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Jeremy Greenstock, former British UN ambassador and special envoy to Iraq, gave an interview today to Sky News that is enormously embarrassing to the Bush administration, even though Greenstock does still believe that US and UK forces should remain in Iraq.

Here, the interviewer asked whether Greenstock agrees with the British Defense Minister that an orderly transition of power to the Iraqi defense forces is happening.

GREENSTOCK: Well, that's the process, but it's not orderly. There's no way in which the central government of Iraq can exert its authority over the whole country in the next year or two. This is going to be a long process of violence for many years to come. I don't see it being eradicated.

Greenstock continues:

There are only bad options for the coalition from now on. This is what people have got to understand, that if there is to be a change of policy then a cost has got to be paid for bringing something new into the equation--whether that's a cost of talking to the neighbours of Iraq that the Americans haven't talked to up to now, particularly Iran but also Syria; whether it's a cost of putting more resources into the ground; whether it's the cost of, um, drawing troops back and seeing the comparative failure of Iraqi army and police, who are not yet fully formed...They're not going to take over the rest of the country without several parts of Iraq being full of violence....

INTERVIEWER: So when you say there are only bad options basically for the forces now in Iraq, for the coalition forces, are we therefore saying that the whole war, the invasion, was wrong, that it has been a failure?

GREENSTOCK: It's been a failure in holding Iraq to a secure and stable peace. It's another argument about whether we should have done it in the beginning...

Greenstock goes on to say that both Bush and Blair are to be held accountable for this war by their fellow citizens. He says there were so many mistakes made so early on that we're now going to pay the price for these, and he claims that he warned in 2003/ early 2004 that no further mistakes could be tolerated in Iraq without risking total failure.

In particular, he says that Paul Bremmer was warned by Greenstock's predecessor not to break up the Iraqi army; but his predecessor was not listened to because Bremmer was not in complete charge of the situation.

INTERVIEWER: Why was that?

GREENSTOCK: Well because the decisions were being made in the Pentagon and not on the ground in Iraq. We didn't have anybody in the Pentagon sitting next to Donald Rumsfeld. The channels of communication to Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld were not at all good. And Americans when they're under pressure make decisions as a superpower with America....

INTERVIEWER: So what you're saying is that the Vice President and the Defense Secretary of the US were taking the decisions, so not the President, not George W. Bush.

GREENSTOCK: They had the President's say so with them, but they were taking them, the tactical decisions, yes, the Defense Secretary.

He adds that the British government kept up pressure on the Bush administration to fix the "mess" in Iraq, but the Brits knew all along that there were not enough resources being put into Iraq for stabilizing the country, guarding its borders, guarding ammunition dumps, recruiting an army and police force. You can make of that what you will; the interviewer presses home the point that the British public was not told that information at the time.

Greenstock also predicts that there "will be a further process of breakdown" in Iraq hereafter, a fragmentation not into a few regions but rather into individual towns, neighborhoods, and even streets.

These comments are in direct contrast (intentionally) to the absurdly rosy picture that Des Browne, the British Defense Secretary has been painting on behalf of the incredible shrinking Tony Blair. Here is tomorrow's Guardian:

In an attempt to demonstrate that the British army will not be bogged down in Iraq indefinitely, the defence secretary, Des Browne, said yesterday he expected that Iraq's security forces would have the capacity within a year to take over from British forces, a point also pushed home by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells. Mr Howells said: "I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces - policemen and women and so on - in order to do the job."

Over in the Independent, however, there's a more sanguine report from Patrick Cockburn, who explains why Iraqi lives are already broken beyond repair.

Iraq is in flight. Everywhere inside and outside the country, Iraqis who once lived in their own houses cower for safety six or seven to a room in hovels....

Out of the population of 26 million, 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country and a further 1.5 million are displaced within Iraq, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In Jordan alone there are 500,000 Iraqi refugees and a further 450,000 in Syria. In Syria alone they are arriving at the rate of 40,000 a month.

It is one of the largest long-term population movements in the Middle East since Israel expelled Palestinians in the 1940s. Few of the Iraqis taking flight now show any desire to return to their homes.

One measure of how little control the coalition forces have left in Iraq, even over the immediate areas they're stationed in, is the fact that by the end of last week there had been several military parades conducted by Sunni insurgents through the streets of Iraqi towns.

Gunmen staged military-like parades Friday in a string of towns west of Baghdad, underlining the growing confidence of Sunni insurgents in a part of Iraq where U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain a heavy presence and major counterinsurgency campaigns had taken place over the past two years....

Significantly, two of Friday's four parades -- in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah -- took place within less than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) of U.S. military bases, according to witnesses. There were no reports of clashes....

In the town of Haditha...dozens of masked gunmen riding in at least 20 sedans and pickup trucks paraded undisturbed in the heart of the town for about 30 minutes.

How much worse will things get in Iraq, before the Cheney administration faces up to its utter failure to achieve any of the grandiose goals it aimed for? Can the U.S. position in Iraq be more tenuous, when American forces do not even dare, or cannot be bothered, to march half a mile from their base to round up the 'terrorists' that we've been told this invasion of Iraq was all about?

I've said several times in the last few years, as the situation in Iraq went from bad to worse, that if we keep along the path we're traveling down, sooner or later we'll get where we're headed. And is there a shred of doubt any longer whence we began? If so, take a look at this short article in Newsweek (h/t to Litagatormom).

A new book by Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the CIA's European ops, describes how, the day after 9/11, a "powerful delegation from a very close European ally" visited CIA Director George Tenet at HQ. In his book "On the Brink," Drumheller says the foreign-team leader said "his government stood by us ... and that we could count on it for any and all support." But the foreign rep cautioned, "I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq." In Drumheller's account, Tenet replied, "Absolutely, we all agree on that."

Rather remarkable that already on September 12, 2001 our close ally thought that they needed to try to derail the rush to war against Iraq. According to Newsweek, the delegation Drumheller refers to was from Britain and included the head of MI5, Sir Richard Dearlove, he of the Downing Street memo. Henry Porter has some choice things to say about that document, and about the abject failure of Britain to remove the disastrous Tony Blair from office, in today's Observer. It's a good read, and will cheer Americans who have been wondering how in the world George W. Bush has survived his many failures.

Originally posted to smintheus on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I suspect that the Sky News interview (24+ / 0-)

    won't get much attention in the American media unless bloggers draw attention to it first. It has gotten brief nods in a few news reports from abroad, such as tomorrow's article in the Guardian, but without the level of detail I'm providing here.

  •  wow, that's damning (5+ / 0-)

    thanks, smintheus.

    Depressing reading, but at the same time, it's so refreshing to read something that sounds honest and truthful about Iraq.

    humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

    by astraea on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:22:30 PM PDT

    •  Greenstock is mildly forthcoming (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah

      or at least gives a good impression of being forthcoming. That's because, I think, he's warning the public against attempts to lead them to believe that Blair and Bush can find the right levers to pull that will make everything alright again in Iraq.

      His point is that things are inevitably going to get much much worse, and stay very bad for a long time, but if coalition forces stick it out then Iraq can be stabilized after several years.

      My own conclusion, by contrast, would be that for a long time now control of the destiny of Iraq has been out of the control of the US and UK forces. The only real leverage we've had to use diplomatically with Iraqis and their neighbors -- the threat to withdraw our forces from Iraq -- is increasingly looking irrelevant anyway.

  •  Tactically, impeaching Rumsfeld might bring . . . (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, smintheus, shirah, Superpole, Compound F

    the whole tettering administration down.

    A friend of mine brought this idea up the other day. A win in a few weeks and Democrats are going to start investigating BushCo, and Republicans are going to ramp up the Wurlitzer against it. The are gonna frickin' howl. BUT, put Rumsfeld in the hot seat, and everybody's gonna shut up. Who is going to defend him?

    Every day Chimpy can be out in the Rose Garden defending him, while the rest of the country's collective jaw drops further and further.

    Impeaching Rumsfeld may be a great idea. And good political cover for the deeper investigations the whole Iraq disaster requires.

  •  There are only bad options for the coalition from (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, astraea, shirah, Compound F
    great diary.

    it seems clear the Brits are losing patience with cowboy George and the Pentagon's "strategy" for Iraq-- as is our military, but they can't be all that forthcoming with their criticism and protest-- not yet, anyway.

    it wouldn't surprise me to see them push for the three state solution-- that way they can exit southern Iraq with some sense of integrity and accomplishment-- while the Pentagon hangs around Baghdad for another 20-30 years, probably enclosing it with a Berlin wall in a feeble attempt to maintain order-- eventually leaving without a goddamn thing to show for it-- just like Vietnam.

    the Kurds/Kurdistan are already on their way and can take care of themselves-- as they have been doing for years.

    "Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice." Spinoza

    by Superpole on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:27:18 PM PDT

    •  Brits have long loved to partition (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah, Superpole, station wagon

      other people's countries, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Blair angling for a tripartite division of Iraq. We know he thinks in traditional British imperial ways about Iraq; for example, one of the April 2002 documents that reporter Michael Smith published showed the Brits were working on the assumption that after the invasion the minority Sunnis would dominate Iraq (under a Sunni strongman?), and the Shiites would have to be satisfied with some guarantees of their rights.

      •  Right and (0+ / 0-)

        they like creating countries where none existed prior to their invasion/occupation, i.e. "Iraq" in the early 1900's.

        till then, there was no "Iraq".

        "Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice." Spinoza

        by Superpole on Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 10:22:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  this cluster***k has crystallized. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, astraea, shirah, station wagon
    Two and a half percent dead; one in twenty fled, one in twenty displaced; at minimum, 12.5% of Iraqis that are overtly fucked; for the rest, things will go downhill from here; and the US is disgraced.  

    We could really use help from the neighboring countries, but would rather see more dead, than admit disgrace.  Hell, we may even decide to bomb the main regional player who could help, out of spite.  What kind of shit on the bottom of your shoe are we as a nation?

    I saw kids (soldiers) at the Atlanta airport recently filing off to war, receiving vigorous, and I mean overly vigorous applause from those non-combatants waiting for their flights home.  The non-combatants couldn't clap hard enough, because they must know the truth, too.  I really couldn't find a sufficient reason to cheer this on.

    •  I was struck by the video (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah, Hens Teeth

      of Chris Matthews interview in Iowa of McCain, when he asked how many in the audience supported the war from the beginning up to today. People applauded long and loudly.

      Then Matthews asked who was going to volunteer to contribute to the war effort, and you could have heard a cricket.

      Any pretense of support from people is just offered to mask their embarrassment for doing nothing to put a stop to it.

      Billmon had a highly self-critical post last week, reflecting upon the Lancet study and Riverbend's latest post. I recommend everybody read it.

  •  Frontline (PBS) last week- (7+ / 0-)

    The Lost Year in Iraq, follows the timeline of that totally botched first year:

    Today, as America looks for an exit strategy, FRONTLINE examines the initial, critical decisions of the U.S.-led regime in Baghdad in The Lost Year in Iraq. From the same team that produced Rumsfeld's War, The Torture Question and The Dark Side, the film is based on more than 30 interviews, most of them with the officials charged with building a new and democratic Iraq.

    The Lost Year in Iraq begins on April 9, 2003, as American troops help a crowd of Iraqis topple a statue of Saddam Hussein. In Washington there was celebration, but in Baghdad the looting was beginning. Jay Garner, the retired general picked by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to lead reconstruction, was forced to wait in Kuwait for authorization to enter Iraq. He and his team had arrived from Washington without computers, telephones or a plan. "Everybody was focused on the war; they were focused on regime change," Garner tells FRONTLINE. "That took all of their energy. I wasn't the central focus." On the day Garner finally arrived in Baghdad, he received a phone call from Rumsfeld: He was being replaced by L. Paul Bremer.

    Bremer, who arrived with sweeping plans to remake the country, had a young and inexperienced team, but his staff had passed a political litmus test in Washington. "It's a children's crusade ... of former Republican campaign workers, White House interns [and] Heritage Foundation people," says Thomas Ricks of The Washington Post. Col. T.X. Hammes, a counterinsurgency expert and adviser to Iraq's Interior Ministry, felt Bremer's staff could have been better trained. "We had so many of these very, very young people that are dedicated Americans, brave enough to take a chance and go into Iraq to try to do something right for their country," he tells FRONTLINE. "But [they] didn't get any training; they have no background. ... And yet we put them in charge of planning at [the] national level."

    Bremer surprised many in the Bush administration and the American military with far-reaching decrees that disbanded the Iraqi military and purged former Baathists from government employment. But as the insurgency grew, the administration lost confidence in Bremer and his plan for democratizing the country. Bremer was instructed to abandon his multi-year plan and transfer sovereignty as quickly as possible.

    "I think the situation on the ground was certainly worse than I had been led to expect, particularly the state of the Iraq economy," Bremer says. "I don't think anybody in our government realized how much damage Saddam and the Baathists had done over the previous 30 years. So to some degree, it's true that we just didn't know how complicated it was going to be."

    As Bremer's year in Iraq drew to a close, a blueprint for democratic elections had been put in place. At the same time the insurgency was exploding, shocking photographs had surfaced from Abu Ghraib; American and Iraqi forces had failed to put down a Sunni uprising in Fallujah; and a Shiite militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr was flexing its muscles. During his final hours on the ground, Bremer presided over the handoff of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government and then publicly boarded a C-130 transport. Afterward, in secret, he switched to a smaller plane that would safely carry him out of the country.

    "The Iraqi people were, if not the enthusiastic, liberated populace that some of us had anticipated, were at least open-minded, and, on balance, prepared to work with the United States," says James Dobbins, the administration's former special envoy to Afghanistan and adviser to the Defense Department. "And that has largely been lost, and was largely lost over that first year."

    You can watch it, divided into timeline segments, at the link.  The page has some good links.  The highlighting in the middle of the quote is mine. What can you say?  It's impossible to take the jokers seriously.

    If we don't have fairness and social justice as part of our platform, there is no real reason to be a Democrat. inclusiveheart

    by station wagon on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:38:02 PM PDT

    •  Here's a poitical litmus test for children" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah, station wagon
      http://news.yahoo.com/...

      The survey -- unclassified, but marked "For Official Government Use Only" -- also finds that Iraqi leaders may face particular difficulty recruiting young Sunni Arabs to join the stumbling security forces. Strong majorities of 15- to 29-year-olds in two Arab Sunni areas -- Mosul and Tikrit-Baquba -- would oppose joining the Iraqi army or police.

      •  the take home is a that generation of kids (5+ / 0-)
        from a major ME nation have US violence to imprint upon.  Few things are as irreversible as imprinting.  The cultural scaffolding on which to hang such thoughts is already available very close to home.  We've simply consummated the deal, finalized it.  We are indeed a nation of child molesters.
      •  maybe the possibility of getting dragged off- (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shirah, signalcamp, Hens Teeth

        tortured with electric drills, beheaded, left in a ditch or the middle of the street has something to do with it.

        More on the Bremer staff, from the Readings & Links on that Frontline link above:

        ,Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq
        Following fall of Saddam' regime, some 1,500 Americans were hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to administer $18 billion in reconstruction funds. But "applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction," writes Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post. "What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration." In this article, adapted from his book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Chandrasekaran profiles three of the CPA's political appointees and attempts to explain why "the decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest" is among the administration's biggest mistakes. (Sept. 17, 2006)

        If we don't have fairness and social justice as part of our platform, there is no real reason to be a Democrat. inclusiveheart

        by station wagon on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 08:06:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  excellent post. (8+ / 0-)

    "GREENSTOCK: It's been a failure in holding Iraq to a secure and stable peace. It's another argument about whether we should have done it in the beginning..."

    These may be two separate arguments in Greenstock's opinion. When the after-conclusions and the very real foreknowledge or perceptions what would happen in the event of an Iraq invasion dovetail into one and the same set of facts/opinions, splitting the arguments in two doesn't mean a damn.

    As Cheney himself once said in 1992:

    ""And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

    "And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.""

    How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
    Visit me at exme arden

    by exmearden on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:39:25 PM PDT

    •  I'm very unimpressed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah, exmearden

      by Greenstock's attempt, as indeed by anybody's attempt, to pretend that there might have been a reasonable argument for invading Iraq, or that it would be ok if only the occupation hadn't been bungled so badly.

      It was going to be a disaster no matter what, and in any event it is a violation of international law to invade a sovereign nation that is not threatening anybody.

  •  What is it with the Brits? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, astraea, Elise

    Vietnam envy? Maybe imperialism redux...only THIS time we'll get it right! BTFOOM...(beats the fuck out of me)

    In the beginning there was nothing...which exploded.

    by lucysdad on Sun Oct 22, 2006 at 07:49:58 PM PDT

  •  This should be on the recommended list (5+ / 0-)

    Fascinating material!

  •  Excellent work as usual smintheus! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    astraea, station wagon, Compound F

    Highly recommended...I hope this makes the list!

  •  Was going to diary about the Drumheller (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    quote and the Independent article too, glad I did a search first!

    I also found this article by Simon Jenkins in the Times... talking about Sir Richard Dannatt breaking ranks last week:

    ...the overwhelming view among defence experts [is] that British lives are still being sacrificed in Iraq because Blair lacks the guts to stand up to George Bush.

    Official support for Iraq is caving in everywhere you look.  There isn't a single newspaper in the UK that has anything positive to say.  The feeling over here has always been that Blair has stood by Bush primarily to take some of the heat off the US.  People here are starting to feel used in this "special realtionship".

    Good diary.

    That which does not kill us makes us ill and bad-tempered

    by ignatz uk on Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 08:10:16 AM PDT

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