The if-Bush-were-a-CEO test

No board of directors would praise his incoherent management of Iraq war

I wrote the following article about a year after the invasion of Iraq. It was published in The Orange County Register on May 26, 2004. Although much has transpired since then—most notably, a re-election—much remains the same. Therefore, the principles this article speaks to are as applicable today as they were back when I wrote it.

No reputable organization would embark on a major project without taking some basic steps. First, there would be a clearly defined goal and the objectives that lead to accomplishing it. There would also be a project plan complete with a specific timeline. The plan would establish milestones that identify the completion of interim steps. Each milestone would have a projected date of completion, as well as a finish date for the project. The project would have objective metrics of success. Finally, the project would have unambiguous criteria defining completion and a strategy for ending the project.

What happens when an organization attempts a major project without taking these steps? The project goes way over budget and well beyond the deadline. The final product will be poor quality and will not meet the original objectives and goal for the project. Ultimately, the board of directors will likely terminate the chief executive officer for allowing an important project to go forward without a project management process.

What is the largest, most powerful, and most respected organization on the planet? The United States of America. What is the most important and risky project that organization can undertake? The hostile deposition of a head of state followed by the forced occupation of the country and the subsequent implementation of a new government—a project referred to as war. Let’s look at what happens when this organization undertakes a war project without a project management process.

Before the war, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq could finance its own war reconstruction from funds realized by selling its oil. Nonetheless, President Bush asked for $1.7-billion to support the resolution allowing him to depose Saddam Hussein for possession of vast stockpiles of WMDs. This was to be all that was required to finance the war. After the war started, the White House changed its story, saying the cost of the war would be $50-billion, but would not require sustained aid. Nonetheless, President Bush recently requested $87-billion more. Budget director Joshua Bolton claimed he would make no further requests for funding the war in 2004. Now President Bush is requesting another $25-billion, having made no progress restoring the peace in Iraq, if not actually being further behind.

Experts are now speculating that the U.S. will be in Iraq for years to come. The commander-in-chief and chief executive officer of the U.S. has no clear plan to win the peace in Iraq other than to “stay the course.” Nor has he presented an exit strategy from this war. He has not even established objective criteria that constitute having accomplished his mission in Iraq. In other words, the project is way over budget and well beyond the deadline. Continuing on this course, this chief executive’s board of directors—the voters that put him in office—will terminate him this November.

It’s not too late to apply project management principles in the war in Iraq. Fortunately, Bush’s request for another $25-billion is a perfect opportunity to apply pressure. Congress should refuse the president’s request until he first meets a number of conditions:

  1. He provides an unambiguous plan for winning the peace in Iraq.
  2. He provides milestones and objective metrics of success with each milestone.
  3. He provides an exit strategy from the war with a projected timeline for achieving it.
  4. He provides unambiguous criteria as to what constitutes the completion of the mission in Iraq.

Any responsible CEO of any major corporation would provide no less to his board of directors for any major project. Would President Bush have to make estimates and projections to meet these conditions? Of course he would, but that’s part and parcel of planning for the future. To meet these conditions, will the president have to create an environment where his performance would be much easier to assess than it is now? Of course, but isn’t that the least we should expect from the president of the greatest nation on this planet half a year before the next board of directors meeting?

Connecting the dots

Most Americans believe that the Bush administration thought military force against Iraq was necessary. However, it’s only because of the whitewash perpetrated on America by the Bush administration and its co-opted mainstream media. To find out the truth of the misuse and shaping of the intelligence on WMDs in Iraq requires research that few have done. No one source alone illuminates the grand deception: you need to connect quite a few dots.

The best place to start is by reading the Kent Papers on Intelligence Analysis. Written by Sherman Kent, the founding father of intelligence analysis and the preeminent expert at the CIA, they establish the practices that CIA analysts have applied for decades. To truly understand the manner in which the cover-up occurred, you must be familiar with the right way to perform intelligence analysis.

Although it’s complicit in the cover-up, the next source you need to read is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. Even though it’s a whitewash, it provides a lot of excellent information on the intelligence activities going on during the time in question. Considering the Senate report in juxtaposition to the Kent Papers, then applying critical thinking to the contrast, is where the enlightenment begins.

You see, the Senate report shows that the way intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs was analyzed was in direct contradiction to all the best practices the analysts were trained on. We learn in the Senate report that the CIA is steeped in an organizational culture that is not easily abandoned. So why would analysts suddenly throw out all the safeguards they applied in all intelligence they ever analyzed other than the intelligence on the threat Iraq posed?

It’s clear that the reason the analysts did so is because of the tried-and-true “carrot and stick” approach. The Bush administration created a shadow intelligence network that would tell the story about Saddam Hussein that Bush wanted told. Additionally, it pressured analysts in the traditional intelligence agencies. Intelligence officials have said that it’s unusual for a sitting Vice President to visit the CIA, yet Dick Cheny made numerous visits there in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. CIA officials said that the visits created an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments on Iraq fit with Bush Administration policy objectives. Subsequently, in spite of unprecedented professional failures, the analysts behind the faulty Iraq intelligence have since received numerous job performance awards.

Now your homework is almost done. The dots are leading to an inevitable conclusion: that Bush knew existing intelligence indicated Iraq was not a threat to the US. However, you need to also understand why Bush would want to invade Iraq to lay the foundation of his motive for deceiving the American people into fearing nonexistent WMDs. The final assignment is to read the policies established by the Project for the New American Century. You will find that the Project was already promulgating an invasion of Iraq long before George Bush was President.

Why is the Project relevant? Just look at who the signatories to the Project’s policies are. You will find that it includes all of the major players in Bush’s presidential administration. The policies were formed by Bush’s handlers and all of the most outspoken Neo-Cons: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Kristol, Woolsey, Abrams…and the list goes on and on.

Finally, you need to validate your findings. To do so, you need look no further than the recently exposed “Downing Street memo.” The memo documents a top-secret meeting gathered by British prime minister Tony Blair with top members of his administration eight months before the US invaded Iraq. Their discussions in that meeting included the following:

“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy…

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran…”

That’s it—you’ve connected all the dots. You now know more about the truth behind Bush’s justification to the Iraq War than most Americans. That should come as no surprise; you’ve now done more research on it that they have.