The State Department warned President Bush and U.S. Central Command before the invasion of Iraq of “serious planning gaps” for postwar security, according to newly declassified documents but Bush dismissed the warning and ordered the military to proceed.
In a memorandum dated Feb. 7, 2003 — one month before the beginning of the Iraq war — State Department officials also wrote that “a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally.”
The documents were acquired by George Washington University’s National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act. They were posted on the research group’s Web site Wednesday and first reported by NBC News.
The February 2003 memo was written by three State Department bureau chiefs for Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky. The authors wrote, “We have raised these issues with top CENTCOM officials and General Garner.” Retired Army Gen. Jay Garner was the first U.S. administrator in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The bureau chiefs warned that there could be “serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance between the end of the war and the beginning of reconstruction.”
A State Department report to Congress nine months into the war offered a more optimistic assessment. The Dec. 15, 2003, report said: “Iraqis are playing an increasing role both in routine civil policing and in combating the terror and sabotage … . More and more Iraqis are coming forward with intelligence information that helps the Coalition conduct increasingly successful operations to prevent planned terrorist attacks, capture insurgents and seize weapons caches.”
“At the same time,” the report said, “the insurgents have used more sophisticated tactics.”
The authors also acknowledged that “restoring public safety remains more challenging than dealing with ordinary crime.”
State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper declined to comment on the newly released documents Wednesday night.
On the Net:
National Security Archive: http://www.gwu.edu/nsarchiv/