PRODUCED AND DIRECTED
GEORGE W. BUSH: On my orders, the United States military
has begun strikes–
ANNOUNCER: While the nation watched the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq–
PILOT: Bombs away! Bombs away!
ANNOUNCER: –he was fighting another war–
RICKS, The Washington Post: "Well, I don't think you heard me clearly."
ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: "He has sharp elbows.
RICKS: "I am the boss."
ANNOUNCER: –a war to control the Pentagon.
MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: –challenging–
RICKS: –a lot of friction–
ANNOUNCER: –taking on the generals–
WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: "Oh, they're
PRIEST, The Washington Post: –treated like a second-rate citizen.
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM 1991-'94: We've got to
give him what he wants.
ANNOUNCER: –and taking on the press–
RUMSFELD, Secretary of Defense: And it just was, "Henny Penny, the sky
ANNOUNCER: –confronting the Congress–
RUMSFELD: Dangerous? Yes. Are people
being killed? Yes.
NARRATOR: –and also Colin Powell.
WOODWARD, The Washington Post: It became personal.
RICKS: These guys have rubbed each other wrong
for a long time.
FRUM, White House Speechwriter, 2001-'02: Powell does
not lose many fights.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, FRONTLINE and The Washington
inside the battle at the Pentagon–
ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: If you move on time, you can accomplish a lot.
CARLUCCI, Secretary of Defense 1987-'89: –because
you're out there all alone.
ELLSWORTH: If you don't, you'll probably get taken
ANNOUNCER: Inside Rumsfeld's War.
RICKS, The Washington Post: It's January, 2001.
Justice WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Raise your right hand and repeat after
me. I, George Bush–
RICKS: Boy, it seems like reaching back a
GEORGE W. BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly
RICKS: Bush takes office, and the Pentagon's
kind of looking forward to a Bush administration.
GEORGE W. BUSH: –that I will faithfully execute the
office of president of the United States.
RICKS: And there's a lot of buy-in to phrases
like, "We'll have adults running the place again."
GEORGE W. BUSH: –so help me God.
Justice WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Congratulations, Mr. President!
PRIEST, The Washington Post: What they meant there was, Republicans, who they felt more comfortable
with because, in general, the military votes overwhelmingly Republican, so it
was sort of like the family's back.
Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): Most of those I know who were on active
duty at the time saw a lot of experience, that these folks were going to
instill the sort of things we needed to, to get back to the position we were
right at the end of Desert Storm. I don't mean in terms of size, but the focus.
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM 1991-'94: And after having watched the Bush gang, many of whom had been together
going all the way back to the Ford administration – they knew one another well
– they had a sense of what they were trying to achieve as a group.
NARRATOR: But there was conflict from the
beginning. It could be seen at the
president-elect's very first press conference.
MANN, Author Rise of the Vulcans: Bush wants to send out a message to the country. It's a message of national unity. You know, "The Florida dispute, the
election, is over. Let's all come
W. BUSH, President- Elect: [December 16, 2000] We must conduct our foreign policy in the spirit of national unity and
MANN: His way of doing that is to announce
his first cabinet appointment, Colin Powell as secretary of state.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Today it is my privilege to ask him to
become the 65th secretary of state of the United States of America.
RICKS: People are saying, "Wow. Colin Powell's going to be huge in this
administration. Here's a guy who's
been a national security adviser, been a four-star general, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs, knows all the players. And now he's secretary of state." And his approval rating is higher than the president's. This is a guy Americans know and think
POWELL, Secretary of State-Designate: It is absolutely a given–
MANN: Powell has a very expansive press
POWELL: America will remain very much engaged
in the Middle East. We will defend
our interests from a position of strength.
MANN: He talks about all kinds of
things. He also mentions defense
POWELL: Our armed forces are stretched rather
thin, and there is a limit to how many of these deployments we can sustain.
MANN: And the more he talks, he begins to
create concern that he's not only going to be the secretary of state, that he
will have considerable influence over the Pentagon, too.
POWELL: And I think a national missile defense
is an essential part of our overall strategic force posture.
MANN: After all, this is a secretary of state
who's been chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who knows military issues
W. BUSH: Thank you all for having us. God bless.
NARRATOR: But appearances can be deceiving. Powell made the president's
conservative supporters uneasy, and there had always been friction with Vice
MANN: And you begin to get a very quiet
groundswell. "We need a strong
secretary of defense who will keep Colin Powell in check, will make sure he's
not running the Pentagon, as well as the State Department."
NARRATOR: Cheney had in mind Donald Rumsfeld as
secretary of defense, a 68-year-old veteran of the Republican ideological wars.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Today it is my honor to announce–
NARRATOR: The president agreed.
GEORGE W. BUSH: –submitting the name of Donald Rumsfeld
to be secretary of defense.
NARRATOR: Now the hawks had their man.
RICKS: I think these guys have rubbed each
other wrong for a long time.
GEORGE W. BUSH: His record of service to the country is
RICKS: It's a different outlook, a different
history, a different approach.
PRIEST: Powell's vision of the world was not,
as we see, the one shared by the other alpha males in the cabinet. And there are a group of them that are
really formidable. George Tenet,
Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld– they're all such dominant characters.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld had already served as
secretary of defense back in the 1970s as part of a political career that began
ROBERT ELLSWORTH (R-KS), 1961-'67: You could tell right away that he's a comer. That's the way politicians would speak about Rumsfeld, "He's
a comer. And he has sharp elbows."
PRIEST: He was a Navy fighter pilot for a while,
and a wrestler. Everybody likes to
bring that up. I think it's very
apt of his personality. He's a
very forceful personality.
CARLUCCI, Secretary of Defense 1987-'89: Oh, that goes back to college days. We were wrestlers on the wrestling team at Princeton. It's a tough sport because you're out
there all alone. And it requires
enormous endurance, strength, but most of all, quickness and ingenuity.
NARRATOR: Princeton wrestling teammate Frank
Carlucci worked for Rumsfeld in the Nixon administration. And so did a young intern from Wyoming.
CARLUCCI: One day, Don called me into his office
and said, "There's a young intern on the Hill named Dick Cheney, Frank. I'm thinking of hiring him. I'd like you to interview him and see what
you think." So I interviewed Dick
and called Don and said, "I think this guy's pretty good. You ought to hire him."
NARRATOR: Later, it would be Cheney who would
bring Don Rumsfeld back to the Pentagon, a Pentagon dominated by the uniformed
military. His primary goal was to
reassert civilian control over this billion-dollar-a-day enterprise. The first order of business for
Rumsfeld was to find a strong deputy.
KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: As people who know a lot about the Pentagon will tell you, it's the
number two guy, it's the deputy that really runs the building. If there's a Mr. Outside, it's the
secretary. If there's a Mr. Inside,
it's the deputy.
NARRATOR: The Pentagon insiders had what they
considered the perfect candidate, Richard Armitage. But Armitage was Colin Powell's close friend and shared his
WOODWARD, The Washington Post: Rumsfeld interviewed him for the job, and they didn't get along. And in fact, at the end, Armitage said
to Rumsfeld that, "The chances of me being your deputy are about zero."
NARRATOR: At the same time, across the Potomac
River at the State Department, Colin Powell was also looking for a top
deputy. Paul Wolfowitz wanted the
WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: In
Paul Wolfowitz, we have someone that has a tremendous national security policy
background, came from Johns Hopkins, former ambassador.
NARRATOR: But Powell didn't like Wolfowitz's
neoconservative politics, and they had clashed back during the Gulf war. So he chose his friend, Richard
Armitage, as his deputy, and Wolfowitz joined Rumsfeld.
RICKS: Rumsfeld doesn't strike me as an
ideological guy. He strikes me as
a very pragmatic guy. But the
division of the labor at the Pentagon seems to be Rumsfeld as the hands-on
manager and the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, as kind of the big
thinker, the visionary. This is a
reversal of typically how the secretary of the defense and the deputy secretary
divide their approach.
WOODWARD: I think it became very clear to
Rumsfeld and the White House that they needed somebody who would be brought in
to kind of help support Rumsfeld on the hard-line approach to foreign policy.
NARRATOR: And the vice president, as head of the
transition, ensured the hard-line agenda by helping to place other
neoconservatives throughout the Bush administration. Joining Wolfowitz at Defense were Douglas Feith and William
Luti. John Bolton was made number
three at the State Department, right under Armitage and Powell. Stephen Hadley became national security
adviser Condoleezza Rice's chief deputy. And Lewis "Scooter" Libby became the vice president's chief of staff.
Study key players' ties over time]
PRIEST: Their common denominator is a vision
for the Middle East, in particular, not necessarily Rumsfeld, but all the
people around him who've worked in and out of the same circles and who have a
vision of the Middle East as one that you really need to change the status quo.
NARRATOR: And for neoconservatives like Paul
Wolfowitz, changing the status quo meant getting rid of Saddam Hussein. It started at the end of the first Bush
administration, where Wolfowitz worked under then secretary of defense Dick
Cheney. After the Gulf war, he had
proposed a tough new defense doctrine: preemption, carrying a big stick and
being willing to use it. America
should use force, first if necessary, to protect itself against weapons of mass
KRISTOL, Vice. Pres. Chief of Staff, 1989-'92: Wolfowitz was ahead of his time in
really beginning to try to think through the post-cold war era, but it was not
a conclusion that most of the Bush administration was comfortable with.
NARRATOR: The moderates in the administration,
led by General Colin Powell, found preemption dangerously aggressive. Secretary of Defense Cheney was ordered
to rewrite the proposal. Mentions
of preemption were removed. Wolfowitz's draft plan would go into the bottom
drawer, but it would not be forgotten.
years later, Wolfowitz was back in the Pentagon. His vision for a new doctrine of preemption would require
profound change in military strategy, changes that were not easily welcomed in
these halls. It would need someone
as tough as Donald Rumsfeld to take on the institutional resistance.
RICKS: It was a pretty tough process, a lot of
friction in those first months, with Rumsfeld saying, "No, I don't think you
heard me clearly. I am the boss. I want to do it this way."
PRIEST: I had Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs, tell me after he had retired that he was shocked to be treated
like a "second-rate citizen," is what he called it, and to be distrusted on
every turn. And at the Pentagon,
if the military said one thing, the civilians said, "Well, prove it." And as Hugh said, "It got so bad that
we would say, 'It's sunny outside,' and they would say, 'Oh, yeah? Raise the blinds and prove it to us.' "
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld found himself at odds with the
head of the Army. His opponent,
both symbolically and in reality, would be the head of the United States Army,
General Eric Shinseki. A wounded
Vietnam war hero, Shinseki became a regular target of Rumsfeld's aggressive
CORDESMAN, Center for Strategic and International Studies: You had two directly conflicting
personalities, someone who, on Shinseki's part, quietly, as a professional,
responded to orders, was not aggressive, was not confrontational, and in the
case of Secretary Rumsfeld, someone who constantly challenges, pushes,
questions. And you could not have
picked two people more likely to come into conflict.
WHITE: But all of a sudden, the view of the
Army becomes, "Well, they're stodgy. They're intransigent. And
they don't understand– they don't get it, what all this stuff is about."
HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1997-'99: Rick Shinseki was getting jabbed. He's getting needled. And
his reaction is, "What is this?" You know, so he's pulling back. He's trying to compose himself. He's trying to figure out what's the right way to react. And Rumsfeld interprets it as weakness,
so he jabs a little harder and pokes a little more, you know? And it's these two personalities that
just reacted in a very wrong way and segmented and separated.
NARRATOR: The Army got the message and took
PAUL HUGHES, U.S. Army, 1975-present: It
appalls that a man of his valor and his sacrifice– I mean, heck, he has half a
foot he lost in Vietnam, you know, and he still stayed on active duty for this
nation because he believes in it– you know, to be treated that way by people
who– who many have never served– that doesn't wash with me.
NARRATOR: Vietnam had cast a long shadow over the
Pentagon. It was their bleakest
time. Throughout the building,
they had their memories of old battles between the military and the civilian
leadership. When Vietnam was at
its worst, Donald Rumsfeld was in the inner circle of the Nixon White
House. He'd been a Navy fighter
pilot just after the Korean war. When it came to Vietnam, he wanted Nixon to win it or get out.
ELLSWORTH, NATO Ambassador 1969-'71: By
the middle '60s, Rumsfeld could see that we were not figuring out a strategy to
win in Vietnam. Neither could we
figure out a strategy to withdraw.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld's persistent pushing to get
the troops out quicker put him at odds with the president. Secret audiotapes revealed the
RICHARD M. NIXON: But on Rumsfeld, we've done a hell of
lot for Rumsfeld.
HALDEMAN: I agree.
RICHARD M. NIXON: I think Rumsfeld may be not too long
for this world.
HALDEMAN: I sure don't think he's ever going to
be a solid member of the ship.
RICHARD M. NIXON: Well, then let's dump him right after
NEWSCASTER: They are now boarding the helicopter, walking through the honor guard,
the president now at the door, a final wave.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld survived, and after Watergate
became Gerald Ford's chief of staff. He brought his young aide with him.
WOODWARD: I happened to be talking to former
president Ford, and I asked, "How did this happen?" And he said, "Don Rumsfeld, when I picked him as White House
chief of staff, he said, 'I'll accept, but there's one thing I have to have,
and that is I want to bring in a guy named Dick Cheney.' And Ford said, 'I haven't even met
him,' " but he agreed. And so
Rumsfeld gave political life to Dick Cheney, to say the least.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld and Cheney were both
hawks. They considered the
secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, a moderate who needed reining in, so they
went to war.
MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: Rumsfeld, as White House chief of staff, begins gradually to challenge
Kissinger's authority. It's little
things first. It's paperwork. It's who clears off on the
speeches. It's personnel. Rumsfeld is more responsible than
anybody else for limiting Kissinger's influence. I think he probably– with one exception, he's probably the
most skillful bureaucratic knife-fighter that's worked in government for the
last half century. That one
exception would be Kissinger himself, who was an amazing bureaucratic
NARRATOR: Soon Cheney replaced Rumsfeld as chief
of staff, and Rumsfeld himself, in a brilliant bureaucratic maneuver, rose to
secretary of defense.
An overview of Rumsfeld's career]
NEWSCASTER: Donald Rumsfeld takes over the Pentagon, but also keeps most of his
personal influence with President Ford. As always, Rumsfeld downplays his own influence.
RUMSFELD: Well, it's absolutely untrue. As the president indicated in his press
REPORTER: No– no master maneuvering and no silent architecting?
RUMSFELD: No. No.
MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: He really begins challenging Kissinger on all kinds of things– arms
control. Although Kissinger had
been at odds with the previous secretary of defense, Rumsfeld proves an even
tougher adversary than his predecessor.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld would only serve as secretary
of defense for 14 months, but during that time he presided over the worst
military aftershocks of the Vietnam war.
ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: The military issue at the Pentagon in
those days was Vietnam, and it was the pits because, I mean, we had to get out
of Vietnam– '75, out we came. And
what– what a nightmare that was.
Gen. THOMAS WHITE, U.S. Army (Ret.): Well, I thought by the end of Vietnam – and my second tour in Vietnam
was 1972 – we had basically destroyed the United States Army. The non-commissioned officer leadership
had vanished, and discipline rates were way, way up. We needed just a complete rebuilding of the force from the
bottom to the top, and that's precisely what we engaged ourselves in for the
next 20 years or so.
NARRATOR: The military has a term for it. They say the Army's broken. It simply could not function
effectively. And they believed it
was the civilians who had broken it, micro-managing every detail, even picking
bombing targets from the White House. They vowed to take more control.
ELLSWORTH: And of course, when we left, we all
felt that we had a lot of unfinished business to attend to. People like Colin Powell, who stayed in
the military, understood to do that unfinished business, and they did it very
NARRATOR: Colin Powell had served two terms in
Vietnam. To fix the broken Army,
Powell and other young officers rewrote the rules of American war fighting.
Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): They started by reading
Thucydides. They got a grounding
in history. And from that, this
intellectual renaissance quickly spread through all the militaries. In a period of about five years, the
war colleges had changed, the command staff colleges had changed.
NARRATOR: A new all-volunteer Army was
built. New equipment was
added. The new American force
would be heavy– tanks, a 600-ship Navy, squadrons of new fighters and bombers –
and new war plans.
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): We
rebuilt the Army for the war we thought we wanted to fight. That was the war in central Europe
against the Russians. And we said,
"We don't ever want to fight another counterinsurgency. We don't want to go to another place
NARRATOR: Over the years, they gradually took
control and codified it into one particular doctrine. Designed to keep the military out of unwinnable quagmires
and bring decisive force to bear, it would be named after one of its strongest
champions, Colin Powell.
WHITE: All of us were Vietnam veterans, and
this business of the Powell doctrine was, "We're not going to do Vietnam
again." And what we did in Vietnam
is we kind of went in in an uncommitted way.
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1991-'94: The key thing is that you– you first of all have a clearly defined
mission. It's not open-ended. You don't go there and do some things,
you go to liberate Kuwait, is the great example of this. You have the support of the American
people. The American people think
that this is a meritorious task, that what we're doing is the right thing, that
we're the United States of America, and we're contributing to stability, to
peace, to democracy, whatever, that you have enough forces to do the job, that
you don't do it piecemeal. Those
are really the key elements of it.
NARRATOR: And there was the phrase "exit
strategy," that politicians must tell the military how quickly they can get out
of trouble spots.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I'm now going to show you a picture of
the luckiest man in–
NARRATOR: Those elements were fully in place when
Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf led the combined American military into
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: –on the crosshairs, right through the crosshairs. And now, in his rearview mirror– [laughter]
Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER: At the end of the Gulf war, if there's
one word that would describe how most of us felt, it was vindicated, vindicated
in the sense that we'd gotten it right between Vietnam and the Gulf war and had
gone out on the battlefield and proved it.
COLIN POWELL, Joint Chiefs Chairman: Our strategy to go after this army is
very, very simple. First we're
going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it.
NARRATOR: On TV, General Powell came to symbolize
the enhanced power of the military at the Pentagon.
COLIN POWELL: I've laundered them so you can't really
tell what I'm talking about because I don't want the Iraqis to know what I'm
talking about. But trust me.
MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: What you regularly see is Colin Powell, physically imposing, in uniform,
very confident, talking about what the United States is going to do. He's really the center of the press
conference. The usual picture is
Powell at the podium, Cheney kind of behind him. It's a reminder of just how powerful the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs is and how powerful Powell is personally.
RICKS, The Washington Post: A
lot of friction back in the '91 war. They're very clear about it. Cheney is constantly trying to figure out exactly what the war plan is,
and Powell's, like, not really sharing a lot here, much to Cheney's
frustration. Powell also pointedly
notes at the end of his autobiography that he never socialized with Cheney,
never been invited to his house in years of working with him. And in fact, Cheney left– on the day
Cheney left the Pentagon as secretary of defense, he didn't say good-bye to
NARRATOR: So in 2001, Rumsfeld's battle with
Shinseki would be seen as a new engagement in the struggle between the
civilians and the uniformed military.
HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1997-'99: The vast army of colonels and lieutenant colonels that surround
Shinseki, the staff environment starts to heal and protect the chief. And I think that tended to reinforce
this sense of isolation that the two felt about each other.
RICKS: Cheney almost encouraged Rumsfeld in
their first year to be more Cheney-like. Cheney didn't hesitate to lop off a general's head to make the point to
the others about who the boss was. And I remember when I was doing a profile of Rumsfeld in the summer of
'01, early in the administration, I was surprised to get a phone call from
Cheney. Normally, the vice
president doesn't call the military reporter at The Post. And he kind of had an interesting
message about Rumsfeld. It was on
the record. And he said something
like, "I'm sure that Don will do what is necessary to get the Pentagon moving
in the right direction." And you
could almost see in parentheses, as Cheney was talking, what "necessary" was,
which is Don starting to chop off a few heads and show them who's the boss over
Read Ricks's extended interview]
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: I think everybody pretty much learned their lesson that Mr. Rumsfeld was
in charge and you better listen to what he has to say and give him what he
ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1975-'77: Wrestlers learn that you have to
move. You look around and you see
what there is to do, and you figure out a way and then you do it. I'm talking now not about on the
wrestling mat, although it's the same thing, but it's also true in business,
true in politics. If you move on time,
you can accomplish a lot, and if you don't, you'll probably get taken down.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld began to make moves all over
the building. He seized the
military promotion process.
RICKS: Rumsfeld really reaches into personnel
picks and starts interviewing personally anybody's who's going to pin on a
fourth star or a third star– that is, to become a full general or a lieutenant
general in the U.S. military. Lot
of resentment of that in the military.
NARRATOR: And he went after the permanent
HAMRE: He was convinced that it was blocking
innovation. He was going to
shatter that. And he has. Now, that has frightened people around
him. They are– they don't
understand what he wants, and they are trying to be responsive to him, but they
don't know where it's going. And
so many of them are frightened.
NARRATOR: Then he began to try to fundamentally
change the way the military would fight.
ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School: Donald Rumsfeld wanted to build a
smaller, nimbler and more networked military that could respond swiftly to
threats anywhere in the world.
NARRATOR: It was called "transformation." It meant Rumsfeld wanted less money
spent on heavy equipment, artillery pieces and bombers, and he wanted fewer
troops. The new military would be
high-tech and ready to roll.
JOSEPH P. HOAR: There was a lot of discussion about
transformation. It appeared in
virtually every Defense document. It was clearly something that Mr. Rumsfeld wanted to see take
place. It wasn't really clear what
it encompassed, though, at least not to me. Each of the services attempted to take their pet projects,
most of which related to hardware, and say, "My new fighter aircraft is
transformational. My new helicopter
is transformational. My artillery
piece is transformational."
Read Hoar's extended interview]
KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: And the military's not quite sure where this administration is
going. What kind of changes are we
talking about here? Whose ox is
going to get gored? And because of
that, there's kind of a hunker-down approach that's initially taken within the
NARRATOR: While Rumsfeld was making his move
inside the Pentagon, on the outside, Wolfowitz was making the case for taking
out Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
WOODWARD: Wolfowitz had been mentioning it a
lot. He felt that it would be easy
and actually proposed an enclave strategy of going in and seizing the oil
fields in southern Iraq and using that as a base for other attacks against
NARRATOR: For nine months, a bitter
behind-the-scenes battle ensued.
WOODWARD: Colin Powell, for instance, thought it
was preposterous and ridiculous and actually went to the president and said,
"Mr. President, you're not buying into this, are you? They make it sound easy, but it's not." And the president said, "I get it. I'm not going to do that." I asked the president about this, and
he said, "Well, it was never formally presented." But clearly, informally, Wolfowitz was driving for
considering, anyway, this idea of invading and taking over part of a country.
NARRATOR: The skirmishes with Powell and the
generals and the bureaucracy were taking their toll during those first months
of Rumsfeld's war at the Pentagon.
KREPINEVICH: I wouldn't use the word "enemies," but
there are a lot of people who aren't anxious for Don Rumsfeld to succeed at
this point in time. And of course, inside the Beltway, there are all these discussions
about, "Well, who's going to be the first cabinet secretary to leave in this
administration?" That's the sort
of thing Washingtonian, inside-the-Beltway folks do. And the early betting line is it could be Don Rumsfeld. And of course, then 9/11 happens, and
as the saying goes, that changes everything.
NEWSCASTER: It's 8:52 here in New York. I'm Bryant Gumbel. We
understand that there has been a plane crash–
NEWSCASTER: –where a short time ago, we are told that a plane crashed–
NEWSCASTER: This is at the World Trade Center
WHITE: Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and
virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense –
service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. And as that breakfast was
breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.
NEWSCASTER: –plane has crashed into–
NEWSCASTER: You can see a gaping hole. That is on the north side–
NEWSCASTER: We have no idea, was it in any sense deliberate or–
RICKS: Rumsfeld is paying some attention to
the World Trade Center hits already when the Pentagon is hit.
NEWSCASTER: Oh, my goodness! There is
smoke pouring out of the Pentagon!
NEWSCASTER: It felt like there was an explosion of some kind here at the Pentagon.
NEWSCASTER: We're getting reports now, the Pentagon is being evacuated.
RICKS: Rumsfeld, I think showing great
personal courage, runs out to start helping.
WHITE: He's a hands-on guy, and he's very good
in a crisis, I think. He's
physically a tough guy, and he wants to be at the scene of the action. And that was, I think, his finest hour.
KREPINEVICH: That certainly earns him a big gold
star, I think. In terms of the
uniformed military, personal courage counts for a lot.
HAMRE: He ran toward it. It is, again, his instinct. That's what he does. He runs into a problem. He doesn't run from a problem, he runs
into a problem. Sometimes that's
good, sometimes that's bad, but that is his personality.
KREPINEVICH: Rumsfeld, in terms of his temperament
and his personality, seems to be much better suited to be a secretary of war
than a secretary of defense.
NARRATOR: And in war, Rumsfeld knew, the military
would do what the president needed.
HAMRE: At a moment of crisis, a moment of war,
the center of gravity shifts to the White House. And the secretary realized that more quickly than anybody.
NARRATOR: All that day, Rumsfeld and Vice
President Cheney were in close contact with the president. They argued there would have to be
retaliation, not just against bin Laden but also against nations that may have
helped al Qaeda, nations like Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will make no distinction between the
terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
WOODWARD: The night of 9/11, at a small group
meeting of the principals, Rumsfeld actually puts Iraq on the table and says,
"Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It's an opportunity." So he was the first to mention it.
NARRATOR: So the neocons now had their
opportunity to take on Saddam Hussein, and on September 13th, Wolfowitz
personally took the case public.
REPORTER: The president has said that the United States intends to find those who
were responsible for these attacks and hold them accountable. How should we look at that?
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: Well, I think
the president's words are pretty good, so let me say these people try to hide,
but they won't be able to hide forever. They think their harbors are safe, but they won't be safe forever. I think one has to say it's not just
simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable but removing
the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor
terrorism. And that's why it has
to be a broaden and sustained campaign. It's not–
BALZ, The Washington Post: And that was taken by everybody to be a sign that he felt that, at this
point, we should go after Iraq. And it alarmed Powell and the people in the State Department, who again
felt it was inflaming the situation, taking their eye off the real ball, which
was to go after al Qaeda and Afghanistan.
REPORTER: Are we really after ending regimes, or are we simply going to try to
POWELL: We're after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes,
nations that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their
interest to stop doing that. But I
think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let–
REPORTER: What about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
POWELL: –let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself.
NARRATOR: The dispute came to a head at the first
meeting of the president's war cabinet at Camp David. "The war about the war" was under way.
WOODWARD: The very critical Camp David meetings,
where Bush called the principals together–
GEORGE W. BUSH: I've asked the highest levels of our
government to come to discuss the current tragedy that has so deeply affected
WOODWARD: The president asked, "What are we going
to do? What should our response
be?" And this is when Iraq came
NARRATOR: Wolfowitz pushed the idea of attacking
Iraq first. Powell disagreed. He pushed Afghanistan.
WOODWARD: Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, to a much
larger degree, was very worried that Afghanistan would not be a success. We had no war plan for
Afghanistan. Obviously, we had the
war plans for Iraq, and Wolfowitz felt very, very strongly that we needed to
put a success on the board and felt that–- always that Iraq was going to be
NARRATOR: The president put it to a vote. Powell and others voted against
attacking Iraq at that time. Rumsfeld abstained.
the president returned to the White House, it had been decided America would
attack Afghanistan first. Rumsfeld
knew a plan would be needed to take out the Taliban and al Qaeda in
Afghanistan. He wanted the
military to come up with something he could offer the president, but they
RICKS, The Washington Post: The regular U.S. military looks at Afghanistan, and all it sees is the
Soviet experience. This is where
superpowers go to be humiliated. And so probably feels there's been a bit of foot-dragging there.
NARRATOR: Then Rumsfeld discovered the Central
Intelligence Agency had a plan of its own.
PRIEST, The Washington Post: After 9/11, George Tenet comes to President Bush and says, "Have I got a
plan for you!–"
NARRATOR: The CIA said it would use its long-time
relationships with the warlords to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda.
PRIEST: And Rumsfeld's kind of caught
flat-footed there because Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is giving
him a plan that would take far too long to execute for anybody's taste and too
many troops, something that's not nimble and flexible. So George Tenet for a while gets the
upper hand, and I think that bothers Rumsfeld a lot.
NARRATOR: The CIA's plan: a covert war with
paramilitary officers to link up with anti-Taliban guerrillas inside
Afghanistan. The United States
Army and Rumsfeld were left out.
PRIEST: He was very upset, but he– typical of
Rumsfeld, he did something about it as soon as he could.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld reached into the Pentagon
backwater to bring forward special operations, the Navy SEALs, Army Green
Berets and Rangers.
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): One of the reasons that Secretary Rumsfeld became very enamored of
special operations forces was the readiness of special operations forces to
deploy and do what they were asked to do, whereas the Army presented
NARRATOR: The president decided to use the CIA's
plan. Rumsfeld's special forces
would have a piece of the action. And by using lighter, quicker special operations forces, he had sent a
message to Shinseki and the lumbering Army.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [October 7, 2001] On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against the
al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan.
NARRATOR: Taliban strongholds were bombed. The CIA inserted paramilitary
operatives to buy off warlords and get various Afghan factions to join forces
and unite against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Finally, 12-member Green Beret A-teams were dropped in to
use laser guidance systems to direct air strikes at Taliban targets.
RICKS: People tended to think of overwhelming
force as lots of Army boots on the ground. And what Rumsfeld, I think, grasped very quickly, because he
does have a technological orientation, in many ways, on military operations, is
overwhelming force might be two guys on the ground with a radio and a B-52
overhead. And that really becomes
emblematic of the Afghan war, a special operations or CIA guy on a horse with a
global positioning signal that says, "We need to put these bombs on those guys
right now." And the bombs, almost
from invisible powers in the air, almost in a God-like manner, are brought to
bear in a way that the Afghans couldn't conceive.
RUMSFELD: The only defense against terrorism is
offense. You have to simply take
the battle to them. How do you do
that? You don't– you don't do it
with conventional capabilities. You do it with unconventional capabilities. And therefore–
ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate Schools: That's transformation, when you do
business in a fundamentally new way. I think Afghanistan late in the fall of 2001 is a case of
transformation, where we toppled the Taliban with just a few hundred of our
commandos on the ground, closely inter-netted with unmanned aerial vehicles and
other attack aircraft above. You do business in new ways, you're transforming.
KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: Rumsfeld is proven right. He's willing to take risks under those circumstances. And I think he gets a lot more
comfortable with his own judgment, now that he's come back after almost a
30-year absence to be secretary Of Defense again.
NARRATOR: Thirty years earlier, Don Rumsfeld was
working on a new weapon, the press conference.
RUMSFELD: No! And I don't think that one could find anything in this
report that suggests that that's true.
NARRATOR: He perfected it–
RUMSFELD: Well, no, I don't.
NARRATOR: –combining knowledge and a willingness
to go one on one.
RUMSFELD: The message is certainly not what
you're suggesting, that big is better.
NARRATOR: During the Afghan war, Rumsfeld brought
his old weapon out of mothballs.
RUMSFELD: You asked that when General Franks was
back in town that I bring him down here. I have done so.
NARRATOR: Afternoon after afternoon, Rumsfeld
delighted the viewing public–
RUMSFELD: All together now, "quagmire"! [laughter]
NARRATOR: –by trying to take the American press
REPORTER: You'll have to excuse me. I'm a little nervous being in the presence of a TV star this morning.
RUMSFELD: Come on, now! Don't give me that stuff!
REPORTER: But anyway–
MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: He prove once again that he's just a great public spokesman. I mean, he manages to take the Defense
Department podium and he's the center of it.
RUMSFELD: Nothing in the defense establishment,
nothing you own in your homes is perfect. Your cars aren't perfect. Your bikes aren't perfect. Our eyeglasses aren't perfect.
of all, you're– you're beginning with an illogical premise and proceeding
perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion. [laughter]
MANN: You see the contrast to the first Gulf
war. This time, the secretary of
defense is the guy at the podium and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is the
guy who's kind of in uniform, sort of standing behind, nodding. But Rumsfeld is the driving force.
RUMSFELD: The reports that we've heard out of the
regions have been absolutely lying through their teeth week after week after
week throughout the entire thing.
KREPINEVICH: Nothing succeeds like success, and the
American military was succeeding remarkably well in Afghanistan. And a lot of people knew that Don
Rumsfeld had a lot to do with that.
RUMSFELD: You will receive only honest, direct
answers from me, and they'll either be that I know and I'll answer you, or I
don't know, or I know and I won't answer you. I recognize the need to provide–
NARRATOR: His popularity soared. People magazine put him on
their "beautiful list" alongside Tom Cruise and George Clooney. He would spin the popularity into
power, pushing for change and getting it throughout the Pentagon and the
RUMSFELD: –is what this conflict is about–
KREPINEVICH: The United States is at war.
RUMSFELD: –and that certainly includes freedom of
KREPINEVICH: Problems with respect to the defense
budget go away. All of a sudden,
Congress is willing to vote the Defense Department the money it needs to
prosecute this war and perhaps to do many of the other things that Defense says
it needs to have happen.
NEWSCASTER: The Northern Alliance rolled into Kabul early today and took the city
without a fight. The Taliban–
NARRATOR: There were, in the aftermath of
Afghanistan, hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. Rumsfeld wanted them aggressively
interrogated. But back at the
Pentagon, he had another fight on his hands– with the military's lawyers, the
PRIEST, The Washington Post: He
comes in with deep skepticism about the uniformed military and into the JAG
corps, who defends the system that he is trying to change and creates rationale
for the system that he is trying to change. So in the sense that they are obstacles to change, he would
rather go around them or not use them.
NARRATOR: There would be an internal political
struggle over interrogation rules.
LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: You had this debate very early on after 9/11 between the general
counsel's political appointee lawyers trying to fashion a new way of fighting
the war and the military lawyer, who was very steeped into the traditions of
the Geneva Convention.
PRIEST: Meanwhile, Rumsfeld has already
promulgated some harsher interrogation techniques of his own, including use of
dogs to intimidate, stripping, deprivation of food in combination with stress
positions for a given amount of time.
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld, who works at a standing desk,
approved an extensive list of interrogation techniques. But he added, "I stand for 8 to 10
hours a day. Why is standing
limited to four hours?"
LINDSEY GRAHAM: There's a paper trail that I've looked
at, where memos were written saying that the proposed policies are going to get
us in trouble. They're not who we are as a nation. They're abandoning 50 years of military
PRIEST: 9/11 gave the entire administration,
and Rumsfeld as the head of the Defense Department, a carte blanche in terms of
how they treated the laws on the books when they applied to the global war on
terrorism, as they defined the global war on terrorism.
NARRATOR: Afghanistan was viewed as a success,
but Rumsfeld wouldn't bask in victory for long. Another war, a war pushed from inside his own Pentagon, was
in the offing. By early November
of 2001, Paul Wolfowitz and the neocons were back at the task of focusing the
president on making Iraq the next phase of the war on terror.
NEWSCASTER: –expressed concern about the fall of Kabul and urged the establishment–
WOODWARD, The Washington Post: Right before Thanksgiving, the president, after a routine NSC meeting,
took Rumsfeld aside, and they went into a little cubbyhole off the Situation
Room. And the President closed the
door and asked Rumsfeld, "What war plans do you have for Iraq?"
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld believed all the Pentagon's
war plans were cumbersome and outdated.
WOODWARD: And the President said, well, he wanted
to examine those, specifically for Iraq and that Rumsfeld was not to talk to
anyone else, including the CIA director.
NARRATOR: The old Iraq war plans were kept in
Florida, at Central Command headquarters, CENTCOM. Four-star general Tommy Franks was in charge.
RICKS, _The Washington Post: There's a term in the Army that's not always used as a form of praise,
calling somebody a "muddy boots sojer." And I say the word "sojer," S-O-J-E-R. It's kind of, "Yep, he's a good muddy boots sojer." And it typically is used as a
compliment, but not always. Well,
everybody always said of Franks, "Yep, he's a muddy boots sojer. "He's a good guy to have on your flank
if you're a battalion commander in a tough fight.
also tends to mean he's not a deep thinker. He's not one of those guys who goes off to the war college
to read Clausewitz. He goes off to
the war college to play some golf. The challenge here for Rumsfeld is, he's got a guy who comes really out
of the classic Army background, who's going to think, "Yep," you know, "let's
go in big and heavy."
NARRATOR: General Shinseki and Secretary of the
Army White had no operational authority over specific war plans. This would be a game of one-on-one,
Rumsfeld against Franks. The most
recent Iraq war plan, based on the success of Desert Storm, called for
overwhelming force, weeks of heavy air bombardment and seven months advance
WOODWARD: Rumsfeld asks "Let's see it. You kind of have 30 days to give me
your views." And then they're on
the phone saying, "No. Come up in
three days." Rumsfeld is, "Let's
do it now. Let's focus on it."
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): On
the Army side, of course, there was once again great resistance to the notion
of using Army forces for an intervention in Iraq. There was no real enthusiasm at all at high levels in the
Army for this idea.
NARRATOR: Colonel Douglas MacGregor was a tank
commander in desert storm. His
specialty is thinking outside the box about military tactics. He's a well known maverick in the
military establishment. After
Rumsfeld's early exposure to Tommy Franks, he went looking for fresh
ideas. He came across Colonel
MacGregor. In early December,
MacGregor was invited to the Pentagon.
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: Brought me in and asked, "We're looking
at Iraq. By the way, the chief of
staff of the Army says it will take at least 560,000 troops to deal with
Iraq." Well, of course, I burst
out laughing immediately. And the
representative said "That's interesting because that was Secretary Rumsfeld's
NARRATOR: MacGregor had a powerful ally helping
him again access to the secretary. He showed us an email. It
was from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Secretary Rumsfeld. As a member of the Defense Policy
Review Board, Gingrich had become a close adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld. He had championed Colonel MacGregor's
work. "Newt, I looked at this
piece you sent from MacGregor. I
don't know anyone who is thinking that way. Thanks, D.H. Rumsfeld."
WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: This whole thing with Gingrich, with MacGregor feeding him ideas, became
a very, very contentious aspect of our relationship, I think, that polluted the
NARRATOR: General Shinseki's position was Army
doctrine: large numbers of forces were necessary to secure a country
immediately after a conflict. But
he couldn't get through the Rumsfeld, who had Newt Gingrich talking to less
traditional planners like Colonel MacGregor.
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: He said, "What do you think?" And I said, "50,000 troops. Real emphasis has to be on getting
rapidly to Baghdad on a couple of axes and using mobile armored forces for that
purpose. And once we get there, we
remove the government." I said,
"The bottom line is, the secretary's right. The enemy's very weak. This will not take very long," at which point in time, I was told,
"Well, great. Can you put together
NARRATOR: This is Colonel MacGregor's war plan:
50,000 troops rapidly deployed, striking at the heart of Baghdad.
DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: I received a call from CENTCOM, from
General Franks's staff group director, who is a full colonel, who said, "The
secretary of defense has directed the boss to bring you down to CENTCOM for
NARRATOR: If you're a war-fighting general,
CENTCOM is where you want to be. Norman Schwarzkopf was the boss here during Desert Storm. Then Marine general Joe Hoar took over.
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: Fifty thousand people? I
know what my answer would have been. I can't say it on public television. This is a labor-intensive business, and if you're going to
go in and change a country of 25 million people, you've got to have boots on
the ground. The people that are
making decisions in the military, the guys that are in uniform, think very
seriously about having one American soldier or Marine killed.
the way you minimize casualties is you fight aggressively and with overwhelming
strength. And so when you start up
the road to Baghdad, you have enough people to flood that city, that city
that's second only in size to New York City, in terms of how big it is. Also, six-and-a-half million
people. Fifty thousand people–
where would they go in Baghdad? What would they secure? Even if they were successful, how would you manage all of that? What would be the next step? I think it's absolutely impractical.
NARRATOR: But the more the generals dug in, the
harder Rumsfeld pushed.
WOODWARD: And then the war planning, there are
endless sessions, you know, hours and hours of Franks and Rumsfeld, and Franks
and Rumsfeld with the NSC or with President Bush, going through the details,
and charts and slides and these are the assumptions and this is how many troops
we might send. It might take 90
days here, or we're going to try to get it down to 30. It's the kind of microscopic detail
that's reviewed at the Rumsfeld level. It's quite astonishing.
RICKS, The Washington Post: But Franks wants still several hundred thousand troops to go in. And Rumsfeld has this process where he
kind of chips away and chips away at this belief, asking questions, "Why do you
need that? Why do you need
that?" The Pentagon dubs this the
"iterative process." But really, I
think it's more a process of erosion.
NARRATOR: Some thought it had about it the echo
of earlier civilian involvement, like the role civilians played in planning and
operations in Vietnam.
RICKS: I've heard stories again and again of
Rumsfeld actually crossing off individual units from deployment plans, saying,
"You really don't need this. You
don't need this."
NARRATOR: Finally, after a few months, Rumsfeld's
persistence began to pay off. Franks, who declined to be interviewed for this program, was wavering.
RICKS: The Army looks upon this process, I
think, with a little bit of horror during that period of war plan
formation. I remember one day the
general said to me, "Tommy's drunk the Kool-Aid." And that meant, "Yeah, Franks had gone over to kind of the
belief in a smaller, narrower force."
PRIEST: Franks sided with Rumsfeld. I think one thing that people
underappreciate is, even if you're a four-star and even if you have
disagreements with your civilian boss, when the boss rules – which he does in
our society – you're going to be a good soldier and go along with that, and
you're not going to show the public that there's any dissent.
JOSEPH P. HOAR: I'd like to think I would have stood up
and said no. I'd like to think I
would. But I can't say that I
would have. I don't think it's at
all easy to go and tell the secretary of defense that he's wrong when the
secretary of defense and the undersecretary and the assistant secretaries are
all there in the room, and they're telling you, "This is the way the plan ought
to go, this is the way the plan ought to go." That's the difficult part of it.
NARRATOR: But Rumsfeld had also modified his
position in the back-and-forth. So
after 10 months in development, the new Iraq war plan called for 140,000 men, a
rolling start in Kuwait, rapid deployment to Baghdad. It was neither Rumsfeld's plan nor the Army's.
WOODWARD: I think the plan was less
transformational and daring than Rumsfeld hoped it would be. It was a hybrid. It was a lot of the old and some of the
new, probably more of the old than Rumsfeld would like to acknowledge.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 29, 2002] I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws
closer and closer. The United
States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to
threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
KRISTOL, Editor, The Weekly Standard: And I wrote a piece in The Post two days after the State of the Union,
saying, "We've just been present at a very unusual moment, the creation of a
new American foreign policy."
NARRATOR: The president was on board. The neoconservatives' preemption
doctrine would get its test case. Saddam Hussein's regime would be changed. But the veterans of the war behind closed doors knew the
inside struggle wasn't over. Colin
Powell was about to weigh in.
FRUM, White House Speechwriter, 2001-'02: When it comes to close-in bureaucratic combat, he's always the guy who's
left standing. He's skilled. He's effective. He's a powerful personal presence. I mean, he's just a– I mean, he's a
commanding man. And he has the
prestige of this extraordinary military career he has had. Powell does not lose many fights.
NARRATOR: In Washington, they were now taking
sides. The odds-on favorite was
JOSEPH P. HOAR: It wasn't just Democrats, it was people
on both sides that were concerned about this, people that thought Colin Powell
had the right answer.
NARRATOR: But in the councils of power, Powell
JOSEPH P. HOAR: I am told that when you go to The
National Security Council, that Colin Powell gets outvoted by Mr. Rumsfeld and
Mr. Cheney on these issues.
NARRATOR: From the outside, General Hoar
supported Powell's position. Later
he would join other military figures to oppose the war plan, and more recently,
to support John Kerry. The forces
of moderation took the fight public. Former NSC adviser Brent Scowcroft, the president's father's military
man, wrote op-ed pieces, and the public climate of doubt began to build. Powell seized the moment. He lobbied for a private dinner with
WOODWARD: And his essential argument got down to
what he called the "Pottery Barn rule"– you invade, you break it, you own it. And you have taken down a government
that's been there for a long time. It was a warning to the president which the president, I think you can
argue, should have said, "Time out. Stop the music. Here we
have Colin Powell, 35 years in the military, secretary of state has just issued
a dire warning. Let's reexamine."
NARRATOR: Then, as the president went on
vacation, his senior cabinet officials were left to fight it out.
WOODWARD: 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. So you have this
collision of world views. You have
personal animosity. And you have
Powell, who is this respected retired general, not somebody who can just be
thrown out the door by Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld.
NARRATOR: Quietly, in the inner circle, Powell
made his best case.
WRIGHT, The Washington Post: Colin Powell won one round, anyway, and that was convincing the cabinet,
the foreign policy team, to allow one go at the United Nations.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will work with the U.N. Security
Council for the necessary resolutions, but the purposes of the United States
should not be doubted.
WRIGHT: When the Bush administration made clear
that it was not willing to succumb in any way to the pressure that Russia,
France, Germany and China wanted, it was pretty clear that the war was going to
NARRATOR: Then Powell agreed to put his personal
prestige on the line to make the case against Saddam Hussein himself.
POWELL: [February 5, 2003] What all of us have learned over the years is deeply troubling.
WRIGHT: Well, Secretary of State Powell played
an important role in his February speech at the United Nations Security
Council, outlining the full list, with the graphics beamed large on screens on
the floor of the Security Council.
POWELL: Saddam Hussein already possesses two
out of the three key components needed to build a nuclear bomb. He has a cadre of nuclear scientists
with the expertise, and he has a bomb design.
WRIGHT: And if you look, in hindsight, at the
intelligence, it's not all that impressive. It was quite dramatic at the time, the way it was presented,
but it really didn't amount to a whole lot.
POWELL: Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi
intelligence official in Khartoum–
WRIGHT: Of all the players in the Bush
administration, he has the greatest popularity and credibility. If it had been Rumsfeld, I think you
would have seen a very different kind of reaction.
POWELL: And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably
accounted for even one teaspoonful of this deadly material.
WRIGHT: Colin Powell was the most powerful
voice within the administration cautioning against the dangers of going to war
and the cost– human, political, diplomatic. At the end of the day, however, Colin Powell is a team
player. He wasn't going to walk
away from the administration on the eve of going to war, which was not only
abandoning his commander-in-chief but also the troops, many of which he still
NARRATOR: And then, just three weeks before the
invasion of Iraq was to begin, General Shinseki was forced to take his internal
fight with Secretary Rumsfeld public.
CARL LEVIN (D), Michigan: General Shinseki, could you give us
some idea as to the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for an occupation
of Iraq, following a successful completion of the war?
ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff, '98-'03: In specific
numbers, I would have to rely on combatant commanders' exact requirements, but
CARL LEVIN: How about a range?
ERIC SHINSEKI: I would say that what's been mobilized
to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are
probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of
geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that
could lead to other problems. And so
it takes a significant ground force presence.
WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: So
the next morning, I get a call from Wolfowitz, who is upset that Shinseki would
give this number. And I forget
exactly what I said, but I said, "Well, he's an expert. He was asked. He has a fundamental responsibility to answer the questions
and offer his professional opinion, which he did. And there was some basis to the opinion because he is a
relative expert on the subject." So a week later–
INTERVIEWER: So what does Wolfowitz say when you say
that? I mean, that's–
WHITE: Well, he's– he's– they're mad. They're upset.
REPORTER: Army chief of staff General Shinseki said it would take several hundred
thousand troops on the ground–
RUMSFELD: There's so many variables that it is
not knowable. It is– however, I
will say this. What is, I think,
reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S.
forces I think is far from the mark.
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: It's hard to
conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam
Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender
of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.
WHITE: All of us in the Army felt just the
opposite, that there was a long history of that being absolutely true, that the
defeat of the Iraqi military would be a relatively straightforward operation of
fairly short duration, but that the securing of the peace and the security of a
country of 25 million people spread out over an enormous geographic area would
be a tremendous challenge that would take a lot of people, a lot of labor, to
be done right.
WOLFOWITZ: In short, we don't know what the requirement
will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds
of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.
WHITE: So they discredit Shinseki. Then a week later, I get in front of
the same committee. I get asked– I
see Senator Levin before the hearing starts, and he says, "I'm going to ask you
the same question." I said,
"Good." I said, "You're going to
get the same answer." And so he
asked me the question, and I– exactly the same answer. And you know, and at that point,
Shinseki and White are not on the team, right? We don't get it. We don't understand this thing, and we are not on the team. And therefore, you know, actions are
going to be taken.
Read White's extended interview]
JOSEPH P. HOAR: I think he was the only service chief
that spoke out about certain things. And the message sent is, "Do it my way or leave."
NARRATOR: Rumsfeld and the civilians had captured
the Army. He and General Franks
had a battle plan. Certain they would
win the war, they were confident about winning the peace.
WOODWARD: They were focused on, "Let's win the
battle," and stabilization, aftermath, the politics of what's going on in Iraq
clearly did not get the attention that it should have.
NARRATOR: Winning the peace fell to Wolfowitz,
who planned for some contingencies but not a long occupation.
HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1997-'99: We fell victim, I think, to seriously artificial thinking that the
environment after the war was not really an extension of the war. So all of the focus was largely on the
war fighting and the immediate transition issues associated with the cessation
of war, the– what do you do if you have a lot of refugees? What do you do if you have a lot of
prisoners? What do you do if you
have a lot of– if you have food problems? So those things they thought through, but none of the security
dimensions of occupying a country after a war had been thought through, really.
NARRATOR: Over at the State Department, they had
been looking hard at the long-term reconstruction of Iraq.
BOUCHER, State Dept. Spokesman: We've organized the Future of Iraq
Project to draw upon both independent Iraqis and representatives of political
NARRATOR: All during 2002, dozens of Iraqi exiles
and State Department veterans had been preparing a post-war plan. But the Future of Iraq Project was
Colin Powell's. Rumsfeld
forcefully argued Iraq should be the Pentagon's province.
HAMRE: 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 Future of Iraq Project was moved
over to the Pentagon.
WHITE: The Defense Department is going to
exercise rigid control over this whole operation, and therefore, none of those
people are deemed to be acceptable. And so we just exclude that.
WOODWARD: 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.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [March 19, 2003] My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in
the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and
to defend the world from grave danger.
NARRATOR: "Shock and awe," running start, Najaf,
Karbala Gap, daisy cutter, embeds all joined the vernacular of war. In three weeks, it was over. the statue fell.
RUMSFELD: [April 9, 2003] The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American
tanks, tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are
PRIEST, The Washington Post: Things got out of control immediately with the looting and with the arms
depots that weren't guarded and the nuclear facilities, or nuclear material
facilities that weren't guarded. And in 100 other ways, we saw that there were too few troops to keep
RICKS, The Washington Post: The government fell, but the capital was not taken. I don't think the enemy in Iraq decided
he was defeated when we decided on April 9, 2003, that he was defeated. We pulled down the goalpost at
halftime, and he kept on playing.
RUMSFELD: [April 11, 2003] 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! It's just unbelievable how people can
take that away from what is happening in that country!
is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over
again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't
have a plan." That's
nonsense! They know what they're
doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy. And
freedom's untidy. And free people
are free to make mistakes and 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: On a Friday afternoon at the end of
April, Rumsfeld decided to do some tidying up of his own. His office called Army secretary Tom
WHITE: His office called down, said "Rumsfeld
wants to see you, nothing about what the subject of the meeting would be. Well, I guessed. Why else would I be down there on
Friday afternoon, and there's no subject, there's no agenda, there's no
nothing? And there's the secretary
and the deputy secretary of defense standing there. And obviously, I've been outside the tent for quite some
time, and the problems are already evident. And they know what I'm on the record as saying about it,
obviously, and I'm going to continue to speak out.
said, "I want to make a change." I
think that was his exact words. And that was it.
NARRATOR: FRONTLINE wanted to ask Secretary
Rumsfeld about his disputes with White and Shinseki, about the Powell doctrine
and transformation, but the secretary declined to be interviewed.
the summer of 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld's press conferences were cut back.
RICKS: I got the impression that Rumsfeld
though, "OK, now I'm going to turn my attention to other things, and I'm going
to let Wolfowitz focus more on Iraq. So it's Wolfowitz who's going out to Iraq on visits and kind of visiting
the commanders more often than Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD: There's an increase in violent
incidents. No question about that.
NARRATOR: But eventually, Rumsfeld would have to
answer the hard questions about what was happening in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: Is the glass half empty or half
full? Is it dangerous? Yes. Are people being killed? Yes. Is it a
violent country? You bet. Were there 200-some-odd people killed
in Washington, D.C., last year? Yes. Were they on the front
page of every newspaper? Were they
on the television every night? No.
ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School: We find ourselves in a situation where
our military can win every stand-up firefight, but it loses the battle. When Baghdad first fell, half of all
Iraqis viewed us as liberators. When Coalition Provisional Authorities supposedly handed sovereignty
over to the Iraqis, our standing with the Iraqi population was down to 2
KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: We still have roughly 135,000 or so American troops in that area trying
to bring about stability. And
certainly, that is, in a sense, a de facto admission of the fact that things
haven't gone exactly as was planned."
Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): I guess deep in my heart, I hoped that
there was some sort of a secret plan that they were going to follow.
JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: I think people already had figured out that this was not going to be
hard. And so when it turned out to
be hard, there were no plans to do what was necessary. I can't understand any other reason,
that they just were misinformed.
NARRATOR: In Iraq, thousands were arrested and
imprisoned. And then the reports
of a scandal–
NEWSCASTER: Demonstrators gathered outside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison today–
NARRATOR: –involving some of the prisoners and
the Army reserve troops guarding them.
NEWSCASTER: –won't go away. Today two
more incriminating photos are released.
PRIEST, The Washington Post: I
think Abu Ghraib, for all the awful things that it says about the unit that
conducted it, and potentially, about their commanders, who were pushing for
intelligence– the real significance of Abu Ghraib is that it's a symbol of the
unpreparedness of the military to deal with the chaos and the insurgency in the
LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: It
shows you what happens when you have untrained people poorly supervised in
combat. It shows what happens when
you don't have the right skill mix. And it shows you what can happen when you play too cute with the rules
that have stood the test of time.
NARRATOR: "The rules" were the Geneva Convention
and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's strict standards of
behavior. They were at the heart
of that dispute between Secretary Rumsfeld and the military JAGs at the
Pentagon that had begun in Afghanistan. By the time thousands had ended up in prisons like Abu Ghraib, the JAGs
had been marginalized.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: The military legal system not being
part of that prison was very similar to what the JAGs were predicting months
before, a year before, that if you don't follow the rules pretty closely in
combat, they get really out of whack.
NARRATOR: Then Secretary Rumsfeld was called up
to Capitol Hill.
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
RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that
I've indicted has been undertaken–
JOHN McCAIN: But Mr. Secretary–
RUMSFELD: –is determining.
JOHN McCAIN: –that's a very simple, straightforward
RUMSFELD: Well, the– the– as 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– and they're instructions
are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva conventions.
NARRATOR: It was among his lowest moments. There were calls for his resignation or
even his removal.
PROTESTERS: Fire Rumsfeld! Fire
Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld!
NARRATOR: Then in August, two former secretaries
of defense, James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, released a tough report about
what had happened at Abu Ghraib.
RICKS: I think he must have been a little
surprised, when he read the Schlesinger report, to see his peers, a couple of
former secretaries of defense, weigh him and find him wanting.
K. FOWLER (R), Fmr Florida Rep., Panel Member: We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the
soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon.
RICKS: But the report was broader than
that. It faulted the entire
handling of Iraq in that crucial period, as the insurgency developed and
developed into a full-blown opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
K. FOWLER: –in our report, these leadership
NARRATOR: The Pentagon that had once so welcomed
the new administration is now deeply divided. At some cost, Secretary Rumsfeld has achieved some of what
he set out to do. The civilians
have gained control. Transformation is under way. The Powell doctrine is in eclipse.
RICKS: The great achievement of today's
colonels and generals is that they are the guys who turned it around in the
wake of the Vietnam war. And now
the tragedy of some of these guys is this magnificent army they spent 25 years
rebuilding is now really going through the agony of Iraq.
WHITE: We're on the brink. We are in a situation where we are
grossly over-deployed, and it is unlike any other period in the 229-year
history of the Army. So you have
people that are on multiple tours. The Army's got 33 combat brigades, and 20-some of them are
deployed. This is not a
sustainable manpower equation.
NEWSCASTER: Two helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division were flying over a
suburban area of Mosul when the crash happened.
NARRATOR: The Army's poll of future recruits has
dwindled to its lowest level in three years. More than 1,000 new Army recruiters are offering bonuses of
up to $15,000 for new enlistees. The Army is enforcing a policy called "stop loss" which prohibits
soldiers from retiring or leaving three months before and after their unit's
deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
WHITE: The price is that, particularly,
reserve component people will say, "I'm as big a patriot as anybody else, but
I've been gone three years out of the last four, and that's not what I signed
up for." And I think we're all
concerned that that's where we headed.
NARRATOR: Now Rumsfeld is even having to answer
rumors and speculation about the return of the draft.
RUMSFELD: [September 23, 2004, congressional
hearing] We are not having trouble maintaining a
force of volunteers! Every single
person's a volunteer! We do not
need to use compulsion to get people to come in the armed services! We've got an ample number of talented,
skillful, courageous, dedicated young men and women willing to serve! And it's false!
KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: The Army is essentially engaged in a race against time. Can the Army essentially train up
indigenous Iraqi security forces so that the Iraqis can provide for the
security of their own country before the Army becomes so strained that the
volunteers – and we have an all-volunteer Army – will start to say, you know,
"This doesn't look like such a good career anymore. I'm going to get out when my enlistment is up." It's going to be, as Secretary Rumsfeld
said, a long, hard slog.
RICKS: I remember somebody talking about him
as a wrestler, that his great strength as a wrestler was that he wouldn't give
up, even when he knew he was beaten. He would just keep on slogging away.
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
H.W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
R. FORD LIBRARY
PRESIDENTIAL MATERIALS COLLECTION, NATIONAL ARCHIVES
THE WASHINGTON POST
FRONTLINE coproduction with The Washington Post
Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd
FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH
Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
ANNOUNCER: This report continues on FRONTLINE's Web site, where
you'll find a timeline tracing over four decades and six administrations of
politics, conflicts and interconnections between Donald Rumsfeld and other key
players, a chronology of the decades-long struggle between civilian leaders and
uniformed military, more on Abu Ghraib and the JAG story, FRONTLINE's extended interviews
with Washington Post reporters and other close observers of the military
establishment. Plus, watch the
full program again on line. Then
join the discussion at pbs.org.
time on FRONTLINE: A nation at
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