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interview: gen. jay garner
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Lt. Gen. Jay Garner (U.S. Army-Ret.) was the first American administrator to oversee the interim administration and reconstruction of Iraq. He was chosen for this role, in part, because of his experience assisting displaced Kurds following the 1991 Gulf War. Garner's one-month tenure as the director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), the precursor to the Coalition Provisional Authority, was fraught with controversy, and he was replaced by Paul Bremer. "The day you start building the war plan is the day you start building the postwar plan," Garner tells FRONTLINE. "We didn't do that, not in this case." This interview was conducted on July 17, 2003.

Let's begin with when you get the call.

On Jan. 9, I was in Manhattan to give an end-of-year report to our corporation. I got a call on my cell phone from Doug Feith, [who] said that Secretary Rumsfeld asked him to call me and ask me if I would come and put together a team from the other agency to do the planning for postwar Iraq, if there was a war.

He used those words, "If there was a war?"

The minute you take out Saddam Hussein, who's been the only leader for 30 years, there is a vacuum.

If there was a war, yes. "Should there be a war," I think he said, and that many of the plans had already been done, but what had not been done [was] there hadn't been a horizontal integration of the plans. ...

So your job was described to you as what, exactly?

Yes, to put the team together, do the planning necessary. Coordinate the plans, and then eventually hand it off to a presidential appointee.

You say that plans had already been in the works?

Yes, some of them pretty good, too. State Department does some real good planning. The Justice Department does some good planning, the Defense Department had done some good planning.

But what had happened is the planning, I guess most of it started in October 2002, but they were all done in the vertical stovepipes of those agencies. What you find in any one plan, there's multiple agencies or players. I mean, one might be the proponent of the plan, but it takes multiple agencies. So that vertical integration of those plans had not occurred up to that point. ...

What were your concerns about what needed to be done?

That everything needed to be done. I mean, my concerns were, number one, I thought there would be a lot of refugees and displaced people, because I thought [Saddam] would use chemicals. In my heart of hearts, I'll always believe he intended to. But because of the speed of the military operation, and the fact they went after him the first night, he wasn't able to do that. They cut all his communications the first night. So he was never able to execute that. But if he had done that, we [would have] had massive civilian casualties and God knows how many refugees.

My second fear was he'd torch all the oil fields. We knew he intended to do that, because they were wired with explosives. But the military got in there so fast. My third fear was that he'd blow the dams. My fourth fear was that soon after that all happened, [we would have] an epidemic outbreak of cholera and things like that. Also thought there'd be an awful lot of damage and collateral damage, so we'd have a huge reconstruction problem in terms of roads, bridges, buildings, and that type of thing.

Then I knew that it would be difficult to stand the government back up, but that had to be done immediately. I'm not talking about a national government; I'm talking about the government from the ministries, because Iraq is run by the ministries from Baghdad down. So I knew that was going to be difficult to stand up, that had to be done immediately. So all those things.

So beginning in January, you start to have to assess what your fears are, what you predict might happen. You have to start making requests for resources, right? ... Were you given the resources that you needed?

I was never told no. I briefed Condoleezza Rice once a week. Every Wednesday, I went and briefed her. I could go see Rumsfeld anytime I wanted to. I could go see Colin Powell anytime I wanted to. What I asked for, I got. I didn't get it instantly because it takes time to get things.

This is in the planning stage?

In the planning stage, yes. So by the third week in February, we had enough people. We probably had somewhere between 70 to 100 people. We had most of the plans, 90 percent of the plans. We were able to get everybody together in one place and vet all those plans.

What we did, we put together two days, we called it a rock drill -- you turn over all the rocks. We went to National Defense University over at Fort McNair. We brought in our whole team, all the plans, and then the assistant or deputy secretary of the agency that was responsible [for] that plan, who was not on the team, but was responsible for supporting the team or developing that plan. We had standing-room only people over there; we had several hundred people there. We brought in CENTCOM. ... So we had all the inter-agency, all those guys' bosses, us, and the military.

We spent two days vetting all the plans, which was really useful, because then we began to find out where all the dots were and what we had to do to connect each one of those dots. [For example], the State Department does an awful lot of work in police and building police forces and looking at prisons and jails and courts, and the Justice Department does a lot of that. So we were able to connect those two dots together, put together a composite Justice Department-State Department team. ...

It was a good drill, and we were able to put everything together and to begin to horizontally coordinate all the plans. From that point on, we continued to do that all the way until the time we left here, all the time we were in Kuwait, until we deployed in Baghdad.

You kept drilling?

We kept drilling. Because the more you do, the more layers you peel off the onion, the more things you find. But the plans were pretty good. I mean, the inter-agency had done a pretty good job.

So then I briefed the president the second week in March on what our organization was like and what--

What were the president's concerns? What kind of questions was he asking?

The first thing he asked me, he wanted me to tell him about myself. I told him my background, and Secretary Rumsfeld told him my background.

Then he began asking me questions. "OK, what are you going to do during reconstruction?" Our plan then is we were going to use most of the Iraqi army for reconstruction, we were going to hire them and make them, for lack of a better word, reconstruction battalions and use them to help rebuild the country.

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

Seemed like a great plan, yes. Because they had the skill set to do everything I thought we needed to do. I mean, they know how to fix roads, they know how to fix bridges, they know how to move rubble around. They're all trained to a certain degree. They know how to take orders, they have a command and control system over, they have their own transportation, you can move them around -- that type of thing.

So that was a good concept. The problem with that concept is the Iraqi army evaporated. It wasn't there at the end of the war.

There were some people, on the other hand, some voices in Washington who have told me that they were saying that the Iraqi army would collapse. Even some people within the INC were saying, "We told the NSC and others that the Iraqi army would collapse." Were you hearing those voices at the time?

Yes, but I didn't hear it that way. A lot of people said the Iraqi army would collapse, and when they said, "collapse," they meant "surrender," so, therefore, it would be available. No, it didn't surrender. It just evaporated. ...

In retrospect, looking at the plans that were made, was there enough time?

There's never enough time.

You told CNN, I think, that if we go to war next time, the one thing you do is start planning for the aftermath right at the time.

I think the day you start building the war plan is the day you start beginning the postwar plan.

Did we do that?

No, we didn't do that. Not in this case, we didn't. But there's two answers to that. I think if you asked Tommy Franks or John [Abizaid], they'd say, "Yes, we did." Because they did begin planning immediately for the military part of the postwar -- the civil affairs battalions and what the engineers would do, that type of thing.

But the civil side of that, the humanitarian crisis piece, and the reconstruction piece and the civil government piece, as an organization, it didn't start until really Feb. 1, although, like I said before, the other agencies in their own vertical stovepipes were doing planning.

You mentioned that the State Department had done some good planning. They had something called the Future of Iraq Project. What was the attitude towards in the Pentagon towards the work that had been done by the State Department?

... It wasn't well received.

It wasn't well received?

Yes, but not only in the Pentagon. It wasn't real well received in portions of the executive branch, either. That's not the president or anybody like that, but I mean, there were people in the executive branch that--

And in the National Security Council--

Yes, yes.

They didn't like the work that Warrick had done? [Editor's Note: Tom Warrick was director of the Future of Iraq Project]

I don't know whether they didn't like the work Tom Warrick had done or they didn't like Tom Warrick. Now, I thought Tom Warrick was a very, very astute, very competent guy. But I was not able to get him on the team.

Why was that, do you think?

I'm not really sure, Martin. He just wasn't acceptable, I guess. When I asked for him, he just never showed up. He was never part of the team.

But was it his lack of willingness to join your team?

Oh, no, no, no. ...

Did you read the executive summary?

I did.

Was that before the war?

Oh, yes. I read the executive summary back in February, I guess.

Was it useful?

Yes, I thought it was good work. Of course, a lot of the free Iraqis had worked on that. So later, many of the free Iraqis who worked on that became part of the Iraqis that we brought over to Baghdad after we got in Baghdad.

But can you give me any insight into why you think there was this resistance to that work?

No, I [can't].

Can you speculate about that?

No, not unless it was just being normal inter-agency conflicts that you have. It's just part of our way of doing government. ...

Some of that was around politics, who to support, whether to support the INC or not support the INC?


How did that affect your work at all?

It didn't affect me. I read a lot when I was in Kuwait about the inter-agency battles that were going on. But I will tell you that those never affected me personally, and I don't think they affected the team.

They didn't affect the work on the ground once you were in there, the political work that you were trying to do?

No. No.

You say that there's never enough time. Were you surprised when the call came in January? I mean, that's a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time. It's going to take us longer to put this documentary together most likely than you were given to plan the future of a major Middle Eastern country.

But it's the first time, I believe, that we thought ahead like that since World War II. Somebody told me Marshall started planning on postwar Germany in 1942, and I said, "Yes, he did. He planned in 1942 for a 1945 problem." But he didn't start that plan until the war started, either. I think you've got to give Rumsfeld credit.

It was Rumsfeld's concept to do this, and I think you've got to give Rumsfeld credit for doing the forward-thinking the, "Hey, we've got to have a postwar effort and a good plan here, and we've got to put it together as fast as we can." I don't think he gets the credit he deserves.

Well, people are looking at what's happening on the ground and saying, "Did we plan well enough?"

Oh, I think we planned as well as we could. Once you've been through it, you always look back and say, "Well, I wish I'd planned for this, or I wish I'd planned for that." But, yes, I think we planned as well as we could have given what we had to do, and given the time we had.

Did you plan for looting?

Well, yes and no. I felt sure there would be looting, but I didn't think the looting would have the impact that it did have. When we went up north in 1991, there was looting up there. The looting up there was going into a building, taking everything, stealing everything in it, taking everything out of it, and that was it. So that when we went up north, we just took the building, put furniture in it, put people back in there.

What happened in Baghdad is not only did they take everything out of the buildings, but then they pulled all the wiring out of the buildings, they pulled all of the plumbing out of the buildings, and they set it on fire. So the buildings were not usable at all. In fact, some of them probably are not structurally sound enough to ever be used -- they'll have to be torn down and rebuilt.

These are all the ministries that you're charged with--

Yes, 17 of the 23 ministries were gone when we got to Baghdad.

Seventeen out of 23 ministries are gone?


So you've got to get a government up and running, and get the economy up and clicking. And you've got no buildings for 17 out of 23 ministries?

[Yes]. And more than that, there's no communications. I didn't know that the looting would be -- I never suspected it would be as serious as it was. But I knew there would be looting. I think all of us knew that. But I never anticipated we would not be able to use the buildings, unless they were destroyed by the military. I think there were only two or three buildings that were destroyed by the military. So the buildings I was planning on using -- 17 of them -- weren't there anymore.

But just as important, there's no communication. You're in a country that runs from the top down. Take the minister of health. The minister of health knows exactly what he tells his counterpart or his subordinate down in one of the 17 provinces. Say it's Babel province. He knows exactly what he tells them, he knows exactly what goes down there. Now, down there in Babel province, that deputy minister, he knows exactly what he sends down to the town of Al Hillah. So the health official there knows exactly what he sends into the little sub-municipalities.

But none of those guys knows the other piece. No one knows the whole system. You know, that's part of totalitarian government. Without communications, it became extremely difficult to stand everything up and start running again. So everything became a manual system.

Manual system-- You had to get there to talk to people?

... Our plan was to immediately get there, stand up the ministries, get the country running again as far as the civil functions are running, electricity, water, health, schools, agriculture, those type of things.

That became increasingly difficult because you take ministry of trade -- Ambassador Robin Raphel was the U.S. designee to oversee the ministry of trade. She's wonderful. She literally had to go down the streets of Baghdad with an interpreter and started asking, "Do you know anybody who's in the ministry of trade?" She -- as all of them did -- began to find these people and put together a little nucleus.

Then they had nowhere to meet. So many times we brought them back to our headquarters and they found other places to meet. Then, in order to make things work, they had to come up with some way to communicate to the echelons below the ministries in Baghdad. Essentially what we did is bring people in, and had meetings in Baghdad with that whole vertical system. ...

I want to go back. You're in Kuwait, and the army's marching north. Things are moving very fast. You're getting ready to go in. Statues fall April 9. You're ready to go. But you're on hold. What happened?

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

Did you want to go in sooner?

Yes, I did. Sure I did. We in fact did put a 35-to 40-man team in Basra before April 1 ... and then we put another 35-man, 40-man team up north about the first week up in Erbil.

But in terms of Baghdad--

No. So I went to see Tommy Franks on the 17th in Qatar, and said, "You got to get me into Baghdad." He said, "You know, it's really hot there right now, it's really going to be hard to protect you." I said, "I think we'll take our chance." He said, "Well, let me talk to the military commanders." It was either the night of the 17th, the night of the 18th, he called and said, "Go ahead, and we'll give you all the support we can."...

Was that the plan that you would go in there?

No, the original plan, the CENTCOM plan is that we probably wouldn't get in there for about 60 days after the war.

Sixty days?

Yes. Yes, because the original part was that the civil affairs guys would go in, and they would take charge of a lot of things. The engineers would begin reconstruction. Then gradually we would go in and start putting the government back together again. But the humanitarian crisis piece would go in right away.

What happened, there was no humanitarian crisis. Because of the skill of the military in conducting the operation, there weren't any refugees, and there weren't any displaced persons, and the oil fields didn't get torched. The bridges didn't get blown. So none of that really materialized. ...

April 6 or 7 is when the Iraqis from the INC are flown from the north down to Nasiriyah. Remember that event?

I didn't have anything to do with that, but I remember the event. ...

What was the plan there? What was going on?

I think it was at Chalabi's request that they be moved down there.

Some people say that was a plan to move Chalabi in to start up a government.

Oh, I don't believe that. ... [Ahmed] Chalabi was a candidate like everybody else. Chalabi certainly had a contingent in DOD that was very pro-Chalabi. I don't think Rumsfeld was part of that. In fact, I remember a speech by Rumsfeld that I read after I was in Kuwait about the end of March or April 1, where Rumsfeld said, "No, Chalabi's a candidate, but I don't have a candidate."

But there was a contingent in under Wolfowitz and Feith that--

Yes, they believed in Chalabi and leaned toward Chalabi. But everybody kind of had a candidate. I think [Iyad] Alawi was probably a candidate of some, [Adnan] Pachachi was a candidate of some. But I never saw a plan to take any one of those guys and stick him up as a president or a leader of Iraq. ... When I first took over the job, Doug Feith took me through the pluses and minuses of every one of the opposition leaders.

What did Doug Feith tell you about Chalabi?

He said Chalabi had been very cooperative to the United States. He thought in Chalabi he had somebody who understood democracy and was able to put that together. One of Doug Feith's main worries, I think, was that, in the leadership in Iraq, they've never experienced a democracy. But on the opposition leaders, those guys had, and they were all well educated. He thought they would be capable of putting together a government.

So Feith made clear to you that he thought Chalabi was a leading contender, and was a guy that he liked?

Yes. But a lot of people liked Chalabi. It wasn't just Doug Feith. I mean, Chalabi has a big contingent ... and he provided a lot of leadership. But Chalabi was never my candidate. I never had a candidate.

That's probably appropriate. I mean, it wasn't your job to choose the next leader of Iraq. So you weren't surprised, though, when he was flown into Nasiriyah?

... I met Chalabi in Nasiriyah on the night of the 14th and talked to him. He said he wanted to get to Baghdad as soon as he could. He thought if the opposition leaders didn't get to Baghdad, there'd be a vacuum there, and that would be a bad thing. I agreed with that. We met for about 30 or 40 minutes I guess, talked. ...

Was he asking anything of you?

He didn't ask anything of me. I talked to him on the phone several times, too, when I was in Kuwait. After the forces got into Baghdad, he was fearful that the banks would be looted, and the money would be taken from the banks. ...

What else did Chalabi call you about?

He talked about the necessity of having the opposition leaders available because, like I said before, he was afraid there'd be a vacuum there, and there certainly was. The minute you take out Saddam Hussein, who's been the only leader for 30 years, there is a vacuum. He saw that as a danger and thought we needed to immediately plug that.

Was he was pressing hard, then, to get into Baghdad and what did you tell him?

I told him, I said, "We're all trying to get to Baghdad." It just kind of ended there.

What comes of the Nasiriyah meeting?

The Iraqis from the United States and the contingents from the United States ... all got weathered in, in Qatar. They were supposed to get flown in about seven in the morning, and the meetings started at nine. But they got weathered in, and we didn't get them in there until around one o'clock in the afternoon.

So what we had all morning were the Iraqis from Iraq. They came in the tent, we talked to them. We gave them refreshments. We talked a long time about freedom and what a memorable occasion this was and what a historic occasion this was and the significance of having that meeting that day to talk about a free Iraq right at the site of ancient city of Ur, which is most likely where civilization began. So at the spot where civilization began, we were beginning to start the first real democratic process for Iraq. They were very moved. A lot of them cried. It was emotional. Then at about one o'clock, members of the Iraqi opposition came in. ...

What was the relationship like between the Iraqis that had been there during Saddam's reign and the Iraqi exiles coming in?

They sat at separate tables. They didn't mingle.

What signal did that send to you?

I thought that's natural. I think we always suspected that that those that had been there all along would be a little reluctant to accept those that had not been there with them. Those that had not been there with them would want to put their arms around those who had been there. I think that's what we found. But there was no open opposition; it was just a little standoffish. But they talked. They talked, and when we had the next meeting on the 28th, you saw a lot more talking between the two of them.

But when you were talking at the Defense Department with Doug Feith, he had some hope that Chalabi in the INC would be welcomed back into Iraq.

Oh, I think he did, yes. For all the right reasons.

Were they?

Yes, I think they were. I mean, he thought Chalabi had the skill and the ability to lead and govern. He thought if he was acceptable to the Iraqi people -- and I'm sure Doug didn't know whether he would be or not -- but if he was acceptable, the soonest that you can put an Iraqi face on the government, the better we'll all be. ...

If you had to do anything over again, when you landed in Baghdad, what would that be? What didn't you have that you needed?

Oh, I could have used some buildings for the ministries. I could have used the communications systems for the Iraqi government. I could have used some contracts being available to use with contractor teams.

Could you use a phone system?

Could have used a phone system, sure.

Seems to me one thing the military does really well is communication.

They do.

Why didn't we have a phone system in place for ORHA?

Well, the day I got to Baghdad, General Webster sent his C-6, his signal general, to go help us with our communications, which they do. So we had communications with the military side.

Where we didn't have communications is on the Iraqi governmental side, from the ministry of agriculture all the way down to the lowest town that had anything to do with agriculture, because that telecommunication system was taken out.

You couldn't communicate with any of the NGOs?

No, we knew that we had a communications problem. ...

You needed a police force on the ground?


And you didn't have it?

Well, we knew it wouldn't be there.

Why was that? That's a question people want--

Why the police force wasn't there? Well, they fled.

Why didn't you bring in more trained police that could provide that function in Iraq?

Where do you get them? Where do you get trained police who can provide that function in Iraq? I mean, what our plan was, we knew that the police force would not be a viable entity for a long time. Because, number one, the police force is at the bottom of the rung, security-wise, in Iraq.

If you want to be a cop in Baghdad or Basra or anywhere, if you just walk in and get them to hire you. There's no training or anything. The police sit in the police station; they don't patrol like our police do. So they don't have any training. They sit in the police station, and they're paid very, very low wages, so that they become corrupt. They have to be corrupt in order to survive.

They take bribes.

So we knew that as we uncovered a town or a province, the police would flee. Then we knew that we would call for police to come back, some would be accepted and some would be rejected by the people. That's essentially what happened.

But we knew even when we got the police reconstituted, they weren't a trained force. We'd have to spend time training them. We had a State Department and a Justice Department contract to bring over advisors to train the police, and that's going on now. But that takes time.

But why not bring in more military police or police from domestic forces that have been trained, bring in actually trained policemen from the United States or from wherever?

I guess we could. I mean, quite frankly, I never thought of that. But in doing that, our military police are tapped out. I mean, the military police are probably the most-used force that we have in the military. ...

Nobody brought up the idea of bringing in police?

No, no. In fact, what was brought up is there was inside the inter-agency, there was the concept that probably we didn't need to spend much money on police advisors, and the police advisor footprint should be small. I rejected that and said, "You can't make that decision now--"

Who made that argument?

Well, it was made inside the NSC. But I went to Condoleezza Rice and said, "This is not right. We don't want to do this." We don't want, at this point before the war, to make a decision on a small footprint for police advisors, because the probability is we're probably going to need a big footprint. She agreed. So she said, "We won't do that. We'll leave it open, and we'll get you what you need." The police advisors began arriving the last week in May.

Almost a month, six weeks after you've arrived.

Yes. Now, what could have happened, what would have been a better scenario is if the money had been appropriated and put into those contracts that the State Department and Justice Department had to go out and hire the police advisors and had them ready to standby to go immediately into Iraq as soon as we can get them in there.

But half of them, the money wasn't appropriated in time, the contracts didn't get signed in time. In fact, I tracked 13 contracts that had to do with reconstruction, government, had to do with schools, local governments, police, agriculture, infrastructure build, that type of thing. Of those 13 contracts, 10 weren't signed until after the war started. The major contract, the big reconstruction contract, wasn't signed until the middle of May.

Now why is this?

Well, that's the way we do business. I mean, that isn't going to change. I mean, first of all, you remember I'm telling you what I think, I'm not telling you what I--

Are these the USAID contracts?

USAID contracts, State Department contracts.

Justice Department?

Justice Department contracts, DOD contracts. The money wasn't appropriated yet.

So they just slowed down and stopped in the bureaucracy somewhere in Washington?

Or the money had not been appropriated. So if you're a contractor, you're not going to go out and hire a team until you get money put in your contract, because you're paying for the team until the government puts money in there.

So what happens is once the contract gets signed, you're not done then. You've got to go out and you've got to go find the team, put them together, put them through the training CENTCOM requires for them to go into country, and then get them over there and deploy them. So once the contract's signed, you're looking at somewhere between 30 and 60 or 70 days before you get them over there.

But when do you start to see this problem coming?

Oh, in February.

So what do you do?

I say, "You know, we need to get these signed, we need to get some money in there." And it just never really happened.

So you're saying nobody ever said no to you?

Nobody ever said no. Everybody agreed, but things just get caught up. ...

This is where a little bit more planning a little sooner would have helped you?

I wouldn't say more planning a little sooner. I'd say having the money available and the people in the inter-agency responsible for those contracts to get the money into them and get them signed, so that the contractors could put together their teams, get their teams trained, and get them over.

Now, one place where it did happen rapidly was the team that was supposed to put out the oil well fires. Because it did happen there, we deployed them from Kuwait with us, and they were ready to go.

But you got to remember what's going on, though. The war hasn't started yet. There's tremendous debate going on in the U.S. The French are against us, the Germans against us, the Russians are against us.

People are in the streets.

I think there's probably some reluctance in the agencies to be [signing] big contracts for postwar before we've said we're going to go to war. I mean, I think that's a reality that you just have to deal with. I think that's probably what slowed things down. It wasn't a pre-meditated, diabolical plan on anybody's part. It was just the scenario we were in, the situation we were in. …

When you get into Baghdad, you find that the military that's there to support you, and you're reporting to Franks, is a little bit stretched.

They were stretched, yes. They still really have their hands full.

So the question is, did you have enough support from the military to do your job?

I got to answer that two ways. I got every bit of support they could possibly give me, and every day they gave me more than they did the previous day. But initially, no, because they didn't have enough. What happened is we put an incredible requirement on the military when we got there. As I remember, well, first of all, the ground rule is that we couldn't move one of -- like our ministerial team, our government team -- we couldn't move people around Baghdad unless we had an armed Humvee in front of them, and an armed Humvee behind it.

So you couldn't send, like, a couple of guys over to the ministry of minerals or something?

Not without them being escorted, and, quite frankly, that was a good rule. It should have been that way. But the moment I got there, I put a demand on them for somewhere between 50 and 60 armed Humvees daily. That's a big demand. Plus, I put a demand on them for pretty much an infantry battalion to protect the palace that we had our people living in, had our offices in. So there was instantly a huge security requirement placed on CFLCC [Coalition Forces Land Component Command] the day we got there. Every day we got more Humvees than we did the day before, and they kept peeling forces off to give to us.

You know, it's no secret that that created some difficulties and tension between--

Sure it did, because you got, say, 20 ministry teams are going to go out that day and do work, and the next morning rolls around and you only have enough security for 10. So the 10 that didn't go, they got to go back to their offices and do some more planning. And remember, communications isn't good either, if at all. They made arrangements to meet some Iraqis, but they don't show up. So that causes a lot of problems. But it got better each day. ...

The conventional wisdom has been that Bremer comes in and cleans it up, and Garner just couldn't handle it. ...

No, I think what happened is DOD or the administration or whoever was in charge did a very poor job of prepping the press on what the plan was. The plan was for me to put a team together, take it over there, and hand it off to a presidential appointee, which was exactly what happened.

But it happened a little sooner than you expected, than everyone expected.

I'm not sure that's true, because I always planned on ending up in June. I mean, I planned on being home before July. I only had a four-month leave of absence from my company. The day I got into Baghdad, Rumsfeld called me and said, "Jay, the president's appointed Jerry Bremer to come over and be the special envoy as part of the plan." ...

So I went and met Bremer on March 10, briefed him on all the things we had going, told him, "I'll stay here and might not see them all through, but I'll make sure they're all working and on their way to success before I leave." He said, "That's great, I'd like you to stay as long as you can, I'd like to keep you here." We went on from there. ...

[Did you discuss] with [Rumsfeld] the viability of the various exiles?

... What I discussed with both he and Colin Powell was that [Jalal] Talabani, [Massoud] Barzani, Chalabi, Alawi, Pachachi and [Abdel Aziz al-]Hakim had come together, the leadership group, and they had agreed to bring in a Christian, a Sunni, a moderate Shiite, and anyone the coalition wanted to put on there as a leadership group that the coalition could use, as a mantle of leadership for right. They would take their orders from the coalition.

They all came to Baghdad the first week in May. They were trying to put together a group that would give the coalition an executive-type organization the coalition could use as an Iraqi face for the Iraqi people. The coalition would still be in charge. I think their hope was that if it worked well, that the coalition would make that a provisional government until such time there was an election.

They also had plans to stand up what they called a "big tent meeting," where they would bring in 300 or 400 Iraqis with us approving every one of them as well as adding any one that we wanted to, to begin the process of writing a constitution, to select what democratic model of government they would want to have, and to start judicial reform. ...

So why didn't that happen?

I don't know. I do not know why that didn't happen.

I'm sorry, I'm a little surprised that you don't know why that happened.

I don't know. I don't know.

But you were the point of contact between the American government and the Iraqi opposition.

I was, but when Ambassador Bremer came in, that was all stopped. We had a meeting. He came in on the 10th. We had a meeting with all of the Iraqi leaders, on Friday night, I think, the 15th. And everything slowed down. I don't think that necessarily was Jerry Bremer's plan. I think that was the plan that came out of the inter-agency, that he was just bringing a plan with him.

So they scrapped the old plan that you were working with?

Yes, it got scrapped. All that happened in about a week's period of time.

How did you feel about that?

I thought it was a mistake at the time. The other side of that, though, Martin, is that you also don't want to rush in the government. I think we were rushing into it too fast.

So the worry was that there would be too many Iraqi exiles in positions of power, and so you wanted to go slower?

No, I don't think that.

How do I get a handle on what was the reason for scrapping the old plan?

I don't know. You're asking me a question I can't answer. I don't know why it was scrapped.

Who can answer that question?

I guess you've got to walk across the river and ask somebody in the inter-agency there. ...

Was this is an impossible task that you had?

No, it wasn't. It wasn't impossible. It was hard as hell, but it wasn't impossible. ...

What happened in Fallujah?

... Well, the first thing in Fallujah, there was the attack on the U.S. forces there. ...

Why was that a significant event?

I think it was the biggest event of that type since the war had, quote unquote, "kind of tapered down." That and the discovery of the radioactive material about a few days later was a big event, too. But I didn't see either one of those as turning points. They may have been, but I didn't see them as turning points.

Were there turning points you can identify?

No, I think everything just evolved. It gradually built. But I don't think what's happened is a great surprise to the military. I think the military always knew that there would be subservient elements. I mean, you can't go in to that triangle of Baghdad, Fallujah, Tikrit, where it was totally controlled by the Ba'athists -- I mean, some bad Ba'athists -- probably a million or more. You can't go in there and liberate all that, and not expect to have problems of residual Ba'athists.

But if we expected these problems, couldn't the military have done a better job of putting in police patrols, or bringing in more soldiers to try to tamp things down a bit?

You'll have to ask the military.

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

I think you are always better off with more troops.

So, we didn't have enough troops?

I think we could have used more troops inside Baghdad at the end of the war, yes.

Did you have that discussion with Rumsfeld?

No, I did not.

Did you have that discussion with Feith?

No, I did not. I didn't talk to Doug Feith after I deployed.

So, you talked to Rumsfeld. Did you talk to Franks about that?

John Abizaid and I talked about it a lot. What you saw happened is they begin to shift forces to put more forces, and they brought in more forces into Baghdad. So that began to happen.

But in the beginning, if we expected the kind of resistance that came out of the Sunni Triangle, as they call it, why didn't we put more troops in there sooner?

Well, Martin, I think we felt we had enough troops in. We had a whole division plus part of the armored cavalry regiment, plus segments of the 82nd Airborne, plus some Marines that were still in there. So I think we thought we had a lot -- enough.

I understand. I'm simply asking the questions that I know the guy on the couch with his beer watching TV is going to ask.

I think what you've found as the incidents began to rise and as we had more problems, they begin to draw off troops from other places and bring more into Baghdad.

We spoke to Ambassador Tim Carney. He said the military simply didn't put your mission, your civilian mission, high enough priority.

Oh, I don't think that's right. I think Tim's wrong. Tim's a good man, but I think he's wrong on that. He's kind of looking at that through a soda straw. Maybe his job was tougher than he felt it was going to be and so, therefore, he didn't think he got enough support. He may not have gotten enough support. But I think from day one when we got there, we had a very priority, had the highest priority. ...

Just in wrapping all this up, what lessons have we learned?

I think there's a couple of lessons there. One is -- we already approached this -- I think on day one, the plan for the war had ought to be [the] day one plan for the postwar in the civilian side of the postwar.

We didn't do that.

No, but we started pretty soon. I mean, we started it halfway through that process.

But when you came into the process in January, you already found an interagency process that was ... going at each other.

Well, yes, they always do. But I stayed aloof from that, I think. ...

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

They did put a big effort, and I think that it was a mistake that we didn't use that. I agree with that. It was my intent to use that, but we didn't. But as far as the so-called battles between the State Department and Defense Department, I frankly never really felt those. I don't think the people on the team felt those, either.

Why didn't we use the Future of Iraq [Project]?

I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I was just told, and now it's just a decision they made that we're not going to bring Tom Warrick or his work on the team.

Who told you that?

I got that from the secretary, and I don't think that was his decision.

Secretary Rumsfeld?


"We're just not going to use that work?"

Right. ...

I'm sorry, I cut you off. Lessons learned?

The postwar planning begins with the wartime plan.

The second one is there is huge capability, I think, in the Army's Corps of Engineers, also, in the engineers of other services; that we ought to look back at how we want to use them in postwar, because they bring an awful lot to the table in a postwar environment. I think now is the time for DOD to re-look the engineer efforts -- specifically, the Army Corps of Engineers -- and what are the things that they can do in postwar, because they're good. They're really good at that type of thing.

I think that we need to re-look the contracting processes because we rebuild the country through contracts. We don't have a government team that goes and do that, we let a bunch of contractors come in there and they're supervised by government personnel. So we need to re-look that and make that more expeditious.

In retrospect, the one thing that I wish that I had realized was that the damage to the telecommunications system in Iraq, what it was going to do us. I knew it was going to be damaged, but I thought we had it covered. We need a way to, as fast as possible, re-establish communications, or make the decision we're not going to hit them. I think those are the four big things. ...


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posted october 9, 2003

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