Fmr. CPA Adviser on Iraq Invasion: “One of the Most Irresponsible Exhibitions of Poor Planning In Recent History”

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We speak with Larry Diamond, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who served as senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April 2004 at the invitation of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. He blasts the Bush administration’s handling of the invasion and calls for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to be fired and the entire Pentagon leadership to be changed. [includes rush transcript]

The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting Marines are now expecting the attack on Fallujah will result in the heaviest casualty levels for the US military since the Vietnam War.

Navy Cmdr. Lach Noyes said the hospital near Fallujah is preparing to handle 25 severely injured soldiers a day, not counting walking wounded and the dead. The hospital has added two operating rooms, doubled its supplies, added a mortuary and stocked up on blood reserves.

Yesterday President Bush was asked about Iraq at his mid-day press conference.

  • Larry Diamond, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. He is a professor of political science and sociology at Stanford University. From January to April 2004, he served as Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, President Bush was asked at his news conference about Iraq.

REPORTER: Mr. President, American forces are gearing up for what appears to be a major offensive in Fallujah over the next several days. I’m wondering if you could tell us what the objective is, what the stakes are there for the United States, for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi elections coming up in January.

GEORGE W. BUSH: In order for Iraq to be a free country, those who are trying to stop the elections and stop a free society from emerging must be defeated. And so Prime Minister Allawi and his government, which fully understands that, are working with our generals on the ground to do just that. And we will. We will work closely with the government. It’s their government. It’s their country. We’re there at their invitation. And I think there’s a recognition that some of these people must be defeated. And so that’s what they’re thinking about. That’s why you’re hearing discussions about potential action in Fallujah.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking at his news conference on Thursday. We’re joined by Larry Diamond, he’s a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-director of the International Forum on Democratic Studies at the National Endowment For Democracy. He’s a professor of political science here at Stanford University. From January to April 2004, he served as senior adviser to the coalition provisional authority in Baghdad. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

LARRY DIAMOND: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about first your reaction to the results of election. You come from a Bush think-tank, what many call the Hoover Institution.

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think my principle reaction is that the new administration is facing a number of fateful choices on the Middle East peace process, with the prospect that Arafat may pass away very soon and most on Iran, with the question of whether we’re going to, in some way, strike its nuclear facilities, and most imminently in Iraq, where as we’ve just heard, there’s the prospect, not just any day, but possibly any hour now of the beginning of an American invasion of Fallujah, which personally I think would be a mistake.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me what you think it’s going to look like. What’s going to happen in Fallujah.

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I can’t say exactly what it will look like. But I think it’s pretty well agreed that it’s likely to be fairly bloody. Even though there are now reports that the people we would most want to be going after, the Al Qaeda terrorists that Zarqawi’s circle, have basically left Fallujah. They’re not going to stay there and wait to be taken out by the United States military. What worries me, Amy, as we were talking about in our public symposium last night, is that there is an emerging political option that has surfaced in the last few days where a number of the hard-liners from the Sunnis, both secular and religious nationalists, have put forward an open letter, stating conditions that are conditions we can talk about. They’re not unreasonable. Under which they would come and participate in the election. So, if what we want is successful elections, and those require all parts of the country to be included, and we want to try and end this Sunni boycott and get the people who have been hard-liners to have an interest in playing the political and electoral game, it seems to me we ought to be pursuing the political path as far as it can go before we go down a path of really massive violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think President Bush is doing this?

LARRY DIAMOND: I think the main reason why he is doing this is because there has been a devastating amount of terrorist violence in the country, car bombings and so on. All of the intelligence for some time has indicated that much of this has been organized by, particularly the worst car bombings, by this al Zarqawi cell that was believed to be in Fallujah and recruiting external Jihadists to serve as suicide bombers. So, I think the Bush Administration thinks, and interim prime minister Allawi in Iraq, thinks that by going in and sort of, quote, cleaning out, an antiseptic term for a very bloody assault, cleaning out Fallujah, that you can restore orders there, that it will no longer be a safe haven for terrorism, and maybe the car bombings and other acts of terrorism and violence will decline. But if they’ve already left and gone to other cities, then this raises questions about the fundamental strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a very damning piece, very critical of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in the Foreign Affairs magazine, in the September-October edition. It was entitled “What Went Wrong in Iraq.” you’re from the Hoover Institution. That’s where Condoleezza Rice was from. Do you have a direct line to the White House? And what was their response?

LARRY DIAMOND: I was asked by Condoleezza Rice to go out there late last year. I think that’s well known.


LARRY DIAMOND: To Iraq, to advise on the political transition, and on the building of democracy in Iraq. Democracy Now in Iraq. So, I had a direct line in terms of being asked to go out there and being able to offer my views from there and from here. I think that the Bush Administration is not one that really welcomes criticism, publicly or even really privately, and so I think if there was a direct line, it’s probably not very active right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel pressure?

LARRY DIAMOND: No, I don’t feel any pressure at all.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you see in Iraq? When you were in Baghdad, did you conclude that the invasion and occupation were a failure?

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I was against going to war when we did and the way we did. I thought we should not have acted unilaterally, that there was no imminent threat to American national security. It’s interesting as you noted last night that so many people who voted for Bush think there was a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. That link did not exist. There’s no evidence that it did before the war. But the irony is that it does now in the sense that in an important subsidiary of al Qaeda has made Iraq a haven for its vicious terrorism. In terms of the occupation, I think that the fundamental failure is the way that the Bush Pentagon, the Rumsfeld Pentagon went in without enough troops, without any kind of coherent plan to establish and win the peace. I think this was, you know, an act of monumental negligence, one of the most irresponsible exhibitions of poor planning in recent history of American national security affairs. But once I got there, many of the mistakes had been made, and I think we continued to make mistakes, which I document there in terms of not really listening to or adequately engaging the Iraqi people and having a very, very centralized operation in Baghdad. But nevertheless, I also found that Iraqis really want to choose their own leaders. I think there is a great desire for these elections to happen in January and a great beginning of mobilization on the part of Iraqi women, young people, and others who want to build democracy from the grassroots up.

AMY GOODMAN: Last night, we participated in something called the Aurora Forum at Stanford University, where you made a comparison. You talked about preparing for a road trip. Maybe you could share it with us here. What, how the Bush Administration prepared for going to Iraq.

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, the best analogy I can offer about the scale of responsibility that’s at stake here, for not having enough troops, not having enough armored Humvees, body armor. You know, to have troops in Iraq in these conditions without the adequate body armor that would stop the kinds of fire that they’re receiving. I compare it to a person taking their car on the road, knowing that the brake linings had gone, having the car plow through a crosswalk and killing people. Now in that circumstance, under the state of California, that is gross negligence and is a subject to felony prosecution as criminal negligence. There’s no law against that kind of gross negligence, there is no criminal law against such gross negligence in our foreign or domestic policy. But in terms of the moral calculus and the, you know, scale of loss of life, which is the greater crime?

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Donald Rumsfeld should be charged with felonies?

LARRY DIAMOND: No, because there’s no law against it. We can’t have retrospective justice, but I do think he should be fired and the entire pentagon leadership should be changed. I think it is, by now, well documented that the Pentagon leadership deliberately swept aside all of the planning that had been done by the State Department and The Future of Iraq report. Deliberately dismissed and marginalized virtually all the top officials of the United States Army, military and civilian, including the Secretary of the Army, Thomas White, when they were saying we needed several hundred, several hundred thousand, 400,000, troops to secure post-war order in Iraq. And this pentagon leadership was so arrogant, so confident that we would be welcomed as liberators, that we would be able to quickly install our chosen leaders for the future of Iraq, such as Ahmed Chalabi, that they just dismissed it all as nonsense.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Diamond, this is very powerful coming from you, working at the Hoover Institution. We hear this from others, actually in government as well, but peace activists. But for you to be at the prime Bush think-tank in the country, for you who was a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, it’s quite astounding.

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, you know, in honesty, I should say two things. Number one, I’m not a Republican. And Condoleezza Rice knew that when she asked me to go out there. So, I give her credit for reaching across certain divides to, you know, bring in the kind of expertise they though was needed. But, look, I think our loyalty has to be to the country and to the truth, not to any particular administration or partisan cause. And in this regard, I’m hardly the only one who might have been brought in or started from a conservative or whatever type of loyal “perspective” and it wasn’t really that that brought me in. But others, Republicans and conservatives, have been saying many of the things that I’ve been saying.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, at the Hoover Institution, what was the feeling around the election?

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, what I would say is that many of the individual scholars at the Hoover Institution are perhaps more traditional conservatives. Not all of them. I think there was very strong support for President Bush at Hoover, but a number of them were troubled by the war, thought it was a mistake, and were very, very troubled by the way that the post-war was prosecuted.

AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. Finally, in just a minute, we’re going to speak with a Palestinian and Israeli scholar about Yasser Arafat. Also Amira Hass will be joining us from the occupied territories. But you wrote in your piece “What Went Wrong in Iraq,” “Deep, local suspicions of U.S. motives, combined with the memory of western colonialism and resentment of the U.S. stance in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle to generate a massive lack of legitimacy for the occupation authority.” How central is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to how people feel, not only in Iraq, but around the region right now?

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think, you know, the crisis in Iraq is so deep, the insecurity, the joblessness, the, you know, all of the problems of violence and so on, the hunger for normality, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not upper most on people’s minds in Iraq. But it’s important in terms of the judgments they make about the overall stance of the United States. And it’s hugely important in the rest of the region. I think there may be an opportunity emerging here with new Palestinian leadership to really restart the peace process. And I think the Bush Administration needs to get serious about it. And one sign of seriousness would be to appoint a high level Middle East peace negotiator to try and really seriously restart the process.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Diamond, I want to thank you for being with us. Larry Diamond is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, professor of political science here at Stanford University, where we’re broadcasting from and has a piece in the current Foreign Affairs magazine called “What Went Wrong In Iraq.”

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