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Truth, War and Consequences

Produced by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria
Coproduced by Ben Gold and Chris Durrance
Written by Martin Smith

 

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The war on terror is not confined strictly to the al Qaeda that we're chasing. The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein.

ANNOUNCER: The President said the war would make the world safer, but did the Bush Administration know what it was really getting into?

ROBERT M. PERITO, National Security Council (1988-89): Their basic approach was that they couldn't really foresee exactly what was needed, so they were going to wait until they got there, and then they were going to make recommendations.

ANNOUNCER: Did the administration listen too much to this man?

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi National Congress: Saddam Hussein was a threat to the West and he was the most dangerous threat.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

ANNOUNCER: And were we told the truth?

GREG THEILMANN: The administration made statements which I can only describe as dishonest.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith travels to Iraq to investigate Truth, War and Consequences.

 

NARRATOR: The drive from Kuwait City to Baghdad takes about 12 hours. We made our first trip in late April, just two weeks after the fall of Saddam. We accompanied Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile who has been at the center of efforts to topple Saddam for more than a decade. He hadn't seen southern or central Iraq since he was 18.

KANAN MAKIYA, Author, Republic of Fear: This was once upon a time the Fertile Crescent. Saddam's turned it into a desert.

NARRATOR: Along the way, U.S. convoys were busy moving in additional equipment and troops, while soldiers manned crude checkpoints. The roads are not secure. Bandits are a common hazard. We traveled in a convoy with other returning Iraqi exiles. With less than 300 kilometers to go, they paused for a picture.

As we drove into Baghdad, the bombed-out hulks of Iraqi tanks and anti-aircraft guns littered the sides of the highways. In the city center, buildings had been blasted by missiles. Others were destroyed by fire. The capital of one of the world's biggest oil-producing nations was also suffering from years of U.N. sanctions, as well as underdevelopment and neglect at the hands of Saddam and his Ba'ath Party.

KANAN MAKIYA: I suppose a shock was to realize just how rundown the city had been allowed to become by the Ba'ath. I thought of the Ba'ath as a modernizing force, an ugly, brutal, deformed kind of modernity, but modernizing nonetheless. And here I entered a city that was ramshackle, broken apart, buildings cracking at the seams, filthy, smelling garbage on the streets. It just-- it was-- it was-- it was tragic. There was a true sense of dilapidation everywhere.

NARRATOR: On top of the dilapidation came post-war looting.

KANAN MAKIYA: When you take the lid off of a repressive system of 30 years in the making and you don't have an alternative law-and-order system to replace it, the population went wild.

NARRATOR: The looting had gone far beyond the stealing of furniture and air-conditioners. Looters had deconstructed entire buildings, stripped out wires, insulation, plumbing, stealing any reusable, resalable materials. They torched what remained. When General Jay Garner and his reconstruction team arrived they found nearly all the buildings they needed to run post-war Iraq demolished.

MARTIN SMITH, FRONTLINE Correspondent: Did you plan for looting?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER, U.S. Army (Ret.): Well, I knew there would be looting, but I didn't think the looting would have the impact that it did have. Seventeen of the twenty-three ministries were gone when we got to Baghdad. And more than that, there's no communications. So you know, I-- I didn't know that the looting would be as-- I never suspected it would be as serious as it was.

NARRATOR: We'd heard about shortages. We saw what it meant. To buy a tank of gasoline, the wait could be more than eight hours. Tempers flared. We came upon this station, where one man had fired a gun in anger. The bullet hit a gas tank, and an explosion and fire ensued that killed four, including this boy's brother. Weary residents were calling on the U.S. to either take control or go home.

MARTIN SMITH: Couldn't the military have done a better job of putting in police patrols or bringing in more soldiers to try to tamp things down a bit?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Well, you'd have to ask the military.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, you're a general. What's your opinion?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Well, I think-- you are always better off with more troops.

MARTIN SMITH: So we didn't have enough troops.

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: I think there's-- I think we could have used more troops inside Baghdad at the end of the war, yes.

NARRATOR: There was still some looting going on when we arrived. And when we came across soldiers, they didn't seem sure of their role.

U.S. SOLDIER: That child don't need to be here.

NARRATOR: We filmed these GIs after they caught a group of Iraqis stealing wood.

U.S. SOLDIER: We try to stop them from looting, and they don't understand, so we take their car and we crush it, the United States Army tankers. That's what you get when you loot.

NARRATOR: Later, the car's owner told us, "I am a taxi driver. The car was my livelihood."

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: [Baghdad conference] You represent a culture that brought forth civilization. It's your people and your land that brought forth the codification of the law.

NARRATOR: The day after we arrived, General Garner was speaking to a political conference. The U.S. had invited 300 Iraqis: tribal sheiks, religious, business and political leaders. Kanan Makiya came with his own ambitions about how to build a new democratic Iraq.

KANAN MAKIYA: It was important, I think, for one salient fact sort of emerged from the meeting. The sense of the mood of that meeting was, "We want a government and we want it now."

IRAQI MAN: We are asking British and the United States to put the principal system for us, how to go to democracy, OK?

KANAN MAKIYA: And the American officials who were up there on the platform were on the edge of losing control of the meeting because they didn't have answers. The central fact on everybody's mind was the lawlessness that had taken place, the anarchy, the breakdown.

MARTIN SMITH: Looting was going on as the meeting took place.

KANAN MAKIYA: Looting. And authority was needed-- here, now, immediately, instantly.

NARRATOR: Kanan Makiya has been involved for over 10 years with an Iraqi exile opposition group dedicated to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. We followed him to their new Baghdad headquarters.

The Iraqi National Congress was founded in 1992. The INC is headed by a former banker, Ahmad Chalabi. Before the war, Chalabi was a key player in efforts to help establish the case that Saddam was an imminent threat.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi National Congress: Saddam Hussein was a threat to the West, and he was the most dangerous threat that-- that could have been envisaged in this time, after-- especially after September 11th.

NARRATOR: According to top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, Chalabi was without question the single most important source of intelligence the U.S. had on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

RICHARD PERLE, Defense Policy Board: He's a very capable guy. He's quite brilliant -- Ph.D. in mathematics, with a background at the University of Chicago and MIT, committed to secular democracy -- and is the kind of modern liberal leader that we would hope to see not only in Iraq but throughout the Arab world.

MARTIN SMITH: People say that there are two men who are responsible for the fall of Saddam Hussein. One is George Bush and the other is Ahmad Chalabi. You agree?

AHMAD CHALABI: If somebody else said it, I'm not going to disagree with them. This is-- this is-

MARTIN SMITH: Well, you nagged the U.S. government for 12, 13 years to accomplish this task.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, I did. I worked very hard because I came to the conclusion very early on that if the U.S. is not heavily involved in helping the Iraqi people get rid of Saddam, Saddam is going to stay, and his son is going to come after.

NARRATOR: When we caught up with Chalabi, he was no longer preoccupied with making the case for war. A steady stream of visitors was coming to his headquarters. Chalabi was busy navigating post-war politics.

MARTIN SMITH: Many people that supported the war no longer do.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: They feel that they were suckered.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes, probably.

MARTIN SMITH: They say so.

AHMAD CHALABI: OK. I mean, I don't-- you know, I'm not a--

MARTIN SMITH: Well, I mean, the-- you know, half the people now feel that the war wasn't justified on the grounds that it was argued for.

AHMAD CHALABI: OK.

MARTIN SMITH: Do you feel any discomfort with that?

AHMAD CHALABI: No. We are in Baghdad now.

NARRATOR: They are in Baghdad now. The story of how they got here begins in Washington.

Ever since the end of the Gulf war, a small group of influential policy makers has wanted to rid the Middle East of Saddam Hussein. But going to war to achieve it was not politically feasible until after September 11th, 2001.

RICHARD PERLE: Well, I believe there was a strong argument for looking at Iraq before September 11th. What September 11th taught us is that we can wait too long in the presence of a known and a visible threat.

NARRATOR: On the afternoon of September 11th, Richard Perle, phoned one of President Bush's speechwriters, David Frum.

RICHARD PERLE: I had a conversation with David.

NARRATOR: And what was the content of that?

RICHARD PERLE: That we are not going to deal effectively with global terrorism if states can support and sponsor and harbor terrorists without penalty.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts.

NARRATOR: At 8:30 that evening, President Bush spoke to the nation. He laid out his policy, echoing the words that Perle had suggested to his speechwriter earlier in the day.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

NARRATOR: Four days later, the president and his cabinet gathered at Camp David to formulate strategy in the war on terrorism. President Bush told cabinet members that if Saddam Hussein was to become a target, they needed to dig up evidence that he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

Within days, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz directed one of his deputies, Douglas Feith, to set up a special office inside the Pentagon that would examine the intelligence regarding Iraq's possible connection with al Qaeda.

It started as a small, secretive operation.

RICHARD PERLE: It was very simple. It was clear that no one had been looking for links of a kind that it was reasonable to consider might exist. We didn't know whether they existed, and the evidence might have been that they didn't exist. So some people were brought in to take a look. And within a very short period of time, they began to find links that nobody else had previously understood.

NARRATOR: When it came to Iraq, the special intelligence office didn't trust what the CIA or even their own Defense Intelligence Agency had to say. They did apparently listen to Ahmad Chalabi. According to one Pentagon source, he visited once every other month. Across the Potomac, Greg Thielmann had analyzed intelligence for the State Department for seven years.

GREG THIELMANN, U.S. Dept. of State (1977-02): That office was largely invisible to us in the intelligence community because they didn't-- they didn't play in the-- in the normal bureaucratic process of making intelligence assessments and reporting on those assessments.

MARTIN SMITH: What did you understand that office to be about?

GREG THIELMANN: I am still trying to figure out what that office was about. The office wasn't big enough for them to really have the expertise in-house, and the mere creation of the office was odd, since the secretary of defense had the entire Defense Intelligence Agency at his disposal. So it's a little mysterious what exactly they were doing.

RICHARD PERLE: Let me be blunt about this. The level of competence of the Central Intelligence Agency in this area is appalling. They had filtered out the whole set of possibilities because it was inconsistent with their model. So if you're walking down the street and you're not looking for hidden treasure, you won't find it.

MARTIN SMITH: Conversely, if you look for something, you will find it, simply because you are looking. And the nature of intelligence is -- is very often vague, and things can be interpreted one way or another.

RICHARD PERLE: Of course. There's no absolute truth in this.

[www.pbs.org: View more of Perle's interview]

NARRATOR: It is not publicly known what intelligence was provided by the special intelligence office, but FRONTLINE has learned that a report from the Czech Republic that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague got their attention and was passed on to the White House.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: ["Meet the Press," December, 2001] There is a report that has been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

NARRATOR: But the meeting in Prague was never confirmed. In fact, the FBI established one month later through car rental records that Atta was in Florida when the alleged Prague meeting would have occurred. The vice president, however, would still be citing the story over a year later.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: ["Meet the Press," September, 2002] On at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.

GREG THIELMANN: I think it's very unusual, the amount of influence they had. What seems to have happened is that the conclusions or the work that they did somehow entered from the side into the policy community--

MARTIN SMITH: At a very high level.

GREG THIELMANN: --at a very high level, in a way that was invisible to those of us in the intelligence community producing intelligence.

NARRATOR: While the Pentagon was building a case for war, the State Department was planning for the aftermath. In the spring of 2002, they launched the Future of Iraq Project.

RICHARD BOUCHER, State Dept. Spokesman: We've organized the Future of Iraq project to draw upon both independent Iraqis and representatives of political groups, in order to plan for many of the practical issues--

NARRATOR: The State Department invited Iraqi exiles to participate in working groups on how to keep law and order in the streets and how to keep oil, electricity and water flowing after the war.

WORKING GROUP MEMBER: The marsh issue is huge. And until we go and look at the soil in some more detail--

EDWARD WALKER, U.S. Dept. of State (1967-01): There are committees set up to consider each aspect of the future life of Iraq and how you could deal with it in the immediate days thereafter. It involved an awful lot of very bright people, many of whom have the credentials in economics and banking and agriculture, and so on, that--

MARTIN SMITH: This was a real effort--

EDWARD WALKER: This was a real effort to--

MARTIN SMITH: --to plan.

EDWARD WALKER: Right, to be there on the ground the day after and ready to go.

NARRATOR: Laith Kubba, a prominent Iraqi exile, participated in three working groups.

LAITH KUBBA, Iraqi National Congress (1992-96): The reality is, by the beginning of 2002, Iraqis have not mobilized their expertise to map out what the issues and challenges are in a post-Saddam Hussein. Everybody agreed that Saddam should go. Everybody would like to have democracy afterwards. Nobody had a clue what the challenges are ahead. So for the State Department to have started to gather Iraqis, 200 of them in 15 working groups, was a good step.

NARRATOR: Most Iraqi exiles were enthusiastic about the Future of Iraq Project, though some -- notably, Ahmad Chalabi and other INC Iraqis -- were skeptical about the usefulness of a series of seminars. They wanted to talk about who was going to rule Iraq after the war. Initially, Kanan Makiya declined an invitation to participate.

KANAN MAKIYA: The State Department wanted to talk about how best we can collect garbage in the streets the day after liberation, or how can we recruit a thousand health workers to go to this or that area the day after. And I said I didn't have anything to contribute to such questions. Unfortunately, I-- I'm sure there were people inside Iraq who would know much better than I how to go about doing these things.

NARRATOR: Kanan Makiya has been making a case for ousting Saddam for over 10 years. FRONTLINE first filmed him in Washington in 1992. In his books, he had exposed Saddam's history of brutality.

KANAN MAKIYA: [1992] Don't look to the United States for help. That is gone.

NARRATOR: In the wake of the first Gulf war, he was one of the first Arab intellectuals to openly criticize America for failing to topple Saddam.

KANAN MAKIYA: [1992] The future of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis alone today.

NARRATOR: After one of his talks, he began a friendship with Paul Wolfowitz.

KANAN MAKIYA, Author, Republic of Fear: I was giving a talk and he was in the audience. And I remember him seeking me out, and a very touching moment when he said that he felt the United States had been wrong in 1991. And to have sought me out to say this thing was something special, which I-- I took an immense liking to the man because of it.

NARRATOR: Wolfowitz was then a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He remained a friend of Makiya's and a supporter of the INC. He wouldn't have a chance to help them, though, until he became Secretary Rumsfeld's right-hand man.

Ahmad Chalabi was also in Washington in the early 1990s. He had aggressively lobbied Capitol Hill and made friends with influential Republicans, who helped him get a meeting in the first Bush White House with National Security Council advisor Richard Haass.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi National Congress: I went to Haass. He told me, "I'm seeing you only because you impressed some congressman." I was supposed to meet him, I don't know, for half an hour. We stayed 90 minutes. I explained to him the strategy. He said, "We will support an Iraqi political movement that will come out endorsing democracy in Iraq, a democratic government, pluralistic government in Iraq, renunciation of weapons of mass destruction."

MARTIN SMITH: Haass says, "If you do these things, we will support you"?

AHMAD CHALABI: He said, "If you get a political movement with such a program, we will support you." And that was the genesis of the INC.

NARRATOR: Under the proviso that the INC would represent all Iraqis -- Kurds, Shias and Sunnis -- the U.S. government gave the INC CIA money and contacts. But in the mid-'90s, when Chalabi tried to launch an Iraqi uprising, he found he had miscalculated the depth of American support.

EDWARD WALKER: They needed support from the United States, and we refused to give it to them.

MARTIN SMITH: But we'd encouraged them in the first place.

EDWARD WALKER: Absolutely.

RICHARD PERLE: He attempted to build on what he thought was American support, which was not forthcoming.

NARRATOR: The Clinton administration feared Chalabi had misrepresented the strength and the breadth of his movement and had provided shoddy intelligence about Saddam's military. The White House ordered the CIA to abandon the operation.

EDWARD WALKER: That got shot down largely because I think people were afraid it would be a one-way street for military intervention, our military intervention. And the military-- our military wasn't prepared for that at that time.

LAITH KUBBA: I think that fall-out was the final straw that broke the camel's back because there were other issues to do with how the INC was run, how the money was spent, the quality of intelligence that was gathered at that time, a number of issues. But ultimately, that led to a breakdown.

NABIL MUSAWI, Iraqi National Congress: After '96, after the events of the summer of '96, we had to go back to the drawing board and decide on a strategy. And we had to think of what we considered to be a real strategy to get us to Baghdad.

AHMAD CHALABI: [1998 congressional hearing] Saddam is the problem. He can never be part of any solution!

NARRATOR: Chalabi turned back to Washington. With the help of friends in Congress, he lobbied for the passage of a bill, the Iraqi Liberation Act, that would make regime change in Iraq official U.S. government policy.

AHMAD CHALABI: The Iraqi people know full well the horror of chemical and biological weapons.

NARRATOR: The Iraqi Liberation act funneled millions of dollars to the INC.

AHMAD CHALABI: The Iraqi National Congress asks your help in removing the threat of Saddam's doomsday weapons from our people, from the region, and from the world.

NARRATOR: Chalabi used some of the money to attract and pay defectors. He then passed them to the government, as well as to the media. Many news organizations, including FRONTLINE, used Chalabi's defectors in their reports.

Saddam's Iraq has always been hard to penetrate. Weapons inspectors knew Saddam once used chemical weapons, but whether he still possessed any or had programs for biological or nuclear weapons was much harder to determine. In Baghdad, we visited Dr. Hamid al Bahali, one of the founders of Iraq's civilian nuclear program.

HAMID AL BAHALI, Tuweitha Nuclear Plant: [subtitles] I believe that both the British and the Americans had reason to believe that Iraq had a program. The intelligence services must have wondered why there were so many tons of uranium here. What are the uranium-enriching facilities and centrifuges here for? These things they could see.

NARRATOR: Dr. Bahali believes that despite all its money and equipment, Iraq didn't have the expertise to assemble a weapon.

HAMID AL BAHALI: [subtitles] They led the world to believe that Iraq is manufacturing something, but I believe this is not true. I believe there may be theoretical plans on paper. But how to implement this? That is not easy.

NARRATOR: Today Dr. Bahali is more concerned with the radioactive contamination of villagers living near the looted nuclear plant Tuweitha, where he worked for the last 10 years.

HAMID AL BAHALI: Salam aleikum.

BOY: Salam.

HAMID AL BAHALI: [subtitles] How are you? How is your health? So what happened? The girls have a rash?

WOMAN: [subtitles] Yes, they have a rash.

HAMID AL BAHALI: [subtitles] Who?

WOMAN: [subtitles] The two of them here.

NARRATOR: The army has now secured the gates of Tuweitha, which had once been a major point of interest for inspectors. For months a CIA/Pentagon team has scoured Iraq, but it reportedly has found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, in spite of past claims by Ahmad Chalabi and the INC.

AHMAD CHALABI: We believe that he was developing weapons of mass destruction.

MARTIN SMITH: But what-- based on what evidence?

AHMAD CHALABI: Evidence that we had from his people. But we never gave this to the United States because we knew that this kind of evidence will be unacceptable and it will be--

MARTIN SMITH: Why?

AHMAD CHALABI: Because it is not verifiable for the United States. We get a piece of information from an officer.

MARTIN SMITH: So it was hearsay.

AHMAD CHALABI: We believed it. We knew it-- well, we did not present it.

MARTIN SMITH: But it-- it looks as if, right now-- I mean they-- the American people feel that they were told that there were going to be storehouses of weapons on the shelf.

AHMAD CHALABI: Not by us!

MARTIN SMITH: Well--

AHMAD CHALABI: Not by us!

MARTIN SMITH: By whom?

AHMAD CHALABI: From their own intelligence services.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, National Security Adviser: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon--

NARRATOR: Prior to the war, the administration was reading intelligence that was often vague, sometimes contradictory, rarely definitive.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: But America need to know I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence.

NARRATOR: Unlike the intelligence, though, the message the administration rolled out in the fall of 2002 was sharp and clear.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing--

NARRATOR: What was missing from all the speeches and television appearances were the caveats and contrary evidence from their own intelligence agencies.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes.

NARRATOR: In a classified report circulated within the administration in late September, 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency stated that there was, "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons."

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: --a nuclear weapon. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

NARRATOR: At the same time, the Pentagon's special intelligence office was coming up short of proving Saddam had current and active links to al Qaeda.

MARTIN SMITH: As you watched this growing divergence between what was being said by policy makers and what you knew was the intelligence, what conclusions were you drawing?

GREG THIELMANN, U.S. Dept. of State (1977-02): Well, the conclusion that I ultimately came to was that this was a matter of, as I've called it, faith-based intelligence. They were cherry-picking the information that we provided, to use whatever pieces of it that fit their overall interpretation. And worse than that, they were dropping qualifiers and distorting some of the information that we provided to make it seem more alarmist and more dangerous than the information that we were giving them.

NARRATOR: The fall campaign would culminate with a speech by President Bush on October 7th in Cincinnati.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.

NARRATOR: The defector mentioned in the president's speech came to the administration's attention via Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi was also making claims about Saddam and al Qaeda.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses.

[www.pbs.org: The selective intelligence debate]

NARRATOR: We talked to Chalabi at INC headquarters in Baghdad.

MARTIN SMITH: You had argued for a long time that they were tightly connected with al Qaeda. As far back as '98, I remember meeting with you--

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes, there were.

MARTIN SMITH: --and you told me there were lots of connections.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes, there were.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, those have not quite been demonstrated.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, we have very strong leads on that. And we have very strong evidence that they have.

MARTIN SMITH: You have strong evidence that there's links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes. You see, the point is that U.S.-- U.S.--

MARTIN SMITH: Where are these -- where is-- where is this evidence, though?

AHMAD CHALABI: In U.S. hands. We gave the names of the people. There were visits of al Qaeda here, and there was money that changed hands.

MARTIN SMITH: Do you have any documentary evidence of any kind?

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes. There is such a document.

MARTIN SMITH: That is a document that you could show us?

AHMAD CHALABI: Well I-- I-- I've seen it, but I don't have it in my possession. But they could show it to you, I think.

MARTIN SMITH: Who can show it to me?

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, our intelligence people.

MARTIN SMITH: Your intelligence people? So after this interview, we can--

AHMAD CHALABI: I-- I don't know if you can do it right now.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, I think its very important to make this-- this is something you've talked about since '98, and I think its a very important point. Its one of the points that drew America to this war.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes!

MARTIN SMITH: Correct? So it's very important to establish the truth of it.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes. I agree.

MARTIN SMITH: So I mean, if there is such a document, it makes sense for you to share it, no?

AHMAD CHALABI: I'm not saying no. No. I'm saying that I can't-- I--

MARTIN SMITH: I'm somehow not getting the feeling that I'm going to see the document.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, you are erroneous.

MARTIN SMITH: OK. Great. I hope to see it.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, we expect to show it to you.

NARRATOR: The document was supposed to demonstrate money changing hands between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda. After repeated requests, FRONTLINE has still not seen the document.

MARTIN SMITH: Were you uncomfortable in the run-up to the war, in the dependence on the imminent threat, the weapons of mass destruction rationale for the war?

KANAN MAKIYA, Iraqi National Congress: I wasn't uncomfortable. I genuinely-- I thought it was true. I held it to be a-- a legitimate rationale. But I never held it as the primary rationale, nor did any other Iraqi that I know of.

MARTIN SMITH: It was the primary rationale for the American people. It was sold as the primary rationale for the war to the American public.

KANAN MAKIYA: It should not have been.

NARRATOR: For Makiya, the cause had always been establishing a democracy in Iraq. In December of 2002, the INC came to a major Iraqi opposition conference in London. In attendance were exiles from all the groups that make up Iraq-- Kurds, Sunnis, Shias and others. At issue was how Iraq would be ruled after the war. Kanan Makiya arrived with his own detailed blueprint for democracy.

KANAN MAKIYA: It carries forward a completely novel idea that doesn't exist anywhere in the Arab Muslim world. This is a completely new kind of state that we are thinking about here, a truly democratic state that will--

NARRATOR: Makiya's paper dealt with many subjects.

KANAN MAKIYA: We are talking here about what kind of federalism exactly we mean, what we mean by a parliament, when elections would take place.

NARRATOR: Among them was a controversial proposal to remove Saddam's entire bureaucracy from office after the war.

KANAN MAKIYA: We are talking here about things like the debaathification of Iraq, a la denazification of Germany. We're talking about--

NARRATOR: The paper also called for the immediate establishment of a provisional government in exile.

KANAN MAKIYA: The moment the report came out, the State Department started taking distance from it because it-- it apparently challenged a central tenet of the U.S.-- of State Department policy, which was they were against the idea of a provisional government.

NARRATOR: The State Department and many other Iraqi exiles wanted to prevent the INC from rushing into a power vacuum before other Iraqis, including those inside Iraq, had a chance to organize.

LAITH KUBBA, Iraqi National Congress (1992-96): I think they had a very simplistic agenda that can be summed up in few words: reducing Iraq to the opposition, reducing the opposition to the INC, and that all the post-Iraq planning should start from that small group, to be given all the resources and support, to become the nucleus for reestablishing authority in Iraq.

ADNAN PACHACHI, Iraqi Exile: I don't think it's a good idea to try to impose a government from outside, so I was against the idea of having a provisional government composed of exiles. There should be a process by which the Iraqi people, especially those who are inside, should have a say in any provisional government.

AHMAD CHALABI: The United States government said, "No, we will not recognize a-- government that is formed by the opposition which is outside the country. We want to get people from inside the country involved, and they should be-- play a leading role in this provisional government."

NARRATOR: The INC left the conference frustrated. Kanan Makiya wrote in a London newspaper that the enemies of a democratic Iraq lay within the U.S. State Department.

KANAN MAKIYA: It's very sad to have to say it, but the State Department and the CIA have consistently thwarted the president's genuine attempt, I think, to do something very dramatic in this country.

NARRATOR: The INC's last hope was the Defense Department. Here, top civilian officials believed the early establishment of a provisional government was a good idea. It could facilitate an early U.S. military withdrawal. An interagency debate intensified in Washington over whether America would go to war backing a Chalabi-led provisional government or not.

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. And I think the problem we began to face was that, you know, everybody almost -- almost -- forgot about the issue of Iraq, and the main focus became Chalabi. Is Chalabi going to be the president? Is Chalabi going to be the head of the provisional government? Well, you know, what would it mean if Saddam Hussein falls? And it wasn't--

MARTIN SMITH: What should have they been thinking about?

NABIL MUSAWI: Iraq!

MARTIN SMITH: So much time has been wasted over who to support, Chalabi or not Chalabi.

RICHARD PERLE, Defense Policy Board: That's quite right. There's been a debilitating and I think wasteful and damaging quarrel over Ahmad Chalabi.

MARTIN SMITH: So why have you clung to Ahmad Chalabi? Why not just find somebody else that's acceptable to both sides?

RICHARD PERLE: No one else has been proposed who's acceptable to both sides. And the arguments against Chalabi have been without substance. He is far and away the most effective individual that we could have hoped would emerge in Iraq.

MARTIN SMITH: This schism within the U.S. government, a lot of it's centered on you, rightly or wrongly. Yet a lot of it came down to people's evaluation of you.

AHMAD CHALABI: Uh-huh.

MARTIN SMITH: The CIA and State after '96 and onwards reviled you.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And this became all-consuming.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes, but you see, this is a very curious situation. I believe that the people who did not want to do anything against Saddam took up-- took me up as the bete noir of this, thinking that I was an easy target to discredit the entire policy.

MARTIN SMITH: You became an extremely divisive character.

AHMAD CHALABI: Yes. Well, they made me so, not I.

[www.pbs.org: The extended Chalabi interview]

NARRATOR: On January 12, 2003, Kanan Makiya received an invitation to meet with the president.

KANAN MAKIYA: The invitation to see the president was very sudden, and I don't know by what channels it happened. I didn't solicit it. It began with the president very emphatically stating his commitment to democracy and that this was what the United States wanted to do. And he left me with the very clear impression that he was deadly serious about it, that this was not just rhetoric, and he was committed to it personally and in some emotional way. We all came away feeling that a truly important breakthrough had taken place.

NARRATOR: Though the White House backed up the State Department in opposing an INC provisional government-in-exile, eight days later the president handed over the reins of post-war planning to Secretaries Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz at the Pentagon.

DONALD RUMSFELD, Defense Secretary: [January 20, 2003] We have recently brought in a retired Army general, Jay Garner, to stand up an office in the Pentagon to being the process of thinking through all of the kinds of things that would be necessary in the early period and--

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld did not know General Jay Garner very well. They had served together on a panel on space and national security in 2000. Yet with two months to go before the war began, Rumsfeld entrusted Garner with full responsibility for post-war politics and reconstruction. Much of the Future of Iraq project was set aside.

MARTIN SMITH: What was the attitude the Pentagon towards the work that had been done by the State Department?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: It wasn't well received.

MARTIN SMITH: It wasn't well received?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Yeah, but not only in the Pentagon. It wasn't real well received in portions of the of the executive branch, either.

MARTIN SMITH: But you know, I have run into-- I've talked to a number of people in the State Department, and they're bitter about the fact that their project was just ignored. You know, they put a big effort into that project.

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: They did put a big effort, and I think that it was a mistake that we didn't use that. And I agree with that. And it was my intent to use that, but we didn't.

MARTIN SMITH: And why didn't we use the Future of Iraq--

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I was just-- I was just told that, no, it's just a decision they made that we're not going to do that.

MARTIN SMITH: And who told you that?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: I got that from the secretary. And I don't think that was his decision.

MARTIN SMITH: Secretary Rumsfeld?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Uh-huh.

MARTIN SMITH: So all the work that was done on the Future of Iraq Project did not show up in any of your--

TIM CARNEY, U.S. Dept. of State (1967-99): Not insofar as I could determine.

MARTIN SMITH: Did you talk with your colleagues about why we're not using this material?

TIM CARNEY: I did, and the consensus of my colleagues was basically that it was part of the ideological food fight between the State Department and the Defense Department.

NARRATOR: The Pentagon's plan for post-war Iraq assumed that once Saddam, his sons and top lieutenants were gone, the remaining soldiers, policemen and Ba'ath Party bureaucrats would cooperate with U.S. authorities.

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: I briefed the president the second week in March. Our plan then is we were going to use most of the army, the Iraqi army, for reconstruction. We were going to hire them and make them, for lack of a better word, reconstruction battalions and use them to help rebuild the country.

MARTIN SMITH: Did that seem like a good plan to you at the time?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Seemed like a great plan, yeah, because they had the skill set to do everything I thought we needed to do. I mean, they know how to fix roads. They know how to fix bridges. They know how to move rubble around. They are all trained, to a certain degree. They knew how to take orders. They have a command-and-control system over them. They have their own transportation, you can move them around, that type of thing. So that was a-- that was a good concept.

TIM RUSSERT, Host: ["Meet the Press," March 16, 2003] If your analysis is not correct and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared--

NARRATOR: Another assumption was that Iraqis would greet the Americans as liberators, an assurance they got from the INC.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: ["Meet the Press," March 16, 2003] I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with various groups and individuals, people who've devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq, men like Kanan Makiya, who's a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi. He's written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there's no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

NARRATOR: While the administration was listening to Makiya, they were ignoring the warnings of others. In February, 2003, Richard Perle invited an expert in post-war situations to make a presentation at the Pentagon. This expert warned about the potential for post-war violence.

ROBERT M. PERITO, National Security Council (1988-89): The thrust of it was that it was very likely that in a post-conflict situation in Iraq, there was going to be a lot of violence. You're going to have a period of general lawlessness. You're going to need to establish the rule of law. You're going to have deal with prisoners, for example.

NARRATOR: Robert M. Perito, an official on President Reagan's National Security Council staff, has studied post-war problems in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Haiti. In all these places, he pointed out, there was widespread looting.

ROBERT M. PERITO: The same thing happened in Panama. As soon as the fighting ended, mobs went into the streets of Panama City and destroyed Panama City, looted the city, did more damage to the Panamanian economy than the conflict did. And so my presentation was largely about the kinds of forces that we would need in order to deal with that kind of violence. And those lessons were ignored.

We had meetings with people on Garner's staff and people, you know, in the administration. Their basic approach was that they couldn't really foresee exactly what was needed, so they were going to wait until they got there and then they were going to make recommendations.

NARRATOR: We wanted ask the administration's top officials about planning for post-war Iraq. We approached Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. They all declined.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [State of Union address] A brutal dictator with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.

NARRATOR: We scheduled an interview with Wolfowitz's deputy, Douglas Feith, but just hours before we sat down, the White House intervened. The interview was canceled. We received no explanation.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

NARRATOR: We wanted to ask questions about WMD, but also about the broader rationale for the war, questions about oil and about the prospects of an Iraqi democracy. Those close to the administration talk of an ambitious set of goals.

RICHARD PERLE: There's no question that liberating Iraq from this vicious, tyrannical regime was thought by many of us to be a good thing in itself. And the added benefits, if one could bring a democratic political process to Iraq, of shaping opinion in the Arab world, which is woefully devoid of democratic political institutions, would also be a good thing.

NARRATOR: The public case, though, rested on imminent threat.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

NARRATOR: The White House has since admitted that the 16 words about uranium yellowcake from Africa were a mistake. What they have not explained is how something that had been investigated 12 months earlier at the request of the vice president could have still made it into a State of the Union speech.

Greg Thielmann had investigated rumors of African uranium sales to Iraq a year before the president's speech.

GREG THIELMANN, U.S. Dept. of State (1977-02): As I recall, it was a human intelligence report that came to the United States. In this case, our specialists, who were weapons intelligence experts, and the African experts and the Middle Eastern experts in the Intelligence Bureau were all of one accord that this was-- this was a bad story.

MARTIN SMITH: And then in January, you hear the president talking about it.

GREG THIELMANN: That's right. And it was a big surprise to me because I left government at the end of September in 2002, so I had no indication in the fall that this story had any life on it at all. It was really a shock to me when the president gave it such visibility in January of 2003.

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: [United Nations, February 5, 2003] Some of the sources are technical, such as intercepted telephone conversations--

NARRATOR: Eight days after the president's State of the Union address, Secretary Powell would present the administration's case to the U.N.

COLIN POWELL: I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling.

NARRATOR: The Secretary laid out al Qaeda links--

COLIN POWELL: Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network--

NARRATOR: --evidence of chemical and biological weapons stores--

COLIN POWELL: Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein has used such weapons.

NARRATOR: --and evidence of an active nuclear program.

COLIN 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.

NARRATOR: Though he did leave out mention of the Niger uranium story, the crux of Powell's nuclear case was that Iraq was procuring aluminum tubes and other vital parts of a uranium enrichment facility.

COLIN POWELL: Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

GREG THIELMANN: We started out being agnostic on this, but the more that we got into it, it was not a difficult assessment for us to arrive at, ultimately, that the Department of Energy experts were correct in seeing these tubes as being not well suited for uranium enrichment centrifuge rotors, but were, in fact, for something else.

COLIN POWELL: Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Khartoum.

GREG THIELMANN: If one goes back to that very long presentation, point by point, one finds that this was not a very honest explanation. You had this very tenuous link made between Saddam and Osama bin Laden in the remarks of Secretary Powell, when his own terrorist officials and virtually everyone else in the U.S. intelligence community said there is no significant connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

I have to conclude Secretary Powell was being a loyal secretary of state, a "good soldier," as it were, building the administration's case before the international community.

Pres. 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: Against the advice of some top military commanders at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believed that Baghdad could be taken and the country secured with a small, mobile force. Initially, the plan seemed to be working.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Things are going very well. General Franks and his team are first-rate. They're enormously capable. They've got a plan that--

NARRATOR: The mood at the Pentagon was upbeat.

DONALD RUMSFELD: --and they are proceeding with it.

NARRATOR: Coalition forces were meeting only token resistance.

DONALD RUMSFELD: There is no question but that that regime is not going to be there in the future.

NARRATOR: After U.S. troops moved into southern Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi was flown by the U.S. military to the town of Nasiriya. It was hoped that he could launch an uprising of Shias long oppressed by Saddam.

KANAN MAKIYA, Iraqi National Congress: 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: The orders came from Undersecretary Doug Feith in the Pentagon. If Chalabi, a secular Shia, could lead Iraqis into battle, it would give him local credibility. Chalabi arrived with 700 troops from his own militia. It was called Operation Crescent Rising.

AHMAD CHALABI: 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. My point was that the United States government should recognize an Iraqi provisional government on any liberated territory of Iraq that was outside the Kurdish area.

NARRATOR: At first, a crowd of several thousand came to see what this largely unknown exile, Chalabi, had to say. It seemed to be going well.

AHMAD CHALABI: [subtitles] The era of the tyrant is over!

NARRATOR: But the State Department and uniformed military vigorously opposed the idea of marching Chalabi and his Free Iraqi Forces into Baghdad. Other Iraqi politicians were also opposed.

ADNAN PACHACHI, Independent Democrats Movement: I thought it was a show of force. I do not like to have warlords in this country, you know, each one having his own militia.

MARTIN SMITH: So this was Ahmad Chalabi acting like a warlord.

ADNAN PACHACHI: Well, but on a very small scale, of course. But I mean, the whole idea of having, you know, armed militias going around-- this is-- we can't start a democracy that way.

NARRATOR: The generals were unimpressed by the people's response to Chalabi and his army.

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY, U.S. Marines: 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. And if you can sort of get a snowball rolling, if you can get the local support and locals want to join the force and that type of thing, than perhaps it becomes another matter. But that was not happening at all.

NARRATOR: The U.S. Army removed Chalabi and his fighters to a nearby military base and kept him out of the fighting. A disappointed Chalabi was left sitting in the desert without transportation. He wouldn't get to Baghdad until five days after its fall.

MARTIN SMITH: The statues are coming down. Where are you?

KANAN MAKIYA: Well, I was in Washington. And I was visiting the vice president, and then I was told suddenly that-- rush over, that there was somebody who wanted to see me. And it was the president. Condoleezza Rice was there and the vice president was there. And we had just seen the pictures of a statue come tumbling down. The president was very emotional and happy.

And I remember telling him, "I was off by two weeks, Mr. President, but it happened," because I had said to the president back in January that the U.S. forces would be greeted with sweets and flowers. And of course, they weren't in the first two weeks. So-- and it was-- it was a moment of, what can I say, of real joy for me and for him, and obviously, for everybody concerned. And we felt we were being vindicated.

IRAQI BOY: OK! OK! No Saddam! Yes Bush! No Saddam!

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, looting of the country spread.

IRAQI MAN: Thank you. Thank you Mr. Bush!

NARRATOR: At first, the military took a passive attitude.

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY: I saw the opulence of the palaces. Getting to and from there, though, you fly over these mud huts that look like something, you know, right out of, I don't know, the birth of Jesus. And the contrast is just remarkable. So when the troops entered Baghdad and there was a level of looting, I think I understood, so long as Iraqis were taking office furniture out of the government buildings in the regime headquarters locations, those types of things. And we watched it for two or three days, I think, pretty much with that attitude.

LAITH KUBBA: 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: It was what Robert Perito had told the Pentagon would happen.

ROBERT M. PERITO: Secretary Rumsfeld made these now famous remarks about this is what happens when you allow people the freedom to act on their instincts.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Stuff happens! 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.

ROBERT M. PERITO, Dept. of State (1967-95): "Stuff happens." I think, you know, there were all these remarks that he made. And that struck me as-- "irresponsible" is a pretty harsh word, but basically irresponsible. We could have been ready. U.S. military forces that were there on scene stood by and watched. Why? Because they had no instructions to intervene. And two, because there is this feeling, and has been on the part of the U.S. military consistently, that the U.S. military doesn't do police. It doesn't do policing functions.

MARTIN SMITH: And you think you could have stopped it?

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY: I think so. I think-- 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: Did you get on the phone and say, "Why aren't we defending these buildings?"

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY: No.

MARTIN SMITH: "Why are we letting this country be looted"?

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY: No.

MARTIN SMITH: You didn't do that.

Lt. Gen. JAMES T. CONWAY: No.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, General Garner and his Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, ORHA, remained holed up at the Hilton Hotel in Kuwait.

MARTIN SMITH: You're ready to go, but you're on hold. What happened?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Well, CENTCOM wasn't going let us go in until they felt that the environment was permissive enough for us to get in there. I mean, they didn't want to put the ORHA team in there and get them all shot up on the first day.

MARTIN SMITH: Do you think that was the right decision?

TIM CARNEY, U.S. Reconstruction Team: No, it was the wrong decision.

MARTIN SMITH: It was the wrong decision. Why?

TIM CARNEY: Basically, there was a-- a window of time which the transition from a military mission to a political military mission was open. And in that-- into that window, one needed to have all of the civilian staff present, to the maximum extent possible, and beginning to function.

MARTIN SMITH: So-- but you're sitting down in Kuwait, unable to get any of this work under way.

TIM CARNEY: That's correct.

NARRATOR: Finally, U.S. commander Tommy Franks relented and flew Garner into Baghdad. He set up shop at the former headquarters of Saddam's Republican Guard. Even still, Garner and his team were unable to get to work.

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: What happened is we put an incredible requirement on the military when we got there. The ground rule was that we couldn't move one of-- like, our ministerial team, our government team, we couldn't move people around Baghdad unless we had an armed Humvee in front of it and an armed Humvee behind it.

NARRATOR: The army didn't have enough Humvees or soldiers to drive them. And not only could the reconstruction team not get around Baghdad, they couldn't call out of the palace. Phones were down because of U.S. missile strikes on many of Baghdad's telephone exchanges.

TIM CARNEY: The United States is the greatest political, military, economic, cultural entity the planet has ever seen. We are particularly gifted at things like telephones and air-conditioning. We couldn't seem to translate our capability into action on the ground, and that proved enormously frustrating.

[www.pbs.org: More on rebuilding Iraq]

NARRATOR: Garner's team was also coping with growing violence. On April 28th, in the Sunni town of Falluja, U.S. soldiers opened fire on a crowd demonstrating against U.S. troops who were occupying a local school. Within a few minutes, 17 Iraqis were dead and 70 wounded. Two days later, in Falluja, another crowd gathered to protest the American violence. U.S. soldiers fired into the crowd again. Three more Iraqis were killed.

IRAQI MAN: [subtitles] Is this the freedom they want to bring us? How do you like this freedom? This freedom is for the dogs! This freedom is for the dogs!

TIM CARNEY: When there's the second event, then you grasp that-- that there had been enough ill will created and a failure to understand what was really at issue in Iraq. And what was at issue in Iraq was not our absolute control but our ability to get Iraqis to share our vision.

NARRATOR: The administration concluded that Iraq urgently needed more law and order. They scrambled to find a replacement for Garner.

L. PAUL BREMER, U.S. Administrator, Iraq: I had a call from somebody in Secretary Rumsfeld's office on a Wednesday afternoon, must have been in early May.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I am selecting Jerry Bremer. Our country will be sending one of our best citizens. He's a man with enormous experience.

L. PAUL BREMER: It was very quick because I was basically over here about 10 days later.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: He's a can-do type person.

L. PAUL BREMER: Effectively, I had only a week to get ready for the job.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: --not only on behalf of our country, but on behalf of the people of Iraq, who deserve a free and democratic society. Good luck to you.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Paul Bremer arrived in Baghdad on May 12th. Bremer would take another run at formulating U.S. policy.

L. PAUL BREMER: The coalition forces did not come to colonize Iraq. We came to overthrow a despotic regime. That we've done. Now our job is to turn and help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny.

NARRATOR: Bremer, a former ambassador to the Netherlands, had little Middle East experience, but he was a State Department counterterrorism chief in the 1980s and a protégé and business partner of Henry Kissinger. Bremer moved quickly to reassert U.S. control. Security was tightened. Street patrols were stepped up. The hunt for Saddam was accelerated. Looters were to be shot on sight. Bremer issued decree after decree--

L. PAUL BREMER: [press conference] That's what we've got to do. We've got to go out, find the criminals, whether they--

NARRATOR: --on property, on prisons, on banking, and on the press. And much to the dismay of politicians like Ahmad Chalabi, Bremer delayed the establishment of an Iraqi-led government. Chalabi flew to Washington and complained to his friends on the Hill and in the Pentagon.

Sen. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS): How is it going? Is it really moving?

AHMAD CHALABI: You see, Senator, I don't understand--

NARRATOR: General Garner complained, too, but privately. Pilloried for being soft, Garner was criticized most heavily for retaining Ba'athist technocrats who ran the machinery of government.

AHMAD CHALABI: The problem with Garner was that he was employing Ba'athists in senior positions.

MARTIN SMITH: You disagreed with him.

AHMAD CHALABI: Entirely disagreed with him.

MARTIN SMITH: Not unhappy to see him go.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, I was happy to see the policy reversed.

NABIL MUSAWI: He was working with the wrong Iraqis. We're talking about the Iraqis who brutalized, traumatized this nation for 35 years.

L. PAUL BREMER: Shortly, I will issue an order on the measures to extirpate Ba'athists and Ba'athism from Iraq forever.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Bremer ordered a policy of complete debaathification: 30 to 40,000 Ba'athists were banned from holding any public office.

MARTIN SMITH: So they scrapped the old plan that you were working with.

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: Yeah, it got scrapped. And all that happened in about a week's period of time.

MARTIN SMITH: How'd you feel about that?

Lt. Gen. JAY GARNER: I thought it was a mistake at the time.

LAITH KUBBA: By alienating large numbers of people and not using them or utilizing them, was not a smart move. By doing that, you have made those people part of the problem instead of making them part of the solution. They have become part of the organized crime, part of the snipers shooting at the Americans, and part of the people who see no place for them in future Iraq. And that was not the idea.

NARRATOR: Over the summer, sabotage increased. Power plants and oil pipelines became regular targets. At least one, sometimes two American soldiers were being killed every day. More than 1,600 American soldiers have been wounded since the war began. Over 300 have died.

KANAN MAKIYA: Much of this sabotage is planned, and it's not resistance to occupation, as the Arab satellite stations are presenting. It's Mafia-like tactics by the remnants of the Ba'ath Party, which are quickly fusing into fundamentalist, Islamist, Wahhabi-leaning parties. There's a dangerous, dangerous convergence. The very al Qaeda-Saddam connection which got so discussed before the war is materializing before our very eyes. I see it in the leaflets that these Fedayeen put out. The language is Qaeda language now. So there's a very interesting sense in which all of that is coming home to roost.

MARTIN SMITH: That's an irony.

KANAN MAKIYA: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: If, in fact--

KANAN MAKIYA: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: --the war itself brings al Qaeda to Iraq, when it wasn't here before.

KANAN MAKIYA: Well, I-- that's your way of spinning it. That's not my way of seeing it.

NARRATOR: These are rare pictures of Task Force 20, a joint Army/CIA strike force whose brief is to find Saddam. We caught up with them in the town of Dhuluya, just as a raid was under way. We were prevented from entering the town by soldiers providing support for the task force.

MARTIN SMITH: How long are you going to be blocking this road, any idea?

U.S. SOLDIER: I can't say, sir.

MARTIN SMITH: It's obviously a major operation, though.

U.S. SOLDIER: I really can't say, sir.

MARTIN SMITH: Where are you from?

U.S. SOLDIER: I'm from Tennessee.

NARRATOR: Dhuluya is a frequent target of raids. It is located in the heart of the "Sunni triangle," where most of the fighting between Americans and Iraqis is taking place.

Afterwards, we went to talk to the villagers. The raid had apparently come up empty.

IRAQI MAN: [subtitles] I said, "I will open it for you." But they went ahead and busted it.

MARTIN SMITH: Do people in this area support Saddam?

IRAQI MAN: [subtitles] No. We don't like Saddam. What did he give us? Nothing. Not this home. He gave us shit. I had a job and I got laid off.

MARTIN SMITH: You don't like Saddam. What do you think of the Americans?

IRAQI MAN: [subtitles] Americans are occupiers.

NARRATOR: The Army mounts scores of raids each week, chasing an elusive enemy.

Lt. Gen. DAVID McKIERNAN, U.S. Army: Defining the enemy now, in this part of the campaign, is a challenge. When you conduct the decisive combat operations at the beginning of the land attack, your enemy is far better defined and it's easier to distinguish friend and foe. The situation that we're in now is you have threats against the coalition which are blended in to the population.

NARRATOR: After a land mine seriously wounded two U.S. soldiers in downtown Baghdad, our cameraman rushed to the scene and witnessed this shootout. Soldiers were exchanging fire with some men in the building on the right. Then, for no apparent reason, the soldiers began firing in our direction. A man standing five feet from our cameraman was shot and killed.

The soldiers thought the man had shot at them. Afterwards, they asked witnesses what happened.

U.S. SOLDIER: He was a peaceful man?

WITNESS: Yes. Yes.

U.S. SOLDIER: Just a bystander?

WITNESS: [subtitles] No gun and-- he's a peaceful man.

U.S. SOLDIER: He wasn't a shooter, just somebody standing on the side of the road.

[www.pbs.org: Read the camerman's account]

MARTIN SMITH: One of the problems I'm sensing is that the more incursions into various neighborhoods, the more leery Iraqis become, especially when they see sons, fathers, sisters killed by some of the roughness -- perhaps necessary, perhaps not -- of our raids. A very delicate balance you've got to--

L. PAUL BREMER: It is a delicate balance, and it's not one that I call myself. It's a call of the tactical commander, and I don't-- my business isn't to second-guess the military guys. We hope that they always act in a prudent fashion but one which, after all, has as its goal protecting our forces first and achieving their objective and doing that with the minimum collateral damage to either people or property.

NARRATOR: The administration has been critical of the press for being too negative. Much of Baghdad is again bustling with everyday commerce. But with a guerilla war, violence occurs randomly. The city, for all its resilience, remains on edge. In one of Baghdad's wealthiest neighborhoods, we came upon this scene after another raid by Task Force 20.

RESIDENT: At the beginning, they surround a house here.

MARTIN SMITH: Who surrounded it?

RESIDENT: The American soldiers.

MARTIN SMITH: So the American soldiers surrounded a house, and then?

RESIDENT: Then a car entered the branch [?].

MARTIN SMITH: Yes.

RESIDENT: They shoot at it.

NARRATOR: During the raid, drivers of two cars, apparently confused by impromptu roadblocks, were stopped by gunfire.

RESIDENT: The driver intended to stop, not to do anything. The American troops shoot him directly.

NARRATOR: Five people were killed. In this car was one man. Down the street, a man, his wife and child. A pedestrian was also killed. The victims all lived in the neighborhood and were returning home.

ROBERT M. PERITO: There's a major difference between military and police. Soldiers are trained to deal with soldiers. They're trained to deal with opposition armies. They're not trained to deal with civilians. There's a different ethos here. Police are trained to deal with civilians. They're trained to interact on a whole different basis. And so while soldiers are trained to, as one officer said, shoot people and break things, police are trained to preserve and protect.

NARRATOR: It's expected to take a year before a fully debaathified army and police force can be deployed.

U.S. SOLDIER: Where's the translator? Translator! Everyone's got to stop pushing. Act civilized! There's no rush to get in here. These people will be here for months, OK?

NARRATOR: We filmed these men, standing in 120-degree heat. Some are former soldiers in Saddam's army trying to get their jobs back. Unemployment is currently running at over 50 percent.

The aftermath has proven to be far more complicated than the Bush administration had predicted. It's also far more costly.

L. PAUL BREMER: Our economic advisers think that repairing Iraq's infrastructure will cost $100 billion dollars -- $100 billion dollars. Big money.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Bremer is only talking about the cost of reconstruction. The cost of military occupation has been estimated at another $4 billion a month. Bremer says there is no choice. The U.S. will stay in Iraq as long as it takes to rebuild.

In mid-July, Bremer appointed a 25-member Iraqi governing council, but Bremer remains the real authority in Iraq. Dominating the council are exiles, prominent among them Ahmad Chalabi. He wants the U.S. to turn over more power to the council on finances and security, and he has begun to distance himself from his American patrons.

AHMAD CHALABI: We really don't need continued occupation.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, you need security.

AHMAD CHALABI: We need security, but we can-- if the U.S. pulls out, we have to have our own plans.

MARTIN SMITH: You have plans, but you have nothing on the ground. You do not have a police force.

AHMAD CHALABI: Well, we don't-- we can develop a police force quickly.

MARTIN SMITH: Are you saying that if the Americans pull out tomorrow, you'd be OK?

AHMAD CHALABI: No. There will-- there will be fighting in Iraq. There will be a lot of bloodshed. But we will not abandon the situation. We will fight, and I believe we will win.

NARRATOR: Chalabi is worried that more violence against foreigners will threaten America's long-term commitment. On August 19th, a blast at the United Nations mission in Baghdad killed special envoy Sergio Vieira De Mello and 22 others.

KOFI ANAN, United Nations Secretary General: I do not know who they are and which God they pray to, but what they did will not serve their cause nor their God.

REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, it appears that the goal is to simply make it too painful for those trying to rebuild this country to stay.

L. PAUL BREMER: Well, if that's their goal, they have misjudged their people.

REPORTER: With this new kind of massive attack, how can you secure this city or this country?

L. PAUL BREMER: We have to work very hard to do our best to find these people before they attack and to deal with them. And we will.

NARRATOR: Since this bombing and another in September, the U.N. has pared back its mission in Iraq from 650 to just 50 international workers. Last month in New York, President Bush came to the U.N. to appeal for money and troops from the international community. Chalabi came to represent Iraq. But just days earlier, he had angered U.S. officials by lobbying France and Germany for their support for a speedy transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. He spent his press conference trying to patch up differences with Washington.

AHMAD CHALABI: We, the Iraqi people, are grateful to President Bush and to the United States Congress and the people of the United States for helping us to liberate our country from the scourge of Saddam Hussein.

MARTIN SMITH: What's at stake here?

L. PAUL BREMER: The future of 25 million people in Iraq. Are they going to live, as we have promised them, in freedom, in a robust economy, at peace with their neighbors, with an ability to provide for their kids? For the United States, what's at stake is holding good to our word that we are going to make those things happen, and we will.

MARTIN SMITH: I guess the problem is that Americans cautioned that this aftermath would be difficult and that we didn't sign up for a humanitarian mission, we signed up to rid ourselves of an imminent threat. Was the war wrongly sold?

L. PAUL BREMER: I don't know. You know, I'm not a politician. I'm just trying to do this job. I have absolutely no question that this was, by anybody's terms, a just war. By theological, moral, political terms, if ever a three-week war ever brought about such enormous benefits to 25 million people, this was the war.

NARRATOR: Kanan Makiya began his career as an architect before he became an author and human rights activist. We followed him here to what was once the museum of gifts to President Saddam Hussein. Soon Makiya hopes to turn this building into a museum of remembrance to catalogue the torture and murder of ten of thousands of Iraqis by Saddam and his regime. Makiya is also still hoping to participate in drafting a new Iraqi constitution. He expects America to make good on its promises to help rebuild his country.

MARTIN SMITH: The question Americans have is, At what cost? Americans were sold a war based on imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction, and now there are many Americans who feel that they've been suckered into something that is perhaps too great, too costly.

KANAN MAKIYA: Well, then, it is my duty and the duty of others, Iraqis, Americans, other people who don't think that, to convince them they were not suckered into anything irresponsible, that this is a fundamentally big thing. This is a huge engagement. American prestige is at stake. American credibility is at stake. And American commitment to its own values, its own sense of what it's all about, is at stake here. And the benefit will be that the rest of the Middle East will suddenly have something upon which to cement itself, a hope for the future, which it doesn't have at the moment. Those are real benefits, very tangible, very real benefits that can come from the success of this experiment.

MARTIN SMITH: You call it an experiment.

KANAN MAKIYA: Yes, and I'm not ashamed of calling it that.

 

TRUTH, WAR & CONSEQUENCES

WRITTEN BY
Martin Smith

PRODUCED BY
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2003
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ANNOUNCER: This report continues on our Web site, where you'll find FRONTLINE's in-depth interviews with Ahmad Chalabi, Paul Bremer, Kanan Makiya and others; a timeline tracing statements made by administration officials on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism; a Web-exclusive interview with former Clinton and Bush envoy James Dobbins about America's record on nation-building. Then find out how to start your own PBS Program Club to talk about the issues raised here. Plus, you can watch the full program again online. Then join the discussion at pbs.org.

Next time on FRONTLINE:

1st MAN: Right here in our neighborhood we have terrorists.

NARRATOR: Six American citizens--

Atty. Gen. JOHN ASHCROFT: We must prevent first, prosecute second.

NARRATOR: --arrested in the name of homeland security.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice!

NARRATOR: Were they really a threat?

2nd MAN: We were definitely not a sleeper cell. I'm not a terrorist. I love my country, but my family lives there.

NARRATOR: Chasing the Sleeper Cell next time on FRONTLINE.

 

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