Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Living in Bush's fantasy world

US President George W. Bush's inauguration this week will be full of his administration's ideological fantasies which substitute for tactical reality and spurn expertise at the highest levels

By Sidney Blumenthal  /  THE GUARDIAN , Washington


"Metrics" is one of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's obsessions. In October 2003, he sent a memo to his deputies and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff: "Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror." Rumsfeld demanded precise measurements of progress, including the "ideological." By the "war on terror" he meant Iraq as well as Afghanistan. A study was commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a military think tank. In utterly neutral terms, the IDA report detailed a grim picture at odds with the Bush administration's rosy scenarios. Not only has Rumsfeld suppressed the report, but the Pentagon has yet to acknowledge it.

In the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld applied his doctrine of using a light combat force against the advice of the senior military. General Eric Shinseki, commander of the army, was publicly ridiculed for suggesting that a larger force would be required. But it was assumed by Rumsfeld and the neocons that there would be no long occupation because democracy would spontaneously flower.

In April last year the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College produced a report on the metrics of the Rumsfeld doctrine: Toppling Saddam: Iraq and American Military Transformation. It concluded that the swift victory over Saddam was achieved by overwhelming technological superiority and Iraqi weakness, and therefore using operation Iraqi Freedom as "evidence" for Rumsfeld's "transformation proposals could be a mistake." The Pentagon has refused to release the study.

"Intellectual terrorism" prevails through the defense establishment, a leading military strategist at one of the war colleges, who deals in calm, measured expertise of a nonpartisan nature, told me. Even the respected defense research institute, the Rand Corp, is being "cut out of the loop," denied contracts for studies because the "metrics" are at odds with Rumsfeld.

US President George W. Bush clings to good news and happy talk, such as the number of school openings in Iraq. Those with gloomy assessments are not permitted to appear before him. The president orders no meetings on options based on worst-case scenarios. Military strategists and officers are systematically ignored. Suppression of contrary "metrics" is done in his name and spirit. Bush makes his decisions from a self-imposed bunker, a situation room of the mind, where ideological fantasies substitute for reality.

"I think elections will be such a hopeful experience for the Iraqi people ... And I look at the elections as a ... as a ... you know, as a ... as ... as a historical marker for our Iraq policy," Bush said last week.

His statement was prompted by Brent Scowcroft, his father's national security adviser and alter ego. Fired as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Scowcroft aired his views at a lunch sponsored by a Washington think tank. The Iraq election, he said, has "deep potential for deepening the conflict," acting as an impetus to "civil war." He reflected sadly that being a "realist" has become a "pejorative." "A road map is helpful if you know where you are," he said.

Scowcroft was joined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, who spelled out the minimal metrics for winning the Iraq war -- 500,000 troops, US$500 billion, a military draft and a wartime tax, and then it would take at least 10 years.

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