Hour Two: Army Chronicles 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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BILL WOLFF: From NPR in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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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, timber? I'm Mike Pesca. It's Monday, June 30th, 2008, and we will be speaking of a lumberjack competition.

On Friday, it was an exhibition - not a competition - that put me in such smoky voice, if you can hear it. Yes, we did a little karaoke to say goodbye to our erstwhile colleague, Rachel Martin. Some highlights, I'll drop some NPR names for you. Adam Davidson offered a necessary palate cleanser with a song from "Oklahoma!" It came right after a rendition of "Baby Got Back," which, if you haven't heard the lyrics, quite sexually suggestive.

Dan Pashman brought the house down with "The Humpty Dance." In doing so, he incorporated some preplanning, some costuming, which raises some interesting ethical questions I hope that you one day delve into. The Groucho schnoz, does that make him a prop comic? If so, is that acceptable? And finally, the video team of Zena, Meena and Win - and by the way, Zena Menawin (ph) is actually the Pakistani minister of sports and culture. But Zena Menawin went up there, and they sang "Video Killed the Radio Star." They were fantastic.

Midway through the song, it hit me, and I think, no one else in the room, as we were all blithely singing along, did you realize what they were saying? They're out to get us! They're admitting it! They were in our home, in our beds, saying, we will supplant you, radio! We are video. And I yelled out at that point, "Soylent Green is people!" Which is one of the few lines from a movie that gives away the secret ending, but is the most quotable. Right? All right.

Coming up in just a little bit of time, we will deal with some of the greatest campaign speeches in history, with a speechwriter-turned-book-about-speeches-writer. Plus, we'll round up what's going on with the current campaigns. All manner of politics are happening as we speak, John Harris of Politico. And like I said, one of the top collegiate lumberjacks, Matt Slingerland, will be on the show. We will get today's headlines in 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 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 are 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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