected to seek out and destroy a portion of the Republican Guard's Medina Division that had been bypassed in the coalition's advance on Baghdad. In these excerpts from Col. Perkins's extended interview, he describes the challenges his brigade confronted in these three missions.

Lt. Gen. William Wallace
As commander of the U.S. Army's 5th Corps, General Wallace led the Army forces in the allied invasion of Iraq. In this interview he discusses the level of Iraqi resistance encountered, the issue of allied force flow, and some of the key events, such as the breakthrough in the Karbala Gap in preparation for the advance on Baghdad. He also talks about the point at which "we broke the back of the regime" and the postwar shock of realizing that, "when [we] decapitated the regime, everything below it fell apart."

 

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posted february 26, 2004

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