Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bush Report: A Confused Pep Talk

More from Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez's book about his time as the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. This was in April, 2004 when a decision had been made in the White House, against the advice of the commanders on the ground in Iraq, to have Marines go into Fallujah to defeat the Mahdi Army and their leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. Sanchez is on a secure video conference with President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and others. From pg. 350:
"(W)e have to strike wherever we find them,' agreed President Bush. 'The Mahdi Army is a hostile force. We can't allow one man (meaning Muqtada al-Sadr) to change the course of the country. It is absolutely vital that we have robust offensive operations everywhere down south. At the end of this campaign, al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out.'

"'What do we call this anyway?' asked Secretary Rumsfeld. 'Is this high intensity, low intensity? what?'"

"Before anyone could answer Rumsfeld's question, President Bush launched into what I considered a kind of confused pep talk regarding both Fallujah and our upcoming southern campaign. 'Kick ass!' he said, echoing Colin Powell's rough talk. 'If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal.

"'There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!'"

The Fallujah offensive was planned to take three to four weeks. After it started, all hell broke loose. From pg. 351:

The new fighting on top of what was already going on in the Shia areas of Sadr City and southern Iraq plunged the entire country into violence at some level. Coalition forces were fighting Sunnis, Shiites, and Saddam's insurgents all at the same time. The insurgents were fanning the flames by attacking both Shia and Sunni tribes and blaming it on the coalition. Sunni and Shia tribes were fighting each other. Shia-on-Shia infighting was just below the surface between the Mahdi Army and SCIRI militias. The Badr Corps was itching to get involved. And in the area south of Baghdad where the Sunni Triangle overlapped with the northern portion of the Shia front, Sunnis and Shias were actually fighting together against coalition forces. We were now in the middle of a civil war. And what's more, we had created these conditions ourselves.

Within 48 hours of the offensive getting started, word came down from the White House to stop it.

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