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Cobra II

The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq

Cobra II by Michael R. Gordon
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Written by the chief military correspondent of the New York Times and a prominent retired Marine general, this is the definitive account of the invasion of Iraq.A stunning work of investigative journalism, Cobra II describes in riveting detail how the American rush to Baghdad provided the opportunity for the virulent insurgency that followed. As Gordon and Trainor show, the brutal aftermath was not inevitable and was a surprise to the generals on both sides. Based on access to unseen documents and exclusive interviews with the men and women at the heart of the war, Cobra II provides firsthand accounts of the fighting on the ground and the high-level planning behind the scenes. Now with a new afterword that addresses what transpired after the fateful events of the summer of 2003, this is a peerless re-creation and analysis of the central event of our times.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; March 2006
ISBN 9780375424243
Download in secure EPUB or secure PDF format
Title: Cobra II
Author: Michael R. Gordon; Bernard E. Trainor
 
Buy, download and read Cobra II (eBook) by Michael R. Gordon; Bernard E. Trainor today!
Excerpt
Chapter 1
Snowflakes from the Secretary


In late 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld summoned the senior military leadership to his office on the E-ring of the Pentagon. It had been an extraordinarily eventful period for the administration of George W. Bush. Kabul had recently fallen. U.S. commandos and Pashtun commanders in southern Afghanistan were on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In Bonn, Germany, the United States and diplomats from allied nations were prepared to anoint a new group of Afghan leaders.

During his short tenure at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld had established himself as an indomitable bureaucratic presence. It was a commonplace among the Bush team that the military needed stronger civilian oversight, and Rumsfeld exercised control with the iron determination of a former corporate executive. He had a restless mind and was given to boast that he was genetically impatient.

When he arrived at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld made clear that his goal was nothing less than to remake the U.S. military to fashion a leaner and more lethal force. Notepads were strewn throughout his outsized office. When the defense secretary had an idea he scribbled it down. Four-star generals and high-ranking aides were accustomed to receiving snowflakes: terse memos that captured his latest brainstorm or query and that landed with a thud.

Rusmsfeld had been receiving his daily CIA briefing shortly before the American Airlines plane plowed into the building on September 11. Afterward, he had staked out a clear position on how the Bush team should respond. The United States should take the fight to the Taliban and Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, but it would not end there. The Pentagon needed to take an even more forceful step that would let its enemies know that the United States was now involved in a global war against the terrorists and the renegade states that helped them. The U.S. needed to land a series of blows well beyond Afghanistan. The question was where and when to strike.

The defense secretary’s meeting had been called to ponder the war plan for another potential adversary. General Richard B. Myers, the pliable chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) who was picked by Rumsfeld because of his reputation as a team player, was there. So was Peter Pace, the ambitious vice chairman who was already being talked about as an officer who might follow in Myers’s footsteps. Greg Newbold, the three-star general who served as chief operations deputy for the JCS, had the main assignment for the session. He was to outline Central Command’s OPLAN 1003-98, the military’s contingency plan in the event of a war with Iraq.

Newbold was armed with a pile of slides as the generals and Rumsfeld sat around a conference table. As Newbold outlined the plan, which called for as many as 500,000 troops, it was clear that Rumsfeld was growing increasingly irritated. For Rumsfeld, the plan required too many troops and supplies and took far too long to execute. It was, Rumsfeld declared, the product of old thinking and the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the military.

Myers asked Rumsfeld how many troops he thought might be needed. The defense secretary said in exasperation that he did not see why more than 125,000 troops would be required and even that was probably too many. Rumsfeld’s reaction was dutifully passed to the United States Central Command.1

“My regret is that at the time I did not say, ‘Mr. Secretary, if you try to put a number on a mission like this you may cause enormous mistakes,’ ” Newbold later recalled. “Give the military the task, give the military what you would like to see them do, and then let them come up with it. I was the junior military guy in the room, but I regret not saying it.”2

The 1003 plan was ripe for review and was based on the assumption that it would be Iraq that would start the fight. Nonetheless, the plan, which had been regularly exercised in war games, reflected long-standing military principles about the force levels that were needed to defeat Iraq, control a population of more than 24 million, and secure a nation the size of California with porous borders. Rumsfeld’s numbers, in contrast, seemed to be pulled out of thin air. He had dismissed one of the military’s long-standing plans and suggested his own force level without any of the generals raising a cautionary flag.

General Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander, would draw up the new plan, but Rumsfeld would poke, prod, and question the military at every turn. Defense Department civilians would move into Franks’s planning cells to monitor his work, and the general would be summoned to Washington repeatedly to present his evolving plan and receive new guidance from his civilian master. The JCS chairman and his staff would be little more than onlookers. Two momentous signals had been sent at Newbold’s briefing. Iraq would be the next phase in the Bush administration’s self-declared “global war on terror” and the defense secretary would insist on an entirely new kind of Iraq war plan.


When he was running for president, George W. Bush had signaled that he wanted to overhaul the U.S. military. His father’s earlier victory in the Persian Gulf, Bush said in a 1999 speech at the Citadel, was an impressive accomplishment, but also one that had taken six months of planning, amassing of military forces and supplies, and preparation. That was too long for the sole remaining superpower to project its power throughout the world. Bush pledged to develop lighter, more mobile, and more lethal forces.

Nor did Bush see the need for the sort of lengthy peacekeeping operations or difficult nation-building missions that the administration of Bill Clinton had undertaken in the Balkans. The purpose of the military, Bush argued, was to fight and win the nation’s wars, not to linger to bring stability to newly ordained states. A strong secretary of defense would be appointed and he would have a broad mandate to develop a new military structure. Generals and admirals who supported the new program would be promoted. Billions of dollars in new spending would be channeled for the research and development of missile defense and other high-
technology military systems.3

The speech was drafted by some of the so-called Vulcans, the cluster of conservative former national security officials who had formed the nucleus of a shadow government during the Clinton years and would later find a place at the top of the new administration. The idea of using advanced reconnaissance systems, command and control networks, and precision weapons to strip away the fog of war and strike the enemy with devastating effect had attracted a small, but influential, group of adherents, and the Vulcans were among them. It was supposed to be nothing less than a revolution in military affairs that would reduce the requirement for large land armies, and with Bush’s election some of the self-proclaimed revolutionaries would be in charge.

Once in office, Bush made good on the pledge to support a powerful defense secretary, settling on Rumsfeld, a choice that was strongly endorsed by Vice President Dick Cheney, who sensed that his former mentor would not only have a strong hand at the tiller but would serve as an ally in policy debates.

At sixty-eight, Rumsfeld was full of energy and brimming with confidence. He had been a wrestler in college, a combative and solitary sport, run with the bulls in Spain, followed his father into the Navy, been NATO ambassador, won a seat in Congress, earned a small fortune as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and run two government commissions: one on ballistic missile threats from Third World countries and the other on space policy. Rumsfeld was both the youngest and the oldest person to serve as defense secretary, having served as the Pentagon chief under President Gerald Ford. He had not been among the drafters of the Citadel speech, but he wholly supported the theme.

As Rumsfeld prepared to take on his responsibilities at the Pentagon he met with William S. Cohen, the Maine Republican who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense. Cohen, who had traveled widely in the post, advised Rumsfeld to go to Wehrkunde, the premier European security conference, which was held annually in Munich over a February weekend. Rumsfeld, he said, needed to get to know the European allies, as otherwise there would not be another opportunity to do so until a NATO meeting the following June. Rumsfeld resisted the idea, arguing that he could not afford to loosen his grip on the Pentagon even for a weekend. Rumsfeld eventually relented and went to Munich, delivered a speech on missile defense, pronounced allied unease about the project to be utterly incomprehensible, and rushed back. The episode was telling: Rumsfeld’s principal battleground was the Pentagon, his concern over relations with the allies was secondary, and he was uneasy leaving others in charge even for a day.

At the Defense Department, Rumsfeld was quick to demonstrate and solidify his authority. Each month, the defense secretary was required to approve sensitive reconnaissance operations. The missions were listed in a top secret binder, and once when an action officer came in to get Rumsfeld’s okay he noted in passing that the State Department had already reviewed the list and had not seen any problems. The innocent comment was like waving a red flag before a bull. Rumsfeld refused to sign, saying he would need to study the binder first. For several days, there was a mysterious lull in reconnaissance operations as the new defense secretary made clear that the building he was trying to bend to his will could not take him for granted. There were small changes that sent a message as well. The elaborate honor ceremonies for visiting dignitaries were declared to be an unnecessary frill and cut back.4

As Rumsfeld saw it, the biggest obstacles to his authority and vision were institutional. All of the Joint Chiefs of Staff–the leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, who were presided over by a chairman selected by the president–were holdovers from the Clinton administration. Soon after arriving at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld met with General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former Special Operations Forces commander and an imposing physical presence. Shelton sought to assure Rumsfeld that there was no such thing as Clinton generals and admirals. Shelton and the chiefs would be loyal to the new administration. Rumsfeld, however, was concerned that the JCS and its staff had emerged as a rival source of power. The new defense secretary complained that the Joint Staff was too large and recommended that it be reduced by dispensing with Shelton’s office of legislative affairs and his office of public affairs. Shelton stood his ground, arguing that the JCS chairman, by law, was the principal military adviser to the president and the National Security Council as well as the secretary of defense and that he needed a staff to support those responsibilities. Besides, Shelton argued, the civilian staff that reported to the defense secretary was even larger.

At one point, Shelton received a tip from a friendly member of the defense secretary’s staff that Rumsfeld planned to fire Scott Fry, the Navy admiral who served as the director of the Joint Staff, which supported the chairman, and who never clicked with the new defense secretary. Shelton burst into Rumsfeld’s office unannounced and said he would resign if Fry was replaced. Rumsfeld would then have two vacancies on his hands. Rumsfeld, who had made no secret of his disdain for Fry, insisted he had no such plan. The episode spoke volumes about the strains between the new civilian leadership and the military during the early months of Rumsfeld’s tenure. Shelton was determined to defend the prerogatives of his office and its independence. Rumsfeld approached defense like a businessman who saw himself on the top of a steep pyramid.5

In his quest to remake the armed forces, Rumsfeld did not hesitate to go outside the military and tap a network of formal and informal advisers. Rumsfeld was fascinated by the views of Andrew Marshall, the seventy-nine-year-old head of the Defense Department Office of Net Assessment, a sort of Pentagon think tank, who saw satellites, information systems, long-range precision weapons, and advanced military technology as a way to check the rise of China. Marshall had not been an influential figure during the Clinton administration, and Cohen had proposed moving Marshall’s office across the Potomac River and installing him at the National Defense University. Cohen relented following protests from Marshall’s high-level friends, including Rumsfeld, who wrote Cohen a letter describing Marshall as a national treasure.6

At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld’s program was dubbed “transformation,” and it soon acquired the aura of an official ideology. The secretary was enamored of missile defense and space weapons, the issues he had worked on during his years out of office. He was also skeptical about the Army leadership, which he considered to be too old-fashioned, wedded to heavy forces, and too slow to change. Bush’s Citadel speech had spoken of developing land forces that were more mobile and easier to deploy. Further, even with the hefty budget increases the new administration was projecting, there was not enough money to fund all the programs on the Pentagon wish list. With 476,000 troops, Army personnel costs were a major claimant on the budget–and, for the proponents of transformation, a sponge that soaked up much of the funding that could be used for space-based radars and other new systems they hoped would replace the cumbersome “legacy” systems of the Cold War.7

With Rumsfeld at the helm, some long-standing critics of the Army leadership felt that they had an ally at the top. Douglas A. Macgregor, an iconoclastic Army colonel who believed his service had too much of a Cold War focus, was one of them. When Macgregor ran into Steve Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest and most loyal aide, Cambone jested that Rumsfeld thought the Army’s problems could be solved by lining up fifty of its generals in the Pentagon and gunning them down.8

General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, and Tom White, the secretary of the Army, sometimes felt as if they were a bureaucratic target and were not amused. Shelton, for his part, felt that Rumsfeld was not so much a visionary as parochial. Rumsfeld, the JCS chief told associates, had been a Navy fighter pilot, seemed partial to the Navy and the Marines, and was biased against the Army because it had mechanized forces and had taken on Balkan peacekeeping missions that the Bush administration considered to be a distraction.

With transformation in the air, a lively debate developed over which forces were most needed and the sort of wars the U.S. should prepare to fight. In the wake of the Gulf War, Dick Cheney had ordained that the United States should be able to fight two major wars in far-flung regions. The worry was that if the United States was tied down in one conflict a foe in another crisis zone might try to take advantage unless the U.S. had available forces that could be drawn on for the fight. It was not a hypothetical problem, but a real concern. When the United States was leading the coalition to retake Kuwait it had to keep a wary eye on North Korea.9

The problem with the two-war concept for Rumsfeld was that it required a large ground force. The Pentagon needed to have four Army corps, as well as the transport ships and planes to take them, nearly simultaneously, to distant battlefields. During a much ballyhooed review, it was decided that the requirement should be substantially watered down. Under a new doctrine, if adversaries attacked in two separate regions the goal would be to hold the line in both. The president would then pick the one the United States would “decisively win” while continuing to contain the other.10

As the two-war doctrine was being amended, the secretary and his aides turned their attention to trimming the forces. Shortly before September 11, Rumsfeld had presided over a meeting at which Cambone laid out several options, including one to reduce the Army by as much as two divisions, a proposal that drew vociferous and ultimately successful protests from the Army leaders, who argued that the service was already stretched thin.11

On September 10, Rumsfeld held a town meeting at the Pentagon to let officials know that he felt the main threat to a more efficient and innovative defense structure was internal. “The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America,” Rumsfeld began. “From a single capital, it attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk. . . . You may think I’m describing one of the last decrepit dictators of the world. But their day, too, is almost past, and they cannot match the strength and size of this adversary. The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy.”12

The next day, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were attacked. The proposals to cut the Army receded into the background and Rumsfeld turned his restive intellect to the administration’s new war on terrorism.

Strategizing with his top aides, Rumsfeld was not satisfied with the idea of pounding the Taliban. Striking back at the Afghan regime was a given, but it was not necessary that the operation be the nation’s only mission or even its top priority. The Bush administration needed to demonstrate that the United States had the will to take the fight beyond Afghanistan as well as the guile to hit enemies when and where they did not expect it. First and foremost, it needed to head off future attacks by preventing terrorists from acquiring biological, chemical, or even nuclear arms from the United States’s enemies.

“The idea was, of course, to go after Al Qaeda,” said Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy and a member of Rumsfeld’s inner circle. “But punishment was not the issue. . . . Rumsfeld understood that the problem is not dealing with one organization in one place. It would not be solved by fighting Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. It was a bigger problem. His mind ran immediately to the extra danger of the nexus of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. We were not going to solve this problem by focusing narrowly on the perpetrators of 9/11. Rumsfeld wanted some way to organize the military action so that it signaled that the global conflict would not be over if we struck one good blow in Afghanistan.”13

Many of the secretary’s musings were later included in a memorandum that Feith drafted on the limited value of hitting targets in Afghanistan. The independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attack cast the memo as a series of proposals by Feith, but in fact many of the notions had come from Rumsfeld himself.14 Before 9/11, Rumsfeld had not been obsessed with Iraq. After 9/11, Iraq was elevated as a potential military front.


For the first eight months of their term in office, the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq was more of an attitude than a plan. Many of the administration’s top echelon had been in office during the Persian Gulf War and their intuitions for how to respond to Saddam were shaped by that experience.

When the 1991 Persian Gulf War drew to a close, the administration of George H. W. Bush thought it might soon see the last of Saddam Hussein. Although the removal of the Iraqi leader had not been an explicit goal of the Desert Storm campaign, U.S. air war commanders had directed strikes against virtually every location where they thought the Iraqi leader might be located and targeted the security forces, communications network, and Baath Party organizations that American intelligence believed he relied on to stay in power. The last target that was bombed in the Desert Storm operation had been the massive edifice that served as the Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad, a parting shot that expressed contempt for Saddam’s ruling apparatus. The mission of the U.S.-led coalition, however, had been to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait and to deprive Saddam of the ability to threaten his southern neighbor again by destroying the Republican Guard divisions that had rolled into the tiny Gulf state and later taken up positions south of the Euphrates. A Western and Arab coalition had been raised on this premise. Eliminating Saddam, however, had not been essential but was seen as a potential bonus.

When the Iraqis were ejected from Kuwait in the 100-hour war, President George H. W. Bush calculated that Saddam might be overthrown by humiliated and disgruntled Iraqi generals.15 But Saddam proved to be a far more durable figure than the Americans expected. His network of security operatives and internal police was vast. His powerful Tikriti clan enjoyed the trappings of power. His sheer ruthlessness was a potent weapon. Beyond that, enough of his Republican Guard forces, including the critically important corps headquarters, had escaped during the Gulf conflict to help him contend with a spontaneous rebellion in the Shiite-dominated south and resistance in the Kurdish north. Saddam put down the uprisings with extraordinary brutality.16

The messy aftermath of a seemingly decisive war created a dilemma for Washington: whether to pocket its victory and turn its back on the anti-Saddam rebels or support the resistance and risk being drawn into Iraq’s internal strife. General Colin L. Powell, the pragmatic chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was satisfied with the endgame. Shaped by his Vietnam experience, the four-star general had become the foremost advocate of a doctrine that called for using overwhelming force and then making a clean break. He was wary of civilians whom he thought were too quick to send forces in harm’s way and was anxious to avoid a potential quagmire. For Paul Wolfowitz, who served as the chief policy official in Cheney’s Pentagon, the victory had been tarnished: U.S. forces had stood on the sidelines while anti-Saddam rebels were ruthlessly suppressed by Saddam’s troops. He had been intrigued by suggestions from the Saudis that it might be wise to stir up trouble for Saddam by covertly arming the Iraqi Shiites and was concerned that Iraq would remain a danger.17

The dominant view, however, was summed up by Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security adviser. While the administration was concerned about the repression of the Shiites, it was anxious to avoid any steps that would deepen the United States’s involvement on the ground or risk the breakup of a nation that had served as a buffer against the expansion of Iranian power. Asked why the United States did not ally itself with the Shiite rebels after the war, Scowcroft summed up the policy in a word: “geopolitics.”18

The Bush administration settled on a policy of economic sanctions, military containment, and regular United Nations inspections to dismantle Saddam’s programs to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical arms. It was a strategy for a slow, steady squeeze, not deeper involvement. A no-fly zone was decreed over northern Iraq, effectively making Kurdistan an autonomous enclave. Six months later, as the Iraqis kept up their air raids against the Shiites, a no-fly zone was belatedly established over southern Iraq as well.

The Clinton years marked a curious role reversal in which the Democrats continued the containment policy of their predecessor while Republicans began to snipe at the strategy President Bush had originally put in place. By the late 1990s, there was growing debate over what to do with Iraq.

After meeting with Iraqi exiles, Wayne Downing, the former head of the Special Operations Command, drafted a plan, which he modestly entitled “An Alternative Strategy for Iraq.” The idea was to grab a piece of southern Iraq, establish a provisional government in “liberated” Iraq, protect it with airpower, use the enclave to launch intelligence and commando operations into the nonliberated sectors, call on the Iraqi public to rise up, and gradually expand the zone until it included the entire country. The Iraqi Liberation Army could number as many as 10,000 and would be assembled in a year.19 The general strategy, which harked back to the proposals for arming the Shiites at the end of the Gulf War, was endorsed in an open letter to President Clinton from a list of conservatives that read like a who’s who of the George W. Bush administration, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Armitage, and Robert Zoellick. In 1998, the Republican-led Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act giving the executive branch the authority to dispense up to $97 million worth of military equipment and weapons to the potential insurgent army.20 Eager to protect his right flank, Clinton signed it, though he had no intention of arming Iraqi insurgents and starting a proxy war.

With Saddam often at loggerheads with the United Nations weapons inspectors and the Republicans baying for the overthrow of his regime, the Clinton administration ordered a major air attack. To catch the Iraqis off guard and prevent them from moving their presumed caches of prohibited weapons, the plan was to outfox the Iraqi leader by striking just hours after U.N. inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq. The operation was consequently named Desert Fox. Only later was it pointed out that the Pentagon had inadvertently invoked the nickname of the World War II Nazi general Erwin Rommel. During the four-day blitz in December 1998, 415 cruise missiles were launched while American and British planes dropped more than 600 bombs. The Pentagon later estimated that it had killed 1,400 members of Iraq’s Republican Guard and set back Saddam’s supposed weapons program two years.21

Soon after the debate over the chads and ballots was settled by the Supreme Court in 2000 and George W. Bush was finally proclaimed the victor, Cohen received a call from the new vice-president-elect. Though he had defended the original decision to end the 1991 ground war at 100 hours, withdraw U.S. troops, and avoid the snare of potential occupation duties in Iraq, Cheney had come to believe that the containment strategy he had helped put in place was faltering. The web of economic sanctions seemed to be fraying and Cheney was convinced that Saddam was still a threat. He was the only senior member of the old team whose views on how to deal with Iraq had fundamentally changed. Now, Cheney wanted the Pentagon to arrange a security briefing for the president-elect. As Cohen recalled, Cheney made it clear that he did not want an eighty days around the world kind of approach. The session should focus principally on Iraq.22

On December 19, a month before Bush was inaugurated, he went to the White House to meet with the outgoing president. The two men posed for pictures and were conspicuously gracious to each other.

“I’m here to listen, and if the president is kind enough to offer some advice I will take it in,” Bush said.

“My only advice to anybody in this is to get a good team and do what you think is right,” Clinton added.

Once the two men were behind closed doors. Clinton told Bush that he had read his campaign statements carefully and his impression was that his two priorities were national missile defense and Iraq. Bush said this was correct. Clinton proposed a different set of priorities, which included Al Qaeda, Middle East diplomacy, North Korea, the nuclear competition in South Asia, and, only then, Iraq. Bush did not respond.23

The Clinton administration left office believing that Saddam was a manageable nuisance. Most of the new Bush team read the situation differently. The new team did not have a preconceived plan on how to deal with Saddam’s regime or a timetable for action, but there was an assumption on the part of the new president, his vice president, and most of his national security team that something had to be done.

For all that, the first six months of the Bush presidency seemed to be focused on everything but Iraq. The new administration scrapped the antiballistic missile treaty and endured a mini-crisis with China over the collision of a Chinese fighter with a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane. The new defense secretary brusquely pursued his transformation agenda at the Pentagon and Bush fretted about finding a way to extract the U.S. military from its nation-building efforts in the Balkans. During a July swing through Kosovo, Bush leaned over to Brigadier General William David, the commander of U.S. forces there, and expressing his disdain for peacekeeping said, “We’ve got to get you out of here.”24

When the administration did focus on Iraq, its initial deliberations were inconclusive. One of the first high-level meetings on Iraq policy came on June 1 when Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, chaired a meeting of the Principals Committee, a panel that included the vice president, defense secretary, CIA director, and secretary of state. Four options were on the table: continuing the current containment strategy, continuing containment while actively supporting Saddam’s opponents, setting up a safe haven for insurgents in southern Iraq, and planning a U.S. invasion. No policy was set and administration officials continued to pursue their separate agendas.

At the State Department, Colin Powell led the effort to narrow and tighten economic sanctions. The new secretary of state’s first instinct was to constrain Saddam through diplomatic efforts with allies and leave force as a last resort. At the Pentagon, Wolfowitz’s view of Saddam had only darkened over time. The new deputy defense secretary saw Saddam as unchastened by his Gulf War defeat and a supporter of terrorism.

After he received his new Defense Department post, Wolfowitz sought to enlist the Joint Staff’s support to develop a strategy for aiding an anti-Saddam resistance. Saddam had drained the southern marshes in Iraq to deprive Shiite rebels of a sanctuary, so Wolfowitz wondered if the dams could be bombed to re-create them. The Pentagon lawyers challenged whether such a strike would be consistent with the rules of war. Wolfowitz’s view was that it would be more humane than leaving the Shiites to Saddam’s mercy. Wolfowitz also wanted to know what it would take to arm and train Iraqi insurgents. At the White House, Zalmay Khalilzad, the National Security Council aide for the Middle East who had worked under Wolfowitz in the Cheney Pentagon, drafted papers that argued that supporting the Iraqi resistance in exile could lead to fissures in the regime.25

As for Rumsfeld, he was working on a new strategy for enforcing the no-fly zones as a means of weakening the regime. If the Iraqis fired at U.S. or British planes, the allies would deliver a disproportionate response. Instead of going after air defenses, the U.S. would begin to whittle away at the weapons and capabilities that Saddam used to stay in power. It would be a way of keeping Saddam in check and adding a muscular element to the administration policy. One potential target was the concentrations of tank transporters the Iraqi military relied on to move Republican Guard T-72 tanks around the country.26

Newbold had been in London briefing the plan to the British, who patrolled the Iraqi skies with the Americans, on September 11, 2001, when the news broke about the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. When he re