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Rumsfeld's War

Michael Kirk

Jim Gilmore

Michael Kirk


Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes–

ANNOUNCER: While the nation watched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–

PILOT: Bombs away! Bombs away!

ANNOUNCER: –he was fighting another war–

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: "Well, I don't think you heard me clearly."

ROBERT ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: "He has sharp elbows.

THOMAS RICKS: "I am the boss."

ANNOUNCER: –a war to control the Pentagon.

JAMES MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: –challenging–

THOMAS RICKS: –a lot of friction–

ANNOUNCER: –taking on the generals–

THOMAS WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: "Oh, they're stodgy."

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: –treated like a second-rate citizen.

THOMAS WHITE: –"intransigent"–

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM 1991-'94: We've got to give him what he wants.

ANNOUNCER: –and taking on the press–

DONALD RUMSFELD, Secretary of Defense: And it just was, "Henny Penny, the sky is falling!"

ANNOUNCER: –confronting the Congress–

DONALD RUMSFELD: Dangerous? Yes. Are people being killed? Yes.

NARRATOR: –and also Colin Powell.

BOB WOODWARD, The Washington Post: It became personal.

THOMAS RICKS: These guys have rubbed each other wrong for a long time.

DAVID FRUM, White House Speechwriter, 2001-'02: Powell does not lose many fights.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, FRONTLINE and The Washington Post go inside the battle at the Pentagon–

ROBERT ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: If you move on time, you can accomplish a lot.

FRANK CARLUCCI, Secretary of Defense 1987-'89: –because you're out there all alone.

ROBERT ELLSWORTH: If you don't, you'll probably get taken down.

ANNOUNCER: Inside Rumsfeld's War.

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: It's January, 2001.

Chief Justice WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, George Bush–

THOMAS RICKS: Boy, it seems like reaching back a century.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear–

THOMAS RICKS: Bush takes office, and the Pentagon's kind of looking forward to a Bush administration.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: –that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

THOMAS RICKS: And there's a lot of buy-in to phrases like, "We'll have adults running the place again."

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: –so help me God.

Chief Justice WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Congratulations, Mr. President!

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: What they meant there was, Republicans, who they felt more comfortable with because, in general, the military votes overwhelmingly Republican, so it was sort of like the family's back.

Lt. Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): Most of those I know who were on active duty at the time saw a lot of experience, that these folks were going to instill the sort of things we needed to, to get back to the position we were right at the end of Desert Storm. I don't mean in terms of size, but the focus.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM 1991-'94: And after having watched the Bush gang, many of whom had been together going all the way back to the Ford administration – they knew one another well – they had a sense of what they were trying to achieve as a group.

NARRATOR: But there was conflict from the beginning. It could be seen at the president-elect's very first press conference.

JAMES MANN, Author Rise of the Vulcans: Bush wants to send out a message to the country. It's a message of national unity. You know, "The Florida dispute, the election, is over. Let's all come together."

GEORGE W. BUSH, President- Elect: [December 16, 2000] We must conduct our foreign policy in the spirit of national unity and bipartisanship.

JAMES MANN: His way of doing that is to announce his first cabinet appointment, Colin Powell as secretary of state.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Today it is my privilege to ask him to become the 65th secretary of state of the United States of America.

THOMAS RICKS: People are saying, "Wow. Colin Powell's going to be huge in this administration. Here's a guy who's been a national security adviser, been a four-star general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, knows all the players. And now he's secretary of state." And his approval rating is higher than the president's. This is a guy Americans know and think they love.

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State-Designate: It is absolutely a given–

JAMES MANN: Powell has a very expansive press conference.

COLIN POWELL: America will remain very much engaged in the Middle East. We will defend our interests from a position of strength.

JAMES MANN: He talks about all kinds of things. He also mentions defense issues.

COLIN POWELL: Our armed forces are stretched rather thin, and there is a limit to how many of these deployments we can sustain.

JAMES MANN: And the more he talks, he begins to create concern that he's not only going to be the secretary of state, that he will have considerable influence over the Pentagon, too.

COLIN POWELL: And I think a national missile defense is an essential part of our overall strategic force posture.

JAMES MANN: After all, this is a secretary of state who's been chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who knows military issues well.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all for having us. God bless.

NARRATOR: But appearances can be deceiving. Powell made the president's conservative supporters uneasy, and there had always been friction with Vice President Cheney.

JAMES MANN: And you begin to get a very quiet groundswell. "We need a strong secretary of defense who will keep Colin Powell in check, will make sure he's not running the Pentagon, as well as the State Department."

NARRATOR: Cheney had in mind Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, a 68-year-old veteran of the Republican ideological wars.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Today it is my honor to announce–

NARRATOR: The president agreed.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: –submitting the name of Donald Rumsfeld to be secretary of defense.

NARRATOR: Now the hawks had their man.

THOMAS RICKS: I think these guys have rubbed each other wrong for a long time.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: His record of service to the country is extraordinary.

THOMAS RICKS: It's a different outlook, a different history, a different approach.

DANA PRIEST: Powell's vision of the world was not, as we see, the one shared by the other alpha males in the cabinet. And there are a group of them that are really formidable. George Tenet, Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld– they're all such dominant characters.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld had already served as secretary of defense back in the 1970s as part of a political career that began in Congress.

Rep. ROBERT ELLSWORTH (R-KS), 1961-'67: You could tell right away that he's a comer. That's the way politicians would speak about Rumsfeld, "He's a comer. And he has sharp elbows."

DANA PRIEST: He was a Navy fighter pilot for a while, and a wrestler. Everybody likes to bring that up. I think it's very apt of his personality. He's a very forceful personality.

FRANK CARLUCCI, Secretary of Defense 1987-'89: Oh, that goes back to college days. We were wrestlers on the wrestling team at Princeton. It's a tough sport because you're out there all alone. And it requires enormous endurance, strength, but most of all, quickness and ingenuity.

NARRATOR: Princeton wrestling teammate Frank Carlucci worked for Rumsfeld in the Nixon administration. And so did a young intern from Wyoming.

FRANK CARLUCCI: One day, Don called me into his office and said, "There's a young intern on the Hill named Dick Cheney, Frank. I'm thinking of hiring him. I'd like you to interview him and see what you think." So I interviewed Dick and called Don and said, "I think this guy's pretty good. You ought to hire him."

NARRATOR: Later, it would be Cheney who would bring Don Rumsfeld back to the Pentagon, a Pentagon dominated by the uniformed military. His primary goal was to reassert civilian control over this billion-dollar-a-day enterprise. The first order of business for Rumsfeld was to find a strong deputy.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: As people who know a lot about the Pentagon will tell you, it's the number two guy, it's the deputy that really runs the building. If there's a Mr. Outside, it's the secretary. If there's a Mr. Inside, it's the deputy.

NARRATOR: The Pentagon insiders had what they considered the perfect candidate, Richard Armitage. But Armitage was Colin Powell's close friend and shared his moderate politics.

BOB WOODWARD, The Washington Post: Rumsfeld interviewed him for the job, and they didn't get along. And in fact, at the end, Armitage said to Rumsfeld that, "The chances of me being your deputy are about zero."

NARRATOR: At the same time, across the Potomac River at the State Department, Colin Powell was also looking for a top deputy. Paul Wolfowitz wanted the job.

THOMAS WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: In Paul Wolfowitz, we have someone that has a tremendous national security policy background, came from Johns Hopkins, former ambassador.

NARRATOR: But Powell didn't like Wolfowitz's neoconservative politics, and they had clashed back during the Gulf war. So he chose his friend, Richard Armitage, as his deputy, and Wolfowitz joined Rumsfeld.

THOMAS RICKS: Rumsfeld doesn't strike me as an ideological guy. He strikes me as a very pragmatic guy. But the division of the labor at the Pentagon seems to be Rumsfeld as the hands-on manager and the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, as kind of the big thinker, the visionary. This is a reversal of typically how the secretary of the defense and the deputy secretary divide their approach.

BOB WOODWARD: I think it became very clear to Rumsfeld and the White House that they needed somebody who would be brought in to kind of help support Rumsfeld on the hard-line approach to foreign policy.

NARRATOR: And the vice president, as head of the transition, ensured the hard-line agenda by helping to place other neoconservatives throughout the Bush administration. Joining Wolfowitz at Defense were Douglas Feith and William Luti. John Bolton was made number three at the State Department, right under Armitage and Powell. Stephen Hadley became national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's chief deputy. And Lewis "Scooter" Libby became the vice president's chief of staff.

[ Study key players' ties over time]

DANA PRIEST: Their common denominator is a vision for the Middle East, in particular, not necessarily Rumsfeld, but all the people around him who've worked in and out of the same circles and who have a vision of the Middle East as one that you really need to change the status quo.

NARRATOR: And for neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, changing the status quo meant getting rid of Saddam Hussein. It started at the end of the first Bush administration, where Wolfowitz worked under then secretary of defense Dick Cheney. After the Gulf war, he had proposed a tough new defense doctrine: preemption, carrying a big stick and being willing to use it. America should use force, first if necessary, to protect itself against weapons of mass destruction.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, Vice. Pres. Chief of Staff, 1989-'92: Wolfowitz was ahead of his time in really beginning to try to think through the post-cold war era, but it was not a conclusion that most of the Bush administration was comfortable with.

NARRATOR: The moderates in the administration, led by General Colin Powell, found preemption dangerously aggressive. Secretary of Defense Cheney was ordered to rewrite the proposal. Mentions of preemption were removed. Wolfowitz's draft plan would go into the bottom drawer, but it would not be forgotten.

Eight years later, Wolfowitz was back in the Pentagon. His vision for a new doctrine of preemption would require profound change in military strategy, changes that were not easily welcomed in these halls. It would need someone as tough as Donald Rumsfeld to take on the institutional resistance.

THOMAS RICKS: It was a pretty tough process, a lot of friction in those first months, with Rumsfeld saying, "No, I don't think you heard me clearly. I am the boss. I want to do it this way."

DANA PRIEST: I had Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, tell me after he had retired that he was shocked to be treated like a "second-rate citizen," is what he called it, and to be distrusted on every turn. And at the Pentagon, if the military said one thing, the civilians said, "Well, prove it." And as Hugh said, "It got so bad that we would say, 'It's sunny outside,' and they would say, 'Oh, yeah? Raise the blinds and prove it to us.' "

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld found himself at odds with the head of the Army. His opponent, both symbolically and in reality, would be the head of the United States Army, General Eric Shinseki. A wounded Vietnam war hero, Shinseki became a regular target of Rumsfeld's aggressive questioning.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Center for Strategic and International Studies: You had two directly conflicting personalities, someone who, on Shinseki's part, quietly, as a professional, responded to orders, was not aggressive, was not confrontational, and in the case of Secretary Rumsfeld, someone who constantly challenges, pushes, questions. And you could not have picked two people more likely to come into conflict.

THOMAS WHITE: But all of a sudden, the view of the Army becomes, "Well, they're stodgy. They're intransigent. And they don't understand– they don't get it, what all this stuff is about."

JOHN HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1997-'99: Rick Shinseki was getting jabbed. He's getting needled. And his reaction is, "What is this?" You know, so he's pulling back. He's trying to compose himself. He's trying to figure out what's the right way to react. And Rumsfeld interprets it as weakness, so he jabs a little harder and pokes a little more, you know? And it's these two personalities that just reacted in a very wrong way and segmented and separated.

NARRATOR: The Army got the message and took Shinseki's side.

Col. PAUL HUGHES, U.S. Army, 1975-present: It appalls that a man of his valor and his sacrifice– I mean, heck, he has half a foot he lost in Vietnam, you know, and he still stayed on active duty for this nation because he believes in it– you know, to be treated that way by people who– who many have never served– that doesn't wash with me.

NARRATOR: Vietnam had cast a long shadow over the Pentagon. It was their bleakest time. Throughout the building, they had their memories of old battles between the military and the civilian leadership. When Vietnam was at its worst, Donald Rumsfeld was in the inner circle of the Nixon White House. He'd been a Navy fighter pilot just after the Korean war. When it came to Vietnam, he wanted Nixon to win it or get out.

ROBERT ELLSWORTH, NATO Ambassador 1969-'71: By the middle '60s, Rumsfeld could see that we were not figuring out a strategy to win in Vietnam. Neither could we figure out a strategy to withdraw.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld's persistent pushing to get the troops out quicker put him at odds with the president. Secret audiotapes revealed the president's unhappiness.

Pres. RICHARD M. NIXON: But on Rumsfeld, we've done a hell of lot for Rumsfeld.

H.R. HALDEMAN: I agree.

Pres. RICHARD M. NIXON: I think Rumsfeld may be not too long for this world.

H.R. HALDEMAN: I sure don't think he's ever going to be a solid member of the ship.

Pres. RICHARD M. NIXON: Well, then let's dump him right after this.

NEWSCASTER: They are now boarding the helicopter, walking through the honor guard, the president now at the door, a final wave.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld survived, and after Watergate became Gerald Ford's chief of staff. He brought his young aide with him.

BOB WOODWARD: I happened to be talking to former president Ford, and I asked, "How did this happen?" And he said, "Don Rumsfeld, when I picked him as White House chief of staff, he said, 'I'll accept, but there's one thing I have to have, and that is I want to bring in a guy named Dick Cheney.' And Ford said, 'I haven't even met him,' " but he agreed. And so Rumsfeld gave political life to Dick Cheney, to say the least.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld and Cheney were both hawks. They considered the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, a moderate who needed reining in, so they went to war.

JAMES MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: Rumsfeld, as White House chief of staff, begins gradually to challenge Kissinger's authority. It's little things first. It's paperwork. It's who clears off on the speeches. It's personnel. Rumsfeld is more responsible than anybody else for limiting Kissinger's influence. I think he probably– with one exception, he's probably the most skillful bureaucratic knife-fighter that's worked in government for the last half century. That one exception would be Kissinger himself, who was an amazing bureaucratic in-fighter.

NARRATOR: Soon Cheney replaced Rumsfeld as chief of staff, and Rumsfeld himself, in a brilliant bureaucratic maneuver, rose to secretary of defense.

[ An overview of Rumsfeld's career]

NEWSCASTER: Donald Rumsfeld takes over the Pentagon, but also keeps most of his personal influence with President Ford. As always, Rumsfeld downplays his own influence.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, it's absolutely untrue. As the president indicated in his press conference–

REPORTER: No– no master maneuvering and no silent architecting?


JAMES MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: He really begins challenging Kissinger on all kinds of things– arms control. Although Kissinger had been at odds with the previous secretary of defense, Rumsfeld proves an even tougher adversary than his predecessor.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld would only serve as secretary of defense for 14 months, but during that time he presided over the worst military aftershocks of the Vietnam war.

ROBERT ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1975-'77: The military issue at the Pentagon in those days was Vietnam, and it was the pits because, I mean, we had to get out of Vietnam– '75, out we came. And what– what a nightmare that was.

Brig. Gen. THOMAS WHITE, U.S. Army (Ret.): Well, I thought by the end of Vietnam – and my second tour in Vietnam was 1972 – we had basically destroyed the United States Army. The non-commissioned officer leadership had vanished, and discipline rates were way, way up. We needed just a complete rebuilding of the force from the bottom to the top, and that's precisely what we engaged ourselves in for the next 20 years or so.

NARRATOR: The military has a term for it. They say the Army's broken. It simply could not function effectively. And they believed it was the civilians who had broken it, micro-managing every detail, even picking bombing targets from the White House. They vowed to take more control.

ROBERT ELLSWORTH: And of course, when we left, we all felt that we had a lot of unfinished business to attend to. People like Colin Powell, who stayed in the military, understood to do that unfinished business, and they did it very well.

NARRATOR: Colin Powell had served two terms in Vietnam. To fix the broken Army, Powell and other young officers rewrote the rules of American war fighting.

Lt. Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): They started by reading Thucydides. They got a grounding in history. And from that, this intellectual renaissance quickly spread through all the militaries. In a period of about five years, the war colleges had changed, the command staff colleges had changed.

NARRATOR: A new all-volunteer Army was built. New equipment was added. The new American force would be heavy– tanks, a 600-ship Navy, squadrons of new fighters and bombers – and new war plans.

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): We rebuilt the Army for the war we thought we wanted to fight. That was the war in central Europe against the Russians. And we said, "We don't ever want to fight another counterinsurgency. We don't want to go to another place like Vietnam."

NARRATOR: Over the years, they gradually took control and codified it into one particular doctrine. Designed to keep the military out of unwinnable quagmires and bring decisive force to bear, it would be named after one of its strongest champions, Colin Powell.

THOMAS WHITE: All of us were Vietnam veterans, and this business of the Powell doctrine was, "We're not going to do Vietnam again." And what we did in Vietnam is we kind of went in in an uncommitted way.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1991-'94: The key thing is that you– you first of all have a clearly defined mission. It's not open-ended. You don't go there and do some things, you go to liberate Kuwait, is the great example of this. You have the support of the American people. The American people think that this is a meritorious task, that what we're doing is the right thing, that we're the United States of America, and we're contributing to stability, to peace, to democracy, whatever, that you have enough forces to do the job, that you don't do it piecemeal. Those are really the key elements of it.

NARRATOR: And there was the phrase "exit strategy," that politicians must tell the military how quickly they can get out of trouble spots.

Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I'm now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in–

NARRATOR: Those elements were fully in place when Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf led the combined American military into Desert Storm.

Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: –on the crosshairs, right through the crosshairs. And now, in his rearview mirror– [laughter]

Lt. Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER: At the end of the Gulf war, if there's one word that would describe how most of us felt, it was vindicated, vindicated in the sense that we'd gotten it right between Vietnam and the Gulf war and had gone out on the battlefield and proved it.

Gen. COLIN POWELL, Joint Chiefs Chairman: Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it.

NARRATOR: On TV, General Powell came to symbolize the enhanced power of the military at the Pentagon.

Gen. COLIN POWELL: I've laundered them so you can't really tell what I'm talking about because I don't want the Iraqis to know what I'm talking about. But trust me.

JAMES MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: What you regularly see is Colin Powell, physically imposing, in uniform, very confident, talking about what the United States is going to do. He's really the center of the press conference. The usual picture is Powell at the podium, Cheney kind of behind him. It's a reminder of just how powerful the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is and how powerful Powell is personally.

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: A lot of friction back in the '91 war. They're very clear about it. Cheney is constantly trying to figure out exactly what the war plan is, and Powell's, like, not really sharing a lot here, much to Cheney's frustration. Powell also pointedly notes at the end of his autobiography that he never socialized with Cheney, never been invited to his house in years of working with him. And in fact, Cheney left– on the day Cheney left the Pentagon as secretary of defense, he didn't say good-bye to Powell.

NARRATOR: So in 2001, Rumsfeld's battle with Shinseki would be seen as a new engagement in the struggle between the civilians and the uniformed military.

JOHN HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1997-'99: The vast army of colonels and lieutenant colonels that surround Shinseki, the staff environment starts to heal and protect the chief. And I think that tended to reinforce this sense of isolation that the two felt about each other.

THOMAS RICKS: Cheney almost encouraged Rumsfeld in their first year to be more Cheney-like. Cheney didn't hesitate to lop off a general's head to make the point to the others about who the boss was. And I remember when I was doing a profile of Rumsfeld in the summer of '01, early in the administration, I was surprised to get a phone call from Cheney. Normally, the vice president doesn't call the military reporter at The Post. And he kind of had an interesting message about Rumsfeld. It was on the record. And he said something like, "I'm sure that Don will do what is necessary to get the Pentagon moving in the right direction." And you could almost see in parentheses, as Cheney was talking, what "necessary" was, which is Don starting to chop off a few heads and show them who's the boss over there.

[ Read Ricks's extended interview]

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: I think everybody pretty much learned their lesson that Mr. Rumsfeld was in charge and you better listen to what he has to say and give him what he wants.

ROBERT ELLSWORTH, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1975-'77: Wrestlers learn that you have to move. You look around and you see what there is to do, and you figure out a way and then you do it. I'm talking now not about on the wrestling mat, although it's the same thing, but it's also true in business, true in politics. If you move on time, you can accomplish a lot, and if you don't, you'll probably get taken down.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld began to make moves all over the building. He seized the military promotion process.

THOMAS RICKS: Rumsfeld really reaches into personnel picks and starts interviewing personally anybody's who's going to pin on a fourth star or a third star– that is, to become a full general or a lieutenant general in the U.S. military. Lot of resentment of that in the military.

NARRATOR: And he went after the permanent Pentagon bureaucracy.

JOHN HAMRE: He was convinced that it was blocking innovation. He was going to shatter that. And he has. Now, that has frightened people around him. They are– they don't understand what he wants, and they are trying to be responsive to him, but they don't know where it's going. And so many of them are frightened.

NARRATOR: Then he began to try to fundamentally change the way the military would fight.

JOHN ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School: Donald Rumsfeld wanted to build a smaller, nimbler and more networked military that could respond swiftly to threats anywhere in the world.

NARRATOR: It was called "transformation." It meant Rumsfeld wanted less money spent on heavy equipment, artillery pieces and bombers, and he wanted fewer troops. The new military would be high-tech and ready to roll.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR: There was a lot of discussion about transformation. It appeared in virtually every Defense document. It was clearly something that Mr. Rumsfeld wanted to see take place. It wasn't really clear what it encompassed, though, at least not to me. Each of the services attempted to take their pet projects, most of which related to hardware, and say, "My new fighter aircraft is transformational. My new helicopter is transformational. My artillery piece is transformational."

[ Read Hoar's extended interview]

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: And the military's not quite sure where this administration is going. What kind of changes are we talking about here? Whose ox is going to get gored? And because of that, there's kind of a hunker-down approach that's initially taken within the department.

NARRATOR: While Rumsfeld was making his move inside the Pentagon, on the outside, Wolfowitz was making the case for taking out Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

BOB WOODWARD: Wolfowitz had been mentioning it a lot. He felt that it would be easy and actually proposed an enclave strategy of going in and seizing the oil fields in southern Iraq and using that as a base for other attacks against Saddam's regime.

NARRATOR: For nine months, a bitter behind-the-scenes battle ensued.

BOB WOODWARD: Colin Powell, for instance, thought it was preposterous and ridiculous and actually went to the president and said, "Mr. President, you're not buying into this, are you? They make it sound easy, but it's not." And the president said, "I get it. I'm not going to do that." I asked the president about this, and he said, "Well, it was never formally presented." But clearly, informally, Wolfowitz was driving for considering, anyway, this idea of invading and taking over part of a country.

NARRATOR: The skirmishes with Powell and the generals and the bureaucracy were taking their toll during those first months of Rumsfeld's war at the Pentagon.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: I wouldn't use the word "enemies," but there are a lot of people who aren't anxious for Don Rumsfeld to succeed at this point in time. And of course, inside the Beltway, there are all these discussions about, "Well, who's going to be the first cabinet secretary to leave in this administration?" That's the sort of thing Washingtonian, inside-the-Beltway folks do. And the early betting line is it could be Don Rumsfeld. And of course, then 9/11 happens, and as the saying goes, that changes everything.

NEWSCASTER: It's 8:52 here in New York. I'm Bryant Gumbel. We understand that there has been a plane crash–

NEWSCASTER: –where a short time ago, we are told that a plane crashed–

NEWSCASTER: This is at the World Trade Center

THOMAS WHITE: Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense – service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.

NEWSCASTER: –plane has crashed into–

NEWSCASTER: You can see a gaping hole. That is on the north side–

NEWSCASTER: We have no idea, was it in any sense deliberate or–

THOMAS RICKS: Rumsfeld is paying some attention to the World Trade Center hits already when the Pentagon is hit.

NEWSCASTER: Oh, my goodness! There is smoke pouring out of the Pentagon!

NEWSCASTER: It felt like there was an explosion of some kind here at the Pentagon.

NEWSCASTER: We're getting reports now, the Pentagon is being evacuated.

THOMAS RICKS: Rumsfeld, I think showing great personal courage, runs out to start helping.

THOMAS WHITE: He's a hands-on guy, and he's very good in a crisis, I think. He's physically a tough guy, and he wants to be at the scene of the action. And that was, I think, his finest hour.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: That certainly earns him a big gold star, I think. In terms of the uniformed military, personal courage counts for a lot.

JOHN HAMRE: He ran toward it. It is, again, his instinct. That's what he does. He runs into a problem. He doesn't run from a problem, he runs into a problem. Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad, but that is his personality.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: Rumsfeld, in terms of his temperament and his personality, seems to be much better suited to be a secretary of war than a secretary of defense.

NARRATOR: And in war, Rumsfeld knew, the military would do what the president needed.

JOHN HAMRE: At a moment of crisis, a moment of war, the center of gravity shifts to the White House. And the secretary realized that more quickly than anybody.

NARRATOR: All that day, Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney were in close contact with the president. They argued there would have to be retaliation, not just against bin Laden but also against nations that may have helped al Qaeda, nations like Iraq.

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

BOB WOODWARD: The night of 9/11, at a small group meeting of the principals, Rumsfeld actually puts Iraq on the table and says, "Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It's an opportunity." So he was the first to mention it.

NARRATOR: So the neocons now had their opportunity to take on Saddam Hussein, and on September 13th, Wolfowitz personally took the case public.

REPORTER: The president has said that the United States intends to find those who were responsible for these attacks and hold them accountable. How should we look at that?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: Well, I think the president's words are pretty good, so let me say these people try to hide, but they won't be able to hide forever. They think their harbors are safe, but they won't be safe forever. I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broaden and sustained campaign. It's not–

DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: And that was taken by everybody to be a sign that he felt that, at this point, we should go after Iraq. And it alarmed Powell and the people in the State Department, who again felt it was inflaming the situation, taking their eye off the real ball, which was to go after al Qaeda and Afghanistan.

REPORTER: Are we really after ending regimes, or are we simply going to try to change–

COLIN POWELL: We're after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes, nations that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let–


COLIN POWELL: –let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself.

NARRATOR: The dispute came to a head at the first meeting of the president's war cabinet at Camp David. "The war about the war" was under way.

BOB WOODWARD: The very critical Camp David meetings, where Bush called the principals together–

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I've asked the highest levels of our government to come to discuss the current tragedy that has so deeply affected our nation.

BOB WOODWARD: The president asked, "What are we going to do? What should our response be?" And this is when Iraq came up.

NARRATOR: Wolfowitz pushed the idea of attacking Iraq first. Powell disagreed. He pushed Afghanistan.

BOB WOODWARD: Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, to a much larger degree, was very worried that Afghanistan would not be a success. We had no war plan for Afghanistan. Obviously, we had the war plans for Iraq, and Wolfowitz felt very, very strongly that we needed to put a success on the board and felt that–- always that Iraq was going to be easy.

NARRATOR: The president put it to a vote. Powell and others voted against attacking Iraq at that time. Rumsfeld abstained.

As the president returned to the White House, it had been decided America would attack Afghanistan first. Rumsfeld knew a plan would be needed to take out the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He wanted the military to come up with something he could offer the president, but they didn't.

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: The regular U.S. military looks at Afghanistan, and all it sees is the Soviet experience. This is where superpowers go to be humiliated. And so probably feels there's been a bit of foot-dragging there.

NARRATOR: Then Rumsfeld discovered the Central Intelligence Agency had a plan of its own.

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: After 9/11, George Tenet comes to President Bush and says, "Have I got a plan for you!–"

NARRATOR: The CIA said it would use its long-time relationships with the warlords to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda.

DANA PRIEST: And Rumsfeld's kind of caught flat-footed there because Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is giving him a plan that would take far too long to execute for anybody's taste and too many troops, something that's not nimble and flexible. So George Tenet for a while gets the upper hand, and I think that bothers Rumsfeld a lot.

NARRATOR: The CIA's plan: a covert war with paramilitary officers to link up with anti-Taliban guerrillas inside Afghanistan. The United States Army and Rumsfeld were left out.

DANA PRIEST: He was very upset, but he– typical of Rumsfeld, he did something about it as soon as he could.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld reached into the Pentagon backwater to bring forward special operations, the Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Rangers.

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): One of the reasons that Secretary Rumsfeld became very enamored of special operations forces was the readiness of special operations forces to deploy and do what they were asked to do, whereas the Army presented resistance.

NARRATOR: The president decided to use the CIA's plan. Rumsfeld's special forces would have a piece of the action. And by using lighter, quicker special operations forces, he had sent a message to Shinseki and the lumbering Army.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [October 7, 2001] On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against the al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

NARRATOR: Taliban strongholds were bombed. The CIA inserted paramilitary operatives to buy off warlords and get various Afghan factions to join forces and unite against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Finally, 12-member Green Beret A-teams were dropped in to use laser guidance systems to direct air strikes at Taliban targets.

THOMAS RICKS: People tended to think of overwhelming force as lots of Army boots on the ground. And what Rumsfeld, I think, grasped very quickly, because he does have a technological orientation, in many ways, on military operations, is overwhelming force might be two guys on the ground with a radio and a B-52 overhead. And that really becomes emblematic of the Afghan war, a special operations or CIA guy on a horse with a global positioning signal that says, "We need to put these bombs on those guys right now." And the bombs, almost from invisible powers in the air, almost in a God-like manner, are brought to bear in a way that the Afghans couldn't conceive.

DONALD RUMSFELD: The only defense against terrorism is offense. You have to simply take the battle to them. How do you do that? You don't– you don't do it with conventional capabilities. You do it with unconventional capabilities. And therefore–

JOHN ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate Schools: That's transformation, when you do business in a fundamentally new way. I think Afghanistan late in the fall of 2001 is a case of transformation, where we toppled the Taliban with just a few hundred of our commandos on the ground, closely inter-netted with unmanned aerial vehicles and other attack aircraft above. You do business in new ways, you're transforming.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: Rumsfeld is proven right. He's willing to take risks under those circumstances. And I think he gets a lot more comfortable with his own judgment, now that he's come back after almost a 30-year absence to be secretary Of Defense again.

NARRATOR: Thirty years earlier, Don Rumsfeld was working on a new weapon, the press conference.

DONALD RUMSFELD: No! And I don't think that one could find anything in this report that suggests that that's true.

NARRATOR: He perfected it–

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, no, I don't.

NARRATOR: –combining knowledge and a willingness to go one on one.

DONALD RUMSFELD: The message is certainly not what you're suggesting, that big is better.

NARRATOR: During the Afghan war, Rumsfeld brought his old weapon out of mothballs.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You asked that when General Franks was back in town that I bring him down here. I have done so.

NARRATOR: Afternoon after afternoon, Rumsfeld delighted the viewing public–

DONALD RUMSFELD: All together now, "quagmire"! [laughter]

NARRATOR: –by trying to take the American press hostage.

REPORTER: You'll have to excuse me. I'm a little nervous being in the presence of a TV star this morning.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Come on, now! Don't give me that stuff!

REPORTER: But anyway–

JAMES MANN, Author, The Rise of the Vulcans: He prove once again that he's just a great public spokesman. I mean, he manages to take the Defense Department podium and he's the center of it.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Nothing in the defense establishment, nothing you own in your homes is perfect. Your cars aren't perfect. Your bikes aren't perfect. Our eyeglasses aren't perfect.

First of all, you're– you're beginning with an illogical premise and proceeding perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion. [laughter]

JAMES MANN: You see the contrast to the first Gulf war. This time, the secretary of defense is the guy at the podium and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is the guy who's kind of in uniform, sort of standing behind, nodding. But Rumsfeld is the driving force.

DONALD RUMSFELD: The reports that we've heard out of the regions have been absolutely lying through their teeth week after week after week throughout the entire thing.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: Nothing succeeds like success, and the American military was succeeding remarkably well in Afghanistan. And a lot of people knew that Don Rumsfeld had a lot to do with that.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You will receive only honest, direct answers from me, and they'll either be that I know and I'll answer you, or I don't know, or I know and I won't answer you. I recognize the need to provide–

NARRATOR: His popularity soared. People magazine put him on their "beautiful list" alongside Tom Cruise and George Clooney. He would spin the popularity into power, pushing for change and getting it throughout the Pentagon and the government.

DONALD RUMSFELD: –is what this conflict is about–

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: The United States is at war.

DONALD RUMSFELD: –and that certainly includes freedom of the press.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH: Problems with respect to the defense budget go away. All of a sudden, Congress is willing to vote the Defense Department the money it needs to prosecute this war and perhaps to do many of the other things that Defense says it needs to have happen.

NEWSCASTER: The Northern Alliance rolled into Kabul early today and took the city without a fight. The Taliban–

NARRATOR: There were, in the aftermath of Afghanistan, hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. Rumsfeld wanted them aggressively interrogated. But back at the Pentagon, he had another fight on his hands– with the military's lawyers, the JAGs.

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: He comes in with deep skepticism about the uniformed military and into the JAG corps, who defends the system that he is trying to change and creates rationale for the system that he is trying to change. So in the sense that they are obstacles to change, he would rather go around them or not use them.

NARRATOR: There would be an internal political struggle over interrogation rules.

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: You had this debate very early on after 9/11 between the general counsel's political appointee lawyers trying to fashion a new way of fighting the war and the military lawyer, who was very steeped into the traditions of the Geneva Convention.

DANA PRIEST: Meanwhile, Rumsfeld has already promulgated some harsher interrogation techniques of his own, including use of dogs to intimidate, stripping, deprivation of food in combination with stress positions for a given amount of time.

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld, who works at a standing desk, approved an extensive list of interrogation techniques. But he added, "I stand for 8 to 10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?"

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM: There's a paper trail that I've looked at, where memos were written saying that the proposed policies are going to get us in trouble. They're not who we are as a nation. They're abandoning 50 years of military legal thought.

DANA PRIEST: 9/11 gave the entire administration, and Rumsfeld as the head of the Defense Department, a carte blanche in terms of how they treated the laws on the books when they applied to the global war on terrorism, as they defined the global war on terrorism.

NARRATOR: Afghanistan was viewed as a success, but Rumsfeld wouldn't bask in victory for long. Another war, a war pushed from inside his own Pentagon, was in the offing. By early November of 2001, Paul Wolfowitz and the neocons were back at the task of focusing the president on making Iraq the next phase of the war on terror.

NEWSCASTER: –expressed concern about the fall of Kabul and urged the establishment–

BOB WOODWARD, The Washington Post: Right before Thanksgiving, the president, after a routine NSC meeting, took Rumsfeld aside, and they went into a little cubbyhole off the Situation Room. And the President closed the door and asked Rumsfeld, "What war plans do you have for Iraq?"

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld believed all the Pentagon's war plans were cumbersome and outdated.

BOB WOODWARD: And the President said, well, he wanted to examine those, specifically for Iraq and that Rumsfeld was not to talk to anyone else, including the CIA director.

NARRATOR: The old Iraq war plans were kept in Florida, at Central Command headquarters, CENTCOM. Four-star general Tommy Franks was in charge.

THOMAS RICKS, _The Washington Post: There's a term in the Army that's not always used as a form of praise, calling somebody a "muddy boots sojer." And I say the word "sojer," S-O-J-E-R. It's kind of, "Yep, he's a good muddy boots sojer." And it typically is used as a compliment, but not always. Well, everybody always said of Franks, "Yep, he's a muddy boots sojer. "He's a good guy to have on your flank if you're a battalion commander in a tough fight.

It also tends to mean he's not a deep thinker. He's not one of those guys who goes off to the war college to read Clausewitz. He goes off to the war college to play some golf. The challenge here for Rumsfeld is, he's got a guy who comes really out of the classic Army background, who's going to think, "Yep," you know, "let's go in big and heavy."

NARRATOR: General Shinseki and Secretary of the Army White had no operational authority over specific war plans. This would be a game of one-on-one, Rumsfeld against Franks. The most recent Iraq war plan, based on the success of Desert Storm, called for overwhelming force, weeks of heavy air bombardment and seven months advance warning.

BOB WOODWARD: Rumsfeld asks "Let's see it. You kind of have 30 days to give me your views." And then they're on the phone saying, "No. Come up in three days." Rumsfeld is, "Let's do it now. Let's focus on it."

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): On the Army side, of course, there was once again great resistance to the notion of using Army forces for an intervention in Iraq. There was no real enthusiasm at all at high levels in the Army for this idea.

NARRATOR: Colonel Douglas MacGregor was a tank commander in desert storm. His specialty is thinking outside the box about military tactics. He's a well known maverick in the military establishment. After Rumsfeld's early exposure to Tommy Franks, he went looking for fresh ideas. He came across Colonel MacGregor. In early December, MacGregor was invited to the Pentagon.

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: Brought me in and asked, "We're looking at Iraq. By the way, the chief of staff of the Army says it will take at least 560,000 troops to deal with Iraq." Well, of course, I burst out laughing immediately. And the representative said "That's interesting because that was Secretary Rumsfeld's reaction."

NARRATOR: MacGregor had a powerful ally helping him again access to the secretary. He showed us an email. It was from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Secretary Rumsfeld. As a member of the Defense Policy Review Board, Gingrich had become a close adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld. He had championed Colonel MacGregor's work. "Newt, I looked at this piece you sent from MacGregor. I don't know anyone who is thinking that way. Thanks, D.H. Rumsfeld."

THOMAS WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: This whole thing with Gingrich, with MacGregor feeding him ideas, became a very, very contentious aspect of our relationship, I think, that polluted the well.

NARRATOR: General Shinseki's position was Army doctrine: large numbers of forces were necessary to secure a country immediately after a conflict. But he couldn't get through the Rumsfeld, who had Newt Gingrich talking to less traditional planners like Colonel MacGregor.

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: He said, "What do you think?" And I said, "50,000 troops. Real emphasis has to be on getting rapidly to Baghdad on a couple of axes and using mobile armored forces for that purpose. And once we get there, we remove the government." I said, "The bottom line is, the secretary's right. The enemy's very weak. This will not take very long," at which point in time, I was told, "Well, great. Can you put together a plan?"

NARRATOR: This is Colonel MacGregor's war plan: 50,000 troops rapidly deployed, striking at the heart of Baghdad.

Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR: I received a call from CENTCOM, from General Franks's staff group director, who is a full colonel, who said, "The secretary of defense has directed the boss to bring you down to CENTCOM for three days."

NARRATOR: If you're a war-fighting general, CENTCOM is where you want to be. Norman Schwarzkopf was the boss here during Desert Storm. Then Marine general Joe Hoar took over.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: Fifty thousand people? I know what my answer would have been. I can't say it on public television. This is a labor-intensive business, and if you're going to go in and change a country of 25 million people, you've got to have boots on the ground. The people that are making decisions in the military, the guys that are in uniform, think very seriously about having one American soldier or Marine killed.

And the way you minimize casualties is you fight aggressively and with overwhelming strength. And so when you start up the road to Baghdad, you have enough people to flood that city, that city that's second only in size to New York City, in terms of how big it is. Also, six-and-a-half million people. Fifty thousand people– where would they go in Baghdad? What would they secure? Even if they were successful, how would you manage all of that? What would be the next step? I think it's absolutely impractical.

NARRATOR: But the more the generals dug in, the harder Rumsfeld pushed.

BOB WOODWARD: And then the war planning, there are endless sessions, you know, hours and hours of Franks and Rumsfeld, and Franks and Rumsfeld with the NSC or with President Bush, going through the details, and charts and slides and these are the assumptions and this is how many troops we might send. It might take 90 days here, or we're going to try to get it down to 30. It's the kind of microscopic detail that's reviewed at the Rumsfeld level. It's quite astonishing.

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: But Franks wants still several hundred thousand troops to go in. And Rumsfeld has this process where he kind of chips away and chips away at this belief, asking questions, "Why do you need that? Why do you need that?" The Pentagon dubs this the "iterative process." But really, I think it's more a process of erosion.

NARRATOR: Some thought it had about it the echo of earlier civilian involvement, like the role civilians played in planning and operations in Vietnam.

THOMAS RICKS: I've heard stories again and again of Rumsfeld actually crossing off individual units from deployment plans, saying, "You really don't need this. You don't need this."

NARRATOR: Finally, after a few months, Rumsfeld's persistence began to pay off. Franks, who declined to be interviewed for this program, was wavering.

THOMAS RICKS: The Army looks upon this process, I think, with a little bit of horror during that period of war plan formation. I remember one day the general said to me, "Tommy's drunk the Kool-Aid." And that meant, "Yeah, Franks had gone over to kind of the belief in a smaller, narrower force."

DANA PRIEST: Franks sided with Rumsfeld. I think one thing that people underappreciate is, even if you're a four-star and even if you have disagreements with your civilian boss, when the boss rules – which he does in our society – you're going to be a good soldier and go along with that, and you're not going to show the public that there's any dissent.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR: I'd like to think I would have stood up and said no. I'd like to think I would. But I can't say that I would have. I don't think it's at all easy to go and tell the secretary of defense that he's wrong when the secretary of defense and the undersecretary and the assistant secretaries are all there in the room, and they're telling you, "This is the way the plan ought to go, this is the way the plan ought to go." That's the difficult part of it.

NARRATOR: But Rumsfeld had also modified his position in the back-and-forth. So after 10 months in development, the new Iraq war plan called for 140,000 men, a rolling start in Kuwait, rapid deployment to Baghdad. It was neither Rumsfeld's plan nor the Army's.

BOB WOODWARD: I think the plan was less transformational and daring than Rumsfeld hoped it would be. It was a hybrid. It was a lot of the old and some of the new, probably more of the old than Rumsfeld would like to acknowledge.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 29, 2002] I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, Editor, The Weekly Standard: And I wrote a piece in The Post two days after the State of the Union, saying, "We've just been present at a very unusual moment, the creation of a new American foreign policy."

NARRATOR: The president was on board. The neoconservatives' preemption doctrine would get its test case. Saddam Hussein's regime would be changed. But the veterans of the war behind closed doors knew the inside struggle wasn't over. Colin Powell was about to weigh in.

DAVID FRUM, White House Speechwriter, 2001-'02: When it comes to close-in bureaucratic combat, he's always the guy who's left standing. He's skilled. He's effective. He's a powerful personal presence. I mean, he's just a– I mean, he's a commanding man. And he has the prestige of this extraordinary military career he has had. Powell does not lose many fights.

NARRATOR: In Washington, they were now taking sides. The odds-on favorite was Secretary Powell.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR: It wasn't just Democrats, it was people on both sides that were concerned about this, people that thought Colin Powell had the right answer.

NARRATOR: But in the councils of power, Powell was losing.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR: I am told that when you go to The National Security Council, that Colin Powell gets outvoted by Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney on these issues.

NARRATOR: From the outside, General Hoar supported Powell's position. Later he would join other military figures to oppose the war plan, and more recently, to support John Kerry. The forces of moderation took the fight public. Former NSC adviser Brent Scowcroft, the president's father's military man, wrote op-ed pieces, and the public climate of doubt began to build. Powell seized the moment. He lobbied for a private dinner with the president.

BOB WOODWARD: And his essential argument got down to what he called the "Pottery Barn rule"– you invade, you break it, you own it. And you have taken down a government that's been there for a long time. It was a warning to the president which the president, I think you can argue, should have said, "Time out. Stop the music. Here we have Colin Powell, 35 years in the military, secretary of state has just issued a dire warning. Let's reexamine."

NARRATOR: Then, as the president went on vacation, his senior cabinet officials were left to fight it out.

BOB WOODWARD: I think the discord within the foreign policy inner circle around Bush is very, very high. It became personal between Powell and Cheney. It also became personal between Powell and Rumsfeld. So you have this collision of world views. You have personal animosity. And you have Powell, who is this respected retired general, not somebody who can just be thrown out the door by Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld.

NARRATOR: Quietly, in the inner circle, Powell made his best case.

ROBIN WRIGHT, The Washington Post: Colin Powell won one round, anyway, and that was convincing the cabinet, the foreign policy team, to allow one go at the United Nations.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions, but the purposes of the United States should not be doubted.

ROBIN WRIGHT: When the Bush administration made clear that it was not willing to succumb in any way to the pressure that Russia, France, Germany and China wanted, it was pretty clear that the war was going to happen.

NARRATOR: Then Powell agreed to put his personal prestige on the line to make the case against Saddam Hussein himself.

COLIN POWELL: [February 5, 2003] What all of us have learned over the years is deeply troubling.

ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, Secretary of State Powell played an important role in his February speech at the United Nations Security Council, outlining the full list, with the graphics beamed large on screens on the floor of the Security Council.

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.

ROBIN WRIGHT: And if you look, in hindsight, at the intelligence, it's not all that impressive. It was quite dramatic at the time, the way it was presented, but it really didn't amount to a whole lot.

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

ROBIN WRIGHT: Of all the players in the Bush administration, he has the greatest popularity and credibility. If it had been Rumsfeld, I think you would have seen a very different kind of reaction.

COLIN POWELL: And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoonful of this deadly material.

ROBIN WRIGHT: Colin Powell was the most powerful voice within the administration cautioning against the dangers of going to war and the cost– human, political, diplomatic. At the end of the day, however, Colin Powell is a team player. He wasn't going to walk away from the administration on the eve of going to war, which was not only abandoning his commander-in-chief but also the troops, many of which he still knew.

NARRATOR: And then, just three weeks before the invasion of Iraq was to begin, General Shinseki was forced to take his internal fight with Secretary Rumsfeld public.

Sen. CARL LEVIN (D), Michigan: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for an occupation of Iraq, following a successful completion of the war?

Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff, '98-'03: In specific numbers, I would have to rely on combatant commanders' exact requirements, but I think–

Sen. CARL LEVIN: How about a range?

Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI: I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground force presence.

THOMAS WHITE, Secretary of the Army, 2001-'03: So the next morning, I get a call from Wolfowitz, who is upset that Shinseki would give this number. And I forget exactly what I said, but I said, "Well, he's an expert. He was asked. He has a fundamental responsibility to answer the questions and offer his professional opinion, which he did. And there was some basis to the opinion because he is a relative expert on the subject." So a week later–

INTERVIEWER: So what does Wolfowitz say when you say that? I mean, that's–

THOMAS WHITE: Well, he's– he's– they're mad. They're upset.

REPORTER: Army chief of staff General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops on the ground–

DONALD RUMSFELD: There's so many variables that it is not knowable. It is– however, I will say this. What is, I think, reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

THOMAS WHITE: All of us in the Army felt just the opposite, that there was a long history of that being absolutely true, that the defeat of the Iraqi military would be a relatively straightforward operation of fairly short duration, but that the securing of the peace and the security of a country of 25 million people spread out over an enormous geographic area would be a tremendous challenge that would take a lot of people, a lot of labor, to be done right.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: In short, we don't know what the requirement will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.

THOMAS WHITE: So they discredit Shinseki. Then a week later, I get in front of the same committee. I get asked– I see Senator Levin before the hearing starts, and he says, "I'm going to ask you the same question." I said, "Good." I said, "You're going to get the same answer." And so he asked me the question, and I– exactly the same answer. And you know, and at that point, Shinseki and White are not on the team, right? We don't get it. We don't understand this thing, and we are not on the team. And therefore, you know, actions are going to be taken.

[ Read White's extended interview]

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR: I think he was the only service chief that spoke out about certain things. And the message sent is, "Do it my way or leave."

NARRATOR: Rumsfeld and the civilians had captured the Army. He and General Franks had a battle plan. Certain they would win the war, they were confident about winning the peace.

BOB WOODWARD: They were focused on, "Let's win the battle," and stabilization, aftermath, the politics of what's going on in Iraq clearly did not get the attention that it should have.

NARRATOR: Winning the peace fell to Wolfowitz, who planned for some contingencies but not a long occupation.

JOHN HAMRE, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1997-'99: We fell victim, I think, to seriously artificial thinking that the environment after the war was not really an extension of the war. So all of the focus was largely on the war fighting and the immediate transition issues associated with the cessation of war, the– what do you do if you have a lot of refugees? What do you do if you have a lot of prisoners? What do you do if you have a lot of– if you have food problems? So those things they thought through, but none of the security dimensions of occupying a country after a war had been thought through, really.

NARRATOR: Over at the State Department, they had been looking hard at the long-term reconstruction of Iraq.

RICHARD BOUCHER, State Dept. Spokesman: We've organized the Future of Iraq Project to draw upon both independent Iraqis and representatives of political groups–

NARRATOR: All during 2002, dozens of Iraqi exiles and State Department veterans had been preparing a post-war plan. But the Future of Iraq Project was Colin Powell's. Rumsfeld forcefully argued Iraq should be the Pentagon's province.

JOHN HAMRE: This is typical Don Rumsfeld. He said, "You can hold me 100 percent accountable for this, but you have to give me 100 percent of the responsibility, as well. Let me run the thing, and you can hold me completely accountable. And I think the president likes that kind of a stand-up guy.

NARRATOR: The Future of Iraq Project was moved over to the Pentagon.

THOMAS WHITE: The Defense Department is going to exercise rigid control over this whole operation, and therefore, none of those people are deemed to be acceptable. And so we just exclude that.

BOB WOODWARD: And Powell finally called Rumsfeld, said, "What the hell is going on?" And Rumsfeld says, "On higher authority, I was told these people are not to be part of the team." Well now, there's only two higher authorities, clearly, the President, and presumably Cheney. So Powell backed off, but it deprived the process of some of this expertise. Whether it would have made a difference or not, who knows.

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: "Shock and awe," running start, Najaf, Karbala Gap, daisy cutter, embeds all joined the vernacular of war. In three weeks, it was over. the statue fell.

DONALD RUMSFELD: [April 9, 2003] The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are breathtaking.

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: Things got out of control immediately with the looting and with the arms depots that weren't guarded and the nuclear facilities, or nuclear material facilities that weren't guarded. And in 100 other ways, we saw that there were too few troops to keep order.

THOMAS RICKS, The Washington Post: The government fell, but the capital was not taken. I don't think the enemy in Iraq decided he was defeated when we decided on April 9, 2003, that he was defeated. We pulled down the goalpost at halftime, and he kept on playing.

DONALD RUMSFELD: [April 11, 2003] I picked up a newspaper today, and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about "Chaos!" "Violence!" "Unrest!" And it just was, "Henny Penny, the sky is falling!" I've never seen anything like it! It's just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country!

It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense! They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things! They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.

NARRATOR: On a Friday afternoon at the end of April, Rumsfeld decided to do some tidying up of his own. His office called Army secretary Tom White.

THOMAS WHITE: His office called down, said "Rumsfeld wants to see you, nothing about what the subject of the meeting would be. Well, I guessed. Why else would I be down there on Friday afternoon, and there's no subject, there's no agenda, there's no nothing? And there's the secretary and the deputy secretary of defense standing there. And obviously, I've been outside the tent for quite some time, and the problems are already evident. And they know what I'm on the record as saying about it, obviously, and I'm going to continue to speak out.

They said, "I want to make a change." I think that was his exact words. And that was it.

NARRATOR: FRONTLINE wanted to ask Secretary Rumsfeld about his disputes with White and Shinseki, about the Powell doctrine and transformation, but the secretary declined to be interviewed.

By the summer of 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld's press conferences were cut back.

THOMAS RICKS: I got the impression that Rumsfeld though, "OK, now I'm going to turn my attention to other things, and I'm going to let Wolfowitz focus more on Iraq. So it's Wolfowitz who's going out to Iraq on visits and kind of visiting the commanders more often than Rumsfeld.

DONALD RUMSFELD: There's an increase in violent incidents. No question about that.

NARRATOR: But eventually, Rumsfeld would have to answer the hard questions about what was happening in Iraq.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Is the glass half empty or half full? Is it dangerous? Yes. Are people being killed? Yes. Is it a violent country? You bet. Were there 200-some-odd people killed in Washington, D.C., last year? Yes. Were they on the front page of every newspaper? Were they on the television every night? No.

JOHN ARQUILLA, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School: We find ourselves in a situation where our military can win every stand-up firefight, but it loses the battle. When Baghdad first fell, half of all Iraqis viewed us as liberators. When Coalition Provisional Authorities supposedly handed sovereignty over to the Iraqis, our standing with the Iraqi population was down to 2 percent.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: We still have roughly 135,000 or so American troops in that area trying to bring about stability. And certainly, that is, in a sense, a de facto admission of the fact that things haven't gone exactly as was planned."

Lt. Gen. PAUL VAN RIPER, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): I guess deep in my heart, I hoped that there was some sort of a secret plan that they were going to follow.

Gen. JOSEPH P. HOAR, Commander, CENTCOM, 1994-'94: I think people already had figured out that this was not going to be hard. And so when it turned out to be hard, there were no plans to do what was necessary. I can't understand any other reason, that they just were misinformed.

NARRATOR: In Iraq, thousands were arrested and imprisoned. And then the reports of a scandal–

NEWSCASTER: Demonstrators gathered outside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison today–

NARRATOR: –involving some of the prisoners and the Army reserve troops guarding them.

NEWSCASTER: –won't go away. Today two more incriminating photos are released.

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: I think Abu Ghraib, for all the awful things that it says about the unit that conducted it, and potentially, about their commanders, who were pushing for intelligence– the real significance of Abu Ghraib is that it's a symbol of the unpreparedness of the military to deal with the chaos and the insurgency in the post-war period.

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: It shows you what happens when you have untrained people poorly supervised in combat. It shows what happens when you don't have the right skill mix. And it shows you what can happen when you play too cute with the rules that have stood the test of time.

NARRATOR: "The rules" were the Geneva Convention and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's strict standards of behavior. They were at the heart of that dispute between Secretary Rumsfeld and the military JAGs at the Pentagon that had begun in Afghanistan. By the time thousands had ended up in prisons like Abu Ghraib, the JAGs had been marginalized.

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM: The military legal system not being part of that prison was very similar to what the JAGs were predicting months before, a year before, that if you don't follow the rules pretty closely in combat, they get really out of whack.

NARRATOR: Then Secretary Rumsfeld was called up to Capitol Hill.

Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R), Arizona: [May 7, 2004] I'm gravely concerned that many Americans will have the same impulse as I did when I saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. And we risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one.

Now, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to know. What were the instructions to the guards?

DONALD RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I've indicted has been undertaken–

Sen. JOHN McCAIN: But Mr. Secretary–

DONALD RUMSFELD: –is determining.

Sen. JOHN McCAIN: –that's a very simple, straightforward question.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, the– the– as chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate. They're not– and they're instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva conventions.

NARRATOR: It was among his lowest moments. There were calls for his resignation or even his removal.

PROTESTERS: Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld!

NARRATOR: Then in August, two former secretaries of defense, James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, released a tough report about what had happened at Abu Ghraib.

THOMAS RICKS: I think he must have been a little surprised, when he read the Schlesinger report, to see his peers, a couple of former secretaries of defense, weigh him and find him wanting.

TILLIE K. FOWLER (R), Fmr Florida Rep., Panel Member: We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon.

THOMAS RICKS: But the report was broader than that. It faulted the entire handling of Iraq in that crucial period, as the insurgency developed and developed into a full-blown opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq.

TILLIE K. FOWLER: –in our report, these leadership failures–

NARRATOR: The Pentagon that had once so welcomed the new administration is now deeply divided. At some cost, Secretary Rumsfeld has achieved some of what he set out to do. The civilians have gained control. Transformation is under way. The Powell doctrine is in eclipse.

THOMAS RICKS: The great achievement of today's colonels and generals is that they are the guys who turned it around in the wake of the Vietnam war. And now the tragedy of some of these guys is this magnificent army they spent 25 years rebuilding is now really going through the agony of Iraq.

THOMAS WHITE: We're on the brink. We are in a situation where we are grossly over-deployed, and it is unlike any other period in the 229-year history of the Army. So you have people that are on multiple tours. The Army's got 33 combat brigades, and 20-some of them are deployed. This is not a sustainable manpower equation.

NEWSCASTER: Two helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division were flying over a suburban area of Mosul when the crash happened.

NARRATOR: The Army's poll of future recruits has dwindled to its lowest level in three years. More than 1,000 new Army recruiters are offering bonuses of up to $15,000 for new enlistees. The Army is enforcing a policy called "stop loss" which prohibits soldiers from retiring or leaving three months before and after their unit's deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

THOMAS WHITE: The price is that, particularly, reserve component people will say, "I'm as big a patriot as anybody else, but I've been gone three years out of the last four, and that's not what I signed up for." And I think we're all concerned that that's where we headed.

NARRATOR: Now Rumsfeld is even having to answer rumors and speculation about the return of the draft.

DONALD RUMSFELD: [September 23, 2004, congressional hearing] We are not having trouble maintaining a force of volunteers! Every single person's a volunteer! We do not need to use compulsion to get people to come in the armed services! We've got an ample number of talented, skillful, courageous, dedicated young men and women willing to serve! And it's false!

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, DoD, National Defense Panel: The Army is essentially engaged in a race against time. Can the Army essentially train up indigenous Iraqi security forces so that the Iraqis can provide for the security of their own country before the Army becomes so strained that the volunteers – and we have an all-volunteer Army – will start to say, you know, "This doesn't look like such a good career anymore. I'm going to get out when my enlistment is up." It's going to be, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, a long, hard slog.

THOMAS RICKS: I remember somebody talking about him as a wrestler, that his great strength as a wrestler was that he wouldn't give up, even when he knew he was beaten. He would just keep on slogging away.



Michael Kirk

(Begin Title Roll)

Jim Gilmore

Mike Wiser

Steve Audette

Ben McCoy

Steve Lederer

Colette Neirouz

Will Lyman

Miranda Hentoff

Jeff Kleinman
Erich Roland

Paul Green
Jim Peterson

Michael H. Amundson

Jim Sullivan



Bill Hamilton
Tina Gulland

Dan Balz
Dana Priest
Thomas Ricks
Bob Woodward
Robin Wright

Carmen Chapin


Tim Mangini

Missy Frederick

Steve Audette

Michael H. Amundson
John MacGibbon

Chris Fournelle

Chetin Chabuk

Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Erin Martin Kane

Christopher Kelly

Jessica Smith

Dennis O'Reilly

Jenna Lowe

Jessica Cashdan

Gabrielle MonDesire

Kirsti Potter

Lisa Palone-Clarke

Eric Brass
Jay Fialkov

Adrienne Armor

Mary Sullivan

Tobee Phipps

Dana Lamb

Kate Cohen
Sarah Ligon

Mary Carmichael

Sarah Moughty

Sam Bailey

Catherine Wright

Robin Parmelee

Ken Dornstein

Sharon Tiller

Marrie Campbell

Jim Bracciale

Michael Sullivan

Louis Wiley Jr.

David Fanning

A FRONTLINE coproduction with The Washington Post
and The Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd

(c) 2004

FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.


ANNOUNCER: This report continues on FRONTLINE's Web site, where you'll find a timeline tracing over four decades and six administrations of politics, conflicts and interconnections between Donald Rumsfeld and other key players, a chronology of the decades-long struggle between civilian leaders and uniformed military, more on Abu Ghraib and the JAG story, FRONTLINE's extended interviews with Washington Post reporters and other close observers of the military establishment. Plus, watch the full program again on line. Then join the discussion at


Next time on FRONTLINE: A nation at war, a nation divided, the most important election in a generation. How will you decide? "The Choice 2004"


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