Transcript

333:

The Center for Lessons Learned
Transcript

Originally aired 05.25.2007

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/333

Prologue.

Ira Glass

OK America, there's a phone number that you can call in Kansas, and when they pick up the phone, they say--.

Operator

Good afternoon, Center for Army Lessons Learned. May I help you?

Ira Glass

The Center for Army Lessons Learned. The first time you hear that name, it's hard to believe that it's real, and not one of those places like the Hogwarts School, that it would be so amazing to believe that it existed. But of course, it never could exist.

Colonel Steve Mains

I guess you would say we collect lessons learned.

Ira Glass

Colonel Steve Mains runs the center.

Colonel Steve Mains

Lessons that the units are learning in combat, lessons that are being learned in training, and also in experimentation. And we are kind of the connective tissue, then, to distill those lessons, and then get them out to the people that need them; to transfer knowledge faster than our enemy.

Ira Glass

It is a 200 person operation to do all this. And this is a pretty new thing for the Army. The center has only been around since the mid 1980s, and didn't really get cooking until the first Gulf War. One way they get their information, they embed researchers with units all over the world, including combat units in Iraq, for six months or a year at a time, to report from the field about the latest innovations-- what works, what doesn't work. And then, to get those lessons out, the center puts out reports and handbooks. There's this massive website for soldiers to download all this stuff. And if that weren't enough, there's a reference desk.

Colonel Steve Mains

This is a place where, if the soldier doesn't have the information, or the commander doesn't have the information, he can call my folks here and request the specific information that he needs. And then our guys will get it out to them, if they're deployed within 24 hours.

Craig Hayes

Right now, we're answering just about 500 warriors a month.

Ira Glass

Craig Hayes runs the desk that answers these requests for information, which are almost all over email. He's officially a civilian, a retired lieutenant colonel, and a veteran of the current war in Iraq. He is the very first person who's ever had a full time job answering these inquiries.

Craig Hayes

It's amazing what kind of questions the warriors will come up with. It could be current convoy operations, traffic control points. It could be how many spaces between letters on an official document. It could be the surge. So now we're getting more questions on what we got to do to deploy.

Ira Glass

What kind of insurgency tactics, training Iraqi police, getting Sunni and Shiite in your area to get along better. When it comes to a lot of these things, Colonel Mains says, the questions that the center gets pretty much amount to--.

Colonel Steve Mains

What's the latest? What's the state of the art? What has worked in the past, and what were the pitfalls?

Ira Glass

Colonel, what did we do in other wars?

Colonel Steve Mains

Well, it was a much more informal process. If you go back to World War II, Slam Marshall did a lot of studies, particularly in the Pacific, but there was a big delay. He went around, and he collected his information, and then he had to come back and compile it in a report. And then that report has got to be sent paper copy back out to the units that would need it.

Lane Rolf

I mean, this morning, I've already answered four or five questions already.

Ira Glass

This morning you've answered four or five questions already? What were those about?

Lane Rolf

What's causing vehicles to roll over, I guess, was one.

Ira Glass

That's Lane Rolf, who works the reference desk answering questions. He says that back when he was in Baghdad as military police, he was a company commander, he could have used some of the information that he now gives out every day in his job, like how to recognize improvised explosive devices, IEDs, something his unit had to learn on the fly. Though other questions he gets, he never would have needed help with.

Lane Rolf

A friend of mine-- I'll also do a lot of informal questions. A friend of mine's over their right now in a unit. There are some MWR questions that we can answer just to help soldiers stay current over there.

Ira Glass

What's MWR?

Lane Rolf

Morale, welfare, and recreation.

Ira Glass

What did your friend want to know?

Lane Rolf

He wanted to know how the Oklahoma Sooners did in the draft, and how the Big 12 is going to do this year in football. He wanted to know because he's out of touch.

Ira Glass

So that would be a morale question right there?

Lane Rolf

Yes.

Ira Glass

He remembers one email that he got from a military policeman, a young sergeant who was heading over to Iraq for the first time. He was worried because he had never had to lead a squad before. He wanted to know how to train them better so everybody would come back alive.

Lane Rolf

I called him right away, because we don't necessarily just have to respond by email. I said, hey Sergeant, there's a reason why you're a leader now. Don't doubt what you know, first of all. I need to know where you're going, and I can provide you with a whole bunch of information derived from last units coming back. And he said, holy cow sir, this is exactly what I need. This will help me sleep at night. I know that I'm going to help my guys. And that right there really touched my heart. And I had to go outside and have a cup of coffee. And like, you know what? This is exactly why I want this job. Every day I feel like I help another soldier. I fought to come over to get this job.

Ira Glass

You did?

Lane Rolf

There was a lot of other people fighting for this job.

Ira Glass

Talking to guys at the Center for Army Lessons Learned, it's hard not to feel kind of hopeful. It's the US Army at its best: smart, practical, can-do. And today on our show, during this war in Iraq that drags out for month after month, longer than our involvement in World War II, longer than the Civil War, we wanted to feel a little hopeful for a change, and talk about what's been learned, and try to understand why there's certain lessons that we're taking so long to learn. From Chicago Public Radio, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio international. I'm Ira Glass.

Our show today for this Memorial Day weekend, The Center For Lessons Learned. Our show in three acts, including Scott Carrier in Salt Lake City on lessons for civilians in this war. And Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, the author of Fiasco, in Baghdad, who says there's a whole different sensibility in the air in the Green Zone these days, where Americans seem to have learned some lessons. Stay with us.

Act One. Cassandra.

Ira Glass

Act one, Cassandra. Everybody knows that we occupied Germany after World War II, but you might not know that we occupied part of Germany after World War I. And two interesting things happened. One, it did not go so well. And two, the soldiers involved took very good notes. In fact, there's a four volume report on that occupation, hand typed, complete with typos, in which one Colonel Erwin L. Hunt summed up what happened this way: quote, "The American army of occupation lacked both the training and organization to guide the destinies of the nearly 1 million civilians, whom the fortunes of war had placed under its temporary sovereignty."

So when World War II happened, military planners did not want to botch another occupation in the same exact country, and they returned to this report to understand what went wrong. And the occupation after World War II went very differently, not only the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe, but there was an entire infrastructure of schools, and classes, and training devoted to getting Americans, American military, prepared to occupy and rebuild another country. Which is to say, we learned from our mistake. We figured out how to occupy and rebuild a country after a war. Well, Nancy Updike has this story about one man's quest to make America remember that particular lesson.

Nancy Updike

I want to read to you from page 42 of this booklet that came out in January of 2003. That's two months before we invaded Iraq. Here's what it says. "The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious. Thinking about the war now and the occupation later is not an acceptable solution. Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation, the United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow, of new problems of America's own making."

That paragraph is only one of this report's many predictions, observations, and warnings that have made a guy named Conrad Crane famous in certain circles as a man who should have been listened to. The report is called "Reconstructing Iraq." It was commissioned by the Army in the run-up to the Iraq War. They wanted a guide for what to do after the fighting ended, how to occupy, stabilize, and reconstruct a country, based on previous wars, and on Iraq's specific challenges. And the booklet ends with a detailed nine page chart listing what would need to get done, who should do it, everything from securing the borders, the banking system, the museums, to dealing with sewage and medical waste.

Crane co-wrote the booklet. He's a historian, a 26 year Army veteran, and director of the Army's archives at the US Army War College, the Military History Institute. And seven years ago, in 2000, before he became known for having written this booklet, Crane was just one more historian with pale hair, glasses, and a head full of ideas, and a problem that is not uncommon among idea people.

Conrad Crane

People would kind of treat me like a humorous eccentric, like a salesman for some commodity that they didn't really want.

Nancy Updike

The unwanted commodity that Crane was pushing was an idea he'd been trying to get the military to take seriously for years. It started like this. Crane had been studying the aftermath of US military involvements big and small, going back more than 100 years. Nation building in Germany and Japan, the toppling of Noriega in Panama, our long occupation of the Philippines, humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, even reconstruction efforts in the South after the Civil War. And what Crane found was that after major combat ends, there are always a whole bunch of unglamorous, bigger than expected, absolutely crucial tasks that the military is often the only one around to do; tasks that can mean the difference between stability and chaos. And Crane's idea was this: that the military needed to become much better prepared to take on everything that happens after major combat ends in a given war or conflict, the so-called--.

Conrad Crane

Messy aftermath. Post-conflict operations, the stability operations, reconstructions, occupations. The point was that the wars are won in the way that peace is established, really.

Nancy Updike

To say that now, wars are won or lost in the way that peace is established, is to state the obvious. We wouldn't still be in Iraq or Afghanistan if it weren't true. But before Iraq and Afghanistan, before 9/11, Crane's notion that the military should devote a lot more thought, money, and manpower to post-war planning was an idea that could not get traction. It was one small, unpopular corner of the never-ending debate about military strategy and doctrine.

After we invaded two countries and toppled two governments, suddenly rebuilding and stabilizing a postwar country became arguably the most urgent job, not just for our national security, but also for the security of large chunks of the rest of the world. But back in the fall of 2002, a half year before the invasion of Iraq, Crane and a Middle East expert named Andrew Terrill started cranking out that booklet I read from earlier, "Reconstructing Iraq." They did it in three months, working like crazy, and getting input from other civilian and military experts from the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Joint Forces Command, the Army.

Conrad Crane

We had a great sense of urgency. We wanted to get it out as fast as we could. We expected it was going to have a major impact. We knew the Army staff at the time was interested in it. We were sending stuff constantly to the planners in the theater. And we got some good input from the planners in the theater as well. It was only later, a few months we get in the middle of 2003 where we started to get a sense that, boy, I wish we'd been listened to more than we were.

Nancy Updike

Reading this booklet four years into the war, it feels like Crane and Terrill came from the future and traveled back in time to January, 2003 to try and warn us. Page 24, "Even under free elections, differences within Iraqi society may be further exacerbated." Page 34, "Unlike a variety of other dictatorships, many Iraqi citizens have access to firearms. These weapons can become a problem following the war." Page 32, "To tear apart the Iraqi army in the war's aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society. Breaking up large elements of the army also raises the possibility that demobilized soldiers could affiliate with ethnic or tribal militias."

Page 40, "If the United States assumes control of Iraq, it will assume control of a badly battered economy." Page 38, "After the first year, the possibility of a serious uprising may increase, should severe disillusionment set in, and Iraqis begin to draw parallels between US actions and historical examples of Western imperialism." Page 35, "Having entered into Iraq, the United States will find itself unable to leave rapidly, despite the many pressures to do so."

So if we had this booklet, why weren't we better prepared for what to do after President Bush declared--.

George W. Bush

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. [APPLAUSE]

Nancy Updike

Well, one thing that Crane found about previous wars is that the Pentagon, that is the military and its civilian leadership, has a sort of amnesia about these post-conflict stability operations. The military doesn't like to do them, so they often don't prepare to do them, or they underprepare. The Gulf War is a perfect example. We were so focused on winning the war, that we got surprised at the end of the war by how much there was to do in Kuwait. And believe it or not, there was a lot to do. According to the Army, tiny Kuwait ended up being the largest civil military reconstruction effort the US had undertaken since World War II.

But in the run-up to the war, Crane found, all those post-conflict tasks were treated, as one US commander put it, like quote, "a dripping bag of manure."

Conrad Crane

That's from John Yeosock, who commanded the 3rd Army in the first Gulf War. And he talked about his experiences going into his staff when they get ready to go on the operation, he asked questions about how are we taking care of prisoners of war? How are we taking care of refugees? And people hadn't kind of thought about that stuff. And he said, it was a dripping bag of manure that nobody wanted to handle. Because the assumption was somebody else was going to do this. The UN or--

Nancy Updike

This is somebody else's bag of manure?

Conrad Crane

That's right. The UN's going to take care of this, or the Iraqis themselves are. Or the Red Cross will do it. But he said, no, we've got to be prepared to do this.

John Yeosock

I'm John Yeosock. I commanded the US, UK, and French Army ground forces during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I've been retired now for a dozen years. And probably my worst feelings about that whole war is that so many things went so well, so quickly. Because no one was left with an understanding of really what it takes to get it done.

Nancy Updike

Getting it done for Lieutenant General Yeosock did not just mean coordinating battles. No, after this short, seemingly easy war was officially over, Kuwait was in shambles. The Kuwaiti government and a lot of its workforce had fled. Iraq had been occupying the country for months. There were landmines to clear, a port to dredge, oil wells on fire, and a lot of just plain destruction of buildings and infrastructure, plus tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees and prisoners of war. Not to mention all the things we're now familiar with, because they didn't get done in the Iraq War: getting electricity and water back to normal, policing the streets, a thousand issues.

John Yeosock

Made my head hurt always, because I could not think of everything. You live your whole life learning how to dominate an enemy, and all that kind of stuff. Who likes to be in charge of ensuring that diapers are available for these displaced civilians? But as a human being, you understand that, well by golly, you just do it.

Nancy Updike

Of course, civilian agencies do a lot of this postwar work too. But sometimes it's not safe for large numbers of civilians to come in, even after major combat is over. Remember the UN compound getting bombed in Iraq? The military is used to operating in the midst of chaos, so they end up handling a lot of nonmilitary tasks when major combat ends, whether they prepare for them or not. After the first Gulf War, which we won in 100 hours on the ground, the Department of Defense spent a year rebuilding Kuwait.

John Yeosock

Desert Storm was such an overwhelming success, in terms of measures like time, casualties, et cetera, that because so many of these things went so smoothly, I think just too many people didn't understand that things like this had to be done. It was probably one of the worst lessons we took away.

Conrad Crane

It looks so easy on the surface.

Nancy Updike

Here's Crane again, talking about the first Gulf War.

Conrad Crane

The stuff that happened afterwards just was not-- didn't get any notice. And it wasn't studied and it should have been.

Nancy Updike

There's a military saying that defeat is an army's best teacher. An unspoken corollary is that success is often not the best teacher. And because the aftermath of the first Gulf War wasn't studied and absorbed, the lesson that many in the military and civilian leadership took away from that war is that if we wanted to, we could do a better kind of war, quick and decisive. That's what the current war in Iraq was supposed to be, as was Afghanistan. It was part of the revolution former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was pushing in the Pentagon: fewer soldiers, more high tech gear, no nation building.

It seems crazy to think about this now, but after Baghdad fell, the plan was to get most of our troops out of Iraq by the end of 2003. Crane is one of dozens of people inside and outside the military who tried to push for more troops for Iraq, not because we'd need them to win the war, but because we wouldn't be able to stabilize the country without them.

So whatever happened to Crane and Terrill's booklet, the one that foresaw a lot of the problems we've had in Iraq, and offered a plan for how to prevent them?

Conrad Crane

We got our study out in the end of January. And one of the ironies of it is almost exactly the time we finished the study, is the time that the-- the main reason we had done the study kind of disappeared.

Nancy Updike

On January 20, 2003, two months before the invasion, the White House decided to switch gears. The Army would not take charge of the occupation after the war. Instead, that would be done by a newly formed civilian body, what would later become the Coalition Provisional Authority. And with that announcement, Crane and Terrill's booklet, months of work, was dropped from the planning process for the war. And they weren't the only ones. In the months leading up to the invasion, other detailed plans and warnings about the coming occupation were also being ignored or shut out, including efforts by the State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the Marine Corps, the National Defense University, the Rand Corporation, the Council on Foreign Relations.

One of the tragedies of Iraq is that so many people did try to plan for the post-major combat phase. But the civilian leadership at the Pentagon resisted suggestions that the occupation might be long and complicated and require nation building. So almost none of that planning, not Crane and Terrill's, not any of the others, was put into action when it might have mattered.

Conrad Crane

Anything we've worked on, the main payback is going to be that it's going to be valuable to people in the field, and we're going to save lives. And I think we really felt that about the study, that's this was something that people in important places are going to be able to make real use of this.

Nancy Updike

Instead of seeing people in important places make use of his research, Crane had the opposite experience. He had to watch while one thing after another that he and Terrill had hoped to prevent came to pass. I kept asking him, didn't that drive you crazy? But he wouldn't take the bait. He's a former soldier and historian, not much given to public acts of gloating or hand wringing. The one time he did show real frustration, in the form of a sharp sigh, was when I asked him about the moment in 2003 when he'd heard the Iraqi army had been disbanded, something he and Terrill had strongly warned against in the booklet, saying that sending home men with guns was a bad idea, that they might turn the guns on us. So here comes that sigh.

Conrad Crane

I had [SIGH]-- I was actually in communication by email with a couple of colonels who were working on how to kind of reform the Iraqi army. And I got to admit that I was really surprised, as were these colonels, shocked is probably too mild a term. Basically, I read it in the newspaper like everybody else. I was here at the War College, just reading the paper, and boom, there it was. And many people have pointed to that as maybe the greatest single mistake in our post-major combat operations actions. But we just had no inroads into the decision making process. You look at it with disappointment. You wish it'd gone different. And you hope that it was the right decision.

Nancy Updike

You hope to be wrong?

Conrad Crane

The way I explain to people when they say, well gee, how come they didn't listen to you? There are a lot of competing truths out there. I understand why very high level decision makers went the route they did, based on other truths. We have a very pessimistic view of Iraq, which in the end, I think turned out to be the right one. But we're just a bunch of observers at the Army War College. We did not have the prestige some of the other agencies had that were producing much more rosy scenarios of what was going to happen. But we did all we could do. We did more than we could do, if you look at some of the back channel routes we took to send this thing around.

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

I read the report all in one sitting, and I was preparing to come over to Iraq. In fact, I was frustrated in my inability to get over here sooner.

Nancy Updike

Colonel H.R. McMaster was one of the people Crane gave the booklet to on his own initiative, through back channels. He got it to him in April, 2003, one month into the war. McMaster went on to pull off one of the astounding feats of the war. He figured out a strategy in a place called Tal Afar to do what we've been finding mostly impossible elsewhere in Iraq: defeating a fierce insurgency. I called him in Baghdad.

Nancy Updike

Doctor Crane said that you told him you handed out the booklet when you got to Iraq. You handed out his booklet like Hari Krishna literature. Is that true?

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

Yes, it is true. Well, I had an in with Conrad Crane, so I asked him to send me a box of them, essentially, and loaded up every spare space in my luggage with the published monograph.

Nancy Updike

About how many?

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

Gosh, I think about 50.

Nancy Updike

50?

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

Right. And then Doctor Crane sent me some more also, once I had a mailing address where I was based in [? Gutter ?] at the time.

Nancy Updike

I don't even know the highest ranking person who read this. I mean, without naming any names, how high up were you able to get this booklet?

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

I probably can't-- it probably just wouldn't be appropriate for me to answer that.

Nancy Updike

Right. As things were unfolding, and you had this booklet, this information on your mind, did you wish that more people had read it?

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

Gosh, I probably shouldn't comment on that one too much either.

Nancy Updike

These days, McMaster splits his time between a London think tank and Iraq, where he's part of the team assembled by the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to redesign US strategy in the country. But when McMaster first arrived in Baghdad, Crane and Terrill's booklet helped him grasp the scope of what he was facing. And then, like Crane had done, he went on a history binge.

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

A scholar at West Point went to the library at Columbia University, and pulled out a lot of books that were published by the British in the 1920s, photocopied the pages, scanned them in, and sent them to us on email.

Nancy Updike

The pages had a breakdown of the tribes in the area where he and his soldiers were fighting. He also brought in an officer with a degree in Middle East history to serve with his regiment for two months. He reached out to other scholars, talked to Iraqis, all of which seems smart and straightforward. Why not look back and learn? The way McMaster and Crane saw it, we were facing tasks in Iraq we had faced before: counterinsurgency, stabilization and reconstruction. We knew how to do these things. But until well into the Iraq war, looking back was out of fashion among the people running the Pentagon. All through the 1990s and right up through 2003, the Defense Department was so focused on propelling itself into the future, that in the process, lessons from the past got ignored, and some tried and true, old school, boots on the ground soldiering just got eliminated.

Colonel H.r. Mcmaster

We wrote out of our doctrine in the 1990s reconnaissance, finding out about the enemy, discovering the intentions of the enemy through questioning the population, through forcing the enemy to react with a reconnaissance force that could also fight for information. We also wrote out security operations, because we decided that we're not going to be surprised anymore. And this was a time where many people were sort of filled with a hubris about American technological superiority.

Conrad Crane

There are two faith based arguments out there.

Nancy Updike

Here's Crane again.

Conrad Crane

The one is that, I guess you'd call it the historians who say that nothing is new. Everything is based in the past, and if you understand the past, then you're prepared for the future. Then there's the, I guess you'd call them the technocrats, who say no, no, no, technology has changed everything. It's all brand new. The past is irrelevant. And it's always been a problem for any generals trying to predict what the future's going to be like, how much is new and how much is old? Nobody ever gets it right. Sir Michael Howard, the famous British military historian, he says nobody ever gets it right. The question is, how can you make sure that you're not so wrong that you can't make up for your mistakes?

Nancy Updike

You were saying before that in all of the competing truths and reports that were circulating before the war started, that you guys somehow didn't have as much muscle or prestige as other reports or truths that were circulating. Do you feel like the fact that you were so prescient in this report, do you feel like you have a little more muscle now? That people will listen to you?

Conrad Crane

I get invited a lot more conferences, to give a lot more presentations.

Nancy Updike

That sounds like a punishment.

Conrad Crane

Not really. Andy Terrill was one of the people working with the Iraq Study Group. I've been asked to do a lot of work with people on developing scenarios, stability ops. Got drawn into the development of counterinsurgency doctrine for the Army and the Marine Corps. Everybody is thinking about this stuff now. It's very encouraging. But the question I get every time I do a presentation on counterinsurgency, and this new impetus on irregular warfare, and all these things we've talked about is, after Iraq, will we still be interested in it? Or is there are going to be this reaction again, like post-Vietnam, where we're all going to try to pull back in our shell?

Nancy Updike

What do you think?

Conrad Crane

I think that the best answer to that was one that was given by David Kilcullen.

Nancy Updike

He's a counterinsurgency expert who's now advising Petraeus.

Conrad Crane

That's the one. And he said basically, you know, our enemies are going to make us fight these kind of wars until we get them right. And that's the future we face; these very messy wars that play to our weaknesses, not to our strengths. I don't think we're going to be able to pull back and ignore these kind of things.

Ira Glass

That story from Nancy Updike, one of the producers of our show. Coming up, the sober discussion ends and the yelling begins. That's in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

Second Half Prologue.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our show, of course, we choose a theme, bring you a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's program for this Memorial Day weekend, The Center For Lessons Learned. We have stories from Iraq, what we've learned, what we did not learn in time. We began our show today talking to people at the Army's Center for Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. And the men at the reference desk there say that their most popular item these days is this 79 page booklet called "A Soldiers' Handbook: The First 100 Days." Colonel Steven Maines, who runs the center, says the whole reason for this booklet comes out of something that they found in the research.

Colonel Steve Mains

We did some statistical analysis, and showed that the first 100 days is really the most dangerous part of a deployment. Most of the casualties happen in the first 100 days. So based on that, we said let's transfer that information. Things that the guy knows at day 250, let's transfer that information to the soldier before he deploys.

Ira Glass

So to figure this out, they surveyed soldiers who were in Iraq. How did they survive? What were the factors that led to their comrades getting killed? And then they put together this handbook. I have one here. One of the biggest things that got people killed in the first 100 days, soldiers told the center, was just complacency; not properly preparing for patrols, losing focus. Going on patrols at the same time every day, or along the same route, or with the same stops, so the enemy would be able to pick up a routine.

This book reviews all kinds of practical things like what to do if you're ambushed, how to deal with a sniper. There are procedures that were invented in Iraq on what to do if a bomb stops you in the road. They have names like the five to five drill. Here's the five Cs. In fact, fully half of this booklet is about IEDs, improvised explosive devices, with page after page here of different kinds of IEDs. And then they have these photos of detonators, the detonators which include the most mundane, household stuff, like for example, the little push button thing on your key chain that unlocks your car door. Milt Hileman is a senior military analyst. He was the lead analyst for the information in this booklet.

Milt Hileman

One of the things overall that the handbook's trying to impress upon soldiers is this is a very sophisticated enemy, very intent on killing you and killing your buddies. He's a smart guy. He watches what we do. He learns from us, and we got to be just as smart about looking at what he does and learning from what he does.

Ira Glass

Down on page seven, there's a list of be alert for--.

Milt Hileman

Mm-hmm.

Ira Glass

I should say to our audience that we've agreed to let you vet which of this material we're going to put over the radio.

Milt Hileman

Yeah.

Ira Glass

One of the things that shows up a couple of times in the book that you tell people to be alert for is people videotaping ordinary activities.

Milt Hileman

Correct.

Ira Glass

Explain that one. Why is that one in there?

Milt Hileman

Information operation is a big tool of the insurgency. And they videotape their successful attacks as a way of propaganda and recruiting. So it takes a cameraman in the right place to observe what's going on.

Ira Glass

There's another section in here. If you'd be willing, I'd like to ask you just to read. Go to page 45. These are tips on how to face the injured and dead. Can I just ask you to just read it?

Milt Hileman

Let me just read one paragraph here. "You may be struck with combinations of pity, horror, repulsion, and anger at the senselessness or the malice of an event. You may feel guilty for failing to prevent it, or surviving it. These reactions are all normal, part of being human. You may blame yourself or the USA. It hurts. Keep in mind that these feelings are honorable and confirm your humanity. At times, however, you may feel emotionally numb. Whatever you feel, remember that the mission must continue."

Ira Glass

And then there's a series of tips. You have 17 tips here that you say can help you do the mission and live with the memories without being haunted by them. And they include very practical things like number eight, keep humor alive, even graveyard humor, with buddies who understand it.

Milt Hileman

Right.

Ira Glass

But don't get too gross or too personal.

Milt Hileman

Right.

Ira Glass

Number 16, don't be disheartened by horrible dreams, feeling tense or intrusive memories. These are normal. And it's better to have them now than to suppress them. Don't keep them hidden. Share them with your buddies.

Milt Hileman

Right. We're trying to give the soldiers the tools to say hey, I'm OK. These are natural feelings. Get it off my chest, and then I can focus on the mission the next day.

Ira Glass

Milt Hileman. So if all of that is what the military is thinking about when it comes to this war, what do we civilians mostly think about? Well, we have one answer anyway now, in act two of our show, on the civilian perspective. Act two, Am Not. Are Too. Am Not. Are Too. The journalist George Packer, who reports from Iraq and who wrote the book Assassin's Gate said in an interview recently, when he was back in the United States, that while Iraqis tend to get stuck arguing and refighting old historical battles, there is an American version of that too, where we seem condemned to keep reliving the debates from before the Iraq War over whether to go to war, because they never really happened the right way the first time, out in the open, in the sunlight, which I think is true.

In Salt Lake City, they recently reargued that argument over the war. It was a good place for it, actually, because Salt Lake City is like the Austin, Texas of Utah, the one liberal city in the state. But because the conservatives are more conservative in Utah, it seems like the liberals are more fiercely liberal. And each of those sides brought a champion, so it was kind of like a superfight of the two sides.

On the left, you had the liberal mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, who's traveled around the country calling for President Bush's impeachment. And on the right, one of the icons of conservative talk radio-- and TV for that matter-- Mr. Sean Hannity. One of our regular contributors, Scott Carrier, lives in Salt Lake. And he was there too, sitting way in the back on the lower level.

Scott Carrier

It was in the air, walking into the theater. Truth be told, we don't like each other very much, us and them. We can be surprisingly civil in the grocery store, or even on the road. But inside the theater, our contempt for each other was naked and exposed. Both sides had come for blood.

Announcer

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, we would like to welcome you to our campus.

Scott Carrier

The place was sold out and the seating was mixed, so Hannity supporters were sitting shoulder to shoulder with Rocky supporters, and everyone was checking out their surroundings, trying to read hairstyles and body posture. Who is us, and who is them?

Announcer 1

And now, the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, Mr. Rocky Anderson. [CHEERS AND BOOS]

Scott Carrier

Suddenly, it was like, at last, it's on. There was a half minute of cheering, followed by a half minute of booing, and nothing had happened yet. [CHANTING - "ROCKY, ROCKY"]

Announcer 1

All right, there will be a time for that.

Announcer 2

It is now my great privilege, please join us in welcoming national television and radio host, Mr. Sean Hannity. [CHEERS AND BOOS]

Scott Carrier

I looked around at all the Hannity people and started to count. So on my right, there were two married couples, mid-30's, maybe friends who had left their kids with the same babysitter, clapping and cheering for Hannity. And behind, to my left, were five lesbians, like a rugby team, shouting, Rocky, Rocky. It seemed the two sides were about even, and that everyone had gone equally crazy. Rocky went first. He had 30 minutes to lay out his argument.

Rocky Anderson

We are in the midst of a tragic, disastrous, illegal war of aggression, into which this nation was led by a disastrous presidency.

Scott Carrier

Rocky's a civil litigator by training and profession, so his strategy was, present the evidence. And he had a lot of it. He showed quotes from intelligence reports, and played video of speeches all up on the big screen with a PowerPoint presentation, like President Bush from 2002, speaking about Iraq.

George W. Bush

It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today-- and we do-- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger, and develops even more dangerous weapons?

Scott Carrier

Here's Rocky.

Rocky Anderson

We were deceived. President Bush had no basis whatsoever for making those categorical statements. Because the Bush administration was not acting in self defense. The tragic invasion and occupation of Iraq has been utterly illegal. It constitutes a crime against peace, the same crime for which people were convicted at the Nuremberg Trial. Those costs of the war to the Iraqi people have been massive and tragic. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq has no doubt been the best terrorist recruiting tool Bin Laden could ever have hoped for. [APPLAUSE] Given the scale, frequency, and moral depravity of these outrages, President Bush must be held to account through impeachment and removal from office. If we do not call for accountability, we are complicit. [APPLAUSE]

Scott Carrier

Let me explain something. Utah is about 2/3 Mormon, except for right here in the city of their most holy temple, where they're actually in the minority. Rocky was born into a prominent Mormon family, but as a teenager, he crossed over and began to fight what he called the culture of obedience-- people blindly following authority. And this is why we elected him as our mayor. It's also the reason we, or at least a lot of us, are so proud of him now. And it's why the rest of the state pretty much hates him.

After Rocky, Hannity had his 30 minutes.

Sean Hannity

We've got a lot of ground to cover. I want to thank the mayor for being here, taking time, especially out of his busy protesting schedule. I know he's been going around the country on his I hate George Bush tour, it's nice to see him back in Salt Lake City a few days. I wonder how much the people of Salt Lake City paid for that little PowerPoint presentation from the 1980s.

Scott Carrier

Hannity didn't talk about the things Rocky had said, whether we were lied to or misled by the President, or whether the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act. Instead, he attacked.

Sean Hannity

Did you, in all this talk about impeaching the president, all the platitudes, did you hear any solutions on how we're going to win the war on terror against people that want to destroy our cities? Did you hear anything about how to help our president win a war after one of the worst attacks in American history? Did you hear any praise for these brave men and women that, as we speak tonight, are in harm's way? Did you hear any talk about any success, how our troops are responsible for liberating 50 million people between Afghanistan and Iraq, women and children and men and women?

[APPLAUSE]

Did you hear any discussion about how we closed rape rooms, and torture chambers, and mass graves tonight? Or did you hear the same, old, predictable I hate George Bush? George lied, George lied, George lied. It is the same thing.

Scott Carrier

Hannity's main point, and he said it over and over, was that there was nothing wrong with President Bush wanting to go to war with Iraq. Lots of Democrats wanted it too. He had video to prove it, of John Kerry, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton

Intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaida members.

[APPLAUSE]

Sean Hannity

And I will say this, if Rocky Anderson will not be equally intellectually honest and open and criticize the very same people that made the very same arguments, it's not George Bush who should be impeached or removed from office, it's your mayor. Thank you for hearing me out.

[CHEERS AND BOOS]

Scott Carrier

After the 30-minute opening statements, the next round was a question and answer period. Rocky got to ask the first question.

Ken Verdoya

We're to start the clock right now. Mayor Anderson questioning Mr. Hannity.

Rocky Anderson

We rely upon governmental leaders for our protection, billions of tax dollars--

Scott Carrier

But instead of asking a question, Rocky made a three minute background statement. And this upset even some of his supporters. Finally, Hannity stepped in.

Sean Hannity

What's the question, mayor? Do you have a question?

Rocky Anderson

I know you don't want to know what's in the rest this memorandum, but this memorandum that laid out--

Scott Carrier

Then the moderator jumped in, Ken Verdoya from the local public television station.

Ken Verdoya

Ladies and gentlemen, everyone including Mayor Anderson, this is, by your agreed format, a question and answer period. [APPLAUSE] And so, I've got to call for the question.

Rocky Anderson

So, this memorandum, this brief was given to the President. Mr. Hannity--

Scott Carrier

Rocky wasted a lot of time and energy throwing punches in the air, while Hannity walked the stage, gesturing to the crowd.

Sean Hannity

In all of my research of you, all my research of you Mr. Mayor, you focus on one person: George Bush. I have never heard on the issues of weapons of mass destruction. You have never, in any press I've seen, asked for John Kerry to resign, Hillary Clinton to resign. You admire Joe Biden, you've said in interviews. You've said you admire the former Klansman Robert Byrd. Why won't you, and here's my question, why won't you show intellectual honesty? And if you're going to demand that George Bush be removed from office, what about some of your democratic friends who made the same arguments?

[APPLAUSE]

Rocky Anderson

OK, do I get a chance to respond? I, as everybody here probably knows, you say you've read my speeches, but apparently you haven't gotten through to the end. I think that our Congress is absolutely complicit. Those who voted for this resolution were wrong. But let me tell you--.

Scott Carrier

Too much. It got ugly. Verdoya, the moderator, tried to keep things in line, but there wasn't much he could do.

Ken Verdoya

Opportunity for the question, Mayor.

Sean Hannity

He just said something. I want to respond to that. I want to respond.

Ken Verdoya

I will let you do that, because I can't stop anybody else. I would throw this watch away, but it was a gift from my wife. [LAUGHTER]

Sean Hannity

I've researched you. I know you are out of town, what 74 days out of the year last year. I know that you have-- [BOOS] Hang on.

Rocky Anderson

You know, I knew you would do this.

Sean Hannity

Can I finish?

Rocky Anderson

This is classic--.

Ken Verdoya

All right, all right. Gentlemen, OK, right now, we're going to freeze. I want to take a break. I do not want this to go any more personal. I want you to ask a damn question about Iraq, and I want you to answer it. Get to the point, ask the question, find the bottom line, put it out there, and then you respond.

Rocky Anderson

When I asking that question, he divides everybody, liberals, conservatives.

Ken Verdoya

Now, the question please, Mr. Mayor.

Rocky Anderson

The question is, let me give the background.

Scott Carrier

When it was over, I walked home feeling tired, asking myself, what just happened? There was no knockout, no clear decision. Everybody came out thinking their guy had won. Nobody had changed their minds. And then I remembered there were two moments in the debate when everybody felt the same way, like what happens sometimes in a concert or a play. The audience becomes one emotion. It happened the first time when Rocky showed photos of dead Iraqi civilians, including bloody bodies of Iraqi children.

Initially, the audience cried foul. You're hitting below the belt. But as the images continued, the room became quiet. Photos of dead children, time stopped, thinking stopped. All that was left was the feeling, this can't go on. We have to stop doing this. It was like mass nausea.

Then the screen showed a government document, and everyone snapped out of it. It went by so quickly, but then it happened again, when Hannity showed documentary footage of dead Kurds, victims of Saddam's nerve gas bombings. Whole families lying dead in the street, little kids, dead children. The room became like a quiet lake. And I thought, this is it. The solution lies here. Forget all the political arguments, and just sit by this lake and try to figure out its name. The moon was nearly full. The city was going to sleep. Train horns spread out across the valley floor, and rolled up the sides of the foothills. We don't like each other very much, us and them. But we have this lake between us.

Ira Glass

Scott Carrier in Salt Lake City. He's the author of Running After Antelope, and a producer with hearingvoices.com.

[MUSIC - "NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME" BY RICKIE LEE JONES]

Act Two. Am Not. Are Too. Am Not. Are Too.

Ira Glass

Act three, The Lessons of Tomorrow, Today. Earlier in our radio show, we were talking about how lately, Congress has been debating withdrawing from Iraq, and timelines for withdrawal, and benchmarks for withdrawal. And we all just felt like, what happened? It's like suddenly people have staked out positions for and against withdrawing from Iraq, and they're all shouting at each other, and there is this momentum toward withdrawal. And the only question seems to be how soon. Is it going to be super soon or is it only going to be somewhat soon? And it's like the US skipped the part where everybody looks seriously at whether withdrawal is a good idea in the first place, or what would happen in Iraq if we would withdraw.

You know what it's like? It's like we got into the war in Iraq without much of a national debate about realistically what's this war going to mean? What's it going to mean to be in Iraq? And now people are talking about withdrawing, without much serious discussion at all about realistically what it will mean to leave, or why we're leaving. So to get some perspective on all these questions about Iraq that are not being talked about so much, we called Thomas Ricks, a Washington Post reporter, author of the book Fiasco, about the invasion and the early years of the war. I reached him in Baghdad.

Ira Glass

Right now here in the States, I feel like we hear two opposite things that will happen if the US leaves. And one is that if we leave, it's going to be terrible and it will be a bloodbath. And then the other thing we hear is that if we withdraw, it will help make things better. That we are part of the problem. That we are preventing the Iraqis from sitting down and working this thing out themselves. Those are two radically different versions of what the future would be. Can I ask you to talk about how do we even think about that? How should we even think about this question?

Thomas Ricks

I think it's a good question. I would add a corollary to it though, which is the debate also presumes that it's a binary situation. Either we get out or we stay big and heavy like we are now. You might be able to get yourself to a situation where you stay in a much smaller way, not as an occupying force, which is what we are really now, but as a small security guarantee for all parties. And that might be one aspect of the discussion of withdrawal, is there's different ways to withdraw. There is a responsible way, perhaps.

Ira Glass

What should we be thinking about in thinking about that?

Thomas Ricks

Well, you certainly would be playing a different role. You no longer would be an intervener in the daily life of Iraqis. What would your role be? You probably would have a few thousand American troops training and advising this Iraqi army we created. You probably would have a few more thousand American troops to be available to bail out that Iraqi army, if it got in a big difficult fight, or to rescue the American advisers if they were somehow beleaguered.

You'd also want a few thousand troops in Baghdad as a security guarantor for the Iraqi government you created. All that probably adds up to somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 US troops. And the only thing is, this was actually the recommendation made at the Pentagon last fall by a group of smart colonels, who were convened to consider the future strategy for Iraq. They summarized it as three options: go big, go long, go home.

Ira Glass

Go long, meaning have a smaller force, but stay for a longer period of time?

Thomas Ricks

Exactly. Find a way to get smaller and stay longer.

Ira Glass

Let me ask you something very basic, and that is it seems that the only reason to do a kind of mass pullout from our presence in Iraq is if it turns out we are doing not much good for anybody at all. How do we tell when we've gotten to that point?

Thomas Ricks

I think actually the break-point for something like that would probably come out of the American political system. The scenarios you hear here in Iraq from people are things like this: what happens if an Iraqi army unit turns on an American unit and slaughters it? Would the American political system, at that point, simply get us out of there? We don't need this. Or if it becomes very clear that there is a full-blown civil war going on in this country, not just the low level chronic civil war you have now.

Ira Glass

I have to tell you, it's hard to understand how that version of the civil war would look so terribly different from this version of the civil war from here.

Thomas Ricks

It would look and feel very different here in Iraq, I think. This is not a normal country right now, by any means. You've had kind of a soft ethnic cleansing going on, but you haven't had the forced movements of hundreds of thousands of people under fire like you had in Bosnia, for example. It would look very different, I think.

Ira Glass

So in thinking about different ways to leave, what should we be thinking about in thinking about that?

Thomas Ricks

Leaving is problematic. It is actually not-- the most difficult of all military movements is retreat under fire. And leaving would probably would be that. Basically, you have 40% of the US Army's equipment, and 40% of the US Marine Corps' equipment in this country. Literally tens of thousands of Humvees, of trucks, of tanks, and Bradley fighting vehicles, and Stryker fighting vehicles, and all this sort of gear of war, of a high tech war of generators and computers. It would take a long time to get all the Americans out of the country and all the American equipment.

So you'd have the prospect of long American convoys, thousands of vehicles trailed, or interspersed among them, with thousands of Iraqi refugees. Month upon month of convoys heading from here to Kuwait. It would be daily televised images for months, perhaps also of those convoys being bombed or shot at.

Ira Glass

Do you think somehow it's connected, the fact that we didn't debate so well how to get into the war, and the fact that we're not debating so well what to do at this stage, and how to withdraw or end or adjust to what to do next in the war?

Thomas Ricks

I think because we didn't have the debate going in, because we didn't have congressional oversight, hearings on things like what our strategy was, what the training program for Iraqis was, how many American troops were involved, how much did it cost, was it effective? The basic questions were never asked about this war. It was only last fall, after the Iraq War had gone on longer than American participation in World War II, that Congress kind of began to awake from its slumbers and ask some of the basic questions. But there's an awful lot of lost time there, and Congress still hasn't held a lot of the basic hearings about this war, how it operates. And I think that's one reason the debate seems both so rudimentary, so lacking in information, and so unable to move forward and consider alternatives, and third ways, and consequences.

Ira Glass

Right. It's a debate that's built on slogans.

Thomas Ricks

Yeah.

Ira Glass

And one of the things that is not happening here in the States is people talking about, well, what is our moral obligation to this country that we invaded? Don't we have an obligation to just stay until something gets fixed, until we fix something? Does that idea come up among the soldiers you talk to? Do they talk about our obligation to the Iraqi people?

Thomas Ricks

Not with the front-line grunt. Yeah, in the cool confines of the military planners, yeah, you do have those conversations. And that might be why you see a movement to a different sort of American presence. I've got to tell you, the American military approach here now feels very different to me than it did in 2003, 2004, 2005.

Back then, the American military was very focused on killing or capturing the enemy, and treated the Iraqi people basically as the playing field on which the game was played. And there wasn't a lot of looking out for the interest, I think, of the Iraqi people, of saying the paramount thing is to protect the Iraqi population.

Now they are clearly being told by the American generals here, the troops are being told, your number one priority is protecting the Iraqis. Listen to the Iraqis. Respect the Iraqis. Honor the Iraqis. That's a very different message going out to our troops. And putting US forces out in these small combat outposts does increase the risk to US troops, and you're seeing that with the numbers of troops, the 6, 12, 15 a day you're seeing die right now. You are taking more risk. We're seeing more American troops die in the service of protecting the Iraqi population. So it is possible to change the nature of the American presence.

It was really striking to me. I was down in the Green Zone today, where the American headquarters is in Baghdad. And I thought man, I used to hate coming into the Green Zone. And the reason I hated it is because it had such an air of unreality to it. It gave me a headache. I would rather be out on the hot, nasty streets of Baghdad than inside the air conditioned hallways of the palace there. Because it was just so wildly irrelevant to what was happening outside the walls of the Green Zone in the real Iraq.

I remember getting a little bit surly with an American general about 14 months ago here, it was February '06. And I said, you have no idea what it's like on the streets of Baghdad, do you? Because it was really a pure Hobbesian state at that point. And he said, no, no, it's actually pretty good out there. I said, put on civilian clothes, and see if you can walk one mile anywhere in Baghdad alone. And I said, I guarantee you, you won't. By the end of that mile, you're going to be dead or kidnapped. And he said, I don't believe you. And I thought, these guys are just totally out of touch.

It struck me today, being here in the Green Zone, what the assessments are to the situation, this is the first time I've really heard American officials talk about this in a way that the average Iraqi man on the street could understand and say, yeah, that's right. That's pretty much what's happening here. But it was very sober, very understanding of how many mistakes we've made, how much this has been screwed up by the US government, and what a deep hole they're in. I found the sobriety and the edge of pessimism refreshing.

Ira Glass

I have to say, that sounds actually sort of hopeful.

Thomas Ricks

Hopeful in the bizarre sense that it's a different crew in here now. The problem is, and the huge question is, is it simply too little, too late?

Ira Glass

Thomas Ricks in Baghdad. A new paperback edition of his book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq comes out in July, with a new afterword discussing some of these questions about what now.

Act Three. The Lessons Of Tomorrow, Today.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Nancy Updaike and myself, with Alex Blumberg, Jane Feltes, Sarah Koenig, Lisa Pollack, and Alisa Shipp. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder. Production help from Seth Lind and Tommy Andres. Music help from Jessica Hopper, web help from Sho Jou Yung. Special thanks today to Steve Cashket, Dan Ephron, Andrew Metz, Haider Hamza, Kiki Munchy, and Brian Sargent. Our website, www.thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International. Support also comes from audible.com, where you can download audio books, magazines, newspapers, and radio shows, including archives from the last 10 years of this show, audible.com/thisamericanlife.

WBEZ management oversight for our program by our boss Torey Malatia, who says we are not using his real talents.

John Yeosock

You know, you live your whole life learning how to dominate an enemy and all that kind of stuff. Who likes to be in charge of ensuring that diapers are available?

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

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