In Official History, Army Admits War Mistakes

The Army's own historical analysis — released Sunday — says that after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, U.S. commanders presumed success too quickly and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation. And President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech in May, 2003 reinforced that view, according to the study.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, eeee-vil (ph). Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Mm. Sorry about that. I'm Mike Pesca. It's Monday, June 30th, 2008.

(As movie announcer) And this summer, evil has a whole new name.

Although we're told that every summer, aren't we? Not at the BPP, where evil is called Lucifer, and yes, Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, the Lord of Lies, the Lord of the Dance, Dick Marr, Sean Combs, all Old Scratchy. All those words have meant evil or the Devil for one reason or another, but we are talking about something called "The Lucifer Effect," which is based on the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. We'll be talking to the conductor of that experiment who also talks a lot about Abu Ghraib, a psychologist.

But you know, I've been thinking a lot about the Devil, and about evil, and I've watched a lot of old "Twilight Zone" episodes, and it would always seem that the Devil drives a hard bargain. Yet when you examine the contracts, they seem so easy to figure out. Look, my one piece of advice, when the Devil comes to you and offers you eternal life, just get a lot of writers on the contract. One, a health writer, because you don't want to age forever and just be really decrepit. Two, a dismemberment writer, right? Three, just an opt-out clause, because if there's a nuclear holocaust, and you're the only one around, who wants to live forever? I would say the opt-out clause would take care of a lot of the bargain that the Devil is driving.

OK, in addition to the Lucifer - the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the Lucifer book, we'll also be talking about the presidential election. You know, we will look back on past presidential elections and we will say there's something new out there. And it's actually Barack Obama's face. The campaign is using his face like a religious icon or a revolutionary. So, we will talk about the iconography of the Obama campaign.

We'll also round up sports with friend of the BPP, Bill Wolff. We'll do some baseball announcing. We'll do some soccer, or as they call it in Europe, football, not all at the same time. And we'll also get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

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PESCA: The U.S. Army is admitting major mistakes in Iraq. The Army's own historical analysis, released yesterday, says after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, U.S. commanders presumed success too quickly, and did not do enough to send - and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation. And President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech in May 2003 reinforced that view, according to the study.

Of course, these criticisms have been levied before, but this is the first time that they came from the Army itself. Hundreds of commanders, soldiers and officials were interviewed for the nearly 700-page report. One of the biggest mistakes it detailed came soon after the fall of Baghdad. General Tommy Franks, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, ordered the so-called "dream team" of commanders that led the invasion to leave Baghdad and head to Kuwait. General Jack Keane was a member of that group, and the Army's vice chief of staff at the time.

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General JACK KEANE (Former Vice Chief of Staff, Retired, U.S. Army): They had been together for about eight or nine months, almost a year, in preparing for the war, then executed the invasion, and now, they were going to move to Kuwait and essentially just be a support headquarters. It seemed to be, in my judgment, to be very ill-advised to do something like that.

PESCA: General Franks removed General Keane and his colleagues in favor of the Army's V Corps, a tactical unit that had been trained to fight Saddam's army, but the more ragtag insurgency that actually arose in Iraq at times frustrated the V. Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez was the V Corps commander.

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Lieutenant General RICARDO SANCHEZ (Former Commander, Retired, Coalition Forces in Iraq): It was a very conscious decision that was made by General Franks to do that, because, in my assessment, he believed that the war was over, and that most of the forces would be out by August, and therefore he just needed a caretaker headquarters, if you will, on the ground to manage the redeployment of forces.

PESCA: The report says that decision by General Franks may have been the military's biggest post-Saddam blunder, but there were others, and General Sanchez says the military must learn from its mistakes.

Lt. Gen. SANCHEZ: We have to accept as an institution that we erred, that we, in fact, made big mistakes that were institutional decisions that created significant challenges, not just for our soldiers on the ground, but for our country as a whole.

PESCA: General Sanchez includes himself among those who bear some responsibility, as does General Jack Keane.

Gen. KEANE: I think we could have asked tougher questions. You know, one of the questions I think we should have asked that troubles me, in terms of myself, is, why didn't we ask the question, what happens if the regime doesn't surrender?

PESCA: At least 4,113 U.S. military members have died in Iraq, according to the Associated Press. You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

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