Inside The Pentagon
by Elaine Grossman
July 22, 2004

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Keane: DOD leaders ‘seduced’ by exiles


Gen. John Keane, who retired one year ago as Army vice chief of staff, said last week the Pentagon had planned insufficiently for postwar Iraq and acknowledged the failure has cost lives.

“The intellectual capital to prepare ourselves properly for an insurgency was not there,” he testified before the House Armed Services Committee July 15. “There were very few people who actually envisioned, honestly, before the war, what we are dealing with now after the regime went down.”

Pentagon leaders were “seduced by the Iraqi exiles in terms of what the outcome would be,” Keane said. The “conventional wisdom” among them was that “we would have a stability operation that would be more akin to what we were doing in Kosovo,” he said.

“We didn’t recognize until somewhere about midsummer [of 2003] that we really had an insurgency on our hands,” Keane said. “We could have done far better for [deployed U.S. forces] if we had properly prepared them for what the reality is we’re dealing with.”

“We have a lot of young folks that paid the price for that lack of foresight. Am I correct?” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked.

“Right, yes, sir,” Keane replied.

Keane was the Army’s No. 2 leader from June 1999 until July 2003, serving briefly as acting Army chief of staff last summer before Gen. Peter Schoomaker was sworn in. An infantry officer who earned a Silver Star in Vietnam, Keane was in uniform for 37 years.

Another witness at the hearing, retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, offered examples of postwar planning that could have made U.S. forces more effective against the insurgency that developed.

“We could have . . . prepared thousands of light infantrymen to be flown quickly to Baghdad for the purposes of immediately going onto the streets and enforcing a new order” once the Iraqi capital fell, Macgregor said. “And our PSYOPS [psychological operations] personnel and civil affairs personnel — who by the way did a brilliant job all the way up to Baghdad — should have had very, very explicit instructions to ensure that the population was informed of what we expected from them.”

The Defense Department also failed to set up a system by which civil order could be restored in the power vacuum that followed the military campaign, he said. Retaining Iraqi workers in key civil service jobs might have maintained “continuity at the level that was so critical to our success,” Macgregor testified.

U.S. leaders also should have reconstituted “as much of that [Iraqi] army as possible, as quickly as possible,” he said. “It was the only national institution in the country, and we didn’t do that.”

He continued: “In essence, we didn’t think through most of these things, which is remarkable, because we have a history of having done these things very well.” Rather, he said, “we focused inordinately on the campaign to get there.”

Keane additionally cited the rapid transfer of authority from the U.S. military chain of command to a civilian-led caretaker government, shortly after major combat ended, as a critical planning error. Initially authority was transferred to retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, but then was reassigned to L. Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority until it disbanded late last month.

“When you’re transitioning from a regime takedown to the beginnings of physical and political reconstruction and the stability of the people, you should leave the military commander completely in charge so he can make that transition,” Keane told the House panel. “Then let him have the tools of the interagency [executive branch] to help him do that. That [is the] model we have been successful at [using] in previous major wars of the 20th century.”

“We’re talking about preparations that the military needed to make, independent of whatever should have happened later on,” Macgregor said. “There were many, many things that we needed to think through because the war fight itself was always going to be relatively short.”

The U.S. military “didn’t do that” even though “we had a lot of time to think about it — many, many months,” he said.

— Elaine M. Grossman

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