The Iraq War Blame Game Escalates

Bremer's stewardship of the Constitutional Provisional Authority, which existed from May 2003 to June 2004, was also criticized by Tenet, who quoted one of his CIA officials telling him that the CPA "runs like a graduate school seminar, none of them speaks Arabic, almost nobody's ever been to an Arab country and no one makes a decision but Bremer."

Even before he took the position, an anonymous State Department staffer told Newsday that Bremer was a "voracious opportunist with voracious ambitions. What he knows about Iraq could not quite fill a thimble."

In turn, Bremer took a swipe at Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, who had dismissed suggestions that a larger force was needed to invade Iraq. "We never had enough troops on the ground," he said. In his book, "My Year in Iraq," Bremer describes his repeated efforts to get the Pentagon to supply more troops, requests that were ignored by Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, a senior military commander, who were actually planning to reduce the number of soldiers.

'Center of the Storm'

He criticizes Cheney and Rice by implying that they didn't effectively take action on Bremer's warnings that the United States lacked a postwar military strategy for victory and had become "the worst of all things -- an ineffective occupier." When Bremer briefed Rice and Hadley on the catastrophic security situation in Iraq, they "listened but made few comments" and Bremer walked away, "not sure if our analysis would have any effect in Washington."

In his book, "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet lays the blame for the rush to war, the flawed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, and other mistakes on Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice, Perle, Hadley, Wolfowitz and Feith.

Feith, who is now on the faculty of Georgetown University, has been slammed by several of his former colleagues, including Powell, who called Feith's Pentagon operation the "Gestapo" office, and Tenet, who called Feith's criticism of the CIA "complete crap." At a 2003 interagency meeting, at which Feith stood in for Rumsfeld, after he made his remarks, Rice snapped, "Thanks, Doug, but when we want the Israeli position we'll invite the ambassador."

Feith later responded to Tenet by taking aim at the CIA, saying that the agency's "assessments were incomplete, nonrigorous and shaped around the dubious assumption that secular Iraqi Baathists would be unwilling to cooperate with al Qaeda religious fanatics, even when they shared strategic interests."

The level of back-biting is not unusual for a war that has seen its share of mistakes and squandered opportunities, said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for ABC News. "It's always been that way -- no one takes the blame," he explained. "The buck stops here only when you've made the right decision."

The Blame Game

"Any time you have a military operation that hasn't gone well, especially in the context of vitriolic debate, you're going to have this back and forth," said Frederick W. Kagan, a military historian and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. But he adds that the pace of the memoirs and the back-biting has advanced exponentially during this war when compared with previous conflicts. "Usually this plays out over a longer period of time. This is a little bit odd. I don't think we've ever had a previous war in the midst of which the CIA director publishes a book about the beginning of the war."

Part of the reason lies with President Bush's refusal to blame his subordinates for their mistakes, said Kagan, who added that the president's loyalty is an admirable quality. "But it facilitates this blame game because he won't hold anyone responsible even when it's clear that the decision was not his. It allows them to say, 'It wasn't me' because it's not clear where [Bush] stands."

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