This book was so absorbing that it kept me up past midnight. I had to finish it. It is unique, focusing in a very easy to read way on the terrible errors committed that made Bremer's rule a complete failure.
The author documents both the unreality of the Green Zone ("The fear on the faces of American troops was rarely seen by the denizens of the Palace") and the terrible errors that resulted from arrogance, ignorance, and plain bureaucratic in-fighting.
The author opens by concluding that most of those serving in the provisional authority simply gave up and went through the motions. He calls them a motley bunch, most qualified by allegiance to the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party, rather than actually being competent or even relevant. The author makes an informed speculative judgement that fully half of those serving, many callow youths, got their first passport to take the political appointments in Iraq. Great line from one disillusioned staffer: "I'm a neo-conservative who has been mugged by reality."
Bremer screwed this up, but it was Dick Cheney who chose him for the job and got General Garner fired. Dick Cheney also personally directed the removal of Tom Warrick, the only person in the US government that actually understood Iraq in all its nuances, from the Garner team, largely to protect Chalabi--a thief and a liar according to CIA and State, a willing accomplice who sucked up to Cheney--and block objections to Chalabi being installed as the leader.
The author also reports that Doug Feith kept General Garner ignorant in order to promote Chalabi as the one with the answers.
The bottom line within this book comes in four parts:
1) Bureaucratic in-fighting and Pentagon civilian arrogance lost the peace before it even had a chance.
2) Looting destroyed all the ministries while the sanctions destroyed the infrstructure. The US made things worse by insisting on hiring US companies playing by US federal acquisition rules, and ultimately spending 40% of the money on security instead of reconstruction.
3) Bremer single-handedly destroyed any possibilities of peace with his first two decisions--purging the Bathists not only drove 50,000 people, the ones with all the knowledge, underground, it provided the insurgency with its leadership. Dismantling the military and police created an army of insurgents overnight. Finally, in seeking to privatize the Iraqi economy, Bremer and his deputies were in specific violation of international law preventing occupying powers from doing just that.
4) Bremer set aside the inter-agency process (just as Dick Cheney did in Washington) and while the author credits Bremer with zeal, it can safely be concluded that he was the most ignorant, arrogant, destructive pro-consul in modern history. Common sense was killed by the Bremer and his CPA.
From Cheney to Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz to Feith to Bremer, there is a clear-cut culpability for destroying what was left of Iraq, for wasting half a trillion dollars, for losing more US troops to combat than were murdered on 9/11, and for creating 65,000 amputees, all for an elective war and a refusal to listen to the wisdom of the truly experienced officers: Tony Zinni of the Marines and Shinseki of the Army. It does bear mention, however, that the success of these four individuals in doing great harm was made possible by the simultaneous failure of three safety valves: the Congress, the press, and our senior military officers, most particularly General Tommy Franks, who was all to eager to do Rumsfeld's bidding, declare victory, and never mind the transition from hostilities to a stablization & reconstruction phase.
All four books together are a compelling indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration, and confirm my view that between them, Cheney and Rumsfeld, between giving Sadaam Hussein chemical weapons in the 1990's, and lying to America to justify an elective war and then screwing it up with Bremer, have done vastly more harm to the publics and people of America, Iraq, and Iran combined, than have Bin Laden and Saddaam Hussein himself. This is my informed judgement as the #1 Amazon reviewer of non-fiction; they have cost America its moral standing, half a trillion dollars better spent on peace, 65,000 amputees, more US dead that were murdered on 9/11, and have destroyed the lives of millions of decent people around the world and especially in the Middle East and the USA.
The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Democracy's Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy
Why the Rest Hates the West: Understanding the Roots of Global Rage
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (American Empire Project)