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An unpublished federal history of the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq

Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica and James Glanz, The New York Times, December 13, 2008. Also at:

An unpublished, 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience. (PDF, 6.9Meg) The draft of a federal report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Annotations are based on the review’s findings. The draft was provided to reporters at The New York Times and ProPublica by two people outside the Inspector General’s office who have read the draft.

Latest draft of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement

This draft was obtained by the Los Angeles Times from the Iraqi government side and translated from Arabic into English.

New Army study of its campaign in Iraq

From the Combat Studies Institute web site:

On Point II is the US Army’s first historical study of its campaign in Iraq in the decisive eighteen months following the overthrow of the Baathist regime in April 2003. The book examines both the high-level decisions that shaped military operations after May 2003 as well as the effects of those decisions on units and Soldiers who became responsible for conducting those operations.

The authors, historians at the US Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, based this account on hundreds of interviews with key participants and thousands of primary documents. Critical chapters in this book address the decision to disband the Iraqi Army, detainee operations (including the incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison), reconstruction efforts, and the Army’s response to the growing insurgency.

At the core of On Point II is the dramatic story of how after May 2003, the US Army reinvented itself by transforming into an organization capable of conducting a broad array of diverse and complex “Full Spectrum” operations. This was the new campaign that confronted American Soldiers beginning in May 2003 as they strived to create stability in Iraq.

See also: Occupation Plan for Iraq Faulted in Army History, by Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, June 29, 2008.

Pentagon Audit of Iraq Spending

I always find it odd when news reports cite government documents without giving a link or good reference to them. It seems to me that this is something news web sites should do regularly. These reports are not always that easy to track down. Case in point: today’s New York Times has a story about a Pentagon report:

A Pentagon audit of $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money spent by the United States Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received.

Using Google to search on the title of the report plus “site:.gov” yields nothing this morning, although the report is available from two different government web sites.

The report is available at the site of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Committee Holds Hearing on Accountability Lapses in Multiple Funds for Iraq, Wednesday, May 21, 2008, along with other statements and documents.

It is also available at www.dodig.mil/audit/reports with this url: www.dodig.mil/audit/reports/fy08/08-098.pdf The same google search with “site:.mil” substituted for “site:.gov” finds the title in a May 22 “what’s new” story on the home page www.dodig.osd.mil of the Office of the Inspector General.

This is the second report I have looked for this week that is available as a PDF document on a government web site that google has (evidently) not indexed full text. I do not know if this reflects a google policy or just a delay in indexing.

NY Times publishes some FOIA documents

In an investigation on how the Bush administration uses retired military officers to promote its message on the Iraq war, the New York Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantanamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

The story based on these documents (Behind Military Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand By David Barstow, New York Times, April 20, 2008) is supplemented online by “Audio, video and documents that show how the military’s talking points were disseminated” (How the Pentagon Spread Its Message and a “Document Archive,” which allows users to read and download documents and parts of documents. Of the 8000 pages, only a few are available online, but these include emails, a “Talking Points Memo,” excerpts from a Transcript of meeting with Mr. Rumsfeld, and a Pentagon document that reports “Monitoring of Analysts.”

Together, the audio-visual presentation and the documents are a small model for how newspapers could be using the power of the web to enhance their coverage and utility. I would certainly like to see all 8000 pages online!

The story itself is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the daily news.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

…Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.