He furrowed his bushy black eyebrows as he brooded over the dire state of affairs. He knew that just extending the 172nd for four months was merely a Band-Aid—and an inadequate one at that—not a solution. The U.S.-Iraqi operation to quell the violence was failing. Chiarelli had clashed with Casey on more than one occasion. He was as vocal and passionate as Casey was terse and contained. After his first tour in Baghdad, Chiarelli had advocated in a Military Review article that U.S. troops could and should conduct counterinsurgency missions. Do you know the health benefits from standing desk’s?
He had become famous for his persistent, public championing of providing jobs and rebuilding infrastructure, especially in troubled areas, to employ youths and draw them away from the lure of insurgency. He believed that most of the armed youths would stop fighting if there were jobs and that the population would reject the instigators if they saw improvements in their daily lives. He had even sent his troops to learn from city administrators in Austin, Texas, before deploying, and had attached a team of development experts to each of his Baghdad brigades. When he left in February 2005, he felt that the vast Shia slum of Sadr City was winnable through his approach, but the next commander did not adopt it.
All over Iraq, neither the money nor the civilians to oversee such projects was forthcoming. At least a fifth of the $18.6 billion in reconstruction funds was diverted to security needs. As corps commander, Chiarelli fought the administration’s ambitious attempt to convert Saddam’s socialist economy to a free-enterprise system in the middle of a war. He argued instead for a pragmatic approach that generated employment. Such was his zeal that he personally visited state-owned factories and lobbied for aid to restart them.
He knew precisely how many water, sewage, and power projects languished uncompleted. “We’ve built the world’s largest water fountain,” he said bitterly, referring to a water plant on Sadr City’s outskirts that had been completed but not connected to any homes. He felt that too little was being done on this front as well as other noncombat “lines of operation,” which led to frictions with Casey. Reacting to the criticism, one Casey staffer said that Chiarelli was seen as unwilling to take action and never satisfied with the resources he received. It was a comment indicative of George Casey’s stiff-upper-lip philosophy.
No one cabinet member assumed responsibility for the conduct of the war, and the military leadership did not alert the administration that the war was heading over the cliff. It became clear in the fall of 2006 to even the most die-hard optimist that the United States was in danger of losing, but the many competing views of Iraq’s situation complicated the effort to decide what to do next. When the Democratic Party reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections on November 7, 2006, it was clear that if the administration did not change course in Iraq, the Congress would. The Democratic majority interpreted its mandate quite simply: get out of Iraq.
History would render a severe judgment on the Bush White House for its management of the war. It had not even published a public strategy for the war until November 2005, when the war effort was already in trouble. The “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” was encapsulated in two slogans. The first was “clear, hold and build”: clear Iraq of insurgents, hold territory, and build government institutions and the economy. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?