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Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Colin Powell Admits to Bush Administration Iraqi War Mistakes

On the evening of Aug. 5, 2002, President Bush and I met in his residence at the White House to discuss the pros and cons of the Iraq crisis. Momentum within the administration was building toward military action, and the president was increasingly inclined in that direction.

I had no doubt that our military would easily crush a smaller Iraqi army, much weakened by Desert Storm and the sanctions and other actions that came afterward. But I was concerned about the unpredictable consequences of war. According to plans being confidently put forward, Iraq was expected to somehow transform itself into a stable country with democratic leaders 90 days after we took Baghdad. I believed such hopes were unrealistic. I was sure we would be in for a longer struggle.

I had come up with a simple expression that summarized this idea for the president: “If you break it, you own it.” It was shorthand for the profound reality that if we take out another country’s government by force, we instantly become the new government, responsible for governing the country and for the security of its people until we can turn all that over to a new, stable, and functioning government. We are now in charge. We have to be prepared to take charge.

“Taking Charge” is one of the first things a young Army recruit learns. The new soldier is taught how to pull guard duty—a mundane but essential task. Every recruit memorizes a set of rules describing how a guard performs his duty to standards. These rules are collectively known as the “General Orders.”

One of those guard-duty General Orders has stuck deeply in my head all these years and become a basic principle of my leadership style: a guard’s responsibility is “to take charge of this post and all government property in view.”

In the days, weeks, and months after the fall of Baghdad, we refused to react to what was happening before our eyes. We focused on expanding oil production, increasing electricity output, setting up a stock market, forming a new Iraqi government. These were all worth doing, but they had little meaning and were not achievable until we and the Iraqis took charge of this post and secured all property in view.

“Taking Charge” is one of the first things a young Army recruit learns. The new soldier is taught how to pull guard duty—a mundane but essential task. Every recruit memorizes a set of rules describing how a guard performs his duty to standards. These rules are collectively known as the “General Orders.”

One of those guard-duty General Orders has stuck deeply in my head all these years and become a basic principle of my leadership style: a guard’s responsibility is “to take charge of this post and all government property in view.”

In the days, weeks, and months after the fall of Baghdad, we refused to react to what was happening before our eyes. We focused on expanding oil production, increasing electricity output, setting up a stock market, forming a new Iraqi government. These were all worth doing, but they had little meaning and were not achievable until we and the Iraqis took charge of this post and secured all property in view.

We broke it, we owned it, but we didn’t take charge—at least until 2006, when President Bush ordered his now famous surge, and our troops, working with new Iraqi military and police forces, reversed the slide toward chaos.

Unreliable Sources

You can’t make good decisions unless you have good information and can separate facts from opinion and speculation. Facts are verified information, which is then presented as objective reality. The rub here is the verified. How do you verify verified? Facts are slippery, and so is verification. Today’s verification may not be tomorrow’s. It turns out that facts may not really be facts; they can change as the verification changes; they may only tell part of the story, not the whole story; or they may be so qualified by verifiers that they’re empty of information.

To read Gen. Powell’s entire story, go to The Daily Beast

Comments

  1. they toss you out like a dirty shirt colin hit them hard like you said break it you own it y were correct that time un speech not correct but I still love you.

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