Prewar Memo Warned of Gaps in Iraq Plans

The Washington Post

One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warned of “serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance” in a secret memorandum prepared for a superior.

The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant “to take on ‘policing’ roles” in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned 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 Feb. 7, 2003, memo, addressed to Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, came at a time when the Pentagon was increasingly taking over control of post-invasion planning from the State Department. It reflected the growing tensions between State Department and Pentagon officials and their disparate assessments about the challenges looming in post-invasion Iraq.

The question of whether the United States planned adequately for the post-invasion occupation echoes today, as the insurgency continues to challenge U.S. policy in Iraq. Many senior State Department officials are still bitter about what they see as the Pentagon’s failure to take seriously their planning efforts, particularly in the “Future of Iraq” project.

The memo was one of several documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and made public yesterday by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group. Other documents detail the specifics of the Future of Iraq project, which brought together Iraqi exiles and U.S. experts in an attempt to plan for such things as a new banking system, a new military and a new constitution.

In the memo, the three bureau chiefs offered to provide technical assistance to help the Central Command develop new plans to ensure law and order as well as humanitarian aid after the invasion. They said they had also raised the potential problems with retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who was the first U.S. official to take charge of post-invasion Iraq.

The memo was submitted by Lorne W. Craner, then the assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, who is now at the International Republican Institute; Arthur E. Dewey, assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration; and Paul E. Simons, then acting assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs and now deputy assistant secretary for energy, sanctions and commodities.

The three senior officials said it was “crucial” that the State Department leadership become “strong advocates” for the issues in planning discussions within the administration. “Responsibility must remain with coalition military forces until these functions can be turned over to an international public security force or other mechanism to be defined,” the memo said.

But the specific gaps in planning that they identified in the memo were not declassified.

A senior State Department official said yesterday that the memo provided no new information. “This isn’t a new story,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of department rules. “There’s been no shortage of revisiting of decisions made and actions taken.”

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