In his new memoirs, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton offers an interesting twist on why Iraq went so badly: He argues that Rumsfeld elbowed aside Gen. Richard Myers and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also intimidated and flattered Gen. Tommy R. Franks while working directly with him, and so basically went to war without getting the advice of his top military advisors.
The war plan that Rumsfeld and Franks went on to cook up, Shelton concludes, was "a fiasco." (479) (Hmm -- interesting choice of words.)
Shelton also writes that there was no reason to go war against Iraq. "The fact is that we had Iraq contained and they were not a threat." (419) Also, "There was absolutely no link between him [Saddam] and 9/11." (474) No big revelations, but I was glad to see this stated so flatly by a former high official.
His bottom line: "President Bush and his team got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies purporting that we had to protect American from Saddam's evil empire because it posed such a threat to our national security." (474-475)
Just in case you weren't paying attention, he elaborates on that charge later in the book. "Spinning the possible possession of WMDs as a threat to the United States in the way they did is, in my opinion, tantamount to intentionally deceiving the American people." (488)
These are pretty serious charges, given that they come from the man who was the nation's top military officer for four years immediately preceding 9/11.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.