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Feith Regrets Not Pushing 'Law and Order' in Iraq

Apr 8, 2008 (Morning Edition)

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The U.S. government has been criticized for many aspects of its handling of the Iraq war. But an architect of the war says one of his biggest regrets is not convincing top Pentagon officials to pay attention to law and order immediately after the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

The Iraqi capital erupted in looting and fire, eventually growing into an insurgency.

These events seemed to surprise Pentagon officials, who had expected a short occupation. Yet Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and the author of a new book called War and Decision, insists that his office produced a memo warning of the danger.

"We specifically said it's extremely important that top priority be given to public safety, security, law and order, or you could get into a situation of win the war and lose the peace," Feith tells Steve Inskeep.

Feith says he regrets that he "didn't make more of that memo. Looking back, I think there were a lot of problems that flowed from the lack of law and order, the looting and the other disorder in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam."

Before the fall of Baghdad, Feith's office was planning for Iraq's future.

A noted writer on Iraq, George Packer, compares Feith's performance to a top disaster official during Hurricane Katrina.

"Douglas Feith was the Michael Brown of the Iraq war," Packer says. "The planning was such a fiasco. It was such a failure of imagination, of coordination, that within two weeks of the fall of Baghdad, I think we were already in a very deep hole from which we still haven't dug our way out five years later. And that can be directly attributed to the failures of planning that took place in Feith's office before the war."

Tuesday, in the second part of his interview with NPR, Feith discusses the planning for a new Iraqi government and the influential Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi.

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Options on Iraq (2001)

Months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a memo by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld weighed a variety of U.S. options regarding Iraq, including "a fairly significant U.S. strike" against Iraqi facilities and "initiating contact with Saddam Hussein."

'Parade of Horribles' (2002)

In 2002, Rumsfeld decided to give President Bush a list of possible calamities in the event of military action against Iraq. Douglas Feith soon began referring to the memo as the "Parade of Horribles."

First of a two-part interview

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