Blueprint for a Mess, the planning behind the U.S. occupation

For those asleep for the past two years, the _New York Times Magazine_ has a long arti­cle by David Rieff, “Blue­print for a Mess”, that looks at ongo­ing prob­lems with the U.S. occu­pa­tion of iraq:
bq. His­tor­i­cal­ly, it is rare that a warm wel­come is extend­ed to an occu­py­ing mil­i­tary force for very long, unless, that is, the post­war goes very smooth­ly. And in iraq, the post­war occu­pa­tion has not gone smoothly.
The arti­cle looks at the ide­o­log­i­cal roots of the post-war plan of occu­pa­tion. A num­ber of key deci­sions were made in the Pentagon’s war room with lit­tle input from the State Depart­ment. Much of the plan­ning revolved around Ahmad Cha­l­abi, the two-bit, self-proclaimed iraqi oppo­si­tion par­ty leader dur­ing the last decade of Sad­dam Hussein’s reign. Cha­l­abi spent most of the 90s in Lon­don and Wash­ing­ton, where he became the dar­ling of the Repub­li­can pol­i­cy hawks who were also side­lined from polit­i­cal pow­er. Togeth­er Cha­l­abi and Wash­ing­ton fig­ures like Don­ald Rums­feld spent the 90s hatch­ing up war plans if they ever took pow­er again. Unfor­tu­nate­ly Rumsfeld’s plans didn’t have the wide­spread sup­port of the U.S. diplo­mat­ic and mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment and Cha­l­abi has had vir­tu­al­ly no sup­port inside iraq. But the con­ver­sa­tions and deci­sions between the token iraqi oppo­si­tion and the out-of-power Repub­li­can hawks has dri­ven the occupation:
bq. The lack of secu­ri­ty and order on the ground in iraq today is in large mea­sure a result of deci­sions made and not made in Wash­ing­ton before the war start­ed, and of the spe­cif­ic approach­es toward cop­ing with post­war iraq under­tak­en by Amer­i­can civil­ian offi­cials and mil­i­tary com­man­ders in the imme­di­ate after­math of the war.
Rieff is pes­simistic but he backs up his claims. The arti­cle is long but it’s a must-read. The post­war occu­pa­tions of iraq and Afghanistan will almost cer­tain­ly be the defin­ing for­eign pol­i­cy issue of this gen­er­a­tion, and paci­fists must look beyond ide­ol­o­gy and rhetoric to under­stand what’s hap­pen­ing in iraq.

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