Bush's War

Reading & Links

Fifth Anniversary Coverage The Pre-Invasion Years
Bush's War Cabinet; The Push to Expand President's Wartime Powers The Bush Doctrine
The Run-Up to War The Lost Year The War's Soldiers Rendition and Torture
Insurgency, Counterinsurgency and "The Surge" Other Fronts in the War on Terror

Fifth Anniversary Coverage

President Bush's Statement
At the Pentagon on March 19, 2008, the fifth anniversary of the U.S-led invasion, the president stated, "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it." He added, "The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision -- and this is a fight America can and must win."

The New York Times -- Looking Back at Five Years in Iraq
Former Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns looks back at the "shock and awe" air campaign that started the war -- and the mistakes that followed. Richard Oppel examines how oil money is fueling the Sunni insurgency, and Michael Gordon writes about the fateful 2003 decision to disband the Iraqi army. The Times also features an interactive timeline of the war, a photo slideshow and commentary from its reporters in Iraq.

BBC -- Iraq: Five Years On
Features include the results of an opinion poll asking Iraqis whether they're optimistic about the future; updates on U.S. and international leaders involved in the run-up to war; and statistics on Iraqi and coalition casualties. The BBC World Service has also prepared an audio documentary on the war's impact, available as streaming audio or as a download.

McClatchy Newspapers on Iraq
The McClatchy chain's Washington bureau stood out as one of the few news outfits asking skeptical questions about the Bush administration's prewar intelligence. For the fifth anniversary, Hannah Allam reports on the lack of progress in providing basic services to Iraqis; Walter Stroebel tallies the war's economic and diplomatic costs; and Nancy Youssef looks at how the war has "transformed" the U.S. military.

Newsweek -- Iraq: Five Years On
Newsweek's cover story highlights Iraq's impact on the U.S. officer corps. Elsewhere, Larry Kaplow applauds the United States' new focus on improving the lives of ordinary Iraqis but wonders if it has come too late; Evan Thomas and John Barry look at how Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the military must prepare to fight both large and small wars; and Christopher Dickey looks ahead to the next five years in Iraq.

Slate -- Why Did We Get It Wrong?
Slate asks several "liberal hawks" what they thought they got wrong five years ago. Among the respondents, Richard Cohen offers a candid self-assessment and Christopher Hitchens doesn't believe he got it wrong at all. Elsewhere on the site, Slate columnist Fred Kaplan asks what the Iraq war has achieved. Slate's parent newspaper, The Washington Post, marks the fifth anniversary with a page of comments from soldiers, policy-makers and ordinary Americans and Iraqis.

Foreign Policy: Iraq by the Numbers
A graph measuring conditions in Iraq by tracking over time Iraqi and U.S. casualties, crude oil production, electricity generation, telephone subscriptions and the number of Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody.

The Atlantic: After Iraq
National correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg examines the destabilizing effect of the U.S. war on terror on the Middle East for the January/February 2008 "State of the Union" issue. He writes, "[T]he wars against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and especially Saddam Hussein have made the durability of the modern Middle East state system an open question in ways that it wasn't a mere seven years ago."

The Pre-Invasion Years

Plan of Action -- A Top Secret Internal Memo
Before Saddam Hussein blocked further U.N.-mandated weapons inspections in 1998, here's a summary of what international weapons inspectors knew about Iraq's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. [From FRONTLINE's 2001 report, Gunning for Saddam]

Speaking of Iraq: A Letter to President Clinton on Iraq
In January 1998, the Project for the New American Century, chaired by neoconservative William Kristol, sent a letter to President Clinton arguing that deposing Saddam Hussein "needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." The letter was signed by many George W. Bush administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

Coming to Grips with Jihad
The day after 9/11, the The Atlantic Monthly published these three articles from its archives: Historian Bernard Lewis, in "The Roots of Muslim Rage" (September 1990), addresses the question of "why so many Muslims deeply resent the West"; journalist Mary Anne Weaver, in "Blowback" (May 1996), traces how the CIA's operations in Afghanistan contributed to the rise of Osama bin Laden; and correspondent Robert D. Kaplan, in "The Lawless Frontier" (September 2000), reports from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on the Taliban's destabilizing influence on the region.

U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century
Chaired by former senators Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), the commission issued, starting in 1998, three reports on reforming U.S. national security to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Among the commission's findings were that "America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland" and that the government should create a department of homeland security to respond to the threat.

The Counterterrorist Myth
Two months before 9/11, former CIA analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht explained why "America's counterterrorism program is a myth," despite billions in funding since the late 1990s. The problem, as he sees it, is the United States' lack of human intelligence in Muslim countries. "Westerners cannot visit the cinder-block, mud-brick side of the Muslim world -- whence bin Ladin's foot soldiers mostly come -- without announcing who they are," he writes. [From the July/August 2001 issue of The Atlantic]

The Counterterrorist
Lawrence Wright profiles FBI counterterrorism agent John O'Neill, who led the team that apprehended Ramzi Yousef for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Subsequently, "O'Neill became the bureau's most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network of terrorists as they struck against American interests around the world." O'Neill died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. [ From the Jan. 14, 2002 issue of The New Yorker]

Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief
This is the declassified version of the intelligence briefing, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US," related to Condoleeza Rice's 2004 testimony about what actions were taken on terrorism during the early, pre-9/11 months of the Bush administration. [From the George Washington University National Security Archive]

Bush's War Cabinet; the Push to Expand the President's Wartime Powers

Power Grab
Writing in the June 22, 2006 issue of The New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew argues, "During the Presidency of George W. Bush, the White House has made an unprecedented reach for power." Among the methods she cites are the more than 750 signing statements overruling or ignoring provisions that would limit executive power.

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman's four-part 2007 series on Dick Cheney, "the most influential and powerful man ever to hold the office of vice president." The articles cover Cheney's influence on foreign policy, budgetary and environmental matters. This index page also features a guide to key figures connected to Cheney and two photo galleries narrated by Gellman, one on Cheney's career and another on his personality.

Cheney in His Own Words
This feature tracks Vice President Cheney's public statements on executive power, from the minority report on the Iran-Contra affair which he and his staff wrote to his December 2005 comments on the Bush administration's domestic wiretapping program. [From FRONTLINE's 2006 report The Dark Side.]

Condi and the Boys
Reviewing two biographies of Condoleezza Rice and one book on the Bush presidency, Russell Baker summarizes Rice's career and her close relationship with George W. Bush. Baker suggests that Rice and Bush may have been overmatched by others on the adminstration's foreign policy team: "It would be wrong to think of Bush and Rice as Hansel and Gretel lost in the forest, for neither was a complete stranger to political guile. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neocons, however, were all blooded veterans of the Washington wars." [From the April 3, 2008 issue of The New York Review of Books]

The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld
A timeline chronicling former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's career, including his first campaign for Congress in 1962, his service in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, and his tenure as George W. Bush's defense secretary. [From FRONTLINE's 2004 report Rumsfeld's War]

Falling on His Sword
Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung, biographer of Colin Powell, begins this October 2006 profile of the former secretary of state with the story of Powell being asked, by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, to submit his letter of resignation shortly after Bush's re-election in 2004. According to DeYoung, Powell's self-image as a solider is the reason that he did not resign earlier, despite being "on the losing side of regular ideological combat inside the Bush administration."

The Bush Doctrine

Chronology: The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine
From FRONTLINE's 2003 report The War Behind Closed Doors, this timeline runs from the end of the first Gulf War to the Sept. 17, 2002 publication of the U.S. National Security Strategy, which brought together the separate strands of the Bush Doctrine for the first time.

The Next World Order
Nicholas Lemann traces the roots of the Bush administration's emerging doctrine of preemption back to work done by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and his subordinates Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis "Scooter" Libby during the George H.W. Bush administration. Lemann predicts that "all indications are that Bush is going to use September 11th as the occasion to launch a new, aggressive American foreign policy that would represent a broad change in direction rather than a specific war on terrorism." [From the April 1, 2002 issue of The New Yorker]

The Run-up to War

Behind Diplomatic Moves, Military Plan Was Launched
Washington Post staff writer Bob Woodward goes behind the scenes at the White House in the months before the war in the first of five April 2004 articles adapted from his book Plan of Attack. Among the revelations Woodward reported was that President Bush had ordered Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to develop a war plan for Iraq in November 2001.

Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction
This electronic briefing book compiled by George Washington University's National Security Archive includes "both essential pre-war documentation and documents produced or released subsequent to the start of the military action" in Iraq. Among the documents collected are the controversial "white paper" on Iraq's WMD, declassified portions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the forged Niger yellowcake documents and Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations.

Selective Intelligence
Seymour Hersh's May 12, 2003 New Yorker article about the Office of Special Plans, the unit within the Pentagon which "rivaled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush's main source of intelligence regarding Iraq's possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda." In October of that year, Hersh looked at how intelligence supporting the case for war had been "stovepiped" directly to some senior administration officials, bypassing the national intelligence system.

The Times and Iraq: A Sample of the Coverage
On May 26, 2004, The New York Times printed an editor's note reviewing and critiquing its coverage of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Several of the paper's controversial WMD stories appear on this site, as well as other reports that, according to the Times, were closer to the mark.

Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq
Former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar maintains that the administration's use of intelligence in the run-up to war "turned the entire model upside down. The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify decisions already made." Pillar oversaw the writing of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the declassified "white paper" on the subject. He also authored a 2004 NIE predicting sectarian turmoil in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- a document which was leaked to the press in the midst of that year's presidential campaign. "What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades." [From the March/April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs]

The "Lost Year"

Documents: Planning for a Postwar Iraq and CPA Orders 1 & 2
This page collects internal government documents from the first year of the U.S. occupation, including the Coalition Provisional Authority's controversial orders that purged all Baathists from government offices and disbanded the Iraqi army. [From FRONTLINE's 2006 report, The Lost Year in Iraq]

Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq
Following the fall of Saddam's regime, some 1,500 Americans were hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to administer $18 billion in reconstruction funds. But "applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction," writes Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post. "What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration." In this article, adapted from his book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Chandrasekaran profiles three of the CPA's political appointees and attempts to explain why "the decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest" is among the administration's biggest mistakes. [From The Washington Post, Sept. 17, 2006]

Oral Histories from USIP's Iraq Experience Project
An initiative led by the United States Institute for Peace's (USIP) Professional Training program, the Iraq Experience Project collects oral histories from U.S. government officials, military officers and contractors who have served in Iraq. By distilling and disseminating the experiences of U.S. civilian and military personnel, the USIP hopes to provide lessons for others who may serve in Iraq and beyond. More than 38 interviews cover topics such as governance, security and reconstruction. Also of interest are USIP's three reports summarizing lessons learned, including how to provide successful economic reconstruction, maintain public security and prevent breakdowns in local government.

Welcome to the Green Zone
The Atlantic's correspondent William Langewiesche takes readers on a tour of the Green Zone, the American-controlled oasis inside war-torn Baghdad. He describes the Americans living inside the protected zone as deluded that their presence in Iraq was a positive force. "Much has been made of the lack of planning that preceded the invasion, but it was the isolation afterward that turned out to be as great a problem," he writes. "It is a famous paradox that walls that protect you also hem you in." [From The Atlantic's November 2004 issue]

In Iraq, Military Forgot Lessons of Vietnam
In this July 23, 2006 article, adapted from his book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Washington Post Pentagon reporter Thomas Ricks argues that the United States has failed to heed the lessons of guerilla warfare and has fought an unconventional war conventionally. Mistakes include the CPA's decisions on de-Baathification and dissolving the Iraqi military, the U.S. Army's routine ground patrols and "draconian interrogation ideas." These decisions, Ricks writes, have "helped spur the insurgency and made it bigger and stronger than it might have been."

The Shi'ite Surge
In the winter of 2003-2004, journalist David Rieff reported from the "Shi'ite heartland" south of Baghdad, which at the time was relatively peaceful, on the ascendancy of Shi'ite clerics after years of oppression by Saddam Hussein. "Once Saddam Hussein was overthrown, it was a foregone conclusion that Sunni dominance of Iraq would end," Rieff writes. "It soon became clear that the Iraqi Shi'ite religious leadership had not only survived Hussein's repression with its morale and cohesion intact, but had also quickly established itself as one of the principal forces of order and patronage in post-Baathist Iraq." [From the Feb. 1, 2004 New York Times Magazine]

Sword of the Shi'a
Jeffrey Bartholet profiles Shi'ite cleric and Mahdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the Dec. 4, 2006 issue of Newsweek. "More than anyone, Sadr personifies the dilemma Washington faces: If American troops leave Iraq quickly, militia leaders like Sadr will be unleashed as never before, and full-scale civil war could follow. But the longer the American occupation lasts, the less popular America gets -- and the more popular Sadr and his ilk become."

The War's Soldiers

The Literature of War
For as long as humans have been telling stories, they have been sharing the experience of war. From Homer to Hemingway and after, their writings have left a record that has enriched our understanding of war's madness and how it affects the soldier. This page contains excerpts from the poems, stories and memoirs of veterans and a few first-hand observers -- including Hemingway and Whitman -- of the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War. No doubt, as American soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, they will be adding to this remarkable literary cannon. [From FRONTLINE's 2005 report The Soldier's Heart]

Innovating & Improvising
An interview with Maj. Patrick Michaelis, the founder of CAVNET, an online community where junior officers share information and learn to improvise and think creatively in the midst of urban warfare in Iraq. [From FRONTLINE's 2005 report A Company of Soldiers.]

Private Warriors: Frequently Asked Questions
The U.S. military has relied heavily on private contractors to service supply lines, run military bases and protect diplomats and generals. This feature from FRONTLINE's 2005 report Private Warriors answers some frequently asked questions about outsourcing the war.

Rendition and Torture

What is Torture?
This May 2005 interactive feature from Slate offers a rundown of the legal memos that determined U.S. interrogation policy, a primer on the various methods used and a review of some of the military investigations. Co-authors Emily Bazelon, Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick say that their aim is "to illuminate and add depth to the torture debate -- not to persuade you to support or oppose it, but to help you formulate your own views on where the acceptable boundaries may lie."

Abuse of Iraqi POWs by GIs Probed
Here is the April 28, 2004 60 Minutes II report that, along with Seymour Hersh's piece in The New Yorker, broke the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The 60 Minutes page features video of the original report, along with an interactive timeline and photos of the prisoner abuse.

Outsourcing Torture
Jane Mayer reports on the secret U.S. practice of rendition, in which suspects are moved to other countries with less stringent human rights standards for questioning and perhaps torture, in the Feb. 14, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. In July of that year, Mayer examined the role of medical personnel at Guantanamo in a project to create "a storehouse of knowledge about coercive methods of interrogation."

Secret World of U.S. Interrogation
In the last article of a three-part May 2004 series "The Road to Abu Ghraib," Washington Post staff writers Dana Priest and Joe Stephens report on the CIA's network of secret interrogation centers in Afghanistan, Baghdad and Qatar. "These prisons and jails are sometimes as small as shipping containers and as large as the sprawling Guantanamo Bay complex in Cuba," they write. "They are part of an elaborate CIA and military infrastructure whose purpose is to hold suspected terrorists or insurgents for interrogation and safekeeping while avoiding U.S. or international court systems, where proceedings and evidence against the accused would be aired in public."

Is Torture Ever Justified?
A roundtable discussion of the ethics of torture from FRONTLINE's 2005 report The Torture Question. The panelists, several of whom had worked together on the topic for a joint project between Harvard's Law School and Kennedy School of Government, discuss the amendment banning torture proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and how other countries have dealt with the question.

Insurgency, Counterinsurgency and "The Surge"

Iraq: The War of the Imagination
Writing in a December 2006 issue of The New York Review of Books, Mark Danner describes the disconnect between Washington policymakers' image of the conflict and the reality on the ground. Danner argues the lack of a decisive strategy in Iraq was the result of contradictions within the Pentagon about "what the occupation of Iraq was to be: the quick victory, quick departure view of Rumsfeld, and the broader, ideologically driven democratic transformation of Iraqi society championed by the neoconservatives."

The Lesson of Tal Afar
"Counterinsurgency cuts deep against the Army's institutional instincts," observes George Packer in the April 10, 2006 issue of The New Yorker. Packer contrasts Col. H.R. McMaster's approach in the former insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar with the "good enough" solution of withdrawing troops to massive Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). While the military has taken steps to adopt McMaster's strategy, Packer wonders if, by the time the military is ready to implement the plans, it will be faced with a civil war rather than an insurgency.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley's Memo on Prime Minister Maliki
This secret memo, authored by Hadley and his aides on Nov. 8, 2006, after a visit to Baghdad, offers a blunt critique of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It focuses on the sectarian forces undermining the country, most of which circle back to Maliki's Shi'a-dominated government and the Shi'a militias killing Sunnis. Hadley proposes steps the prime minister could take to strengthen his office, halt the escalating sectarian violence and unify Iraq -- such as prosecuting "suspect" Iraqi police units and expanding the Iraqi army, over which Maliki would have more public control. The memo urges that the U.S. "waste no time" in addressing Maliki's weaknesses.

Rumsfeld's Memo of Options for Iraq War
In December 2006, The New York Times published this memo outlining potential courses of action in Iraq, written by Rumsfeld two days before he resigned as secretary of defense. His preferred options rely heavily on shoring up the Iraqi government and training Iraqi security forces. He suggests the U.S. should "stop rewarding bad behavior" by refusing help to areas where violence continues and substitute "Quick Reaction Forces" based on military bases for dangerous urban patrols. The Iraqis, he writes, must "pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

A Plan for Victory In Iraq
An early version of what would become the framework for President Bush's 2007 troop "surge," American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan's article in the May 29, 2006 issue of The Weekly Standard advocates a two-phase "clear, hold, build" operation carried out by an additional seven combat brigades. While the article does not address the "build" aspect of clear, hold, build, Kagan acknowledges that the operation would have to be a "multifaceted program" including diplomatic, political and economic efforts.

President Bush's Address to the Nation
On Jan. 20, 2007 Bush announced a new strategy for the war, saying "the situation in Iraq is unacceptable." It centered around a buildup of U.S. forces in Iraq -- what came to be known as the "surge." Bush also proposed increasing Iraqi forces' numbers, setting specific legislative and reconstruction goals for the Iraqi government and quashing Syrian and Iranian influences in Iraq. For a bulleted summary, see this White House fact sheet.

Other Fronts in the War on Terror

Al Qaeda Training Manual
Excerpts from a document found by police in Manchester, England, during a search of an Al Qaeda member's home. The FBI described the document as an Al Qaeda training manual, covering topics such as counterfeiting and forgery, security measures for undercover activities and strategies to use in the case of arrest and indictment. [From FRONTLINE's 2002 report, Inside the Terror Network]

Saudi Religious Textbooks
This page contains excerpts from middle-school textbooks in Saudi Arabia religious schools teaching Wahhabism, the country's austere form of Islam. The first excerpt is from"The Victory of Muslims Over Jews"; the second interprets a passage from the Koran as authorizing murder as punishment for those who act in opposition to Allah. [From FRONTLINE's 2002 report Saudi Time Bomb?]

Al Qaeda Today: The New Face of the Global Jihad
Reporter Marlena Telvick asks former CIA caseworker Marc Sageman about the impact of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on the terrorist network. Sageman argues that Al Qaeda is better understood as a social movement than a hierarchy, and that bin Laden's "hands-off management style" created an organization that could survive without him. [From FRONTLINE's 2005 report Al Qaeda's New Front]

The Taliban, Regrouped and Rearmed
Terrorism expert Peter Bergen reports, "When I traveled in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, the Taliban threat had receded into little more than a nuisance. But now the movement has regrouped and rearmed. Bolstered by a compliant Pakistani government, hefty cash inflow from the drug trade and a population disillusioned by battered infrastructure and lackluster reconstruction efforts, the Taliban is back -- as is Afghanistan's once forgotten war." [From The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2006]

The Victor?
"Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran's strategic victory is the most far-reaching," writes former U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith in the Oct. 11, 2007 issue of The New York Review of Books. "The U.S. has good reason to worry about Iran's activities in Iraq," he writes. "but contrary to the Bush administration's allegations ... Iran does not oppose Iraq's new political order. In fact, Iran is the major beneficiary of the American-induced changes in Iraq since 2003."

Time Bomb
New Yorker writer Steve Coll reports from Pakistan on the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. According to Coll, Bhutto had learned of plots against her life by Islamist networks in the country, networks that she claimed had a long history of support from Pakistan's military intelligence, the I.S.I. Earlier that month The New York Times reported that the I.S.I. "has lost control of some of the networks of Pakistani militants it has nurtured since the 1980s, and is now suffering the violent blowback of that policy." [From the Jan. 28, 2008 issue of The New Yorker]

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posted march 24, 2008

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