New York Times
December 12, 2007
The Dream Is Dead
By MAUREEN DOWD
The man crowned by Tommy Franks as “the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet” just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.
Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us into Iraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was the headliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute.
The room was packed as the former No. 3 at the Pentagon, previewing his upcoming book, “War and Decision,” conceded that the case could be made that “mistakes were made.” His former boss, Paul Wolfowitz, and the former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle sat supportively in the front row.
But he wasn’t self-flagellating. He was simply trying to put an egghead gloss on his Humpty Dumpty mishegoss.
“At the end of the day, here we are, and as of now there’s a reasonable chance that the country is going to remain united,” he said. Not quite the original boast of democracy cascading through the Middle East.
Feith also inanely noted that his personal view was that his de-Baathification policy — which created a huge, angry pool of unemployed men that fueled the insurgency — “was not basically a big error. It’s been criticized very severely. I think there actually was a lot of good thought that went into the de-Baathification policy.” It just spiralled out of hand, he said. Mistakes were made.
He thinks everything would have been fine if America had not lingered so long in Iraq. If only Paul Bremer and the generals had just turned Iraq over to the slippery con man Feith wanted to put in charge, Ahmad Chalabi.
Asked about getting tough with Iran and Syria, Feith offered this incandescent insight: “As we all know, the president said he’s The Decider. That actually is quite a profound point. The president is The Decider and the main thing he decides about is risk.”
He noted that in battles through American history, “the military fights better over time.” This from a guy who sent our military into Iraq without the right armor, the right force numbers or the right counterinsurgency training.
“A strategic alliance of the ousted Baathists and foreign jihadists was something that our intelligence community did not anticipate,” he said, continuing to spread the blame.
But the intelligence community didn’t miss it. The neocons tried to scrub out that sort of analysis, knowing it would make the war harder to sell.
Classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council warned that rogue elements of Saddam’s government could hook up with existing terrorist groups to wage guerrilla warfare.
In “Fiasco,” Tom Ricks wrote that Feith’s Pentagon office was dubbed the “black hole” of policy by generals watching him drop the ball.
“People working for Feith complained that he would spend hours tweaking their memos, carefully mulling minor points of grammar,” Ricks wrote. “A Joint Staff officer recalled angrily that at one point troops sat on a runway for hours, waiting to leave the United States on a mission, while he quibbled about commas in the deployment order.”
Jay Garner, America’s first viceroy in Iraq, deemed him “incredibly dangerous” and said his “electrons aren’t connected.”
Feith’s disdain for diplomacy and his credo that weakness invites aggression were shaped, Ricks reported, by personal history: “Like Wolfowitz, Feith came from a family devastated by the Holocaust. His father lost both parents, three brothers, and four sisters to the Nazis.”
Feith told Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker that “My family got wiped out by Hitler, and … all this stuff about working things out — well, talking to Hitler to resolve the problem didn’t make any sense to me. The kind of people who put bumper stickers on their car that declare that ‘War is not the answer,’ are they making a serious comment? What’s the answer to Pearl Harbor? What’s the answer to the Holocaust?”
What’s the answer to bin Laden? According to Feith, it was an attack on an unrelated dictator. He oversaw the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, whose mission was to amp up links between Saddam and Al Qaeda.
It defies reason, but there are still some who think the chuckleheads who orchestrated the Iraq misadventure have wisdom to impart.
The Pentagon neocons dumped Condi Rice out of the loop. Yet, according to Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff, Condi has now offered Wolfie a job. It wasn’t enough that he trashed Iraq and the World Bank. (He’s still larking around town with Shaha, the sweetheart he gave the sweetheart deal to.)
Condi wants Wolfie to advise her on nuclear proliferation and W.M.D. as part of a State Department panel that has access to highly classified intelligence.
Once you’ve helped distort W.M.D. intelligence to trick the country into war, shouldn’t you be banned for life from ever having another top-level government post concerning W.M.D.?