Rumsfeld memo admits Iraq errors

As scores more die in Baghdad, leaked document reveals former US defense secretary called for policy U-turn on eve of his departure

Outgoing Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, the prime architect of the Iraq war, urged a major overhaul of US strategy just before he resigned on 8 November it emerged last night, as scores of Iraqis died in new bombings in Baghdad and in violent incidents across the country.

The volte-face of Mr Rumsfeld ­ in public so dismissive of all criticism ­ came in a trenchant memo published in Sunday's edition of The New York Times.

"Clearly what US forces are doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough," he wrote in the memo, dated 6 November, two days before President Bush announced Mr Rumsfeld's resignation. "In my view it is time for a major adjustment."

The memo set out various proposals, including a massive reduction in US bases, the payment of Iraqi groups for their co-operation and the adoption of a "minimalist" presentation of Washington's mission and goals in Iraq.

The US Defense Secretary also urged cuts in overall coalition troop strength, coupled with beefed-up training of Iraqi security forces ­ steps that are to be urged in the keenly awaited bipartisan report on future US strategy, to be published on Wednesday.

Though the memo was written almost four weeks ago, it captures the sense of confusion and despair at Iraq's seemingly unstoppable descent into chaos, on yet another day of carnage and sectarian violence across the country.

In the capital, three parked car bombs exploded yesterday in a predominately Shia district of central Baghdad, killing at least 51 people and injuring 90 others. The blasts went off almost simultaneously at about 4.30pm local time in a busy shopping district, and sent huge clouds of black smoke billowing across the city.

The explosions, similar in style to the 23 November bombs that killed more than 200, will only deepen the enmity between the Sunni and Shia populations. They will also heighten the sense of urgency in the US ahead of new policy recommendations and diplomatic moves seeking to stabilise the country.

They capped a week in which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government had seemed close to collapse, torn between its US ally and pressure from the virulently anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose parliamentary bloc is vital to Mr Maliki's survival.

In violence-torn Baquba, north-east of Baghdad, Iraqi and US forces raided insurgent strongholds, arresting more than 30 suspected fighters. In the capital, police found the bodies of 12 people who had been handcuffed and shot. Elsewhere, a dozen Iraqi civilians were reported dead in separate incidents, as well as one American soldier, bringing the total of US dead to almost 2,890.

Washington, meanwhile, awaits with bated breath the report drawn up by the commission headed by James Baker, the former Republican secretary of state, which is widely seen as the best hope of finding a politically acceptable and at least semi-dignified exit from a conflict that almost everyone except the White House acknowledges is a civil war.

Such is the public interest that, confident of an instant bestseller, Random House is rushing the 100-page The Way Forward ­ A New Approach from the Iraq Study Group into print on Wednesday, moments after it is presented to President Bush.

The expectations are almost certainly exaggerated. The ISG's conclusions have already been amply leaked. They are: a gradual pullback of US forces and intensified training of Iraqi forces, plus a more vigorous diplomatic effort, including moves to bring Iran and Syria directly into the process and, possibly, a regional conference.

The report avoids a fixed timetable for withdrawal, demanded by many Democrats. But it is said to hint that US troops should start to leave next year, with most gone by early 2008. It does not specify whether they should stay in the region or return to the US.

Even more important, its most important reader ­ Mr Bush himself ­ has made clear that he will not be rushed into precipitate action. At his press conference on Thursday in Amman with Mr Maliki, the President showed little sign of changing direction and again appeared to rule out direct talks with Iran.

Mr Bush is determined to keep his grip on the diplomatic process, whatever ideas Mr Baker and his colleagues come up with. Tony Blair is due in Washington soon, while Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of the most powerful Shia leaders in Iraq, has been invited to the White House tomorrow. Next month, a senior Sunni, Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, will visit.

The activity underlines how the White House is involving itself more closely in Iraq's intricate internal politics in its search for a solution to the crisis.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried