The Corner

Woodward: Disturbing Rumsfeld and Abizaid bits

Here are a couple of passages that have gotten a lot of attention and that I think are particularly disturbing. The first is about a Rice and Rumsfeld dispute (I once was sympathetic to the Rumsfeld view, but when it became clear that the Iraqis weren’t capable of “holding,” he should have changed his mind):

Zelikow had been reading A Better War, a 1999 book by Lewis Sorley about a “clear and hold” strategy that Sorely claimed has led to some success in the Vietnam War after the “search and destroy” strategy had been discarded.

In Zelikow’s view, “clear and hold” was not enough. It needed another pillar that was positive, more declarative. Holding was too passive. He came up with the notion of “clear, hold and…build.”

Rice made it the centerpiece of her testimony before the Senate committee on Wednesday, October 19. It was the first time any senior administration official had come to the committee in more than a year and a half specifically to talk about Iraq. She told the senators, “Our politicial-military strategy has to be to clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely and to build durable Iraqi institutions.”

Much of this was a military mission, and Rumsfeld was furious. As far as he was concerned, it did not convey what they were really trying or should be trying to do: get the Iraqis to shoulder more of the burden. It was wrong to say that the United States’ “politicial-military strategy” was all about what the U.S. would do and not what the Iraqis would do. They had to get their hands off the back of the bicycle seat, and had to lose the training wheels.

The other is about Abizaid getting a visit from some friends:

Some of them visited Abizaid at his headquarters in Doha and then in Iraq. Abizaid held to the position that the war was now about the Iraqis. They had to win the war now. The U.S. military had done all it could. It was critical, he argued, that they lower the American troop presence. It was still the face of an occupation, with American forces patrolling, kicking down doors and looking at the Iraqi women, which infuriated the Iraqi men.

“We’ve got to get the f**k out,” he said.

Abizaid’s old friends were worried sick that another Vietnam or anything that looked like Vietnam would be the end of the volunteer army. What’s the strategy for winning? they pressed him.

“That’s not my job,” Abizaid insisted.

No, it is part of your job, they insisted. Abizaid was the articulate one. He could talk for an hour and it sounded great, better than anyone.

No, Abizaid said. Articulating strategy belonged to others.


“The president and Condi Rice, because Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore,” he said.


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