NOTE: The author is donating all of his book revenues to charitable organizations serving U.S. veterans and their families

Misconception 5

Did the State Department have a plan for postwar Iraq that was discarded by Defense officials? 

  • IN FACT:  The work of the State Department’s Future of Iraq project was not a plan.

  • IN FACT:  The key policy recommendations of the Future of Iraq report were opposed not by Defense officials but by Colin Powell and Richard Armitage.

  • IN FACT:  State Department – not Defense – officials advocated a multiyear U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Numerous news articles and books have presented a distorted history of the Future of Iraq Project, claiming that it produced a plan for administering postwar Iraq and that the Pentagon’s civilian leaders, who were supposedly hostile to the project for ideological and bureaucratic reasons, ordered Jay Garner and ORHA to ignore it.  . . .
The story is false: untrue in all respects. First of all, I was not hostile to the project, nor were the other Pentagon senior leaders, as far as I know. I encouraged people from my office to participate, and we thought the project produced some valuable work.

The “Transition to Democracy” report was one of the project’s more important products. Its main observations and recommendations actually aligned more closely with my office’s thinking than with the views of Powell and Armitage. . . .

Second, the Future of Iraq Project did not produce a plan. It produced concept papers. . . . The reports sometimes stated a view and then competing views, without attempting to reconcile or choose between them. In my opinion, the main value of such reports was to record the thinking of some knowledgeable people. It is no insult to say that they were not a plan, when they were never intended to be one.

There was another problem with calling the Future of Iraq reports a State Department plan: They were not actually State Department reports. They were the product of Iraqi externals: the Iraqi Americans in the working groups. . . . Although State shared the reports around the government, no State official ever presented them to the Deputies, Principals, or National Security Council as a State Department proposal or plan for postwar Iraq. (pp. 375-7)

Related documents: 
Future of Iraq Project final reports