Freeing Iraq; Analysis of Ongoing War

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2006 | Go to article overview

Freeing Iraq; Analysis of Ongoing War


Byline: Gary Anderson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Writing a critical analysis about a war in progress is always a risk. But in a long war, such as the one in Iraq, there is a market for such analysis. Tom Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post has taken a shot at in "Fiasco," which is his take on Phase IV of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Phase III, the military defeat and removal of the Saddam Hussein regime, effectively ended on April 9, 2003. Phase IV, Stability and Security Operations in military parlance, goes on today. Mr. Ricks' look at the situation is a hard and unsparing one.

Although the book is primarily about Phase IV, Mr. Ricks briefly surveys the conflict's first three phases to include the road to war. The chapter that deals with the sometimes personal conflict between retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is particularly illuminating.

Gen. Zinni was a believer in the ongoing containment of Iraq that he felt, and still feels, was successful. Mr. Wolfowitz believed that the Hussein regime constituted a cancer that had to be removed. Although he clearly sides with Gen. Zinni, the author goes into some detail explaining how each man reached his respective position, and he does so in a balanced manner. Readers can and will draw their own conclusions.

Mr. Ricks believes the war to have been mismanaged at both the strategic and tactical level, and he identifies culprits. He clearly believes that the incompetence and arrogance of Douglas Feith, the former Pentagon policy czar, and Paul Bremer, the American proconsul for the first year of the war, were major causes of the flawed implementation of the occupation.

In fairness to Mr. Bremer, Mr. Ricks points out that the division of command responsibilities for the occupation may have made the job impossible; but the author does not let Mr. Bremer off the hook for his disastrous decisions to disband the Iraqi army and fire key Ba'athist technocrats in the ministries without proper replacements.

Mr. Ricks flatly accuses Gen. Tommy Franks of abrogating his command responsibilities following the fall of Baghdad by concentrating on his transition to retirement at a time when strong guidance was sorely needed.

Nor is the author sparing of media colleagues. Judith Miller, another Pulitzer Prize winner, comes under particularly harsh fire for misuse of sources and shoddy fact checking. …

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