The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Not deep enough? Let me hand you a shovel…

March 9, 2008

I didn’t think it was possible, but if the Washington Post‘s summary of Douglas Feith’s manuscript is accurate, Feith’s attempt to rehabilitate his image is only likely to make him look worse.

The idea to which Feith appears most attached, and to which he repeatedly returns in the book, is the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority. Feith’s office drew up a plan for the body — to be made up of U.S.-appointed Iraqis who would share some decision-making with U.S. occupation forces — in the months before the invasion. But while he says that Bush approved it, he charges that Bremer refused to implement it.

The key mistake that the United States made in Iraq, Feith asserts, was “the mishandling of the political transition.” The good that Bremer did, he concludes, “was outweighed by the harm caused by the fact of occupation.”

In an interview yesterday, Bremer disputed Feith’s narrative, saying he believes that Bush gave up on the idea of a quick transition shortly after Baghdad fell and widespread looting broke out in April 2003.

“By the time I sat down with the president on May 3, it was clear that he wasn’t thinking about a short occupation,” Bremer said. After consulting his records, Bremer also said that at a White House meeting on May 8, Vice President Cheney said, “We are not yet at the point where people we want to emerge can yet emerge.” He said that Feith omits that comment. On May 22, he added, the president wrote to him, saying that he knew “our work will take time.”

Others have criticized Feith’s plan as relying too heavily on Iraqi exile politicians, including Ahmed Chalabi. Feith says that he considered Chalabi one of the most astute and democratically minded Iraqis but that he had no special brief for him. Instead, he charges that the State Department, the CIA and the military’s Central Command were pathologically opposed to the exiles and to Chalabi in particular.

Feith continually denounces the CIA, accusing it of producing poor intelligence, intruding on the formulation of policy, and then using leaks to the media to defend itself and attack its bureaucratic opponents. Most notably, he charges that intelligence officials ignored and refused to investigate possible links between al-Qaeda and Hussein’s government.

Maybe Franks was right.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.