Perhaps the most morally shocking revelation in "The Assassins' Gate" is that the real reason the Bush administration did not plan for the aftermath of the war was that such planning might have prevented the war from taking place. One example of this was the administration's rejection of an offer of help from a coalition of heavyweight bipartisan policy groups. Leslie Gelb, president of the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations, had offered to assist the administration in its postwar planning: He proposed that his group and two other respected think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, prepare a study. "'This is just what we need," Rice said. 'We'll be too busy to do it ourselves.' But she didn't want the involvement of Heritage, which had been critical of the idea of an Iraq war. 'Do AEI instead.'"
Representatives of the think tanks duly met with National Security Council head Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley. "John Hamre of CSIS went in expecting to pitch the idea to Rice, but the meeting was odd from the start: Rice seemed attentive only to [AEI president Chris] DeMuth, and it was as if the White House was trying to sell something to the American Enterprise Institute rather than the other way around. When Gelb, on speakerphone from New York, began to describe his concept, DeMuth cut him off. 'Wait a minute. What's all this planning and thinking about postwar Iraq?' He turned to Rice. 'This is nation building, and you said you were against that. In the campaign you said it, the president has said it. Does he know you're doing this? Does Karl Rove know?' "
Without AEI, Rice couldn't sign on. Two weeks later, Hadley called Gelb to tell him what Gelb already knew: 'We're not going to go ahead with it.' Gelb later explained, 'They thought all those things would get in the way of going to war.'"
In effect, the far-right AEI was running the White House's Iraq policy -- and the AEI's war-at-all-costs imperatives drove the Pentagon, too. "'The senior leadership of the Pentagon was very worried about the realities of the postconflict phase being known,' a Defense official said, 'because if you are Feith or you are Wolfowitz, your primary concern is to achieve the war.'"
Those involved in this massive deception have not been punished in any way. The officials who lied to get their war will never pay any price for their deeds. But one could make a legitimate argument that their actions constitute one of the greatest betrayals of the nation in its history.
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