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Context of 'May 14, 2004: Retired General Zinni Recalls that 1998 Plans for Overthrowing Hussein Envisioned Many Problems Encounted by US and Coalition Occupation'

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Air Traffic Controllers on board the USS <i>Enterprise</i> guide strike aircraft on bombing runs into Iraq. Photo taken December 17, 1998.Air Traffic Controllers on board the USS Enterprise guide strike aircraft on bombing runs into Iraq. Photo taken December 17, 1998. [Source: US Navy]The US and Britain launch a joint series of over 250 air strikes against Iraqi military targets, in a campaign dubbed “Operation Desert Fox.” The air strikes are designed to, in the mission statement released by the US Navy, “degrade Saddam Hussein’s ability to make and to use weapons of mass destruction,” to “diminish Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war against his neighbors,” and to “demonstrate to Saddam Hussein the consequences of violating international obligations.” The air strikes are carried out by US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft from the USS Enterprise, from US and British military bases in the region. The strikes feature, among other weaponry, over 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from naval vessels and US Air Force B-52s. Defense officials say that many of the strikes focus on destroying or damaging targets in southern Iraq, including surface-to-air missile sites, airfields, and command-and-control sites, all with the aim of giving US pilots a “safer corridor” to reach targets in the north. [American Forces Press Service, 12/18/1998; Barletta and Jorgensen, 5/1999; Roberts, 2008, pp. 121; US Department of Defense, 3/7/2008] Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz will later say that at least 62 Iraqis are killed in the strikes. No US or British casualties are reported. [BBC, 2002]
Failure to Comply with UN Inspections - President Bill Clinton explains that the military operation was in response to Iraq’s refusal to comply with UN weapons inspections (see December 16, 1998). “The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors,” Clinton says. “Saddam’s deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, the Iraqi dictator has disarmed the inspectors.… Saddam has failed to seize the chance. So we had to act and act now.” Clinton continues, “Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.” He has used them before, Clinton adds, and “left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.” [American Forces Press Service, 12/17/1998] US Secretary of Defense William Cohen says that the attacks “degraded Saddam Hussein’s ability to deliver chemical and biological weapons,” and defends the US’s right to act unilaterally against Iraq if it is in “our national interest.” British Prime Minister Tony Blair agrees with Clinton’s assessment. “He is a serial breaker of promises,” Blair says. [CNN, 12/16/1998]
Real Aim to Destabilize Hussein? - In January 1999, reporter William Arkin, a defense specialist, will write that he believes the strikes were designed to do far more than punish Iraq for not complying with UN inspections. The extremely specific target listings—down to specific buildings—and the nature of the targets chosen will lead Arkin to believe that Desert Fox was designed to cripple Iraq’s ability to wage war. Only 13 of the 100 or so sites were identified as chemical or biological weapons production or research facilities, Arkin will write. Additionally, Arkin will comment that the US-British strikes were not just to “degrade” Iraq’s military capabilities, but to destabilize the Hussein regime. [Washington Post, 1/17/1999]
Accusations of Political Distraction - Many of Clinton’s political opponents, including Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators and radio hosts, accuse Clinton, both during and after the strikes, of attempting to use a military operation to distract the nation from his admission of a sexual liaison with intern Monica Lewinsky. [BBC, 2002]
Destroys Remainder of Iraq's WMD Stockpiles - In 2004, US weapons inspector David Kay will say that Desert Fox and other 1998 air strikes destroyed the remaining stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons left over from the Gulf War (see January 23, 2004).

Entity Tags: William Arkin, United Nations Special Commission, US Department of Defense, Tony Blair, David Kay, Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, William S. Cohen, Monica Lewinsky, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Photo of the cover of the Desert Crossing after-action briefing.Photo of the cover of the Desert Crossing after-action briefing. [Source: National Security Archives]The US Central Command, or CENTCOM (see October 1, 1986), conducts a series of war games called “Desert Crossing” centered on the scenario of Saddam Hussein being ousted as Iraq’s dictator. CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni will later say of the scenario, “I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development.” The game concludes that unless measures are taken, “fragmentation and chaos” will ensue after his overthrow. The after-action report finds that regime change may cause instability throughout the Middle East by giving impetus to “rival forces bidding for power” which, in turn, could cause societal “fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines” and antagonize “aggressive neighbors.” Securing borders and civil order may not be enough to restabilize Iraq, the report speculates, if the new government is perceived as either weak, subservient to outside governments, or out of touch with other Middle Eastern governments. The report finds that an exit strategy would be complicated by differing ideas for how a post-Saddam Iraq should be. Any US-supported transitional government will find it difficult to restrain various factions from pursuing their own tribal and sectarian vendettas against one another, the report finds. The game is quickly forgotten; years later, when the Bush administration will begin planning for its invasion of Iraq, the retired Zinni will recommend that his successors “dust off Desert Crossing,” and they will respond: “What’s that? Never heard of it.” [John Prados, 11/4/2006; Roberts, 2008, pp. 125, 233]

Entity Tags: Anthony Zinni, Saddam Hussein, US Central Command, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Military planners in the US’s Central Command (CENTCOM) finalize their plans for invading Iraq. “[T]he end state for this operation is regime change [with] an acceptable provisional/permanent government in place,” the plans read. However, the plans do not tell how the goal of an acceptable, permanent government will be achieved. They do not even address what US troops should do once they reach Baghdad. Public policy professor Alasdair Roberts will later write that there are what he will call two main reasons for “CENTCOM’s neglect.” One, “occupation and reconstruction [are] not a core function for the military” (see May 14, 2004). The military has no real component for performing such tasks, and most military commanders have little interest in the subject, Roberts will write. Two, other government agencies, most notably the State Department, have responsibility for this subject. CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks tells subordinates that once Saddam Hussein is overthrown, the State Department will take the lead in directing the occupation and reconstruction. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 125]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Alasdair Roberts, US Central Command, Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Jay Garner.Jay Garner. [Source: US Army]The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) is created by the Pentagon to direct the post-war administration of Iraq, and signed into existence by President Bush. Its head, retired Army General Jay Garner, ostensibly reports to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith (see Fall 2002), but Garner will later say that once he is in Iraq proper, General Tommy Franks of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) “will be my boss.” ORHA is later renamed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). David Kay, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and a former UN weapons inspector, had initially been selected to head the office, but he declined the invitation. Associates of Kay tell the New York Times that Kay felt the new agency seemed relatively uninterested in the task of promoting democracy. [New York Times, 2/23/2003; New York Times, 4/2/2003; Roberts, 2008, pp. 126, 134] Garner is considered an excellent selection, having led the relief effort for the Kurds of northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. But he faces an uphill battle, as ORHA’s functionality is plagued from the outset by a severe lack of time, uncertain funding, and incessant interdepartmental strife, particularly between the State and Defense Departments. Most ORHA workers will not have reported for duty by the time the invasion begins. And attempts to recruit experts from other agencies will be blocked by Feith and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who impose strict ideological and bureaucratic restrictions on Garner’s selections for his staff. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 126, 134]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, US Department of State, George W. Bush, Jay Garner, Thomas Franks, David Kay

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

US military Central Command (CENTCOM) commander General Tommy Franks issues an order formally recognizing the creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA - see January 2003), an ad hoc, improvised organization to be headed by former diplomat and business executive L. Paul Bremer. A 2006 report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction will call the CPA the “de facto government of Iraq.” But for all its power, its legal status will remain unclear throughout its existence. A 2005 Congressional report will note: “Whether the CPA was a federal agency was unclear. Competing explanations for how it was established contribute to the uncertainty.… Some executive branch documents supported the notion that it was created by the president, possibly as a result of a National Security Presidential Directive. This document, if it exists, has not been made available.” Whether the legal ambiguity is deliberate is unclear, but it will be exploited. The Defense Department will not allow federal auditors to investigate CPA spending because, the department says, it is not a federal agency. Contractors are warned that if the CPA breaks contracts, they might not have recourse in federal courts. Employees who suspect contractor fraud are told they cannot pursue any possible criminal actions under American law. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 127]

Entity Tags: Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Coalition Provisional Authority, US Central Command, US Department of Defense, Thomas Franks, L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

In a talk given at UCLA’s Center for International Relations, retired General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM - see April 17, 2003 and After and January 2003), discusses his early planning for the overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and the inevitable chaos that would ensue, in plans called “Desert Crossing” (see April-July 1999). Zinni began working on the plans shortly after 1998’s “Desert Fox” bombing campaign (see December 16-19, 1998).
Plans to Overthrow, No Plans to Reconstruct - He recalls: “[I]t struck me then that we had a plan to defeat Saddam’s army, but we didn’t have a plan to rebuild Iraq. And so I asked the different agencies of government to come together to talk about reconstruction planning for Iraq.… I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development. We met in Washington, DC. We called the plan, and we gamed it out in the scenario, Desert Crossing.”
Many of Subsequent Problems Envisioned - Zinni says that he and his team envisioned many of the problems encountered after the March 2003 invasion and subsequent toppling of the Iraqi government: “The first meeting surfaced all the problems that have exactly happened now. This was 1999. And when I took it back and looked at it, I said, we need a plan. Not all of this is a military responsibility. I went back to State Department, to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Department of Commerce, and others and said, all right, how about you guys taking part of the plan. We need a plan in addition to the war plan for the reconstruction. Not interested. Would not look at it.” Zinni, he recalls, decided to have the plans created himself, “because I was convinced nobody in Washington was going to plan for it, and we, the military, would get stuck with it.”
Zinni Plans Ignored by Bush Planners - Before the invasion, he recalls, he recommended that the military planners go back and look at his plans: “When it looked like we were going in [to Iraq], I called back down to CENTCOM and said, ‘You need to dust off Desert Crossing.’ They said, ‘What’s that? Never heard of it.’ So in a matter of just a few years it was gone. The corporate memory. And in addition I was told, ‘We’ve been told not to do any of the planning. It would all be done in the Pentagon.’” Zinni’s original plans called for a civilian occupation authority with offices in all 18 Iraqi provinces; the current Coalition Provisional Authority only has one set of offices, in Baghdad’s Green Zone. And Zinni’s plans called for around 400,000 troops, instead of the 160,000 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved. [John Prados, 11/4/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, Coalition Provisional Authority, Anthony Zinni, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Saddam Hussein, UCLA Center for International Relations, US Department of State, US Central Command, US Department of Commerce

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