It’s depressing to think about leaving here if Admiral Nash resigns. This has easily been one of the most exciting episodes of my life, vying with recollections of the Vietnam War nearly forty years ago. I don’t kid myself that I’m still the soldier I was outside Hu’ during Tet ‘68. When I decided to go to Iraq, it wasn’t because I harbored any ambition of reliving a lost youth. I just wanted to help win the war, and I knew I’d fit in. Most people predisposed to serve in a war zone have some military connection and tend to be optimists. Fortunately, I haven’t met a defeatist here yet, so when I compare Iraq with Vietnam, I’m very selective about what I say to avoid giving the wrong impression.
It’s possible a couple of things I’ve done in just a month have made a difference and may deserve recording in the family archives. Near midnight on December 8, I was called by a reporter stationed in Baghdad who had heard that Ambassador Bremer was planning to visit the 101st Airborne Division the next day. I didn’t know about this, because travel plans of the CPA administrator are closely held for security reasons: there is supposed to be a price on his head. I gave the news of the security lapse to Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Durr of the Army secretary’s office, who scolded me for discussing classified information on the cell phone. I reminded him that I learned of the trip from a reporter, which meant that a lot of other people must know, too. Chuck got the message and called the security people, who immediately canceled the trip. The next day there was a suicide bombing at a 101st Airborne Division location, feeding the fear that Bremer’s helicopter might have been attacked, too, as he arrived. All this is a little far-fetched, but may be true and certainly makes an interesting story. Regardless, I was the main topic of conversation at headquarters for a day, all because of a telephone call from a friendly reporter.
It’s not my job to work on issues unrelated to construction, but when a reporter from my old Pentagon network calls, I answer. Usually I can add something to the story, engaging sympathetic contacts within CPA headquarters willing to share information, so long as I protect the source.
I think Dan Senor knows what I’m doing, too. I respect his position as White House commissar and try hard not to step on his toes even if I don’t obey all the team rules. The only rule I routinely violate is that all interviews be on background; I talk on the record. Admiral Nash and I share the view that we are spending the taxpayers’ money, and everything we do should be transparent. So far, no one has complained, but I wonder if someone isn’t suspicious. Last week I was told that I’d be getting an assistant from Strat Comm, so maybe they’re catching on.
The assistant did arrive, in the form of the impressive, 240-pound Steve Susens. There’s no question of his competence or sense of humor. The story he tells is that he was brought over by Thatcher, but when he arrived Thatcher said he wasn’t needed after all. Rather than send him home, they assigned him to me. If he’s a spy, he’s now my spy. I couldn’t get along without him. Steve is thirty-eight and has been around the block a few times. Like me, he has a knack for networking.
Thursday, January 1, 2004.
For the past ten days I put off adding to this journal, waiting to see what happens to the admiral. Nash may be light on ego, but he’s heavy on character. Of course he resented that his program was being gutted without his being consulted. He was not insulted personally, but professionally he had turf to defend. Nash had expressed his astonishment to Bremer’s top deputy in the Pentagon, Reuben Jeffrey, on December 16.
‘Reuben, I am deeply disappointed in the latest turn of events that I was informed about 11:00 pm last night … . We now have the smallest program to implement and the way this is lining up, we may not need a PMO or me. Reuben, all those who are participating in this debate over the last few weeks have essentially disassembled my approach completely and I personally feel that we are setting ourselves up for failure.’