What lessons have been learned from the war? What questions remain? How successful were allied forces in avoiding civilian casualties? What should have been done to prepare for the war's chaotic aftermath?
To date what lessons have been learned about the allied invasion of Iraq? What might be its legacy and impact on future conflicts? From the perspective of one year later, here are the assessments of Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times correspondent Todd Purdum, Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White, Lt. Gen. James Conway and military historian Frederick W. Kagan. Their comments are drawn from their full interviews with FRONTLINE.
In every war civilians die, usually in untold numbers. Despite the Pentagon's assurances that U.S. forces would do as much as possible to avoid civilian casualties, it's estimated that somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians died -- a startling number compared to the less than 150 U.S. troops killed in the six-week invasion. Discussing the issue of civilian casualties in this war are historian Frederick W. Kagan, Marine Lt. Col. James Conway, New York Times correspondent Todd Purdum and Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks. Their excerpts are drawn from their full FRONTLINE interviews.
Many critics say that the U.S. failed to plan for the violence on the ground after military operations were over. Could we have known what we were getting into? In these excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews for the October 2003 report "Truth, War, and Consequences," U.S. administrators Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, USIP advisor Richard Perito, Iraqi leaders Ahmad Chalabi and Kanan Makiya, and former State Department official Richard Haass debate whether the U.S. should have -- or could have -- done more to prepare for the war's violent aftermath.
An Interview with Paul Bremer
This interview is from FRONTLINE's October 2003 report "Truth, War and Consequences." Bremer is the chief civilian administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.-appointed organization charged with overseeing Iraq's reconstruction and transition to democratic rule. A former diplomat and ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism, Bremer concedes that his task is daunting. "We weren't planning for the kind of situation we found," he tells FRONTLINE. "What we do here is going to have a major impact on the geopolitics of this region for decades to come." This interview was conducted on Aug. 1, 2003.
An Interview with James Conway
This earlier interview with Gen. Conway is from FRONTLINE's October 2003 report "Truth, War and Consequences." As commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Lt. Gen. Conway was responsible for holding and patrolling southern Iraq. He was surprised that the Iraqi military never used chemical or biological weapons on his troops. He was also openly skeptical about finding stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. "We thought indirect fire capability -- artillery, rockets, missiles -- would be [Saddam's] means for putting the chemicals on us," he tells FRONTLINE. "I don't know how we got it wrong." This interview was conducted on Aug. 19, 2003.
An Interview with Jay Garner
This interview is from FRONTLINE's October 2003 report "Truth, War and Consequences." Lt. Gen. Jay Garner (U.S. Army-Ret.) was the first American administrator to oversee the interim administration and reconstruction of Iraq. He was chosen for this role, in part, because of his experience assisting displaced Kurds following the 1991 Gulf War. Garner's one-month tenure as the director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), the precursor to the Coalition Provisional Authority, was fraught with controversy, and he was replaced by Paul Bremer. "The day you start building the war plan is the day you start building the postwar plan," Garner tells FRONTLINE. "We didn't do that, not in this case." This interview was conducted on July 17, 2003.
An Interview with Robert M. Perito
This interview is from FRONTLINE's October 2003 report "Truth, War and Consequences." A special advisor to the Rule of Law program at the Unites States Institute of Peace, Perito helped organize peacekeeping and post-conflict operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor. In February 2003, Perito, a career Foreign Service officer who served on President Ronald Reagan's National Security Council staff, gave a talk to the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon's top brass. His warnings that the U.S. should prepare for postwar lawlessness in Iraq went unheeded. "There was no thought given to the possibility that, as soon as U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad, people would go on a systematic campaign to loot the city," he tells FRONTLINE. "This is just ignoring the lessons of history." This interview was conducted on Sept. 5, 2003.
Editor's Note: See the Readings and Links section of this web site for additional readings on the issue of civilian deaths in the war.