CRF Blog

The General’s Orders

by Bill Hayes

Writing in Newsweek, Colin Powell (in an excerpt from his new book It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership tells about the Iraq War.

When we went in, we had a plan, which the president approved. We would not break up and disband the Iraqi Army. We would use the reconstituted Army with purged leadership to help us secure and maintain order throughout the country. We would dissolve the Baath Party, the ruling political party, but we would not throw every party member out on the street. In Hussein’s day, if you wanted to be a government official, a teacher, cop, or postal worker, you had to belong to the party. We were planning to eliminate top party leaders from positions of authority. But lower-level officials and workers had the education, skills, and training needed to run the country.

The plan the president had approved was not implemented. Instead, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, our man in charge in Iraq, disbanded the Army and fired Baath Party members down to teachers. We eliminated the very officials and institutions we should have been building on, and left thousands of the most highly skilled people in the country jobless and angry — prime recruits for insurgency. [more]