Presidential Oral Histories

Peter Pace Oral History

About this Interview

Job Title(s)
Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM); Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Pace reflects on the Clinton administration; civilian-military relationship; becoming vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; relationship with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Plan Columbia; the September 11 (9/11) terrorist attacks; the War in Afghanistan; serving in an all-volunteer force; becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; relationship with George W. Bush; relationship with Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby; relationship with Condoleezza Rice; relationship with Bob Gates; the Iraq War; the Iraq War troop surge; Abu Ghraib; and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Presidential Oral Histories |

Peter Pace Oral History

Transcript

Perry

This is the General Peter Pace interview for the Bush 43, George W. Bush Oral History Project. Typically, sir, when we sometimes will have people come to Charlottesville for a day or even a day and a half, we often will spend quite a bit of time on biography to see how that person developed and ended up then serving the President in the particular capacity he or she did. We have about four or five hours with you today, and again, we’re so grateful for you taking that time from your very busy schedule.

Pace

OK.

Perry

We can’t go through your entire biography, but there was one thing in particular prior to your service to George W. Bush that really stuck out to me. That is, there was one item in your early career I noted that was Security Detachment Commander, Camp David, and White House social aide. I think, being a historian of sorts, I pegged that to be the [Richard] Nixon era. Is that correct?

Pace

Yes.

Perry

Those positions and that era?

Pace

Yes.

Perry

Is there anything you would like to tell us about that time in your life and your career?

Pace

Sure. There are two things I want to make sure I get on the record. One is that when we get all done talking today, if we were to ask each of us then to go outside and sit down and write down what we say here, we would have four different versions of the truth. So I’m going to tell you the truth as I know it, but I know that what I know is only a very small piece of the history. So I purposefully tried not to read too much about what other people said because I want you to have my recollection so that folks who use it can use it as part of the whole cloth.

Perry

That is exactly how we see each and every one of these interviews, in fact the entire oral history of a Presidency and any event. We know that there are many other pieces of the historical record that over the years will come to light. So we see oral history as a crucial part, but one part of the puzzle.

Pace

Exactly.

Perry

Then each interview within that oral history is another part of that puzzle. So we are absolutely fine with that approach.

Pace

Good. So I’ll tell the truth, as I can remember it anyway. [laughter]

Perry

That’s all we can ask.

Pace

If I say something that doesn’t quite ring true with what you know, just question me on it, because sometimes a little back stimulus will be useful to getting the entire story. Second, because I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, during this conversation I presume we’ll talk about some things that didn’t go very well and recommendations I wish I had made differently.

The difference in that to me is in hindsight. If I can see things I could have done better, I actually want to admit to that. But I also know if you gave me the exact same data at the exact same time that I had it, I’d give the exact same recommendations. So understanding in historical context that things might have been, could have been, should have been done differently doesn’t change the fact that at the time based on the knowledge you had, you did the best you could with the knowledge you had. So I hope that doesn’t seem offensive. I just mean it to be—

Perry

Not at all.

Pace

It is what it is, which is you learn things along the way, and had you known that five years previously you might have given a much different recommendation. OK, so the White House thing was very interesting.

I came back from Vietnam in 1969, went to the Marine barracks here in Southeast Washington. I was a bachelor. If you were a bachelor with the Marine barracks in Washington, you were automatically assigned to be part of the White House social aide program. It was during the President Nixon time frame. We would go to the White House maybe once, twice, three times a week, just helping out. We used to joke about being cookie dusters over there, just to help the flow of whatever event it was at the White House.

Then one of the responsibilities of the barracks here in D.C. is to provide security up at Camp David. At that time we would go up there for six-month tours. So I was stationed here in D.C., but I spent six months as a Security Detachment Commander up at Camp David. Then I came back down and another lieutenant went up and did it, which is much different than it is today. Understand they’d just given a threat. Things changed probably 25 or 30 years ago now, where the detachment up at Camp David is there full time, the Marines stationed there are there full time. They are still under the command of the barracks commander here in D.C., but they don’t rotate. So my tour as security commander was much different from what they do now.

Perry

Presumably then this was your first up close and personal with a President of the United States.

Pace

Yes.

Perry

And it was Richard Nixon. Any memories of that or first impressions of the man or the office of the Presidency?

Pace

Very little interaction, understandably so. President [Ronald] Reagan and President [George H. W.] Bush—when I was the barracks commander, I had interaction with President Bush 41. They very much would go around the perimeter and say hi to the troops. President Nixon not so much. So I didn’t have any personal time with President Nixon. When I was a colonel and I had the barracks, I had some personal time with President Bush 41. It is just like any person in leadership, you handle it differently. President Nixon was very much a reserved person at the camp from my viewpoint.

President Bush 41 was very much going out and talking to the troops to see how they were doing.

Perry

Thank you. Any follow-ups?

Bakich

That’s great.

Perry

So what we thought we would do today is to divide up our time with the three or four major issues that you cover in the Bush 43 Presidency, obviously the 9/11 attack and Afghan war, the Iraq war planning, the Iraq War itself, and the surge. But we thought even prior to that we would talk a little bit about the transition between [William J.] Clinton and Bush 43 and compare that to the transition that you saw between Bush 41 and Clinton because you were there at a very crucial time with the issues going on in Somalia.

Pace

My personal interactions with the Presidents didn’t really begin until 2000 when I became the commander in chief, U.S. Southern Command. That is when President Clinton was there. So in the transition from President Bush 41 to President Clinton I was a one-star, two-star, didn’t have responsibilities here in D.C., was focused on my mission and was not really attuned to that.

The transition between President Clinton, who was the one who nominated me for four stars, and President Bush 43 obviously was much more impactful on me because now I’m a four-star. I’m a regional commander, CINC [commander in chief] U.S. Southern Command, and I am having meetings at the White House on various occasions. Very interesting. As a military guy it kind of catches you by surprise. We’re used to in the military changes of command. I mean, either I’m going someplace every two or three years or you as my boss are going someplace. So we’re always getting new bosses or becoming a new boss. For us switching loyalties from commander A to commander B is just part of the process.

Interestingly, it seemed to me that when President Bush 43’s team came in that at least initially I was viewed as a Clinton general, which surprised me, because I’m an American general, not a Clinton general or a Bush general, right? But I think what it is is the military’s environment is naturally you have a new Commander in Chief, you’re loyal to the new Commander in Chief. Actually, your loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States. But you’re certainly loyal to the leadership.

I think that in politics because people are so used to—how to say it politely—screwing each other, that they think that anybody who was nominated before them must have been tainted or loyal, or somehow if we’re appointed by President Clinton we must be Democrats. No, we’re Americans. So it takes the first crisis for the new Presidential team, not the President, but for the new Presidential team to get comfortable with the military guys to understand that, no kidding, we are serving the Constitution and the elected President/Commander in Chief. And it is interesting to watch that change from one of skepticism about who you are and where your loyalties lie to, Ah, OK. You military guys are going to do what we expect you to do.

Bakich

Was that first crisis the EP-3 [intelligence aircraft] incident or—

Pace

I don’t even know. I couldn’t tell you, just generically. Unfortunately, it takes a crisis for teams to kind of gel. People understand and they start seeing how you operate and how forthcoming you are and how well you articulate a position and what you do when your position gets overrun by somebody else.

All those things are important interpersonal dynamics that just take a while to overcome. It was that way when I first started working as the J3, as a three-star under President Clinton. Even they kind of looked at me like OK, I made general under President Bush 41, so with President Clinton maybe I had Republican tendencies. Susan Rice initially—when she and I were working together on some of this stuff in Africa my interpretation was that she didn’t know whether she could trust me or not trust me. It took a little while for her to operate with me and understand I’m just going to do the best I can. Then I saw it again when we changed from President Clinton to President Bush. I don’t want to overplay the card, it’s just an interesting—

Perry

Interesting phenomenon. It is particularly interesting as I was going to say in the transition to Bush 43 could it have been the way that election played out that made it even more partisan? But you’re saying that you saw it in a previous transition, so apparently it’s pretty natural to the system no matter what is happening in the electoral world.

Pace

Although I had left active duty by the time President [Barack] Obama came in, I still talked to my friends. I still was an advisor in the Pentagon. It was very clear to me that in the early years of President Obama, his team was also skeptical of the guys who were in position under President Bush. The political environment is such that you trust only your own people, and I get that. But for military guys it’s, “Wait a minute. He’s the new Commander in Chief. We’re good.”

Perry

It’s almost a foreign concept to think in those terms.

Pace

To not be trusted is unsettling to a military guy, because we don’t understand why you wouldn’t.

Perry

Yes. I’m fascinated by the team concept and that it takes that first crisis. The Miller Center right now is working on a project called First Year about the first years of Presidents and how they get through these. Inevitably there will be a crisis; some are worse, obviously, than others. But we’ve also—and this is not something that is off the record, but Vice President [Richard B.] Cheney has said that coming in with the foreign policy team with President Bush 41—as someone in the White House at that time, he was saying we had the greatest White House team, DoD [Department of Defense] team, he thought, whatever. Everybody was first-rate, they all had experience, they all knew what they were doing. “But then,” he said, “Panama hit. We hadn’t really thought about Panama.”

He said, “I wish we had had some kind of table-top simulation beforehand, because where we were we had the experience. We thought we were pretty smart at this, but we didn’t have the experience of working together as a team.” So this is I think what you’re saying is another factor that is involved. It’s not having the experience and working together as a team, but also having what appears to be some sort of natural political skepticism about the generals.

Pace

Plus, when we get to it, when you want to, the National Security Council system only serves the country well in the decision process, not in the execution process. I can say more about that now if you want or—

Bakich

Please do.

Perry

Please do.

Pace

In the workup to a decision, the President has a problem he wants a solution to and he says, “OK, National Security Advisor, give me potential courses of action.” I’ll use military terms. There is a one-star level meeting, a two-star level meeting, a three-star level, and the four-star level of course is the President with the National Security Council.

All during the process of working the potential course of action—and this was true under President Clinton and was true under President Bush. So it is not a political thing, it is a system thing. Everybody from all the agencies is collaborating around a table like this and they’re offering—“I can do this. I can do that. I can’t go there with you because of these things.” The discussions are very open and folks are really honestly trying to do the right thing for the country by giving the President the best options possible. That works really, really well.

You get with the President and usually the President has some questions, so you go back and do some more pushups. You figure out how to answer the President’s questions. Eventually the President makes a decision. The instant the President makes a decision is when the system changes from being really, really good for the country to not serving it as well as it should.

The problem is that nobody below the President has the authority to direct traffic. The military commander in the joint command can give orders. The President can give orders. But once he says this is what I want to do, then the good Americans who are State, Defense, Treasury, go back to their offices, their buildings, and they start operating and executing their piece of the problem.

State’s approach is different from DoD’s approach, is different from Treasury’s approach, and there comes a time when the approaches taken by the various agencies and departments start to have friction because they have different responsibilities. Because nobody below the President has the authority to direct traffic and because only if one of those Secretaries brings it to the President’s attention for him to make a decision—if they don’t do that, which most strong people don’t, then you have friction that goes on below the President’s knowledge.

You can point to things in Iraq with Ambassador [L., III] Paul Bremer, for example. He made decisions because Condi [Condoleezza] Rice and Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld saw things differently. They were all giving Bremer different advice. He had three bosses, therefore he had no boss, and nobody was bringing the major issues up to the President of the United States who had the ability to direct traffic.

This is off the discussion topic, but if you take [Barry] Goldwater-[William F.] Nichols and all it did for the military based on a 1986 law, and you now fast-forward and you apply all of Goldwater-Nichols to the interagency and if the President were able to say, “This is what I want done. State, you’re the lead.” Or “This is what I want done. Treasury, you’ve got it.” Or “This is what I want done. DoD, you’re the lead.” Those folks then—everybody would understand that the Secretary of whatever is the decision maker.

Just like it happens in the military, if a Marine is in charge of the Joint Command and he is telling the Air Force to do something that the Air Force doesn’t feel right with, the Air Force commander is going to talk to the Marine, but he is also going to go up his Air Force chain of command, and if the Air Force Chief of Staff thinks there is something wrong, he’ll take it into the tank with the Joint Chiefs and talk about it.

The same thing could happen in the interagency. You could have the Secretary of whatever giving his or her orders. If someone in the Department of Defense thought it was wrong, they could go to the Secretary of Defense, if the Secretary agreed it was wrong, he could take it to the National Security Council. You could then have the same synergistic effect with the interagency that you had with the joint force, but it took 20 years for the joint force to get to where it is today, and it is going to take 20 years for the joint interagency taskforce to get there. It is going to be 20 years from when you start, and we haven’t started.

Perry

So even if we started now, it would be two decades before we saw the same kind of response that we had after Goldwater-Nichols.

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

I think pretty much where we need to go is probing that observation from multiple angles chronologically. So let me, if I could, ask this question. As you become Vice Chair, you’re situated on the Deputies Committee straight away. What is the relationship on that committee, as you see it? Not just from the office of the Secretary of Defense representatives, but around the table.

Pace

It’s very collaborative. It’s great Americans trying to do the right thing. But you have a very strong Secretary of State, you have a very strong Secretary of Defense, and they’re basically telling their guys don’t talk to each other—on occasion. So when Secretary Rumsfeld tells you don’t talk anymore to Secretary Powell, the answer from the military chain of command is, “Aye-aye, sir.” But then the other hat comes up, which is you are on the Deputies Committee and you are the Chairman. Therefore as Secretary Rumsfeld’s subordinate, it’s, “I’ve got it,” but as a member of the Deputies Committee and the National Security Council the answer is, “I don’t got it.” I have responsibility to talk to those folks.

If you’re talking to Secretary Powell and you’re making sure that Secretary Rumsfeld knows you’re doing this, it’s making him cranky. Secretary Powell knows that you’re not supposed to be, as far as your boss is concerned. So it just makes it more difficult. So Secretary Powell would call me on occasion, especially now as Vice Chairman, and say, “Hey, Pete.” I would give him the answers he wanted, but then I would tell the Secretary that I got a phone call, I gave the answers.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

So it’s highly dependent on the personalities. The Deputies Committee was always super collaborative because, guess what? We didn’t have the ultimate responsibility. It’s much easier to say, “Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?” when you’re not the person who has to do the what about. So the day I changed from being Vice Chairman to Chairman, as ready as I thought I was for that, it was a significant emotional delta between being the guy saying to the guy, “You ought to recommend this, you ought to recommend that,” to being the “stuckee” with responsibility to do it. So it’s just a different atmosphere.

To answer your question specifically, I cannot remember anybody on the Deputies Committee who was not there trying to do the right thing, collaboratively. That is not to say that we didn’t have different views, but it wasn’t argumentative. It wasn’t, “I’m not going to do that.” It wasn’t crossed arms. It was, “This agency has a certain responsibility, this agency has another responsibility.”

To think about it, the divide—I guess that’s a good word—the divide between the State Department and the military is fairly clear because if we’re discussing something that has to be done militarily, that means State failed. So State naturally doesn’t want the military to get involved where they don’t have to because it projects the fact that for whatever reason, they were not able to solve the problem, and now you need military force to solve the problem. So there is a natural friction there about when it is that DoD steps into a national problem.

Bakich

Can you illustrate that perhaps in the initial decisions, for example, for the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] to initially take the lead in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11? Was that in your bailiwick of responsibility?

Pace

It was. However, 9/11 through 9/30 I am still commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, so I am not in D.C. Although I am nominated to be Vice Chairman, I am still commander in chief.

Bakich

OK.

Pace

So I am not in the D.C. discussion process about who is going to take the lead doing what, when, or where.

Bakich

OK.

Pace

I know we’re at war, I know we’re going to do something, but I am not privy to those conversations.

Bakich

That begs a prior question. Can you explain that transition from CINC SOUTHCOM [U.S. Southern Command] to the Vice Chair? When did you start focusing your attention to the broader war effort as opposed to being the commander in chief for regional command?

Pace

On 1 October 2001, because up through 30 September I was commander in chief. I didn’t have a change in command because we didn’t have a replacement nominated for me, so I handed the command over to my deputy on the 30th of September and I drove overnight to Washington and reported for duty on 1 October as Vice Chairman.

Dick Myers says to me, “Now, Pete, take some time. Take a break.” I’m saying, “No, the country is at war. We’re going someplace. I need to be there. I can’t go take a vacation.” So I drove overnight. I think the police are probably still looking for me. [laughter] So I’m thinking only—as best I can only—about my responsibilities as commander in chief and through 30 September because it’s still my responsibility to do that and then drive up, and I’m thinking about how am I going to be a good wing man for Dick Myers. The beauty of working for General Myers is that I had been his deputy in Japan so we knew each other really, really well. He was a three-star then; I was a two-star. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the yin and the yang of being a Marine and being an aviator and all that stuff. We had a really good relationship for the two years I was in Japan.

Then he went back to the Joint Staff as a three-star, I went back to the Joint Staff as a three-star. He was the Assistant Chairman as a three-star, I was a J3. We then worked together for General [John] Shalikashvili, got to know each other even better. I went off to command, he goes off to command. He becomes Vice Chairman. Then when he was nominated to be Chairman they basically asked him who does he want to have as his Vice Chairman and he said me. So I’m driving up the highway to be the Vice Chairman. I knew the personality of General Myers. I already knew there was going to be a good fit there. So we didn’t have this dog-meets-dog part of working with each other.

General Myers was always, always very solicitous of my opinions, always wanted me to step up next to him instead of standing back a little bit like I should. He was as self-effacing in that role with his Vice Chairman as anybody could have possibly been. He really was never jealous of his prerogatives, always was looking for me to be his wing man instead of his deputy.

Bakich

When did you first meet Douglas Feith?

Pace

I probably met him when I was commander in chief, but I don’t remember until for sure when I became Vice Chairman, and then Doug of course was policy. There was some degree of angst between the Joint Staff and the Secretary’s staff.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

It was created in large part because of Secretary Rumsfeld’s personality. He wanted everybody in the building to be working for him all the time. I understand that. But the Chairman has a staff for a very specific reason, and it’s the Chairman’s responsibility, in addition to executing orders from the President and the Secretary, to do independent planning and analysis.

Perry

Independent of the Secretary.

Pace

Yes.

Perry

And his staff?

Pace

Yes. So Doug and I tried to have as much collaboration as possible without denying the President the opportunity to hear different voices. You don’t want to average averages, you want different ideas. So Doug and I worked really hard to have the Secretary’s staff feed data to him, have the Chairman’s staff feed data to me, and then he and I had to go see the Secretary and the SecDef [Secretary of Defense] with our minds kind of reinforced by the work of different staffs. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have them working together below us, but for sure we wanted to make sure that they understood that they had unique responsibilities. If they came to the same conclusion, great, but if they came to different conclusions, great.

Bakich

So that communication, that’s the CAPCOM [Campaign Planning Committee].

Pace

Yes. Doug and I put together the CAPCOM. I’m pretty sure it was Doug’s idea because I went into him and I said, “We can fight each other staff on staff or we can figure out how to work this together. My desire is to try and figure this out so we can get some synergy here. But we need to maintain the independence of the Chairman’s staff, because that’s what the law of the land is.”

Bakich

Right. And how did he respond to that?

Pace

Very well. He and I got along really, really well.

Bakich

It has been asserted, relatively widely, that Secretary Rumsfeld was determined to—I’ll state it over the top—break the autonomy of the Joint Staff.

Pace

I think he would be really happy had we folded.

Bakich

So I didn’t overstate it.

Pace

No, you didn’t. Because first of all, he is a very strong personality. Second, for example, he believed that there is a Commander in Chief and that the Commander in Chief is the President and all you other guys with the name commander in chief in your title shouldn’t exist as commanders in chief, so he changed it to commander. Call me what you want. I’ve got four stars, I’ve got the responsibilities, I’m going to do the same thing if you call me Chief. You can call me whatever you want. I don’t care what you call me. It’s my command. I’ve got it. [laughter]

Anything that he thought might make the military guys feel bigger than he thought they should be feeling about themselves was a fair target for him. I’ll get back—I have enormous respect for Secretary Rumsfeld and we can get back to that as much as you want. But the truth is that in areas like this he believed that everything in the Pentagon should work for him all the time as Secretary of Defense.

The law of the land is yes, but—and the “but” is this Chairman’s staff is a nonpolitical staff, and the Secretary’s staff is a political staff. This nonpolitical staff was created by the Congress of the United States specifically to isolate the Chairman from political influence with regard to the kind of information he was getting, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It’s why you have the Chairman’s term of office go from 1 October odd year to 30 September odd year every two years so you’re not part of the election cycle.

In my case, they figured a way to make it political, but the whole thing was set up to be nonpolitical. Did I answer your question?

Bakich

You absolutely did.

Pace

I need to get on the record because I’d be remiss if the only thing people heard me say about Secretary Rumsfeld was that he—

Bakich

By all means.

Pace

He wanted to be dominant in the building. He’s an alpha dog. He wanted to be dominant. But nobody worked harder than he did. Nobody worked longer hours than he did and part of his mystique outside was the fact that inside the building, if we’re in a room like this, he wanted people to push back on him. If we have a meeting of 10, 12 people and Admiral So-and-So or General So-and-So didn’t say a word, he’d come to me as Vice Chairman and he’d say, “Pete, why didn’t Willy say something?” I’d say, “Sir, I don’t know. I’ll find out.”

But if you’re in a room with him and you weren’t pushing back, you didn’t get invited back. The knock on Secretary Rumsfeld was that he didn’t want people around him who pushed back. That’s wrong. You look at the people he appointed. Every single one of those guys he appointed to whatever three- or four-star positions he appointed them to were people who at one time or another had pushed back on him. He could trust them to push back on him. His criteria for three-stars was this guy or gal is going to be a joint force commander someplace on the planet and there is going to be a crisis and I want to have somebody there I know is going to tell me the truth. Appointing four-stars was the same thing.

He was always looking to who are the men and women he could appoint that would give him and the President direct, straight military advice, not who could he bowl over. So there was a difference between the Secretary Rumsfeld who believed that the Pentagon should all work together and that the commander in chief title was a bit too “flourishy” and the Secretary Rumsfeld who was selecting subordinates to have the responsibility to execute the orders he was going to go give them and the kind of person he was looking for in that regard.

Bakich

Do you believe that Rumsfeld’s style got the unvarnished truth, got the best advice from his subordinates?

Pace

In the main, yes, but for those who were not self-confident, no. A couple of things about that. He believed that type As selected type As and type Bs selected type Cs, so the type As around him spoke up whether or not they were asked to and the type Bs were quiet. So he probably did not get from everybody around him all that he might have. But on the other hand, the folks who he ended up putting in positions were all type A’s. He didn’t appoint any type B’s. If I had to choose, which I don’t, because my personality is different, but if I had to choose I’d rather have the kind of guy who ended up with all type As around him than a guy who made it possible for type Bs to speak up.

It’s fair to say that if you came to a meeting—and the reason why a lot of the three-stars or four-stars wanted Secretary Rumsfeld to be fired—the guys who were retired, the retired-generals’ revolt—was because every single one of them had screwed up. Every single one of them had not done their job. Every single one of them had gotten their asses chewed by Secretary Rumsfeld at a meeting, had been basically shown in public to not know their job.

If you went to a meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld and you hadn’t done your homework, it just wasn’t going to be a good meeting. Those guys all did not perform their jobs the way they should have and they all get to retire, and now they’re out there saying the Secretary should be fired. Oh, by the way, had the President of the United States wanted to replace his Secretary at around the time that the generals who were retired were saying he should be replaced, there is no way he could have. You cannot have a serving Secretary of Defense unseated by active duty or retired military.

So when I got called to the White House about that deal, my advice was to the people who were asking me—this is about the President—when the President asked me what I thought, I said, “Sir, only you can decide when you want to have a different Secretary of Defense, but right now my plea would be don’t replace him because it would set a terrible precedent that a sitting Secretary of Defense somehow got unseated by general officers and admirals. That is unacceptable to our democracy.”

Bakich

Civil-military relations issues pop up of course again with General [Eric] Shinseki’s testimony.

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

Would you mind—I didn’t have to ask the question, all I had to do is say General Shinseki.

Pace

First of all, General Shinseki and I are friends—not as good as we used to be, probably. When we were lieutenant colonels we played soccer together on the National War College team when we were at the National War College together. That’s ’85, ’86. So Rick and I go back a long way.

Rick Shinseki did not like Secretary Rumsfeld, just did not like him. So General Shinseki stopped going to meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He went to about one-half of the Joint Chiefs’ meetings. The other half he sent Jack Keane as his deputy. Now, the records are there. You can check the numbers. But my recollection is about half the time, and the longer that Shinseki was Chief of the Army, the more often Jack Keane showed up. Which is one of the reasons why the Secretary made public that he was going to have Jack Keane be the next Chief because Jack Keane in all intents and purposes from the Secretary’s standpoint already was the Chief of Staff of the Army and Rick Shinseki was doing his thing for the Army but not with the Secretary.

So in the work up to the invasion of Iraq Tommy Franks came to D.C. 50 times, either by teleconference or in person, and he probably was in the tank 10 times talking us through all this stuff. We all had ample opportunity to say what we thought. Importantly, just before the President made his decision in 2003 he had the Joint Chiefs and all the combatant commanders into the White House. We all sat around the table in the Cabinet Room and the President went around the table and said to each person in the room based on their responsibilities, did they understand the war plan as laid out by General Franks? Did they support the war plan as laid out by General Franks? And if we executed this plan, what would they need for their responsibilities?

So you have 14 guys speaking. To a man they all said that they understood it because they spent a lot of time making sure everybody did. Second, that they supported it, and third, then they said whatever they needed in their area of responsibility.

General Shinseki specifically told the President—as he had told the Chiefs, because he was a Chief—in the meetings leading up that he supported the plan to include the fact that we had about 150,000 guys on the ground backed up by another 250,000. But if you remember, General Franks’s plan was a plan that he had to execute with the whole world watching. Everybody knew that we’d have 500,000 troops on the border of Kuwait before we would enter Iraq because that is what we did last time. Everybody knew we’d bomb for 40 to 45 days. Everybody knew what everybody knew, because we did it last time.

General Franks said, “I need 150,000 guys, but I need the backup guys to come in. We’re going to go, and before we go dropping bombs we’re going to go across the line of departure with ground troops.” It was exactly what we did. He gets to Baghdad in three weeks.

A military plan has what are called assumptions. An assumption is something that if your assumption is wrong, the plan will fail. One of the key assumptions of the military plan was that the Iraqi Armed Forces, all 400,000, would be loyal to the new government. People critique the fact that there was no planning for the occupation. There was planning for the occupation, but it was based on a wrong assumption. It’s not that we didn’t think about it. Phase four was supposed to be Iraqi police, Iraqi troops providing security for the country.

When we went across the line of departure and we had the Iraqi Army disintegrate—it just went home—there was no Iraqi Army when we got to Baghdad. So that’s why you have a failure and why you have a looting, because the assumption was that the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police would be there to take care of that.

So now you have the postmortem on that. You have Senator [Carl] Levin and he calls a couple of the Chiefs, and Rick Shinseki’s there giving testimony. Senator Levin asked Rick at least three times how many troops he thought we needed. The first two times Rick demurred. The third time when the Senator said, “What is your opinion?” he said 300,000 to 400,000 troops which, oh by the way, was accurate, but we thought 300,000 to 400,000 troops were going to come from the Iraqis, not from the U.S. military.

This then gets played up as a big deal that now the Chief of Staff of the Army is saying that he always said we had to have these troops. No, he didn’t always say that; he never stood up and said that. And oh, by the way, and I’ve told him this, I fault General Shinseki for not correcting the record on this, because he has let it fester now for God knows how many years. It is 12 years since 2003, going on 13 years, where young officers think that Rick was overridden. I still teach in military schools, and folks still ask me about why it was that Secretary Rumsfeld overrode General Shinseki. He never overrode Shinseki. Shinseki never said to the Joint Chiefs or to anybody other than Senator Levin in that testimony that it would take 300,000 to 400,000 and he let people think he has argued for those troops to be sent. He has not.

So the fault for us is in the assumption that the Iraqi army and police would exist. Shinseki then becomes the poster child for the anti-Rumsfeld movement.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

And becomes Secretary of the VA [Veterans Affairs] in my mind partly because he’s not them. So I do fault General Shinseki for allowing history to believe that he spoke up vigorously for something that he did not speak up vigorously about.

Perry

That’s interesting.

Bakich

To round off that point then, do you have any observations as to why Mr. [Paul] Wolfowitz didn’t hammer that point home or emphasize that point, that the postwar planning assumption would be that the Iraqi military would fill that out, or do you think he did?

Pace

I think, as best I can recall, the SecDef did, and I know I certainly did every chance I got to answer the question, but by then the words—this is how it happens, everybody believes it is true, and now weeks and months and years later you get to testify. Everybody heard the bang, but nobody gets to hear the aftershocks. I think it just took on a life of its own. The only guy who could have corrected the record, really corrected the record, was and is General Shinseki.

Perry

I’m sure we’ll come back to war planning for Iraq, but just on that one assumption about the Iraqi Army, in retrospect would there have been any way to know differently about that? In other words, what information was there that caused the assumption to be wrong, and would there have been any way to have information, now in retrospect, that would have allowed the assumption to be correct about the Iraqi Army?

Pace

First of all, the guys who were listening to the intel [intelligence] are guys like me who grew up post–World War II, grew up on Victory at Sea movies, and liberators. So my mindset then—and is still—the U.S. Armed Forces don’t go occupy countries. We go correct things and we leave. We’re liberators. So the intel that we were getting, both from our own intel community and from foreign intel, was that when we went across the line of departure, whole divisions of Iraqis, 14,000 to 16,000 troops at a time, would change sides. To a guy who grew up believing that the United States is all about good and all about liberation, that made sense to me.

Again, this is not to point fingers at the intel community. The operators, like me, have responsibility to listen to the intel and make our own decisions about what is right. So what I was hearing was that whole divisions would—when it came time for us to occupy the country, the Army would still be intact and that they would be loyal to the new Iraqi leadership. In my background, that made sense.

Perry

Because they would follow the right side? They would want to follow the good guys.

Pace

They would follow the good guys because Saddam Hussein had been a dictator. He had been a despot for 30 years, and therefore given the chance to be free, these Iraqis would snap up the opportunity to be free and they would be in an armed force that would be loyal to the new leader. It was, in retrospect, flat wrong. But going across the line of departure into Iraq, our sincere belief on all of our parts was that the intel we were hearing was correct and that yes, of course, throwing off a dictator, having a new leader who was more representative of the people, having elections, all that would be things that the Army would aspire to support.

A couple of things happened. One, they disintegrated on the battlefield. Two, Ambassador Bremer puts out the edict that if you were ever a Ba’athist, you can’t serve. Well, this was like telling post–World War II Germany if you ever had a swastika on your uniform, you can’t be part of the government. Probably 10 percent of the Iraqi Armed Forces were actually ideological Ba’athists, the other 90 percent had a union card, which was being a member of the Ba’ath party.

You then tell anybody who has ever been a Ba’athist they can’t come back—guess what? Your entire officer corps can’t come back to work. So now you’ve taken everybody who knows anything about being in the army and you’ve told them they can’t come. Now you’re going to create a 400,000-man army from scratch, and oh, by the way, now you’ve taken away all the people who know something, and no one got a paycheck, and they can’t support their families, and now they join the opposition forces because they need to feed their families.

Perry

So it creates a downward spiral, these different actions that were taken.

Pace

Yes.

Perry

You’re able to say in terms of the information where the flaw was in the intel. Are you able to say what it was about the intel gathering that got the information wrong?

Pace

No. Again, I don’t point fingers at the intel community. Their work is a very tough nut to crack. They’re getting information from their own sources and from other countries’ sources. We were getting the information from European countries that was reinforcing what we were hearing on our own. I can’t tell you why, I can just simply tell you that I believed it. My responsibility to making that decision—it is my responsibility for believing it—turned out to be not true, number one. It was exacerbated by the fact that Secretary Powell, then NSA [National Security Advisor] Rice, and Secretary Rumsfeld—because the three of them were all giving orders to Bremer postoccupation. He had three bosses; therefore, he didn’t have any boss and he did what he wanted.

When he made the decision about if you’re a Ba’athist you can’t come play, that really set us back.

Bakich

He had given a briefing a couple of weeks prior at the White House if I’m not mistaken wherein the assumption was that the Iraqi Army was going to remain intact. He hadn’t briefed the principals. He hadn’t briefed the President that his intention was to disband the Army. Is that correct?

Pace

I don’t know. I don’t recall that, timeline wise, though by the time he became the Ambassador and the pro consul, the Iraqi Army had already disintegrated. The Iraqi Army disintegrated in the march to Baghdad inside the first three weeks.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

The question was, How do you build the Iraqi Army? It was during the time that we’re trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army that he says that if you’re a Ba’athist you cannot come back into positions of power—not only in the Army but also in the government, but especially in the Army, where the Sunnis were the officer corps and the Shi’a were the troops. If you say, “If you’re a Ba’athist,” which is Sunni, “you can’t come back now,” you have an Army that only has PFCs [private first class], doesn’t have any generals, lieutenants, colonels, or anybody who knows anything about the higher mechanisms of the organization. So I don’t know about the rest of that.

Bakich

Let me jump back a little earlier. So General [George] Casey was the J3 on the Joint Staff as Iraq War planning was moving ahead, correct?

Pace

J5, right? Was he J5? I think it was J5.

Bakich

OK, J5.

Perry

When you do your editing you can correct that.

Pace

I won’t know any better then than I do now. Somebody has to fact check. I’m pretty sure he’s J5. [Ed. note: J5 is correct]

Bakich

Where I’m going with this is he evidently had some concerns about the status of postwar planning. He formed a working group, Taskforce 4, to think through these things. Had you had any conversations with him about this going in?

Pace

I must have, but I can’t remember them. I do know that by the time we got to go across the line of departure that every senior leader including me was very comfortable with the plan, was very comfortable with the assumptions of the plan, and we were wrong on a couple of assumptions. We were wrong on the assumption about the Iraqi Army staying intact and pledging allegiance to the new leader. We were wrong, thankfully, from a military perspective about Saddam was going to use chemical weapons. We fully expected to have our troops hit with chemical weapons when we got near Baghdad and had a moment when we realized that we had Baghdad and hadn’t been hit by chemicals where it was simultaneously, Thank God and Oh, shit.

Bakich

Yes. I don’t know where to go from that evidence.

Perry

That’s a colorful conclusion to that discussion. Shall we circle back to that period just prior to 9/11 and your Southern Command, commander in chief we’ll call it.

Pace

That’s what I would call it.

Perry

That’s what we will call it. We’re not Secretary Rumsfeld. So we are calling you commander in chief. [laughter]

Pace

Well, I was at that time. If it were now I’d be a commander.

Perry

So it is prior to 9/11. The Bush 43 administration is nine months old. What are you thinking about as commander in chief of the Southern Command? What are the issues?

Pace

First of all, our relationships with the southern hemisphere kind of are a sine wave and you can see that based on the numbers of democracies versus the number of dictatorships that are down at any given time. At the time I took command down there we were very much at the top of a very positive sine wave. There were very few dictatorships left in the Americas. It had been a decade of relative peace globally and we were able to focus on just really good relationships. President Bush had given a speech in Spanish. He had said he was going to pay more attention to the Americas. Everybody in the Americas was pretty positive about all that.

When I went in there in September of 2000 it was a very positive time for U.S. relations with the folks down south. What we had going on that had my attention was the narco-terrorism fight in Colombia. We had been, because of the country’s lingering fears about Vietnam still, the lead for U.S. in Colombia was State Department. The Ambassadors down there were the ones being supported by the U.S. military and supported the Colombia military, but nothing happened in Colombia that the Ambassador did not approve. That was fine.

We had at the time about—we had reached pretty close to the limit, which I think was 800 between U.S. military and contract support of the Colombian military. I had been down there 13 times in 11 months to meet with my counterpart, General [Fernando] Tapias [Stahelin] and I was very much focused on a) helping Colombia, which was my major use of military power in the Americas, and b) maintaining good relations with all the other countries. So I would put my plane in the air on a Monday and I’d bring it home on a Friday and I would visit two countries a week.

I had two traveling staffs. I could take my wife as part of the entourage, but they couldn’t take theirs and they had kids at home. So I had two staffs, port-starboard staff. One would go with me on a trip; the other would stay home and plan the next week’s trip. So they would be gone half the time, I’d be gone all the time. But there was nothing for me in Miami as far as my responsibilities, other than giving the staff guidance. It was really important for the countries we visited to see four stars on a U.S. uniform get off a plane and be paying respect to them as our partners. So I kept my plane moving all the time. It was very much one country fighting narco-terrorists and with the other countries, how do we collaborate? How do we do training exercises? What are the things we can do to reinforce your Army, your Navy, your Air Force, in a way that would be good for all of us?

Perry

So it is building good will with all those other countries and then fighting the narco-terrorists. Any follow-up, Spence, on that militarily or otherwise before we come to 9/11?

Bakich

Is this part of Plan Colombia?

Pace

Plan Colombia? Absolutely. Yes.

Bakich

That is your main effort. How do you assess America’s and Colombia’s efforts on that front?

Pace

I thought the collaboration between the Colombian government and armed forces and our government and armed forces was really, really good in developing Plan Colombia. I thought our understandable reticence to too many of our own troops involved was a healthy thing. But we got to a point where we had the plan and we needed the funding. It took a great deal of energy, as it should, to convince our Congress to allocate resources. One of the main things I did during the time I had down there—it was a three-year tour that was only one year in length—I got promoted to be Vice Chairman. So I executed one year of my three-year plan. But during that year, one of my main responsibilities was to get congressional delegations to come down to Colombia to see for themselves.

We had one where Senator Levin, Senator John McCain, Senator [Clarence William] Nelson from Florida came down to Florida. Then we got on the plane that was allocated to me and we flew down there and spent a couple of days down there. So a lot of my responsibility as commander in chief was to help educate those in D.C. to be able to make whatever decision they were going to make, to have them see for themselves what was possible in our view.

So you had the helicopters that were very expensive. Plan Colombia was financially expensive, but troop-wise very much a small commitment. To the Colombian government it was huge because they needed helicopters, they needed the support, they needed the troops. I can’t remember how much it cost, but the allocation of those resources I think in retrospect really did help the Colombian government see their way through.

Now, they’ve still got problems down there, but it gave the Colombian military the opportunity to train up for this fight and it gave them the wherewithal to get around a battlefield that they didn’t have before. History will write the final chapter, but certainly for the time frame that I had the responsibility personally and then as the Vice Chairman and Chairman and subsequently to that, you can go back to Plan Colombia and say that’s when the U.S. government really did stand up and help the Colombian government. Whether it was President [Andres] Pastrana [Arango] or President [Alvaro] Uribe or President [Juan Manuel] Santos [Calderon], each of those Presidents had relied heavily on the string of events that started with Plan Colombia.

Bakich

Do you have any observations or were there any lessons learned from the train and equip component of Plan Colombia? Successes that worked or failures that didn’t? I guess where I want to go with this is we see train and equip programs throughout President Bush’s time in office and then in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Pace

I think it’s hard to know, no matter whether it is Iraq or Afghanistan or Colombia or whatever—when you’re helping train, it’s hard to know who you’re training. You have to trust the host government to have vetted the people you are training. I can’t tell you—I didn’t know then, don’t know now, how many of the people we trained in Colombia were actually bad guys coming to get some good military training. I don’t know. We had to put our faith and did put our faith in the Colombian government to be able to vet that. I think in large measure the guys that we trained were in fact loyal to the government because Plan Colombia did function. The results of Plan Colombia were very positive in my view.

But when you look at training the Iraqi Army these days, when you look at training the Afghan Army, who are the Isis guys in hiding? Who are the Taliban guys in hiding? There is really not a way for the U.S. to be able to get down to the individual trainee and know for sure. You have to trust the host government that you’re trying to help to do that kind of vetting.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

Did that answer your question?

Bakich

Absolutely.

Perry

You are in Colombia on 9/11/2001.

Pace

I am.

Perry

When do you first get word? Take us through those 24 hours, 48 hours after the attacks.

Pace

That was like my eleventh or twelfth visit down there. We were at the airport in Colombia, in Bogotá, at the military side of the airfield and I’m saying goodbye basically to my counterpart, General Tapias. We’re in the lounge and on TV you could see news coverage of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center. It was a replay of the first plane hitting it. I’m watching it and I say, “How could a pilot do that? Just miss? Something had to happen.” While we’re watching is when the second plane hits. So we’re watching real time when the second plane hit and as soon as that hit I said to General Tapias, “This is not an accident. This is an act of war. I’ve got to get home.”

We said our quick goodbyes, and because the plane I had, which is basically a C-40, a Boeing 737 variant— Bogotá is up about a mile. You couldn’t fly from Bogotá with enough fuel on board to get home to Miami, so we did what we always did, which is we left there and went down and landed at Cartagena at sea level and refueled. What was impactful about that was by the time my plane—it’s about an hour flight—got down to Cartagena, President Uribe I guess by then and General Tapias had closed off that airport to everybody except my plane and had lined the runway with their troops.

So we land and there is huge security all around my plane. They refuel us very quickly. I get back in the air and I start flying toward the United States and we get word that the U.S. airspace is closed to civil airplanes. I figured OK, that means that NORAD [North American Air Defense Command] is in charge. We called NORAD and got permission from NORAD to fly into Miami International. This is an international airport, it is just going all the time, and when we land it is a ghost town. When we do land, the Dade County police are on each of the taxiways. When my plane lands they have their sirens going and they’re chasing us down the runway. We get to park the plane, I get off the plane, and they have all these police cars there. They take my wife off to take care of her and I go back to the building.

Perry

What time of day now is this?

Pace

Probably late afternoon. But on the way back from Colombia, to kind of set the stage, when I was nominated to be Vice Chairman—I’ve always believed that God had a plan for me, and when I was nominated to be Vice Chairman I thought that was very interesting because I’m trainable, but the Vice Chairman’s job is 95 percent acquisition, budgets, the kind of stuff I hadn’t done much of. Being commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command was operational and that was what I knew a lot about. So I was surprised that I was selected to be Vice Chairman because I thought that role normally would be filled by a guy who had spent a lot of time in acquisition and budgets and those things.

So I was nominated on the 29th of August and on 11 September I understood, because on the way back from Colombia into the United States I said to my wife, “Now I know why I’ve been nominated. We are at war and Dick Myers is an aviator and Pete Pace is a ground guy and we’re going to have a lot of work to do.” In my mind the good Lord had put me in the position because of what we had to go do. That’s how the next six years played out. In my four years as Vice Chairman I probably spent 10 percent of my time on traditional Vice Chairman stuff and 80 to 90 percent of my time on war fighting with General Myers and the Chiefs and the combatant commanders.

On the way home we knew that the towers had been hit. I was able to find out—I can’t remember exactly how we did—oh, I know. I called from the plane to my son’s fiancée who worked at Lehman Brothers and was in the towers that day. I called and was able to get through to her and find out that she was OK, that she had gotten out. So I then called her parents to make sure they knew that she was OK. I called my son to make sure he knew that she was OK. All of them did, but now I feel better because I have a four-hour flight; I want to make sure the family is OK.

I just said to my wife, “Now I know. I’ve got to run through the finish line to 30th of September here as commander. Then I have to get to D.C. and start functioning.” So God bless Lynne [Pace], my wife. As she did 47 other times—I think she lived in 29 houses. She ended up doing all the packing up and that kind of stuff and I ended up driving my Corvette, which is why I said I think the police are still looking for me. I drove my Corvette overnight on the 30th to the morning of the 1st from Florida to D.C. and didn’t get stopped along the way and went to work with Dick Myers as his deputy.

Perry

My brother would insist that I ask you what model your Corvette is.

Pace

It was a 2000. I bought it in 1999. I ordered it in 1999 because in the Marine Corps if you’re a three-star as I was at the time and somebody else gets selected to be commandant, which was Jim [L.] Jones, the rest of the three-stars get out of the way because you have to make room for the two-stars now to come up and fill your spot. We have three or four guys trained over the next four years to become the next commandants. Traditionally the three-stars who did not get selected retire. So I said OK, I’m not selected. My daughter is going to graduate from college in 2000, I’ll take the college payment and put it toward a Corvette and I’ll drive off the parade deck in summer 2000 as a three-star in my brand-new Corvette.

Well, I bought the car but I didn’t get to retire. Jim Jones called me. He said, “I don’t want you to retire.” We are friends and have been since we were lieutenants. I said, “Jim, I need to make room for the next level of leaders.” He said, “I don’t want you to retire. I need you to stay for a while. I want to nominate you for various jobs.” So that all played out where I get to be nominated to be SOUTHCOM and then I get nominated to be Vice Chairman. So I had the car anyway for eight years.

Perry

You had the best of everything.

Pace

I had my car. More importantly, I had my wife and family.

Perry

Now here is the next most important question—color.

Pace

You might call it a forest green.

Perry

Sort of a British racing green?

Bakich

Marine green? [laughter]

Pace

No, not Marine green, kind of like a British racing green, and I still have it. It’s a great car.

Bakich

So you are at war. You’re a Vice Chairman who is not doing the typical Vice Chairman stuff. The decisions have already been made and plans are being worked on for us to go to war in Afghanistan. Can you talk about General Franks?

Pace

Sure.

Bakich

Have you known him—I mean, he was CENTCOM [Central Command], you were SOUTHCOM. Do you have an extensive history with him?

Pace

No. I can’t remember when Tom and I first met. But I had known him because of meetings in D.C. over time when I was a J3—oh, I know. He was in Korea, I think, when I was a J3. So he and I would talk on occasion that way. We knew each other by phone way before we knew each other in person. Then he took over CENTCOM the same time that I took over SOUTHCOM. He took CENTCOM first, and about two months later I took SOUTHCOM. So I went to his change of command and he came to mine. Then I went to be Vice Chairman and he is running the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Afghanistan expands. It’s not two wars, by the way, it is one war with two theaters. The second theater is getting ready to be opened up in Iraq, although we didn’t know it at the time, and Tommy Franks is putting together the plans.

Tom, brilliant strategist, rough in his presentation when he wants to be. Tom can be as smooth as silk with superiors and as rough as sandpaper with peers and subordinates and he can turn it on and off as he sees fit, but Tom was brilliant in his war strategies and he was extremely successful in Afghanistan and was successful early on in Iraq. He had little use, as in zero use, for the CAPCOM. He believed that what Doug Feith and Pete Pace were doing for the Secretary wasn’t really needed. He never said that directly, but you could get the feeling for it. In his F-bomb usage you could tell when he liked something and when he didn’t. He didn’t have much use for the Joint Chiefs as far as the Joint Chiefs executing their responsibilities when it came to Tom Franks’s sandbox. But we got through that.

You know, there are lots and lots of guys I’d like to have a beer with but I don’t want to be with on a battlefield, and there’s lots of guys I want to be with on a battlefield that I don’t want to have a beer with. So you learn over time to understand folks’ personalities. Tom Franks is a war fighter and Tom Franks is absolutely the right guy to have in that job at that time. Therefore, the fact that he had to have a little extra handholding from the Vice Chairman at times and the Chairman really didn’t bother me because he was under enormous responsibility and enormous pressure to perform—if that meant that somehow I had to be a calming influence, I was happy to take on that role. You play the part that you need to play to get the job done. Tom called us Title 10 MFs. [motherfuckers] [laughter]

Bakich

I’ve read that.

Pace

Yes. So you can either get hugely insulted or you can say, “OK, fine, we get it. You don’t like the fact we have opinions other than yours? Suck it up. We’re the Chiefs.”

Perry

Did he view that as micromanaging? Meddling? I’m here in the battle zone, I’m the commander, let me do my job? Is that how he saw CAPCOM and the Joint Chiefs?

Pace

You’d have to ask him, but I’m sure he did. He didn’t like having his homework graded and we graded it about 50 times. We being the Secretary, the Dep SecDef, the Chairman, and the Vice Chairman with Doug Feith in attendance and often in person and often via VTC [video teleconference]. But he also didn’t like it when he brought his plans into the tank and briefed us up on where he was when the Chiefs would ask him penetrating questions because, guess what, the Chiefs had the responsibility both as service Chiefs, to make sure that their service was ready to execute whatever Tom’s plans were, and also as Joint Chiefs in their collective role to give advice to the President through the Chairman. So yes, Tom didn’t like having to get our blessing. But that’s the system.

I always accepted the fact that Tom was not going to be a happy camper as part of my responsibility to keep the feathers as smooth as possible and I always took it as his responsibility to just get over it. But to play out the MF card—so came the time, I can’t remember if it was before, I think it was after we secured Baghdad, he came up. I can’t remember which Chief it was. It was somebody. It might have been Dick Myers. We came up with the idea that we were all going to get T-shirts that had “Title 10 MF” on the T-shirt. We would all go into the tank and we put these shirts on and we’re waiting for Tom to come in. So he comes into the room and we’re all wearing these Title 10 MF shirts. He looks at us and that was perfect. He started to laugh, we started to laugh, and it was all good.

You have to appreciate the fact that here was a guy who had no warning at all that he is going to have to go to Afghanistan, is 400 miles inland from any body of water, and he has to go in there right after 9/11 and start attacking those guys who had attacked us. So he has that enormous pressure, and now while he has that going on he gets word to start planning for Iraq. He has enormous pressure on him. So I said, “Look, if he’s going to use foul language on occasion, good. Wouldn’t be the first time I heard that word. And second of all, if that is how he vents, if that is how he releases steam, it’s OK with me because at the end of the day, once he has had a chance to go back we’re going to get together and we’re going to talk about it. OK, now that you’ve had a chance to say we shouldn’t be meddling, we’re going to meddle. Let’s talk about where we can be of use.”

So yes, Tom is a—I’ll say it this way. In my mind there are two types of Army generals. There are the [George] Pattons and there are the [Dwight] Eisenhowers. Tom is a Patton. The nation needs both.

Perry

Do we need notice though—Patton was not leading the invasion and was not given the Omar Bradley position. Was General Franks as a Patton the right person for this war in Afghanistan and then Iraq?

Pace

Initially, absolutely. I think the nation was really, really fortunate to have him in the job he had at the time we needed him to occupy Afghanistan and then occupy Iraq. Yes, absolutely. But then came the time for the peacekeeping piece of this, the postinvasion pieces of it. The timing on Tom’s change of command was such that it was his time to go and it gave the country a chance to put in somebody more Eisenhower-like.

Perry

That’s a really good analogy.

Bakich

So with respect to planning, the way it unfolded in particular in Iraq, there are a couple of things that I’d like to ask about. If you have general observations, please—

Pace

No, go ahead. I’ll respond to stimuli.

Bakich

Rumsfeld’s insistence on meddling with the time-phased force deployment is—I imagine as a professional Army officer that could be a problem, seeing as you have to move a city of people and their materiel around the world to do a particular job.

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

And coordinate it. Do you mind—

Pace

To set the stage for that I have to go back to a mistake that we made that wasn’t evident at the time, and we would make the same decision again, but which really led to the question you’re asking. We’re going into Afghanistan—300 million people want to go kill somebody. We have Tom Franks’s plan to go into Afghanistan, and part of that plan was we needed about 20,000 reservists to be called up because the nation after Vietnam decided that we would never have our Armed Forces—never is a long time—post-Vietnam we would have our military plans set up in such a way that to be able to go do it you needed to call up reservists, which would then bring into play all the politicians and all the families of the reservists and the like.

So you would have the military’s knee-jerk response to Vietnam era, that we never want to go into war again without the American people being behind us. And the way to do that would be to have the tooth in the active force and have the tail in the reserve force, and you couldn’t go without tooth and tail, and therefore you’d have to have the entire nation behind you to go to war again.

Now we’re going to go into Afghanistan and we have the tooth ready to go but we need tail. We needed about 20,000 reservists if I remember the number right. We had about 100,000 volunteers from the reserve force. So the decision was made to take volunteers. Why disrupt Mr. Pace’s life if we have this other Mr. Pace who is a volunteer to go? So the decision was, good. We’ll take the volunteers who want to go. It made absolute sense at the time.

Now, fast-forward to a year and a half, two years later, and now we need reservists to go as part of the Iraq plan. Many more reservists than we needed for the Afghan plan. But we had been using volunteers in the Afghan plan and the decision was made by the Secretary, I think, that we would have as best we could all reservists serve once before we asked a reservist to serve a second tour. That seemed like the right, fair thing to do. Now you get into execution. So now you need a unit of reservists. You go to that unit and you say, “Hmm, half of them have already served because they volunteered. So now we need to replace them.” So to replace them you had to go to two other Reserve units because some of them had already volunteered. So now you’re using two other Reserve units to fill out this one Reserve unit to go.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

When you start this, when you think your main effort in Iraq is going to last a year or two at most and then you’ll be able to come home because you would have turned it over to Iraq, you’re using two units to fill out a unit. Then you have to replace that. Now you need four units. So you end up over time with this geometric blossoming of how many units it takes to create one unit to go do its job in Iraq.

Had we foreseen that we were going to have to do that, the decision in Afghanistan would have been we will just call up units whether they’re volunteers or not and we’ll have them go as a unit. Then we’ll have this unit ready to go and this unit ready to go as backups, but we didn’t foresee that.

So now you have this Mixmaster. Now the Secretary is understandably hearing from Reserve component and Guard component and state Governors and the like about not riding any unit too much. So he pronounces publicly—I can’t remember exactly when—that we would, as best we can, use all reservists once before we use any reservist twice. That is how you get into these weekly meetings of deployment orders where because we needed a mess kit repair platoon to go and because we needed three units to fill out that unit, then he wanted to be assured that he was abiding by his word that we were not going to send PFC Pace twice before everybody else went, and if we were, we had to show to him where there was nobody else on the planet in Reserve or Guard who could do that.

Those were painful meetings because we had to go through all of them. Understandably for folks who didn’t see how we got there and were simply looking at the process now, why is the Secretary doing all that. But he felt an obligation that he had made a statement that he needed to do this. Now, another Secretary might very well have said, “Pete, this is what I want.”

Bakich

Right.

Pace

And gone about doing something else. But for whatever his reasons were, he felt like he needed to be the guy to do that. So there was pain involved in that. But at the end of the day he got what he wanted, which is we didn’t send a guy back for a second tour or a third tour or a fourth tour until everybody else who had that skill had been there once or had been there twice or had been there three times.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

But again, if you knew going into Afghanistan that you were going to go into Iraq you would have made different decisions. If you knew in Iraq that rather than being able to turn over in 2006 or earlier that you were going to be there several more years, you would have made different decisions early on. But you end up then paying the price for not being prescient enough when you’re making your initial decisions and it just sort of compounds.

Bakich

Right. Did that level of oversight, influence—I don’t mean to use a loaded term, just take your description at face value.

Pace

That’s all right.

Bakich

How did General Franks receive that? Was that a problem for him as far as the way his and [David D.] McKiernan’s planning—

Pace

No, by then I think General Franks was gone, to be honest with you. I think the commanders on the ground could care less about how we made the sausage in D.C. They just wanted the sausage delivered.

Bakich

OK.

Pace

So the commanders didn’t have a problem. The service Chiefs were the ones who correctly saw, because they were their troops, the service Chiefs’ responsibility is to man, train, and equip the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps. They’re the ones responsible. So they’re the ones who are trying to figure out what is the Secretary going to ask of my service over the next year or two. So there was angst.

There was especially angst on the Guard and Reserve side, because as patriotic as they are, and were, they also were looking for some kind of stability, and you don’t provide stability to a unit in—pick a place—when half of them are gone and half of them haven’t and now you’re going to take the other half. So when you take the other half, because it’s “fair,” what is the half that is staying at home going to do? My recommendation has been, in the lessons learned department, no matter what you think you’re going to do next, if you have to go into one place use whole units because you can’t know what is going to happen next. Just bite the bullet, call up people who don’t want to be called up. Some don’t want to be called up, some do. Call them all up. Keep the unit whole. They’ve trained together, have them go together.

In Vietnam we learned a lesson about individual replacement. That was terrible. I went over on a 13-month tour. The day I got there my tour started; 13 months later I left. All during that time everybody in my platoon was on a different schedule. We didn’t train up together before we got there. My generation’s lesson was, when we go to war as an active force we’re going to go as units, and that’s how we did it.

So the Vietnam lesson was well paid attention to on the active side going into Afghanistan and then going into Iraq. If we were to go someplace else in the future I would hope that the lesson that we learned was that if you’re going to call Guard and Reserve, you call them up as units.

Perry

So apply that same lesson from Vietnam to the Reserve?

Pace

No, apply the Afghan-Iraq lesson to the Reserve.

Perry

But the Vietnam lesson had been for regular units, should fight as units, train as units, go as units, be on the same schedule.

Pace

Yes, that’s fair.

Perry

Then take that lesson to the Reserve.

Pace

Yes, that’s fair.

Perry

Can I back up then to a globalized question about how we raise armies and Marines and Navy and send them to wars? You mentioned American support before. I’m just thinking about the Vietnam model, which was a draft, and a post-Vietnam model, which is a volunteer service, and yet in both cases American public support vanished. So is it more about the war that we’re fighting and how we’re fighting it, or the politics of how that is explained to the American people as opposed to how we’re raising those armed services to go and fight the war?

Because I used to think—when I was teaching during Afghanistan and Iraq, the Washington Post you might remember would publish periodically, maybe quarterly, almost like yearbook pictures of the fallen. I felt a responsibility to have my students engage with that. I would take that in every quarter and I would pass them around and I would say we need to keep in mind people are giving their lives for our country and for freedom. I said, “What do you think?” These were women—I was teaching at a women’s college, women 18 to 22 years old. I’d say, “What do you think about this? These are your peers.”

One student one time said, “I just don’t feel that engaged. I just don’t feel that attached to this conflict because I don’t know anyone who is in the service.” Growing up during Vietnam, and my brother’s in your age cohort and served four years in the Air Force—he went to an all-men’s college and everybody was being drafted or enlisting. That really struck me. People have said that now. What is it, 1 percent of Americans are serving? So I just wondered—we’ll step aside just briefly from these very specific issues and wars to your thoughts on that.

Pace

I served in both a conscripted force and in an all-volunteer force. As a leader, the all-volunteer force is just a much healthier organization. Why? Because first of all it is not all volunteer; it is all recruited. You don’t have lines of people waiting outside the recruiting stations waiting to get in except on 12 September. Other than unique circumstances like that, for the most part the recruiters are out convincing young men and women to join the Armed Forces. But it is still an all-volunteer force. They volunteer to do so, and if they didn’t volunteer they wouldn’t be there.

So even those who join the Armed Forces and find out that it is not exactly what they thought it was going to be in their case, they realize that they have volunteered and therefore they didn’t get taken away in chains to serve their country. What that means then is that in a conscripted force you spend a lot of your leadership time convincing people to show up, that they really should give it their best. In an all-volunteer force you start with people who are there because they want to be there and they’re ready to learn.

The cohesion of an all-volunteer force and your ability to train to a much higher level, because people are anxious to be there and they want to be there and they want to learn, all that is really, really good. You can put together a fabulous force, as we did, that went into Baghdad inside of three weeks. I mean, those were all volunteers who did that.

The downside to that is that first of all, you have an American public who don’t know their military. Therefore they don’t know anybody who is serving, like that young lady said. They look at the Army, at the Armed Forces, as something that they in most ways admire but they know nothing about it. Number two, you end up in a protracted hundred-year war, which is what we’re in—you end up in a war like that and you cannot possibly continue to have an all-volunteer force and only have people who are back on the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth deployment. Because you will tear apart your military families. You will ride them hard, put them away wet. That is another reason why Secretary Rumsfeld was so adamant about making sure that everybody served before somebody else served twice.

My solution to that is not conscription, but my solution to that is also not purely all volunteer. My solution is a universal service where every young man and woman has a two-year obligation to the nation to serve in some capacity, Peace Corps, local soup kitchen, pick a place.

Perry

Teach for America, AmeriCorps.

Pace

Yes, everybody has a responsibility for two years to serve their nation somehow. Inside of that then there will be enough people who will “volunteer” to be in the Armed Forces because they know they have to serve doing something and they choose Armed Forces just like somebody else would chose Peace Corps. I think you can almost have your cake and eat it too from that standpoint. It would also allow you to have—for those who are on their two-year tour, you can put your pay system back down to what it was during conscription, because in an all-volunteer force you’re paying competitive wages. If you have conscripted wages, then your first two years you can pay people below market, so to speak. I’m not being glib about it, but you can.

Perry

As the Peace Corps does, a stipend to live.

Pace

You pay them a stipend, but not enough to compete with General Motors to hire them to come and be in the Marine Corps instead of being out on an assembly line someplace making cars. Then the dollars and cents that you save can be used to buy the weapons you need. Then comes the time when somebody decides to stay year three and beyond, they would then switch to the professional pay scale, which is what you have today.

But in my Marine Corps, 49 percent of your service members are lance corporals and below and you only need 20 percent to stay beyond the first four years. So you can have 80 percent of your force being paid at “conscription” wages and 20 percent of your force being paid at professional wages. You would have an armed force that was more reflective of the environment. Many more Americans would understand what it is like to be in a squad of Marines or something like that. So when they start thinking about what the nation is doing on a battlefield someplace, they have much better empathy for it. I’m not sure I answered all your questions on that.

Perry

Absolutely. I should say that those same students who said, “I’m sorry. I just don’t know anyone in the military,” those same students in another conversation said that they believed there should be a constitutional amendment to require national service for all young people.

Pace

By the way, when I had this conversation with a Supreme Court Justice, a very conservative guy, and I said to him that what I believed is what I believed, he looked at me and said basically I was on dope.

Perry

I think, therefore I know, which one you were speaking to.

Pace

I said, “I am going to continue to say what I believe,” which is what I just said, “but I promise you this: if I do say it, I will tell people, not your name, but that there is at least one Supreme Court Justice who believes”—and he said to me—“that the nation has a right to force its youth into the Armed Forces to defend the nation. It does not have the right to force them to work in soup kitchens and work in Peace Corps and things like that.” So he thought it was unconstitutional for the nation to do that. I promised him I would always amend my comments about that.

One other thing you said that I disagree with, only because it’s too stark. That is, you said that in both Vietnam and in this war support has vanished. I think that in the current war, which is still ongoing, that support is dormant. First of all, our fellow citizens have changed dramatically, for in Vietnam when I served, if you served in Vietnam and people were for the war they were supportive of you. If they were against the war, they were against you as a military person.

Now, regardless of whether somebody supports the war or not, if they see you and you’re in uniform they thank you for your service and they appreciate the fact that you’re willing to sacrifice for the nation. They will tell you, “I don’t support what we’re doing, but I appreciate the fact that you are willing to serve the nation.” That is a huge, huge difference.

Perry

I can remember seeing yard signs to that effect, “I don’t support the war but I support the troops,” as opposed to—I don’t have to tell you this, but my brother coming back from overseas during Vietnam and being told, “When you get to the airport go to the men’s room and change out of your uniform into civvies.”

Pace

Yes. So you have people now who are supportive of the warrior but not the war. That translates to around the kitchen tables of our soldiers and Marines especially who are on their fourth, fifth, and sixth tours, that the American people do support them. They may not support the effort, but they do appreciate what they’re doing. I’ve told many people that if we ever have to go back to where the American people do not support the individual troops, that’s when the all-volunteer force really starts coming apart at the seams. But we cannot continue down this road of only using volunteers when you look at what’s ahead of us.

The reason I balk at the vanish comment is because it hasn’t vanished. The United States will follow leadership. You had President [Jimmy] Carter saying that we were in malaise and everybody in the nation goes, “Ahh….” President [Ronald] Reagan says, “Hey, we’re the guys.” And we go, “Yes, we’re the guys.” So what the President says and does is hugely impactful on whether there is support or is not support. I think that when President Obama came in and wanted to end the wars by coming out of Iraq too soon and almost coming out of Afghanistan too soon to fulfill that pledge he has made, the American people believe that the war effort was not worth it.

But if you start taking a look now, the pendulum is swinging back. You had whoever it was who thought President Bush went too far and now you have people who think that President Obama has gone too far the other way. If you look at the attacks that are happening worldwide, the American people—we’re one attack on U.S. soil from having long lines at the recruiting stations again, but we are one Presidential speech away from the American people understanding the fight that we’re in.

This is an enemy that has a hundred-year war plan. You can read about it on the Internet. You can understand that Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and things that are going on now in Paris and elsewhere are all part of one war, not various wars but one war. You can see where we have to have strength against this. I’m not talking about killing everybody. You can’t kill enough people. One of the things I know is in the record on my part is to say, “Look, your military can and should handle this piece of the war, the decapitation piece. But you can’t decapitate them fast enough if you don’t have a local government that is representative of and supportive of the people.”

So in Iraq, a) we came out too soon. I’ll get back to that in a second. But b) you have a local government that is seen by the Sunnis as being nothing about anything but Shi’a. So all those who have military experience who lay back, all those who believe that Sunnis should have a voice again who are not seeing it, are susceptible to Isis propaganda about “Join our side because we’ll put the Sunnis back in charge.”

Until you have a representative government in Iraq that cares for Sunni and Shi’a alike, you can kill as many bad guys as you want and you’re never going to stop the wellspring of folks who join Isis. You have to have governments that provide for the people so that a parent believes that tomorrow is going to be better than today and my kid is going to grow up in a better world than I grew up in. Arguably in Iraq and in Syria, they don’t believe that.

Can you imagine the desperation as a parent if you happen to be the husband to take yourself, your wife, and your kids, put them in a rickety boat and shove off to God knows where in the hopes that that is going to be better than what you’re leaving? That’s desperation, and that is the kind of cesspool environment that allows these folks who spew Isis propaganda and al-Qaeda propaganda to be successful.

Now, when I talk about leaving too soon, if I am going to point fingers at other people I need to point fingers at myself. Again, this is something where you look back and say, “Whoa, I didn’t think about that.” Again, I grew up—my world has been, for 70 years we’re in Japan, we’re in Korea, we’re in Germany, as guests. Seventy years later in Germany and Japan, sixty years later in Korea. Each of those started out with some kind of dictatorship and transition to some kind of representative government and they are now democracies that serve their people well and are great trading partners of ours.

It didn’t dawn on me when I had the responsibility to talk about Afghanistan and about Iraq that I needed to be saying to the American people that this isn’t about months and years, this is about decades. Not about decades of military operations but about being here for decades, about having a military presence for decades that will allow the governments to grow and to take on their own responsibilities and then for us to slowly take our hands off the bicycle seat, so to speak. I don’t mean that pejoratively, I just mean it to be able to be supportive. Because I didn’t do that, because to my knowledge President Bush didn’t do that, the American people I think had a vision of quick in and quick out. Along comes President Obama saying we should get out of there.

So he comes out and he creates a vacuum. Now, I couldn’t tell you that Isis was going to fill the vacuum, because Isis didn’t have the name of Isis back then, but I could tell you something bad is going to fill the vacuum if you leave too soon. So my presumption, again wrong, was that we all understood that when you occupy a country, which, thank God, we don’t do very often, but when you do occupy a country, you have an obligation to stay there a long, long time to make sure that when you leave them you leave them better off than you found them.

We did that in Germany, we did that in Japan, we did that in Korea. We have not done that in Iraq and we may not do that in Afghanistan, and shame on us if we don’t at the end of the day leave the Afghan people and Iraqi people better off than we found them. If that’s what we’re going to do, if all we’re going to do is go in, win a battle, and leave, we shouldn’t have gone in in the first place.

Bakich

This is a very important point, and I think it brings up a number of important things that we need to touch on. I’ll tick off a few.

Pace

Before we go into that can we take a break?

[BREAK]

Bakich

General Pace said that there was something on the record that he wanted to say about General Casey’s nomination to be Army Chief of Staff. Perhaps we should—so no one forgets.

Perry

Yes, let’s just do that right now.

Bakich

Then we can circle back to assumptions and necessity of staying longer.

Pace

I apologize, because it is going to sound a little bit self-serving and I don’t mean it to, but I think it’s important from the standpoint of historical documentation. Otherwise I wouldn’t say it. When General Casey was nominated to be Chief of Staff of the Army, lots of folks in Congress were concerned that he had not been as successful as they wanted him to be. I believe that he had gone over there on an 18-month tour and he had stayed for 30.

Our government writ large had not stood up to the plate. The other departments were not sending their people over to Iraq to help, so that the military had not only its own responsibilities but basically if water works needed to be run, Major Pace and the local area had to try to figure out how to make the water works run. That was fine in the first year or so, but over time we really needed the U.S. government to surge—we’ll talk about that more later—their efforts as well and not leave General Casey to figure all this stuff out on his own.

I felt that, 1) he had earned, and was the right guy to become Chief of Staff of the Army for lots and lots of reasons, not the least of which was here was a guy who came out of 30 months in the field and understands what changes need to be made in the Army, and 2) having been nominated by the President, to not confirm him was a slap in the face to the entire U.S. military, not just to George Casey.

So I went to see Senator McCain because Senator McCain was the guy who was basically saying, “Not in my life.” We talked. He was adamant. I said to him what I also said to Senator [John] Warner, who at the time was the senior Republican, ranking Republican. I said that I felt so strongly that now that the President had nominated Casey to be Chief of Staff of the Army, that to not confirm him would be to drop all of the problems of the Iraq War at the feet of the U.S. military and that I could not abide by that, and if they did that, if they did not confirm General Casey, that I would step down as Chairman. That made them cranky.

I do not know how much it played in their decision to confirm. Nor do I know how much that played into their decision to not want me to be renominated, but it happened, and I think it is important for scholars of civil-military relations to know that there are times when the senior military guys need to stand up to what they own and what they don’t own. I am more than willing to stand up to the things that I did wrong and that I wish I had seen differently, more than willing to stand up to that, but I could not sit idly by and watch the military get the tail pinned on it for everything that was wrong in Iraq.

Bakich

Did Senator McCain or Senator Warner for that matter specify in detail to you precisely their rationale for not initially wanting General Casey to be Army Chief of Staff?

Pace

I don’t believe Senator Warner ever said he wouldn’t, but he was the ranking—and since I had already talked to Senator McCain, in my mind I owed it to the ranking member to tell him what I had told—so I did not go in to Senator Warner thinking I had to change his mind about anything. I just wanted to report to him what I had said to somebody else on his committee.

Senator McCain just simply thought that General Casey’s war plan was inadequate. He was that way then, he is that way now with the current leaders. I have tremendous respect for Senator McCain as a military person and all that he endured and the fact that as a prisoner he was offered freedom many times and he turned it down many times. You cannot tarnish him in my mind as a military serving officer. But I also felt that I needed to go speak to him about holding General Casey responsible for things that were not General Casey’s responsibility.

Bakich

Is there anything more on that that you want to—

Perry

Not on that specifically. I think—correct me if I’m wrong, Spence—one thing we want to do is do a little deeper dive on the actual war planning for Afghanistan. Before we do that though, we haven’t talked about President Bush very much. Yet you did mention him in one of the meetings leading up to the Iraq War. We just jumped ahead in the chronology, which is fine, but I wondered at this stage what it is that you’re doing at DoD. Could we talk a little bit about your first impressions of George W. Bush as Commander in Chief and President of the United States?

Pace

Sure. The first time I got to meet the President was when I was still commander in chief of Southern Command and we had an annual CINCs’ conference where all the CINCs came in from around the world and met with the Secretary of Defense, and President Bush and Laura [Bush] were always, for the eight years that they were there, super gracious to the military leadership and had us over to the White House for dinner. I want to say the green room, pick a color, but I’m pretty sure it was the green room.

We toured the White House, had dinner with the President and First Lady. He would stand up and do a little bit of talk. It was clear to us on Day One that he respected his military, that he respected our families, and that he took to heart not only his role as Commander in Chief, obviously, but his understanding of the consequences of his decisions on the troops. That was from Day One.

Then when I became Vice Chairman—the very first week I was Vice Chairman, Dick Myers was Chairman but was absent on travel some place so I went to a National Security Council meeting as Acting Chairman. There were a couple of things that the President did. One, at the very first meeting, I’m sitting there around the table and the discussion is about something that is not U.S. military. But I’m sitting there thinking to myself, Joe Six Pack down at the 7 Eleven is not going to understand this. Having promised myself in Vietnam that if I ever served someplace where I could speak, I was going to speak my mind. I reminded myself of that every day when I went to the White House.

I’m sitting there. I said to the President, “Mr. President, this is out of my lane, but—” and that’s as far as I got. He said, “Pete, as long as you’re in this room, nothing is out of your lane.” “Aye, sir.” So I said what I said. Two days later another National Security Council meeting, and me being a Marine and a bit of a slow learner, [laughter] I’m sitting there again as Acting Chairman and they’re talking about something that had nothing to do with the military. Again, it is just not ringing true to me, and again I’m trying not to be the wise guy new guy. I say to the President, “Mr. President, this is a little bit out of my lane, but—” He said, “Pete—” That’s as far as I got the second time. “Didn’t I tell you two days ago that as long as you’re in this room nothing is out of your lane?”

I smiled. I said, “Mr. President, you did say that and you will not have to tell me again.” But what the President did and what was true for the six years I had the privilege of working with him was he expected all of us in that room to have our thinking caps on no matter who the “expert” was who was talking.

Without having to tell me, what he also said was just because I was wearing a uniform he expected everybody else around the room in suits and dresses to be asking me questions until they were comfortable. So the senior guy in the room was basically telling everyone, “I need your brains engaged. I need you questioning each other because that is going to help me as President make decisions.” Huge. I use that in leadership discussions all the time because whoever you are in the organization, if you’re the senior person, you set the tone, and what you tell people you expect is what is going to happen, right?

The other thing I remember very clearly from very early on, again the first week, because Monday, Wednesday, Friday were NSC [National Security Council] meetings, but Wednesdays were the one-on-one, and the one-on-one was after the NSC meeting going back to the Oval Office with the President. The one-on-one was the President asking the Chairman questions that he wasn’t ready to ask in front of other people, which one required a discussion about. It was the Chairman’s opportunity to kind of back-brief the President on things that he had asked previously or that you wanted to tell him without telling everybody else yet.

It was called one-on-one, but in the room with the President and the Chairman were the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff of the White House.

Bakich

The whole NSC, practically.

Pace

What I remember very clearly about the first meeting, other than—Oh, by the way, I got used to going to the White House because I went to the White House as a lieutenant, I went to the White House as a colonel, I went to the White House as a general. I got very comfortable walking into the White House. In six years of going into the Oval Office a couple of times a week, every single time I walked into the Oval Office it was special. That was a place that was unique and different. The President treated it that way. President Bush would not go in that Oval Office unless he had a coat and tie on, which I really appreciated.

I’d be in there, and honestly I’d be saying to myself, What the heck am I doing here? I’m a kid from Teaneck, New Jersey. But I’m here now. It was that way all the time. For years there would be a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Don’t tell the President something you don’t know.” You say to yourself, well, of course you’re not going to tell him something you don’t know. But duh, you’re an advisor and the President is asking you a question. You want to know the answer. If you’re not careful, you can start answering a question before you’ve really thought it through.

The President being the smart guy that he is wasn’t playing games. He’d ask a question. The faster you answered it, the faster he got on to the next one because he wanted data. So it was kind of incumbent on me to slow the conversation down a little bit and to make sure that I was giving him what I knew and making sure that he knew that I knew this to be fact or I was extrapolating my answer from the facts I knew or whatever level of confidence I had in what I was telling him.

So the very first time I did that, which was the second NSC meeting day and my first one-on-one day, we were in the Oval Office, and about the third question the President asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to. I said, “Mr. President, I don’t have a clue, but I’ll find out and report back.” He kind of smiled and everybody else in the room kind of smiled a little bit, but I could see his body language just relax because he knew I was never going to fill him full of stuff just to give him answers. He has told me several times since then how much he appreciated the fact that he knew what I knew, what I was extrapolating, the things I was hoping to be able to provide to him, and the clarity I tried to provide to him. He appreciated that.

The other thing was that as Commander in Chief he asked a lot of questions. I cannot remember in six years he, the President, ever saying, “Do not do that that way.” If he was uncomfortable he would ask questions. How would this play out? How would that play out? What about this, what about that? He wouldn’t say, “Don’t—” He’d say, “Tell me more about this.”

We’d go away, do some more pushups, come back again, and talk more. We would find out, “Actually there is a better way to do this, Mr. President, and these things—” Not once do I ever remember him saying, “Do not do that.” Also, and I didn’t realize this until after I retired either, when I thought about it, every single time I said to either Secretary Rumsfeld or the President, wherever it came up, that we should not do whatever it was for these reasons, every single time it was immediately taken off the table. Now, that’s not veto power, don’t get me wrong, but when I would say to the President, “Mr. President, we shouldn’t do that that way for these reasons,” he would say, “OK, that’s off the table. How else are we going to get that done?”

That’s not the same as to say when I presented a way to do something with him that he’d say, “Yes, go do it” and he shouldn’t have. But I was giving my best military advice, and when my best military advice was, “Do not for these military reasons,” he accepted that. When my best military advice was how to do something, he then put that into the cauldron with all the other advice he was getting and came up with a decision, which is exactly what I wanted him to do.

One more thing about it, to get back to Secretary Rumsfeld. Again, the very first Commander in Chief meeting that I went to with Secretary Rumsfeld, I drew the short straw so I was Mikey. I got to give SOUTHCOM’s presentation before anybody else. I had been a three-star under President Clinton. I knew how President Clinton’s team worked. I had briefed the Clinton team as a four-star. So now I’m giving my first presentation to the new Secretary of Defense soon after the President was inaugurated.

I’m standing in front of the room with all my fellow commanders and I’m briefing Secretary Rumsfeld on each of my countries. I am throwing into the conversation what I had been used to doing, which was some of the political influences in each of the countries. What Secretary Rumsfeld said to me was a bit embarrassing but also instructive. What he said to me was, “General, don’t you presume to understand what the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense can or cannot do politically. What I need from you is your best military advice.”

I swallowed a little bit and I said, “Aye, aye, sir.” What that freed me up to do now was from that day forward as a commander and then as Vice Chairman and as Chairman I would preface my comments with, “My best military advice is.” I would give pure military advice, which then signaled to the Secretary and to the President that I knew that they had other things to think about. If they wanted my opinion about that they could ask me, but as long as they were asking me for my advice I was going to constrain my advice to my military left and right limits and give them a straight shot. That actually was quite emancipating in not having to think about anything other than what my job was, which was to give them the best military advice.

So Secretary Rumsfeld was that way and the President was that way. Again, whenever I said, “Please don’t do that,” it didn’t happen. Whenever I gave my best military advice, it got put into the mix of advice.

Bakich

It sounds to me like with the President of the United States there were no lanes in which you had to restrict yourself. With Secretary Rumsfeld there absolutely were lanes that you had to restrict yourself.

Pace

No, I would say that differently. I would say that I constrained myself. “OK, I hear what you’re saying, thank you.” There is a difference between advice and discussion.

Bakich

Got you.

Pace

So certainly in the Pentagon, sitting around a table like this, we were expected to do the exact same thing we were expected to do in the White House, which was question, push back, ask, don’t accept. Ask, always. Same thing in the White House. But the lesson I learned inside the Pentagon that I transcribed to the White House was comes time for giving best military advice, don’t forget it is best military advice and don’t color what I might say to the President because I’m thinking about some political environment either at home or abroad. That actually does the President a disservice from a military standpoint. So yes, thanks for the clarification.

Bakich

No, no.

Perry

Can we then put that in the mix of going back to CAPCOM and your work with Doug Feith?

Pace

Sure.

Perry

So there presumably you have a free flow of ideas between policy, civilian considerations of policy, and politics and your considerations of the military. Did you feel in that setting you could go back and forth as much as you want and use that term “get out of your lane”? Because in a way, you gave yourself permission to get in and out of each other’s lanes by using that as a way of making those discussions fruitful.

Pace

Absolutely, because again, discussions are discussions and advice is advice. Discussions were always freewheeling, always freewheeling. Doug and I got along really very well. I went out of my way to accommodate his personality and he went out of his way to accommodate mine, and both of our staffs understood that this is an odd couple, but it worked. [laughter]

Perry

Having interviewed both of you I see exactly what you’re saying.

Pace

It worked.

Bakich

Did it break down at all ever? Were there problems? Were there times when the two of you did not see eye to eye and that took some particular finessing?

Pace

There must have been. I don’t recall specifically. I do know that there were times when we sat with the Secretary where Doug would espouse view A and I would espouse view B, so there were certainly times when we didn’t get to a single solution. Nor should we have in some cases, again because the military’s responsibilities are different from the civilians’ responsibilities. I can say categorically it never got to where Pete’s personality and Doug’s personality were at odds with each other. We just didn’t let that happen. There were certainly times when his recommendation and my recommendation were different, but we knew that going in.

In fact, to Secretary Rumsfeld’s credit, we would go to the White House, and if he and I knew that we were coming at this from a different perspective—and we would know because we’d always talk, to his credit, and perhaps because he wanted to be in charge. But to his credit he would say his piece to the President—and then he would say, “Now, Pete sees it differently.”

So he would kind of keep in control of the fact that he was letting the President know that I saw it differently, but he still always made sure that when he knew that I had a different view, that he introduced the opportunity for me to speak my mind. I didn’t need the opportunity to be introduced, but he was always very forthcoming. It wasn’t very often, but there were times. Again, because I had responsibilities that were different than his, maybe I saw something a little bit differently.

Perry

Since we’ve talked at the highest level about President Bush, but you did mention in the so-called “one-on-one” meetings when Vice President Cheney would be there, we should probably talk about him and how you observed him and his participation in these meetings. Then if you want to draft off of that to others working for him—Scooter [Irve Lewis] Libby, David Addington, et cetera.

Pace

Sure. One more thought on the President before we leave. It is very important. The President did things quietly as Commander in Chief that were literally eye-watering. He would go meet with the families of the fallen. He would go to Dover and meet some of the remains coming back. He insisted that none of that ever got into the press because he never wanted to have any political leverage out of the grief or out of the consequences of the combat that we were in. To this day he is still—to his troops—he is Commander in Chief. He still does the bike rides and he does the golf tournaments. He does all these things without fanfare, trying to figure out ways to support the troops and support the transition. How can he use the bully pulpit of being the 43rd President? How does he use that to the benefit of the troops?

Perry

And the Wounded Warrior Project particularly I know is supported.

Pace

Not them per se; the term “wounded warrior project” writ large. When you’re talking about the 47,000 nonprofits that are out there, yes. The Wounded Warrior Project per se that started out good and is no longer, meaning they’re still doing good works but more than 50 percent of the money they take in goes to admin [administrative] overhead and they pay the senior executives of Wounded War Project between $500,000 and $800,000 a year. That to me is over the top. So I would not attach President Bush to an organization that has lost its way.

But I would tell you that he has never forgotten, nor could he ever in my mind, the consequences of the decisions he made as President and Commander in Chief. He made the decisions he had to make and he has provided the resources. That’s another thing. Once he made a decision, then he resourced it and never second-guessed it. You couldn’t ask for more than that from a President or Commander in Chief. He also always remembers the consequences to the families and to the troops and has embraced the opportunity to do all he can, continuing now, to help those who need help.

Perry

I think some of the most moving reports of conversations between him and his father, Bush 41, are about that weighty, burdensome responsibility of the Commander in Chief in time of war.

Pace

He asked tough questions. He made decisions, resourced decisions, and then he didn’t second-guess. As a military guy, you can’t ask for more than that.

Bakich

Did you ever get the sense that he was in the practice of rethinking—I don’t want to say second-guessing because that does have a negative connotation, but was he self-critical in front of you? “I made this decision, General, do we need to change direction? Do we need to do something different?”

Pace

If not in direct words, certainly in inference. When you decide it is time to relook at your Iraq strategy—right?

Bakich

Of course.

Pace

I don’t know that he did or he didn’t say. As I’ve been saying during this conversation, I didn’t make the right recommendation here based on what I knew. I can’t recall specifically, but clearly very willing, as we all were. It started out for me for example, some folks who were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff embraced the concept of being the principal military advisor to the President. They embraced that in a way that was not only principal but only, and they didn’t want anybody else talking to the President.

My approach was I’m not that smart. I’m sorry I’m not that prescient. This man deserves as many opinions as he can get. And oh, by the way, we’re going to have an NSC meeting. We want to have the field commanders on the VTC. When the field commanders come to D.C., we want to go over with them to the White House and have them talk to the President. The President needs to have an understanding with his commanders not filtered through the Chairman. Multiple times a week I had hours with the President to get my point of view on the table. I’m not a shrinking violet. I’d never had problems speaking my mind, but I thought the President needed to hear other voices as well.

Perry

Before we get back to the Vice President, did you notice at all in those early meetings, and particularly after 9/11, any concept of a learning curve with President Bush 43? Because he would have been the first to admit coming into office as his campaign had been run that he would focus on domestic issues, that famously regime change was not on the schedule. We know from, again, his campaign and what he had done as Governor, he was going to focus on education and tax policy and faith-based initiatives.

In contrast to what we said about his father, who came in with a tremendous amount of military and foreign policy experience, he didn’t have that. Was that ever manifest to you in any way?

Pace

No. I’m thinking here. First of all, my close association with the President begins in October of 2001, so he has been President then nine months. After being President for nine months, I think you pretty much have developed your style of getting data and the like. I think that by the time I had personal contact with him, if there was a learning curve on his part, he was past that. He was a very smart man. He doesn’t get credit for being as smart as he is. He is a smart man. So no, I didn’t recognize that and it never manifested itself. I never felt like I had to explain to him that there were 12 men in an Army squad and 13 men in a Marine squad. So yes, that just doesn’t ring any bells for me.

Perry

To the Vice President and what you saw in meetings. Were you getting information input from, again, anybody in his office? The Office of the Vice President, particularly Scooter Libby? David Addington?

Pace

First, the Vice President. Clearly the man had been Secretary of Defense. Clearly the man was a friend of the current Secretary of Defense, current being Secretary Rumsfeld. The two of them I know just from comments that were made would talk on the phone with each other about where things were going, where they were, how they were going to go about making the next recommendation to the President about whatever it was. So it was clear to me that there was collaboration. I don’t mean collusion, I mean collaboration, between the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense.

That was number one. Number two, I cannot recall the Vice President staking out a position in either a deputies meeting or with the President. There is no doubt in my mind he had one and I presume he gave it to the President quietly. But I thought he was amazingly effective at asking questions that would elicit the information he was looking for and educate the people around the room, but he never—at least in my presence—ever made a recommendation to the President in front of anybody else, which I thought was brilliant, because the President would either have to accept it or reject it. If he rejected it he would be rejecting his Vice President. And the Vice President was not going to put him in a position of having to make that kind of decision publicly or perhaps to even embarrass himself.

So I thought at least for the rest of us, the way the Vice President handled his relation publicly with the President was extraordinary. I think it made it possible for President Bush to say whatever he wanted to say, ask whatever he wanted to ask, decide whatever he wanted to decide without looking like he was agreeing with, disagreeing with, overriding, not overriding, his Vice President. Now, what they did one-on-one, who knows? I have no idea, not my business. But from the standpoint of the system, I thought the Vice President was extremely effective.

I also appreciated the Vice President’s approach to the military. I think he was, at least again in meetings, correctly deferential to the Secretary of Defense when it came to things that perhaps he knew something about as having been a Secretary of Defense, but he was not the Secretary. He was the Vice President. I thought at least at the meetings he might ask questions, but he never ever gave any indication that if he were still Secretary he’d be doing this. Never, which I also thought was a class act.

I have great respect for the Vice President. I know some folks around the nation see him in different lights, with a Darth Vader mask on, but the Vice President I knew was and is a patriot who in my mind was as we all were in the aftermath of a terrorist attack at home trying to figure how to prevent the next one, so far successful. It’s coming. There is no way to prevent it forever, but I think that the way the Bush Presidency and the team handled the aftermath resulted in actions that prevented further attacks here at home and good fortune. But a combination of a bit of good luck and a lot of hard work I think has prevented another attack here at home. That’s something that they should be proud of.

Bakich

Can you speak also about General Powell, Secretary Powell?

Pace

I can, but you asked also about the rest of the—

Perry

The Office of the Vice President.

Pace

To be honest with you, they sat in on meetings. I know they had influence. I know they had opinions.

Perry

And you knew that because of what they would say in meetings?

Pace

Yes, because of what they would say in meetings. I have no clear recollection of any of his staff saying or doing specific things that would highlight them to me as being in the box or out of the box. I mean just nothing—

Perry

Or use the term “out of their lane”? Some would say that would be the case, but you didn’t see it?

Pace

I didn’t see it. But again, I kind of stick to my knitting. [laughter] And oh, by the way—we’re going to get to it later—it didn’t bother me that the Vice President’s staff and the Vice President were talking to guys like General Jack Keane when it came to the surge. Why not?

When you have the country’s future at stake, and you have different views available, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the different views? The only problem I had with Jack Keane was he never back-briefed me. I would have appreciated that, because Jack was offered Chief of Staff of the Army. He turned it down because of his wife’s illness, but after he turned it down and he retired, if he was going to be chipping in, which is great because he’s got a great brain, it would have been helpful and a professional courtesy to let me know what he was saying to the Vice President’s team.

I knew he was going over because other people were telling me. That did not bother me, but it would have been useful for me to know what he was saying to them. But again, if the Vice President’s team were the ones who energized that or the Vice President himself did, it makes no difference to me because again, if we’re trying to give the President courses of action, why wouldn’t you get as many ideas as you can? You should. I would not say that they colored outside their lane when it came to my responsibilities.

Perry

Afghanistan?

Bakich

We should probably move to—

Pace

Do you want to say something about Secretary Powell?

Perry

Oh, yes, that’s right.

Bakich

Another individual with a huge body of experience.

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

Whereas Vice President Cheney didn’t pipe up as a former Secretary of Defense, did General Powell, Secretary Powell?

Pace

No, God bless him, he did not. Every once in a while outside of a meeting he would sidle up to me or Dick Myers and say, “Have you thought about this?” which I took as a general officer giving a recommendation to another general officer, not the Secretary of State. He was always very careful to ask his military questions and give his military recommendations, if he had any, privately to either Dick as Chairman or me—he wasn’t Secretary then—when I was Vice Chairman I guess.

He would call me on the phone when he couldn’t get through to the Secretary. Meaning he could talk to the Secretary but he couldn’t get through to the Secretary. [laughter] He would enlist my thoughts and perhaps a way forward. He had different responsibilities. I thought that the strength of Secretary Powell and the strength of Secretary Rumsfeld worked to the detriment of the country on occasion because they didn’t like to share their toys and they didn’t always see eye to eye. Again, if the President didn’t know about it, the President didn’t know about it, so it just festered. I think that served us poorly a couple of times in Iraq.

Bakich

OK, and we need to ask about Condoleezza Rice in the same situation.

Perry

Right, but before that, when you say strength, strength of their personalities?

Pace

Oh, yes.

Perry

Strength of forcefulness?

Pace

Confidence in their own abilities, sureness of their position.

Perry

Just clarification.

Bakich

So then as the National Security Advisor who was put in between these two gentlemen, how would you assess the way in which she did her job? You’re smiling.

Pace

I’m smiling because more than once when we had a deputies meeting and Condi was at the head of the table I had to bite my tongue. She would say, “Now, Don, now, Colin.”

Perry

Very schoolmarmish.

Pace

The two Secretaries would kind of get nipping at each other’s shorts. Secretary Powell might say Kabul and Secretary Rumsfeld would say, “Is it Kabaaal or Kabuuul?” Just to pimp him a little bit. [laughter] Those were simple things, but there were times when they just didn’t see eye to eye, and then Condi—

Perry

When Condoleezza Rice would do that, what would happen?

Pace

Condi, God bless her, would just kind of get in the locker room saying, “OK, boys, break.” Because she was so smart, she was able to get the discussion back into the issues involved as opposed to who should win.

Perry

And were those two strong wills amenable to that, taking the conversation where she thought it would be more productive to go?

Pace

In the meetings both of them understood her responsibility to run the meeting. From my perspective as a person in the room, she was always able to get the discussion back on track. You’d have to ask them whether or not they were simply acceding to her position of responsibility or if they believed what she was saying. It never became acrimonious among the three of them. It might become a little acrimonious between the two Secretaries, but when she stepped in it no longer bubbled at the table.

I don’t know what happened after the meeting. But again, there were times when the three of them saw things differently. It hurt especially when it came to Iraq and they were all giving Bremer different guidance and all thinking that they were in charge. Particularly when Secretary Rumsfeld was very ill for about three months from like December of ’03 to February of ’04—

Perry

Just nervous exhaustion?

Pace

I don’t know. He was very sick. He tried to cover that up and did cover it up I think, but it was during that time when he basically said—Pete Pace’s words, not his: “Screw it. If Condi and Colin want to run the show, let them.”

Perry

Run the Bremer show.

Pace

Yes. But he had the responsibility—as best I know, he still had the responsibility, at least organization chart-wise, but there were three very senior guys talking to Ambassador Bremer giving him at times conflicting advice.

Bakich

We need to get to the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority], but before we do that, I have to ask as far as planning is concerned, it is an ORHA [Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance] question for the record, do you know whose idea ORHA was? Did you know Jay Garner?

Pace

I think it was Jay’s idea. I would need some help remembering, but I do know that the concept was a really good one, because again, whether you’re talking about today’s war, today’s battles, or those battles back then, it is still about making the local population believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today and they’re loving their kids more than they hate their enemies.

I thought that the ORHA approach was a way to do that. The problem was that the individual agencies did not have the authority to direct and therefore had to accept volunteers—and go figure, the folks who volunteered were the younger folks who were looking for adventure but didn’t necessarily have the expertise. So you ended up with a lot of interagency people who were high on motivation and energy and low on experience. Because of that, the nation was poorly served.

That is why one of the recommendations we had with Secretary Rice, I think when she was NSA, maybe it was while she was Secretary, was the concept of a civilian corps that had judges and lawyers and waterworks people and electricians and that kind of stuff. That way you could, in fact, have like you did in your Guard and Reserve, and on the rare occasion when you went in and took over another country or had to go help with some humanitarian effort, these folks could be ordered overseas.

That requires all kinds of legislative acts and the like, but the consequence was that the only guys who could be ordered anyplace were the guys in the military. As bad as it was during the middle of a Presidency, as you get near the end and all the political types bail out and go try to make money on their Rolodex before it is no good anymore, they all leave and what you have left is military guys trying to fill holes. So you end up with Doug Lute going to the White House as the guy trying to coordinate Iraq and Afghanistan because they couldn’t get a civilian to take the job. As a last resort they turned to the Pentagon and said, “Do you have somebody you can assign to the White House to do this in the last year of the Presidency? Because we can’t really find the right kind of person to volunteer to do it on the civilian side.”

So you had too many jobs being filled by either active duty military guys or retired military guys because they were the only guys who would do it, and the nation is poorly served when military guys who are good at military operations try to do things for which they’re not trained.

Bakich

I have read in a couple of places that Secretary Rumsfeld was very active in his selection of who could serve on ORHA and who could not. He wanted DoD people as opposed to State people as opposed to NSC people. Are you at all aware of that?

Pace

No. I was privy to the whole thing, but best I can remember in those discussions was that there were military guys that he wanted to have control of, who was going to go, who wasn’t. But as far as the other agencies, he begrudgingly let military guys do those jobs. He was against expanding ORHA because he knew if there were 12 members of the team, eight or more were going to be military guys because the other agencies couldn’t make people go and didn’t have volunteers. So he wasn’t against the concept, he just didn’t like filling the hole.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

He didn’t like filling a hole with the military for anything. He didn’t like providing security for the State Department people who were on the ground over there. There was a long discussion. I think it ended up being, pick a number, 18 months where the U.S. military would provide security for the Ambassador, for example, because Secretary Rumsfeld needed his troops to do troop things. That resulted in the State Department not having anybody to hire, so what do they do? They go hire the Blackwaters of the world.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

So now they’re paying these guys $1,000 a day to do what Peter Pace was doing. You now have guys carrying weapons who are not in the chain of command, and if your intent is to not use your—let’s take special operators. You want to have special operators protecting the Ambassador. But you don’t want them to stay that long because you need your special operators. So then you hire Blackwater, who is what? Retired special operators who come in and they get paid $1,000 a day. They don’t have enough guys, so they come back over here to the active ones and say, “If you’ll come out we’ll pay you $1,000 a day to do this.” So not without reason some guys who were special operators ended up going over there to do that job.

If your intent was to not have your military dwindle in availability because you want those guys to be able to do military things, and you say to your Secretary of State you’re not going to protect his Ambassador, and they hire somebody who can, you shouldn’t be surprised that they then hire the people that they’re like, which is the guys back in the Special Ops. It’s just one more of those little unintended consequences that people with their arms crossed couldn’t quite get past.

Bakich

So as ORHA gets stood up and then it is quickly replaced with CPA, do you have any recollection as to how that discussion went, ORHA being disbanded?

Pace

I really don’t, sorry. I’m sure it was ugly, but I really don’t remember that. That really pretty much was a State Department thing to which we were going to be sending X number per team to do things. I’m sorry. If somebody were to tickle me with a reminder about something I might be able to chime in, but the term CPA in and of itself doesn’t ring any bells for me.

Perry

Let us go back to Afghanistan. We’ve talked about parts of it, and particularly General Franks’s position. Can you tell us from where you sat what you thought about how the plan went forward, how it was prosecuted, decisions about going after Osama bin Laden for example, that really the media focused on quite a bit for obvious reasons? What were you thinking about what you were seeing?

Pace

First of all, we were going into a landlocked country that was immersed with a whole bunch of countries with which we, until the end of the Cold War, didn’t have many relations. So the fact that we were able to use Uzbekistan, for example, just watered my eyes. I said, “Really? And Kazakhstan? Really?” So the fact that we were actually able to do that—it wouldn’t happen with [Vladimir] Putin now for sure, but at the time we were actually able to get the former Soviet Republics to be helpful in that regard.

I remember it was before the Osprey fixed-wing, tilt-rotor aircraft was available, so the only way to get from Uzbekistan to the places you needed to get to in Afghanistan was over the mountains, and our helicopters in bad weather could not get over those mountains. So we were sitting around. I remember three or four days seemed like three or four weeks when we first started the operation. We’d say, “God, when is the weather going to clear so we can get these guys in?” because we didn’t have the machines to get over the mountains.

Then we were starting to look at—around November we were wondering how much of the country can we take back or can we take over before the holidays? Can we carve out enough that we can survive the winter over there and then you’ll continue on after the fall?

Then Tommy Franks goes over with CIA bags of money and rents a couple of warlord armies and all of a sudden the flags—if you have red flags for the bad guys and blue flags for the good guys and these green flags or yellow flags, we weren’t quite sure what they were. All of a sudden you start renting these guys, and now the pile of blue flags gets bigger and bigger. Now we own the whole country, before Christmas. You go, Whoa, that’s kind of cool. But the intent going in was to do this—to get in, do it without having a huge occupying force, and to get it turned over to the Afghan people as fast as we could.

So that part went from, “Wow, I wonder how much of the country we’ll be able to secure before the winter sets in and nobody can move,” to “Oh, we’ve got it all.”

Perry: Could I pause there and say this goes back to the liberator versus occupier viewpoint that you had raised about Iraq. At this point did the plan—and did you personally believe great, we can check off that box? As you said, we are now in virtual control of the whole country. We liberated that country from this horrible, horrible Taliban regime that has supported, obviously, al-Qaeda and 9/11.

Then was there a thought at that point we might have to move over to the occupying strategy now because we’ve liberated?

Pace

Occupying, no. Troops on the ground long term, yes. So my mind said, at least, this was not about having enough troops to occupy. My mindset was OK, now that we have “liberated” the country, do we have enough troops on the ground to help train up the Afghan Army, to train up the Afghan police, get enough interagency players to come in and help with reforms of the government, reforms of the judiciary, reforms of the banking system, all the stuff you need to have an operating country. All those things are certainly on my mind, not as occupying power, but as a liberating power that was going to be teaming with a homegrown government that would be supportive of all people. That is the thought process going in.

Perry

Right. This brings up a question. Obviously it is pretty clear I am not a military expert and I study American politics, but I do think about the references you made to occupying after World War II Germany and Japan and then after the Korean War, not occupying but keeping a presence in Japan, Germany, and Korea. Is there a distinction? Or am I making too much of this that in those three countries you perhaps don’t have the kind of tribalism that you have in Afghanistan and the religious tribalism, particularly in Iraq.

I always wonder about the use of our forces. We don’t want to be occupiers. We want to be able to liberate, hope the people come over to our side, see what we think is a really good way to live, and try to train them up to do that politically, militarily, economically. But what about these countries like Iraq and Afghanistan where you have these centuries-old fights? What do we do?

Pace

Clearly that is—

Perry

How do we see that?

Pace

The closest thing you’d come to post-World War II would have been in Japan where the Emperor was a deity and the time after occupying the country until present day and all that has transpired in those 70 years where they now have a democracy that serves them well and they’re an economic power and the like. That is about as close as you’d come to having to overcome a mindset—

Perry

A change of culture.

Pace

Yes, culture. Better said. Certainly Afghanistan for a thousand-plus years has never had a strong central government, and I don’t think we needed to try to set up a strong central government. I think you could have a central government that helped provide security and support to the Governors but that you could then focus on the Governors in the regions in a way that would help them provide for their people. So you don’t need to superimpose our beliefs on those people, but you can help them get down that path some way.

I did disagree and I disagreed in the meetings about establishing a democracy in Iraq. I argued that we should be saying that we wanted to have a representative government and that the people should decide what the representatives are because we should not be surprised when we say we want to have a democracy that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the kingdom of Bahrain and the kingdom of Jordan might smile at you to your face but be really happy when you’re having problems on the ground. So I think speaking about democracy too soon was speaking about democracy too soon.

Bakich

How was that received in meetings, that view?

Pace

Well, it was overridden. [laughter] It was listened to, noted, thank you.

Bakich

Let me come at that in another way.

Pace

Not in a dismissive way.

Bakich

Who in particular pushed back on that?

Pace

There was only one man in the room who counted, and his belief then and is now that democracy serves people well. I understand President Bush to be a man of honor and a man who deeply believed in the freedom of other peoples, and that the freedom of other peoples is helped with us. My guesstimate then is that he believed you should go for the end state, not some intermediate state. So I was certainly not the only voice that I could remember speaking to knowing where you want to be and stating where you are right now in different terms, meaning a representative government can allow you to get to democracy versus where democracy doesn’t necessarily get to an interim state.

Anyway, too many words to say the President, as best I know, believed very strongly that democracy was the right path for the Iraqi people and as best I know that is the path that he determined was the correct way to go. It wasn’t overtly dismissed. Again, my interpretation is that my recommendation was a half step to his whole step.

Perry

Was that one of those distinctions that you noted between the political and the military, where in effect you were told, “Don’t you worry about the politics of this, we’ll handle that”?

Pace

Again, I was not privy to all conversations. I believe that everybody I ever heard speak about it, including myself, talked about representative government and the dangers of going for a democracy out of the chute except Condi, who was NSA, and whatever her views were she kept to herself and to the President, and the President. So I think the President had more than one voice recommending against stipulating democracy as the end goal, but I certainly am confident that the President believed that was the correct goal and that was the one he was going to pursue.

Bakich

Do you remember Secretary Rumsfeld talking about this issue?

Pace

Yes, I know four square that he was of the opinion that democracy was too far a stretch for an articulated position.

Perry

Can we link now in our conversation Afghanistan and Iraq? You had said earlier when we talked about how Americans viewed then, at the beginning, viewed as the Iraq War carried on, and view now that part of the world, that you see it as a perhaps century-long, hundred-year War on Terror, and that you view those two theaters as really one and the same—the same war but two different theaters, perhaps we should say.

I think that is a fascinating step for us to get on the historical record. Could we then talk about how the conversations were going in DoD and then eventually over into the Joint Chiefs about those two theaters or two fronts? I’m particularly interested in Doug Feith’s conversations with you in CAPCOM about Iraq. I guess just basically, when does Iraq, for you, come on the radar screen? And is it on the radar screen for you from 9/11, where you know what has happened on 9/11, you get more facts, you know we’re going into Afghanistan, but was Iraq always there on the radar screen for you?

Pace

No.

Perry

Could I ask you when it gets to your radar screen and how and by whom?

Pace

As best I can recall, it is around October, give or take a little, of 2002, when we have been successful in Afghanistan. We’re feeling our oats about that. I think the President asks for—but certainly the guys from the Secretary of Defense, ask the commander in the field through his Chairman, Dick Myers—to start developing a plan for how we would occupy Iraq if the President were to decide.

Certainly by October 2002, somewhere around that time frame is when I know that we are going to direct Tommy Franks to develop this plan.

Perry

How does it strike you? Does it strike you as an obvious flow from 9/11 to Afghanistan to Iraq?

Pace

Not obvious, but putting it in historical context, after 9/11 there are all kinds of intelligence reports about the possibility that terrorists might have nuclear weapons provided by somebody. I’m sitting on the porch of the Vice Chairman looking out over the city wondering if it is still going to be there tomorrow. So the angst of the moment for everybody who had responsibilities for the security of the United States was, what else don’t we know? We didn’t see 9/11 coming; what else are they cooking out there? What might hurt us really, really badly?

Then you start thinking about Saddam Hussein, and when told to start thinking about how to plan, you start looking and say, “OK, he’s got chemical weapons.” We know that because he has used them on his own people, he has used them on his neighbors, so he’s got that for sure. He had a nuclear program that the Israelis blew apart, but we know about the part they blew apart above the ground; we don’t know if he’s got anything underground. “If chemical weapons were to get in the hands of the terrorists, which is possible, what might that lead to?”

So you could get yourself—I got myself as a military guy to where I’m thinking to myself, Hmm, OK, this is certainly a place from which the next attack could emanate. This guy is obviously a bad guy; he pretended to be our friend for a while, then he hit one of our ships. It’s a tough neighborhood and the President has asked us for planning, so we’re doing the planning.

Then over the course of the next five or six months, give or take, Tommy Franks develops his plan, which we execute in March of ’03. The President, the Secretary, the Vice President, never asked, nor should they have, should we of their military. They asked if the President decides, how would we. So we in the military were all about devising a plan that would in our minds capture Baghdad as quickly as possible and seize control of the country and turn it over to the good guys. But all through that planning, all through the discussions, all through the meetings with the President, all through the meeting with all the combatant commanders and the Chiefs in the Cabinet Room with the President, not once did the President ever ask the question that he should not have asked, which was, “What do you guys think about doing this?”

Now, each one of us had a moral responsibility to think it through, because a military person has responsibility to carry out all orders unless they are either illegal or immoral. If they are illegal or immoral then you must disobey. I thought that through and I was comfortable that this was not illegal and it was not immoral. In fact, I saw it at the time as freeing up 27 million people inside of a country that had chemical weapons, may have nuclear weapons, inside of a global fight on terrorism, from which might come the next attack on the United States. So I was feeling like better to do it than not do it, and at the very least you will free up 27 million people and perhaps at the best you might actually prevent the next attack on the United States. So I got comfortable with the concept of doing it. I didn’t have to get comfortable; I never felt anything other than.

Bakich

I was going to say—

Pace

Wrong way to state it. I never felt like it was not legal or was not moral. I always felt it was. Does that answer your question?

Perry

Absolutely, and I have a follow-up. The last part—you’ve stated it so eloquently and poignantly about sitting on your porch and looking out at the beautiful vista of Washington, D.C., that we all know and love and just thinking realistically that could be obliterated, that could be gone sooner rather than later, maybe even today or tomorrow.

Pace

It is why when we look back at KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and waterboarding, in the context of the time you are worried about the next attack on the United States, you’re worried about it being a weapon of mass destruction either chemical or nuclear. You don’t know what the other guys are planning. You have somebody in captivity who has been part of the inner circle of that planning and you’re wondering about whether or not you should waterboard this guy. There was a lot of discussion around the table about that.

I personally ended up with we waterboard our pilots in preparation for captivity and we do no damage to our pilots by doing that to them so they can understand the kind of techniques that the other guy might use. So I got to where I thought it was OK to waterboard. I did not consider, at the time, waterboarding to be torture.

Perry

And therefore not illegal or immoral.

Pace

Right, not illegal or immoral. Although it was being done by an agency other than DoD, we still had discussions around how you treat detained prisoners and the like. We wouldn’t just put our finger in the air and test for the wind, we had judicial scholars come in. Secretary Rumsfeld brought in a lot of heavy hitters as advisors about how do you set these things up. How do you set up Guantanamo? How do you treat these prisoners? Because they don’t have uniforms, does the Geneva Convention apply? All those things weren’t just knee-jerk reactions; there were many hours of discussion inside the building and elsewhere in the city. Then decisions were made based on a great deal of thought and input. I get that some people don’t agree with the decisions, but they weren’t carefree decisions.

Perry

You’ve spoken about your admiration for John McCain. Did you ever speak to him about detainee treatment?

Pace

Absolutely did. Not one-on-one, but the Secretary asked for his opinion about this stuff. And understandably Senator McCain was very reticent, as he should have been, as we all were, to acting like our enemies act.

Perry

So back to this point then, because I noticed that in the conversation and you summed it up with we just never knew when the next attack could come and it could be a dirty bomb, it could be chemical warfare used against us in our major cities. Do you think that that is the difference between the thought process that went into Iraq War planning and for purposes of decapitating, taking out Saddam Hussein, as opposed to Gulf War one?

James Baker famously or infamously, depending on one’s point of view, has stated over and over in public about you see now why we didn’t go to Baghdad and we didn’t take out Saddam Hussein. Is that the main difference that historians will look back and say, “OK, there were two wars in Iraq, against Iraq, two different outcomes”? And one of the big differences, “intervening variables,” the political scientists would say, is 9/11 and that fear of more terrorist attacks on the homeland.

Pace

I guess I would slim it down to in the First Gulf War Kuwait was at risk and in the second one we thought we were at risk. We took action in the first case to protect the freedom of Kuwait and restore it, and we took action in the second place to protect our own country and in the process free up 27 million Iraqis.

Now, our follow-through has been horrible, and arguably 27 million Iraqis are not better off, but I don’t put that at the foot of President Bush. I would tell you that at the end of President Bush’s term, just from a global power perspective and whether or not you agree with the decisions he made, there is no doubt that our friends knew they could depend on the United States and our enemies weren’t going to mess with us. Under this President our friends are dismayed and our enemies are messing with us.

The problems we have in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have to be. I’m not saying that the decisions that were made during my watch were all correct. I already said they weren’t, but I am saying that you need decades, you need 40 or 50 years to apply the power you have and learn the lessons you need to learn. I’m sure that in Japan and Germany and Korea we made some mistakes along the way, but apparently we also learned whatever those lessons were, and those countries are now our friends. So I think we need to be careful to not have the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan color the time through 2008 when you talk about the Bush Presidency and what they did or did not accomplish.

Perry

Was the conversation that there would be a way to stabilize Iraq once Saddam was gone, again through the strategy of security, politics, and economics, and that therefore there really didn’t have to be the discussion of creating a power vacuum? In other words—

Pace

Correct.

Perry

There was no reason to be talking about that, because who would engage in this thinking that it is going to go wrong and there would be a power vacuum.

Pace

Correct.

Perry

Would that be a correct statement?

Pace

Our whole understanding was that we would stay until we hand off.

Bakich

So then as the situation unfolds after Baghdad has been taken, at what point does the outcome in Iraq start to look completely different than was anticipated?

Pace

February 2006, Samarra.

Bakich

That’s not what I expected, but that is a very interesting answer.

Pace

So up until then as Vice Chairman I clearly remember being in the tank with the Chiefs—this was 2004—and we’re having a discussion about asking the President to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps. I remember saying that it would take two years to grow a U.S. Army division and if we were still in Baghdad in 2006 we were doing something wrong. So I voted against asking the President for more troop strength because I figured by the time we got the troop strength, we wouldn’t need it.

Now it is 2006. In February 2006 the mosque is blown up in Samarra. Now you have an outpouring of Shi’a-Sunni violence. When that happens you had to wait a moment because now, at least for me I realized, Uh-oh, all this is a veneer of a representative government, Iraq, Sunnis, and Shi’as being treated equally. All the stuff about thousands of years of hatred among them all of a sudden bubbles to the surface. We had a plan in 2006—I can’t remember exactly the numbers, but I think we started in 2006 with 12 brigades and we were planning on being down to around eight by the end of the year, give or take.

Then things go poorly after February into June, July and it’s looking not good, and things we’re trying aren’t working very well. In July or August John Abizaid as CENTCOM commander and George Casey as the Iraq commander called me as Chairman and they say, “We’re supposed to send more troops home, but we’re not comfortable with the security environment. We do not want to send home the brigades we’re supposed to send home and we may have to ask for more troops.”

Bakich

General Casey said this to you?

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

Interesting.

Pace

General Casey and General Abizaid were on the phone together. They called me from Baghdad. So I said, “OK, I understand. When I hang up I’m going to go see the Secretary and tell him what you just told me. Then there is no doubt he is going to go see the President and tell the President.” So what I asked them to do—and this began the surge process for me, this is July-August, maybe, of ’06. I said, “I’m going to go tell him that and I’d like to ask that you, George, and you, John, separate and have each of your headquarters work on what the next move is. What are we going to do? You need more troops. How many do you need and when do you need them? I’m going to do the same thing at the Joint Staff level. I’m going to ask the Chiefs for—” it turned out to be the Council of Colonels. “I’m going to go tell the Secretary and the President.”

So I did. I went right up and told the Secretary. None of us were really surprised because we knew it wasn’t going well, but it was one of those moments when you go OK, we know now. What we know now, you have to get on about it. Went to see the President and told the President what George and John had said and told him what I had planned on doing inside my planning responsibility as Chairman and I told the President that I had asked George and John to plan separately so we didn’t get group think too soon on this thing and I was going to do the same thing in D.C.

The President acknowledged all that, told me to keep him informed, which I of course said I would. I asked the service Chiefs for two or three of their best colonels, and Navy captains who had wartime experience, to come work on what became the Council of Colonels. So we started thinking this through.

Over time—I can’t remember the exact timing on it, but Steve Hadley then called me and said the President had asked him to do the same thing, that J. D. [Jack Dyer, II] Crouch was going to lead that effort for him. I said, “Great. I’m happy to give you military guys, but I’d like my military guys that I give to you to be different military guys than I have working for me for the same reason.” I said, this is in 2006, “We need fresh thinking. I don’t want to pollute and start averaging averages. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, they’ll do theirs, and they’ll do theirs. We’ll have at least four different groups thinking about this.”

We went through that process. The Council of Colonels was really extremely helpful. We started out—it doesn’t matter how we made the sausage, but at the end of the day, around December then, when we have all gotten to where we’re comfortable with what recommendation we were going to make, I think it was around October when I finally felt like, OK, you guys in Tampa and you guys in Baghdad share your ideas with us here in D.C. and we’ll do the same thing.

It was somewhere around the October time frame when we started sharing ideas. The differences that came out of that that I recall were, first, George Casey and John Abizaid wanted one or two brigades. The reason they didn’t want more than that was that they believed that sending a signal that we were willing to go up to as many as five, which was the number that was being put on the table by others, would send the wrong message to the Iraqi government that we didn’t trust them to do their job. So they didn’t want to say five, they wanted to say two.

They wanted the two to come one brigade in one month, one brigade the next. That all fit, because we could only deliver one brigade a month, but they didn’t want to say five because they felt that would be detrimental to the process of turning over to the Iraqi government and that would be my word, not theirs, insulting the Iraqi government about their ability to control this thing.

The Chiefs were concerned, especially the Army and Marine Corps, that if we in fact went to five brigades after five-plus years of war and this being an all-volunteer force and guys being on their third and fourth deployments already, that we would break the force. You had Jack Keane and others, I believe, only because of what I’ve read, recommending five. I was of the mind that if I’m going to go to the President and ask the President to commit to a surge, then I didn’t want to go to him and say, “Well, let’s say two, and if we need three we’ll go to three and if we need four we’ll go to four.” That will look like we sent in two. It wasn’t enough. Oh, my God, we have a problem. We have to send—it’s going to look like we’re losing.

My recommendation, and what I worked with the Chiefs with—and the wording became very important. My responsibility was to not present the President with a fractured military, but as best I could to deliver to him options from which he could pick—but also as best as I could get to a consensus of what the right thing was. So we worked on this. We worked on it for a long time.

The wording we finally came up with was “up to five brigades.” So George Casey and John Abizaid could say, “Aha, up to five. We only need two,” but it gave me the ability and the service Chiefs the ability to plan to up to five. We’ll have them one month at a time. Five months in a row, another brigade will go over. If we’re successful we can turn it off and look like heroes. If we’re not successful we’re executing our plan and we’re not falling further and further—this is not Vietnam, just another 10,000 guys. Just another 10,000 guys.

That took a lot of discussion, though, between me and the other Chiefs. Two days before the President came to the tank—by the way, the President doesn’t have to go to the tank. The tank is supposed to go to the President. The President was very gracious in coming to the Pentagon.

Two days before that I went in to see him. I said, “Tomorrow you’re going to get this in a VTC from George Casey and John Abizaid, and then the next day—” or it might have been the same day, morning, afternoon or whatever, maybe it was morning and afternoon. Whatever it was, the sequence was John Abizaid and George Casey in Baghdad by video teleconference and then the Chiefs. I said, “This is what you’re going to hear.” I talked him through what John was going to say, what George was going to say, and what he was going to hear from the Chiefs and what our recommendations were going to be. I showed him the charts. I showed him everything. I did not want to put the President—he deserved better than to be hearing it for the first time when he is sitting with all of us.

Bakich

Yes, sure.

Pace

So I talked him through the recommendations he was going to hear and why he was going to hear it. But I said, “Mr. President, there are three things that your military is going to ask of you. One is the recommendation is going to be up to five brigades, but we’re going to ask three things—one, that we see some commitment from the [Nouri al-] Maliki government.

“Two, that the rest of the U.S. government surge, because we cannot do this alone. We cannot kill enough people fast enough to make this work. We have to have the U.S. government do what the U.S. government is capable of doing. If we’re going to provide security, if you’re going to order a surge, if we’re going to expend this ammunition, so to speak, it’s going to be nothing if the rest of the government doesn’t get in and start with the reforms that are so badly needed.

“Then third—” this is 2006, learning my lesson from 2004— “please ask for an increase in the size of your Army and your Marine Corps. It will not happen fast enough to impact the surge, but it will tell the military families that you get it as Commander in Chief, that you know what you’re asking of them. Because to do this we have to take the troops that are there, about to come home at the end of a 12-month tour and extend the tours to 15 months. Then we have to get the troops that were going to go to go sooner. If we’re going to ask our families to do that, it would be really helpful for them to know that you get the strain on the force and you’re doing something about it.”

He thanked me. I haven’t read much about this stuff because I really do believe in not muddying my own memories with other people’s memories, but it is interesting that what I remember reading from Vice President Cheney in his book and what I read from President Bush in his book about how that meeting at the Pentagon went are different. That is why I started this conversation off by saying the four of us in the room today recording this conversation are going to come out of this remembering this differently.

Vice President Cheney comes out in his book saying the Chiefs were against. The President comes out the way I remember it. In fairness, Vice President Cheney wasn’t there when I prebriefed the President. So the President’s mindset going in to the Chiefs was different from the Vice President’s mindset going in to the Chiefs in retrospect.

Bakich

That’s interesting.

Pace

In retrospect, if I knew that, I would have gone and briefed the Vice President, but I didn’t, and he wasn’t at the meeting when I briefed the President. So the President knows that he is going to hear we have a strain on the troops. These are the things he’s going to hear from his Army Chief of Staff and his Marine Commandant, how hard they’ve been driving their forces. He has to hear that from them, but he has the knowledge going in the door that at the end of the day after he listens to all that, the recommendation from his Joint Chiefs is going to be up to five brigades. We can do that.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

So the President is listening from the standpoint, in my mind, of knowing what the answer is going to be at the end, to which he can make a decision one way or the other. I think the Vice President is listening, not knowing where the conversation is going to end up. What was he really going to hear from the Joint Chiefs? I’m surmising all that based on just from thinking about it for the past couple of years.

The VTC goes the way it goes. John and George tell them they’d rather not have five brigades, but they’ll accept up to five brigades, that they’re OK with the wording. The President listens to all that and he goes over to the tank. Pete Schoomaker as Chief of Staff of the Army and Jim Conway as Commandant of the Marine Corps lay it out for the President, the strain on their forces and what this means. They get it all done, they give him all their information and the slides that I had shown the President the day before, the slides from that day, the bottom-line slide is up to five brigades. Our recommendation is do the surge, but we need Maliki, we need our own government, and we need more troops.

The President says, “Thank you very much.” He asked a lot of questions. The Vice President asked a lot of questions and we go back. But I feel like now I have—I mean, I’m proud of how I think I orchestrated that for the President. Not orchestrating the decision—it is his decision, but how we got him disparate opinions in a package that accommodated all those opinions, but in my mind allowed him to make a decision that could be executed, and there were off ramps. If we got to an off ramp that looked good, we could take an off ramp. But if we wanted to stay on this highway, we’d stay on the highway.

I was really happy about being able to deliver that. This was in early to mid-December when we talked to him, maybe 13 December, give or take. The President initially was going to make a decision before Christmas, may have, but didn’t announce it until after the holidays. Then in January went out and told the American people, told us of course first, but then told the American people we’re going to do the surge. He also told me and he told the Chiefs, “I heard you. Maliki is going to come out and support this. We’re going to order the rest of the government to get on about doing what they should be doing and I’m going to ask Congress for 70,000 more troops,” I think it was, Army and Marines.

Again, you hear what you want to hear, you see what you want to see, but that is my recollection of the surge process. There were other voices I was never privy to, like Jack Keane’s with the Vice President and his staff. That’s fine. I specifically did not ask for reports back from the military officers I detailed over to J. D. Crouch’s effort because I wanted that to be pure. But certainly before I got into the tank with the Chiefs I met with Steve Hadley. We talked with J. D. Crouch. We were all on the same sheet of music between the NSC guys who were doing their thing and the Joint Chiefs. So J. D. and Steve were comfortable because I prebriefed them before I prebriefed the President with what was going to unfold.

So I did. The President made his decision and then we started going, and General [David] Petraeus went over there. Oh, by the way, we had asked him his opinion. He wanted all five committed, so he was comfortable. Up to five—you have George and John thinking: We’ll take two. We’ll be able to turn the rest off; and we have Petraeus going in thinking to himself, I’m going to get all five and I’m going to take them. Play it round, play it square, whatever way it came out. It ended up that we needed all five and we deployed all five. That was as far as we could go without going into World War II mode, which is everybody who is there stays there forever and we’re also going to send in additional forces.

We had to make a fundamental decision with an all-volunteer force about rotating the force. Once you rotate your force you’ve broken yourself—now you’re one-third as big as you were, because you have one-third there, one-third coming back, and one-third getting ready to go. In our case it was half were there and half were home.

Bakich

Right. That was fantastic. I’d like to go backfill a couple of things.

Pace

Sure.

Bakich

I’m not going to do this in chronological order but kind of go off the way in which you talked about it. Can you give us a sense of the way the President—his mood, his attitude, was at the tank in particular? The way it reads in a number of books you get the picture that the Chiefs were—I’m putting up quotes—“against the surge,” and that the concerns about breaking the all-volunteer force were attempts to obstruct the direction the decision was going and that the President stepped in and said, “Which would you prefer?” The thing that would break the force fast would be a loss in Iraq. Can you characterize the President’s mood, the tenor of that discussion?

Pace

Sure.

Bakich

Was it contentious or was it—

Pace

No, it was not contentious, but again, I know where the discussion is going. He knows where the discussion is going. The Secretary of Defense knows where the discussion is going. The Chiefs know where it’s going, but they have two hats. They have their service Chief hat: man, train, and equip the force, which they were worried about breaking, and they had their Joint Chief’s hat, which is how to fight the war.

Bakich

Sure.

Pace

So it doesn’t surprise me that some folks’ recollection is what it is except for one point, which I’ll get to in a second.

Bakich

OK.

Pace

But I can understand where people in that room, not knowing what I knew and what the President knew and what other individuals knew, could hear the discussion as pushback on the President. Because we first let the service Chiefs talk and the Army and Marine Corps were talking about what they were talking about, and yes, during that conversation when they said yes, they’re worried about breaking the force, they’re worried about morale. The President very calmly said, “What would break the force worse? Doing this surge or being defeated?” It was a great question and there was an obvious answer.

All that plays out fair enough the way some people remember it in their memoirs. The reason I get confused about why they still have it in the back of their head that maybe the Chiefs are pushing back is because I have the preprinted, agreed-to President slides, which I’d already shown the President. Now comes my turn to talk and I say, “Mr. President, our unanimous recommendation is up to five brigades for these reasons, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.” All that you heard was from the service Chiefs’ perspective—yes, important. As Joint Chiefs our unanimous recommendation is this.

So I don’t understand how when you have something I presented to the President two days before that was agreed to by the Chiefs, how the history can still be that the Chiefs were against it when he came in there, because he wasn’t against it. They had an obligation, especially as service Chiefs, to express to the President that there were things we needed for the health of the force, which was first, a committed Iraqi government, which he delivered in the form of Maliki’s public address.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

A committed U.S. government, which never got committed, and an increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, which he asked for from the Congress and got. So all the things that were “precooked,” for lack of a better term, going into the meeting were—we came out of the meeting with exactly what I’d told the President we were going to ask him to do two days before.

Bakich

And I think the emphasis on the dual-hatting is crucial because as service Chiefs they have to advocate for a position vigorously and as Joint Chiefs they have to advocate for a position vigorously.

Pace

Yes.

Bakich

And the emphasis can be lost if you don’t appreciate both roles.

Pace

That’s a great point. One time when I was a three-star—I had six four-star bosses when I was a three-star. I’m very used to being compartmented. I owe you what I owe you. Military guys are very comfortable in those roles. So you have the Joint Chiefs, who have already said, “Yea, verily this is what we recommend,” but they’re sitting there now and a service Chief is saying, “I have to speak up for my Marine families.” Or “I need to speak up for my Army families. I’m their voice. I have to say these things to the President.” And they did that, as well they should. It was not contentious.

The President, God bless him, listened, and I think in large part knowing what the recommendation was going to be was able to listen to the concerns of the service Chiefs. He could listen to them and understand them and not feel like they were about to tell him, “Don’t do this,” because he already knew we were going to recommend to him that he do it.

Perry

Just a really specific question, again, for researchers to come. Where did those slides go, archivally speaking, the slides that you presented to the President?

Pace

Steve Hadley certainly had a copy, and I believe they should be in the White House archives.

Perry

They should be in the Presidential archives?

Pace

Yes, absolutely. One in the Pentagon. Everything we produced in the Pentagon gets archived, so they have to be in the archives of both. I was really, really tempted to keep a copy. My problem is it says, “Top Secret.” [laughter] Take it home, go to jail, do not pass go.

Perry

You’re not Sandy Berger, God rest his soul. This is where my role is to say that in this time period there is a domestic political event, and that is the 2006 midterms of November 2006. They happen just as you’re going through this process.

Pace

Yes.

Perry

It ends up having a major impact on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. I know that again, you’re not supposed to be thinking about the domestic politics, but it does circle back around, doesn’t it, to the conversation we were having about public support and Vietnam and Iraq. That was one expression of public support or lack thereof.

Pace

You mean the vote itself.

Perry

The vote itself.

Pace

That’s fair.

Perry

The vote itself in terms of the Senate, and the Senate changing over of course, but the Congress then both houses going Democrat. That was viewed, rightly or wrongly, as a veto, if you will, against the way the war was going or maybe being prosecuted. Does that come up at all in the conversations?

Pace

No.

Perry

Do you have to think about that? If the answer to that is no, though, then what is happening with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld at this time? Because this will be the beginning of the end of his tenure.

Pace

Writ large, anytime there was any political discussion, it was either held until we, the military guys, left the room, or if it came up while we were in the room we were asked to leave. Secretary Rumsfeld and the President always made sure that we were not part of political discussions. So if there was some political discussion about how this was going to impact whatever, that never happened in my earshot. And it’s not surprising that the American people are feeling really bad about Iraq and the elections of 2006, because their military was too. This is when we were doing the surge plan. This is when—you know, August of 2006 is when the commanders in the field are telling me this isn’t going the way we saw it going so we need to change our plan.

So the military understands that this is not going well, the President understands that this is not going well, and the American people not yet being told about the surge until January, although we were working on it since August, I guess. The American people are going to the polls during the time when things in Iraq are just getting worse. So it doesn’t surprise me that to the extent that the vote was a vote on the war, the American people are not as supportive as they had been at one time.

You also had the fact, and again, I have no direct knowledge, all I can say is that had the President wanted a new Secretary in the beginning of 2006, when the retired general officers spoke up, that added at least six months to the timeline for the President if he had intended to replace Secretary Rumsfeld. He had to wait at least six months after these generals mouthed off in public lest it look like guys who had no business determining who the Secretary of Defense is having somehow figured out how to determine who the Secretary of Defense is, meaning retired military guys don’t get to vote on who the Secretary of Defense is.

If their intent—no, not if. Their intent was to see Secretary Rumsfeld cashiered, and therefore they did their own cause at least a six-month—

Perry

Extension of his tenure.

Pace

Yes, a six-month extension of his tenure.

Perry

Did you see anything happening in DoD once the election happened, and then, as I say, the beginning of the end of the Secretary’s tenure?

Pace

No.

Perry

Was there any difference in his meetings or meetings that you were having with others?

Pace

No.

Perry

Things just carried on until the end, until he left?

Pace

It was go on until he called me to his office. I can’t remember what day it was, but it was December I’m pretty sure. He called me in and he handed me the letter that he was about to deliver to the President, which was his resignation. I read it and I was stunned. I just said, “Mr. Secretary, I’m sorry.” He said, “This is the right thing at the right time.” I said something like, “You served the country incredibly well and I’m sorry you’re going out on this note.” I know that he had offered to resign before, certainly during Abu Ghraib he offered to resign, but in those times he had gone over and to my knowledge he told the President he would resign if the President wanted him to. I presume he did the same thing this time, but this time the President said yes, I guess. He showed me the letter so I wouldn’t be surprised.

I spoke to Delonnie [Henry], who was the secretary. I didn’t realize this, but she said when I came out of the Secretary’s office I looked like I had seen a ghost. Because it was kind of boom. Then they nominated Bob Gates to be Secretary. By the time we got to the surge discussion in the tank I’m 93 percent sure that Secretary Gates was then the sitting Secretary. I’m pretty sure of that. I think Secretary Rumsfeld had had his chance to speak and to advise the President, and I think that Secretary Gates was the Secretary when the President came and we gave him our recommendation. I’m pretty sure. That’s easy enough to check.

Perry

Absolutely.

Bakich

Actually, I’d like to go forward so we can move from the discussion within the military to the broader NSC, but before we do that I do have a couple of questions for you. You said you don’t want to tell us how the sausage was made on the Council of Colonels, but as the guy who likes sausage I absolutely want to hear how that’s made. Can you give us a sense of how those meetings went? I know that then Colonel [Herbert Raymond] McMaster was on that team. How did that work?

Pace

Yes, sure. I asked each of the service Chiefs to give me two of their best colonels/captains, guys who had been in command, guys who had experience. We got two or three from each service. We then had two meetings a week, maybe three—I think it was two—where we had the Council of Colonels to just start out. We brought them in, we told them what we needed them to do. We needed them to take a fresh look, a clean piece of paper, so to speak, just start all over again and tell us what we need to do to do things differently in Iraq.

They then would come in every couple of days and update the Chiefs in the tank. We would ask them questions. About a month into this it seemed to me that we weren’t getting the hard-hitting kind of, “This is wrong, this is wrong, we need to fix this” that I was expecting from them. So I went down just by myself to where they were working and I got them together and I said, “Listen, you need to be very direct with us. The reason you exist is because you have the day-to-day, on-the-ground experience. You have a different perspective.” I had a look at this as a general but I had not been on the ground over there as a colonel or lieutenant colonel. I said, “You all need to not worry about our feelings, not worry about insulting us. You need to tell us our baby is ugly if our baby is ugly and why.”

After that I would on a recurring basis go down and just talk to them one-on-one because I needed them to understand that I was sincere about really needing their input. They really started to give us then some very sharp criticism of things that had gone on, things that needed to happen. We then were able to say OK, so what is needed? The surge was put on the table. OK, how many troops do we need and how would that work?

It was their hard work stimulated by at least twice, sometimes three times a week meetings with the Chiefs asking questions about where they were that got us to the eventual Chiefs’ recommendation to the President on what we ought to be doing. But McMasters and those guys were really good. I had a kind of liaison guy, Mike Rogers was my guy, wasn’t he? So now four-star Admiral Mike Rogers, who was currently Cyber Command and NSA and was at the time a Navy captain and he was working in my office. Mike had served with me so Mike knew me. I needed to have a guy who was a peer of theirs who knew me to be able to say to them, “Yes, when the Chairman is saying he wants to know this, he wants you to tell him his baby is ugly, he really means he wants to know this and he wants you to tell him his baby is ugly.”

So Mike was my guy who could help me give them the confidence to come into the tank and say this is black, this is white, this is gray, or whatever they were going to say. I did not ask any of them specifically, but I think at the end of the day the Council of Colonels feels like they were listened to and that their recommendations were heard and acted on. I think that is true.

Bakich

Were they giving you advice such as we need to switch to population-centric strategy, we need to move off big forward-operating basis? Or does that come strictly from Petraeus and the new field manual that comes out?

Pace

They hit all those. They looked at everything. It was kind of like surrender, nuke ’em, and everything in between, [laughter] which is the way you approach courses of action. So they looked at everything from pack up our gear and go home to go in full bore to population security, all those things along the way. We asked questions and we came back and over time it helped us crystallize our own thinking about what the best way to go was. Plus, we had the benefit of knowing that Dave Petraeus was about to go over and take charge. I knew, because he had been talking to me and the Secretary about what his plan was, what he would like to do, which was instructive.

There are lots of fingers in this pie, but a very open collective dialogue with understandable differences between folks on the ground and folks in D.C. who were troop suppliers and guys who have responsibilities as Joint Chiefs, understandable differences. For the Joint Chiefs, those who were dual-hatted, understandable differences in their own heads between what the right thing to do operationally is and what they need to do for the health of their service.

Bakich

Can you tell us, put into some context, this notion of the mini-surge, which you ostensibly recommended? I read in a number of places that there is only a one- to two-brigade option that you recommended. Is that true?

Pace

No, it is not. I don’t know where it came from. It might have come from the fact that I represented to the President that what he was going to hear from the guys in the field was one to two brigades because that’s what George Casey and John Abizaid believed was correct. So they were expressing that.

I felt it was my obligation to make sure the President knew what other opinions were out there. I talked him through the fact that because George and John were of the one to two, and because guys like me were of five, and because Dave Petraeus going in wanted all five, that the recommendation he was going to hear was up to five, so that he as President had some off ramps and the guys going in knew they could have all five if they needed it and everybody could walk away from the initial decision and think of themselves, Ah ha. I got what I wanted.

George and John actually got what they wanted. Had two been enough they could have called it off. I got what I wanted, which was the President had the best option possible in my mind. David Petraeus got what he wanted, which was up to five, and going in he knew he was going to ask for five.

This is not playing games. This is taking lots and lots of very powerful folks, all of whom have similar but different responsibilities, and getting them to a position as military guys where we could go to the President with a recommendation that the President can adopt if he wanted to and know that we were able to have off ramps if we needed them.

Bakich

This is wonderful. I have one more.

Perry

Hold on for one minute. I’m going to have to play Condi: “Now, Spence.”

Pace

“Now, Don—” [laughter]

Perry

Is there a precedent for a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to have such a Council of Colonels? It seems like such a great idea. Had anybody else done it before?

Pace

I do not know. The good news is we don’t take over many countries. I don’t know. I just know what I know and I’m very comfortable with what I know and I’m comfortable with my own abilities, but I also know what I don’t know and I need to fill that gap. What I did not know was ground truth, and I wasn’t going to get that from generals and admirals. Not that they weren’t going to tell me the truth, but their level of experience is not where the rubber meets the road.

I always remembered, still do, what it was like being a lieutenant in combat, and that was instructive to me from Vietnam. I knew what I knew on the ground and the guys in D.C. could not possibly know what I knew on the ground. So therefore if I ever became one of those guys, I was going to ask for the guys on the ground. But I also needed folks who not only had the feeling on the ground but also understood the mechanisms of the business. So I’m not going to go to lieutenants and PFCs to ask them about on the ground. I want colonels and maybe captains who kind of have one foot in both camps.

They’re close enough to understand and they’re big enough to get the bigger picture and they’re able to help you understand how those can fit together better. Thank God the service Chiefs gave us great guys.

Perry

Does this also go back to my question previously about getting the culture? These guys would have been close enough on the ground and to the ground to get the culture there and be able to relay that back up to you and your peers? Is that also a key point of counterinsurgency, that you have to know what that culture is in order to counter the insurgency that is growing out of that culture?

Pace

That’s a fair comment. The Army guys and the Marine guys were on the ground in the field and they’re going to have a better feel than the Navy guys and Air Force guys. It’s not pejorative, it is just fact. The Army guys and the Navy guys in theater are going to have a better feel than some general in Washington, D.C., behind a desk. Yes, the proximity to the people, especially in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism is critical to understanding what is going to work because what is going to work in Syria is probably going to be different from what is going to work in Afghanistan. It is definitely going to be different from what is going to work in Paris.

Perry

So this organizational plan that you put together with the Council of Colonels and coming out of their information happens to dovetail then perfectly with General Petraeus coming along with his counterinsurgency model and strategy and tactics?

Pace

It gets there. I mean that in a good sense, meaning that some of these guys and gals were actually helping General Petraeus when General Petraeus was writing his manual for the Army. He is now on the training side of the house and he is taking what he knows and he is getting information from the good colonels who have done this before. So he is putting together his document, his doctrine on how to do this. These guys then, some of them are coming to work with us and it is a confluence I guess of all of their surrender to nuke ’em options in what comes down to as their best recommendation and General Petraeus’s own independent look at that, and the guys in the field look at it differently.

So yes, I’m just trying to make sure that it doesn’t look like if it hadn’t been for one thing, then the other thing wouldn’t have happened. It gives you a good deal of confidence when you have folks on the Vice President’s staff, you have the NSC guys under J. D. Crouch, you have the Council of Colonels and the Chiefs here, you have Tampa and Central Command, and you have Iraq and George Casey’s guys. At the end of the day after working on it independently and working on it collectively and over four, five, six months or whatever it was, you end up with basically the same understanding of what needs to happen. The disparity is how many troops it might take and how much do you want to sign up for up front, and then being able to finesse the up-to-five in a way that everybody can say, “I’m in.”

Bakich

Wonderful. I want to ask you about one, two, three, four generals. We’ll take Casey and Abizaid. Their recommendation, their preference for one to two based on what they thought they needed, willing to sign on to five, but hoping it would be one to two. It strikes me, and correct me if I’m wrong, in this assessment there is a lot of stand-up, stand-down bias that sounds to me is influencing that recommendation, the preference for holding firm to the strategy that General Casey had put forward. Is that out of left field? Were you thinking this way? Do you feel that from the field you were getting essentially the blank-slate rethinking?

Pace

I don’t know. He’d been there 30 months, so asking the guy on the ground for blank slate is a fair question, but how much can he expunge from his mind about where he thought they were going? Clearly he knew it wasn’t working because he called me.

Bakich

Right.

Pace

So clearly he knew there was something else needed. You’d have to ask him whether or not he was able to really go back to a blank slate. But he’s working with the Iraqi government, and his assessment and John Abizaid’s assessment was that if we committed to five up front, then we would be undermining the transition to Iraqi lead and we would be signaling to the Iraqi government that we didn’t trust their ability to get the job done.

So that clearly, because they are where they are, colored their judgment. I wasn’t going to sit in D.C. and override that directly if I didn’t have to, but I also didn’t believe that that was a correct solution. So for me it was elegant to be able to say, “up to five,” because that meant that George and John, if they were right, got exactly what they wanted and at the very least could talk to their counterparts about it’s up to five, but we’ll get it done in one or two.

I never felt like I was pushing. That’s not true. I felt like the discussions led us to where George and John were able to accept a troop level that they didn’t believe they needed. Whether or not they were able to go back and give it a fresh slate I don’t know, because they had gone down the path of transition and they knew they had a problem in the intermediate term with what was happening on the ground, but they were also still committed, as we all were, to eventually turning this thing over to the Iraqis.

Bakich

Did you have any contact with General [Raymond] Odierno at this time?

Pace

Not that I remember.

Bakich

OK, because obviously he is ultimately the one who wants to focus on the Baghdad belts.

Pace

He was Assistant Chairman, so I would have contact with him like every other day I guess. [laughter] Shoot. But he was traveling with the Secretary of State. He was not involved in the planning for this the way that the Chiefs were and the way that the Council of Colonels were, although I’m sure that the Council of Colonels and others benefited from his advice, including me. But he wasn’t part of the ongoing process at the time because his responsibility was to be the Pentagon liaison with the Secretary of State and to travel with the Secretary of State wherever they went.

Bakich

Which is interesting in its own right, because then whatever changes of strategic perspective happened in General Odierno’s head would have actually happened in isolation from the rest of these things that are going on.

Pace

Although that doesn’t mean that his thoughts weren’t available to me.

Haddock

Sir, if this is correct, and I apologize—he was third corps from May of 2006 to May of 2008. Then came into—

Pace

That makes me feel better, because I was having a hard time remembering him being—thank you, that’s helpful.

Bakich

So he was in—

Pace

He was third corps, and between the time he was a division commander and the time he was a corps commander is how his mind changed, because I do know I have talked to him since. He believes that the approach he took as a division commander was not going to be successful long term, and when he became a corps commander under General Petraeus is when his thinking changed. Where and how fast I don’t know, but I know it was between two and three stars for him when he looked at his responsibilities.

Haddock

Assistant first, then third corps—I said it backward, if this is correct. Assistant until May of 2006.

Pace

Yes, that makes better sense, because I leave after a while. But still he was not part of the process. He leaves in May and we start talking in August about whoops, we have a problem.

Bakich

Excellent. The last person I’d like to talk to you about is General [Stanley] McChrystal and his work with JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command]. Did his focus on fighting AQY [al-Qaeda Yemen] at all factor into—and the entire development of JSOC and then fusion between intelligence and the SOF [Special Operations Forces] folks. Did that influence?

Pace

What it told us was that thanks to him and others in the Special Ops [operations] community, we had an incredible resource in our special operators. When it came to decapitation operations, we were the best on the planet at doing that, and whoever we need to kill, we can go kill.

But it also in and of itself meant that OK, you can’t kill enough of these folks, as we’ve talked about already. So our special operators told us that we had the ability to keep, to decapitate, but when doing that we had to grow the local armed forces and the local government. Otherwise what Special Ops does, they’d be doing that for the next hundred years. Kill a guy and there’s another guy. Kill him, another guy. Fine. I’m not making light of that, that is incredible capability, but it is only good if there is follow-through on the part of the government. Otherwise all you have is guys going on and killing off the next leader and hopefully making the number two guy not want to be number two because he knows he’s going to be number one and then he knows his number two is going to be number one because he is going to be gone.

So I think we got through to the bad guys that if you become number one, it’s not going to last very long. But if you don’t make the cesspool from which they’re coming cleaner, then they’re just going to keep on coming. So the long answer to your question is clearly our Special Operations gave us the belief that we could arrange the battlefield in a way to our advantage, but that wasn’t going to, long term, solve this problem.

Bakich

An important tool, but not the ultimate solution.

Pace

The ultimate solution is about all other elements of national power.

Bakich

So at this point at least I think I’m tapped out on that line of questioning. Now we need to go from the recommendations that the Chiefs have made, the recommendations that you have made, to the actual Presidential decision where you bring it to the NSC level, and I guess the question that I have at this point is can you tell us about that?

Pace

It doesn’t go to NSC level. The President takes it home and makes his decision on his own and tells us what his decision is, and that is clean. By that time the President had what he needed and we were just waiting for the President to tell us what his decision was.

Bakich

So there wasn’t a sit-down with the Secretaries of State and Defense?

Pace

Not that I can recall. The last thing I remember between our recommendation and the President’s decision was days going by. Once we briefed the President—and he brought with him whom he wanted to bring with him to that meeting—the Vice President, NSA Director, and I think Chief of Staff of the White House was there too at the Pentagon. But once we gave that presentation to the President, we gave him our recommendation, I do not recall any NSC-like meetings. The President may very well have called in other people to get their opinion privately, but no—and oh, by the way, that would not be normal.

Once the military guys have put a proposal on the table directly to the President and he is in a go/no-go mode, we normally would not be briefing everybody else.

Bakich

Got it.

Pace

It would have been beforehand, as we worked up to this, as we did telling the other agencies, “Oh, by the way, we’re going to be recommending you guys ramp up,” which didn’t make them happy.

Perry

When we started this morning you gave a very interesting portrait of the DoD under Secretary Rumsfeld and we’ve not got Bob Gates on board as SecDef. Tell us how the atmosphere changed, as I presume it did, because there was a change in personality and change in background.

Pace

My answer will probably surprise you, but that’s OK. That’s why we do these things. First, Secretary Rumsfeld was very difficult to work for, and he was difficult to work for because he was on a mission, and you’d darn well better be working as hard as he was working, and you’d better be as expert in your responsibilities as he expected you to be. To the outside world, to include the outside world other than the 10 or 12 people who were close to him, around the table with him, it was seen as domination of his military.

In reality he insisted on pushback, and once he made a decision, he owned it. So there were several times where I thought a general officer should be replaced when it did not happen because the Secretary owned the problem. For example, I would not have faulted the Secretary had he decided in Abu Ghraib, for example, to relieve some of the guys in the chain of command. What I counseled was let the investigation take place and let’s see who, if anybody, needs to get shot here. You could see where Secretary Rumsfeld might have otherwise done something.

His whole projection during the entire Abu Ghraib, especially on TV and the like, he took the responsibility. He did not say General So-and-So. He took the responsibility. So as hard as he was to work for on occasion, he was extremely loyal to the folks beneath him and extremely loyal to the President. So much so that he a) didn’t fire people who might otherwise have been fired, and b) he always set up operations and always set up public awareness of things in a way that if it went well the President could take credit and if it went poorly he, the Secretary, was the stuckee, always. He always made sure that his President was protected.

So, difficult on a daily basis sometimes to be there with him, but always a team that you could rely on and a leader who stood by his word, he stood by his decision, he stood by his people.

In comes Bob Gates. He is from the standpoint of personality just a breath of fresh air. Just fun to be around, easy to talk to, smart for sure, and then along come things like the Walter Reed Hospital where things were clearly unacceptable when it comes to the way that the troops were living. Secretary Gates’s response to that was to fire the two-star general who was in charge. My recommendation to him was let’s do the investigation. You can always fire somebody if you need to. Let’s do the investigation, find out who if anybody should be held accountable, and then hold them accountable. His response was, “No, I need to establish myself as Secretary of Defense, and firing a couple of admirals and generals will prove that I’m the boss.”

That episode and several others like it and discussions around the table led me to believe that as pleasant and easy to be around him as it was, came the time for crisis he was going to throw somebody else under the bus. Therefore I don’t hold Secretary Gates in the same respect that I hold Secretary Rumsfeld.

Now, in fairness, this is coming from a guy who was not supported by Secretary Gates when he, the Secretary, was presented with the fact that my reconfirmation hearing would be tough. I respect his decision there and I did not fight that because it wasn’t my position to fight the Secretary of Defense or the President of the United States. I thought that had we chosen to, that the hearings would have been difficult, but that I would tell the truth as I knew it and at the end of the day would get reconfirmed. I believe that had Secretary Rumsfeld still been Secretary that I would have been renominated and that we would have gone through that. That’s all conjecture on my part.

So I have to admit to a bit of a bias that I feel like Secretary Gates did not support me the way he might have and that colors my view of him. He, Secretary Gates, was very honest and open in his book about what happened with me and I very much appreciated that. But when it comes to whose teams you want to play on, as hard as Secretary Rumsfeld was to play with, I’d rather play on his team.

Bakich

Yes, got it. There are a couple of issues I think we need to hit that are not chronological but are topical. You’ve mentioned KSM, enhanced interrogation techniques, and Guantanamo. It is difficult to ask that question very specifically, but is there anything that you feel that in the public debate has gone on that has been fundamentally misunderstood, miscast, an angle not appreciated?

Pace

I don’t know if I’d couch it in those terms. I think that the belief is that we purposefully set out to torture people. To my knowledge, the things that I participated in, the things that had to do with Guantanamo—we brought in lots of outside experts. We talked to a lot of people. We had like 35 recommendations that came our way and we implemented something like 24 because the other 11 were beyond what we thought we should be doing to folks.

I never believed—did not then, do not now believe—that we participated in torturing people, although I can understand in the specific case of waterboarding how you could believe that that was. But other than that one part I think that everything else was very much in any world pre- or post-9/11 reasonable things to expect of the way that we handled enemy prisoners of war—although they were enemy prisoners, they weren’t prisoners of war.

I think that too many people believe that we purposefully went about torturing people. I cannot speak for any other part of the government, so I have no idea really what any of the three-letter agencies were, did, or didn’t do. I don’t know. But from the part that I had a vote in, I know that we went through months and months of what was right, what was wrong, and what we could do, what we couldn’t do, what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. At the end of the day we came up with, I think, 24 things, one of which was waterboarding. I was personally inside moral bounds on that. I didn’t think we were stepping outside of moral bounds.

Bakich

Do you believe the way—let me put it like this—do you consider the positions that you took to be widely representative among uniformed officers within the military? Did you get any pushback from fellow general officers?

Pace

No, number one. Two, it was only Dick Myers and me and a couple of other guys in the building who were in these meetings with all these outside experts. The recommendations for the 35 came from military officers. That was culled from 35 to 24, so the guys who were responsible for executing the mission in Guantanamo were the guys who sent forward 35 ideas, which were culled back to 24. So they had asked for more than they were allowed to do. So the folks who were in the chain of command for that operation all had their voices heard, and if anything probably wanted to do more than they were allowed to do.

Perry

When the Abu Ghraib story breaks, what are your thoughts as you see that and as you see the media run with it and how people are responding?

Pace

Disaster. Absolute disaster. First of all, that’s not who we are, and for that to happen it was disgusting. Second, it took the hard work of so many troops—99.9 percent of the troops went over there, did their job, and came back and did it honorably and well—and to have a very small group of people do such dishonor to the Armed Forces of the United States was hard to get your head around. It was bad and it remains bad. It is I think why people believe that we condoned torture, because that happened and it happened on our watch. It was bad and it remains bad. It is a sad chapter in the U.S military. It is what it is. It is 99.9 percent of our guys and gals doing the job just right and a very small percentage just making a mess out of it.

Perry

I remember mentioning just briefly about the Afghan war strategy, but we didn’t come back to him, and that is Osama bin Laden and the search for him and the relationship with the Pakistanis, which we haven’t really talked about and that ultimately he is discovered there and taken out there.

Then there was some criticism at the time, and I’m sure will go into history, so now is the time to talk about it. That is, there will be critics who will say the eye was taken off the ball in Afghanistan and switched over to Iraq and that allowed him to escape, and we just put that out because we know that is one of the things that we read. But what were you hearing about? Where was he and how should we get him and how important was that? Or was it important to the mission?

Pace

Yes, it’s like where’s Waldo. I’m not making fun of it or making light of it; we had lots and lots of intelligence focused on it. When we thought we had something executable, we did it. Whether or not he was in or might have been captured early on in the Tora Bora raid, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. In my mind it was always a high priority on the intel side of finding this guy.

When it was believed that he was in Pakistan, I got sent as Vice Chairman because I was a ground guy to go talk to President [Pervez] Musharraf. My message to President Musharraf was, “We do not know where he is. If it turns out that we believe that he is in Pakistan, Mr. President, we will take action. We know that you cannot give us your permission; therefore we are not going to ask your permission. We don’t expect anything anytime soon, but my mission, Mr. President, is to make sure you know that we know that you are in a tight position and we’re not going to ask your permission.” His response was—let me see if I can get it right—“Thank you.”

Perry

“Thank you for sharing.”

Pace

“Thank you for sharing. I will have to protest if you do this. I could not accept more than one or two operations of this type.” It was something along those lines. It was very clear that he could protest once, he could protest twice. If he had to start protesting more than that it was going to be untenable for him. So he understood what we were saying. He appreciated the message and he understood that we were going to take action if we could, but we needed to understand that a) no matter when we did it, successful or not, he was going to protest, and b) if we didn’t get him the first time and we didn’t get him the second time, there’d better not be a third time, from his perspective.

Perry

That must have been an interesting trip and conversation.

Pace

It was. He was in uniform and I was in uniform and we’re just—but that’s the reason I got sent, because I was a ground general and he is an Army guy. The belief was that generals can sometimes talk to generals. So I went and just had a very direct conversation. He was very understanding, but he wanted to make sure that as clear as our message to him was, that he had a message back.

Bakich

So you weren’t actually technically speaking to the President of Pakistan, you were speaking to a general.

Pace

Well, I was calling him “Mr. President.”

Perry

As we come to the end here both of our time and your time and tenure as Chairman, we’ve talked about your conversations with Secretary Gates about that and how he approached that. Again, for history’s purpose, it is pretty clear, and he was honest to say that he didn’t think or didn’t want to fight the confirmation battle on Capitol Hill. Did you think that it was primarily because of the—again we go back to the domestic politics of the Iraq War? Some of the articles—again, these are journalistic and I think it was Phil Graham of the Washington Post who said, “Journalism is the first draft of history.” So we’re trying to find more accurate drafts.

But there is also a dropping in of a comment that you made about gays in the military and some support for Scooter Libby. I just put that out on the table because that’s what some people will read in the future from journalism and we’re trying to get to a better and more accurate draft of what happened and how you saw it.

Pace

Sure enough. I don’t know what I don’t know, I only know what I’ve been told. First of all, Secretary Gates did not ask me my opinion. He told me what was going to happen. When your boss tells you what is going to happen, you accept his decision. He had thought about it and he says in his book he said to me—the President in his book, Secretary Gates in his book, and Secretary Gates’s counseling to me when he told me, are all consistent.

It was going to be contentious. We’re just starting to see a change in things in Iraq, but things in Iraq still were pretty dicey. Senator Levin had told Secretary Gates that if the President put me up that he was going to use me basically as a punching bag to get at the President’s policies, et cetera. Secretary Gates had agreed with Senator Levin that that wasn’t good and that he, Secretary Gates, had made the recommendation to the President and the President had reluctantly agreed.

Presented with the fact that the Secretary had talked to the President and the President had agreed and therefore I was not going to be renominated was disappointing, but I wasn’t being asked my opinion. I had been in the military 44 years if you include the time at the Naval Academy and my duty was to fold my tent and go home if that was what the Secretary and the President wanted.

Having said that, it would not surprise me if part of the congressional concern was a) the fact that I stood up for General Casey in one case, and b) the fact that I handled poorly the issue about gays in the military. I was asked the question in the 60th minute of a 60-minute interview out at the Chicago Tribune. I’m a big boy, I should have taken my time in answering the question. When I got asked about gays in the military, what I said was that I believed that homosexual activity was immoral and that I could not support immoral activity. That created a storm, which both those who were supportive of me and those who were against me were in my mind way out of bounds. But it was my fault for articulating my position so poorly.

If you were to say to me, Pete, have there been gays in the military forever? Yes. Have they served well and honorably? Yes. Have they served with valor? Yes. Should they have the opportunity to serve their country now? Yes. OK, so what’s your problem?

My problem, and poorly articulated at the time, was what I believed then and what I believe now, which is I was raised Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman is wrong. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean there aren’t guys and gals all the time and guys and guys and gals and gals. But for me, understanding human nature, not making judgments, not being judgmental at all, because I am not pure as the driven snow. What I’m saying is that as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the number one military guy, I believed then and I do believe now that understanding human nature and saying that that kind of activity, whether it is homosexual activity or heterosexual activity, that that is OK as the law of the land, in my mind was wrong.

I could have done a much better job of articulating that, and that is why I thought “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a good place to be. We’re not asking heterosexuals whether or not they sleep with each other and we’re not asking homosexuals whether or not they sleep with each other. We are just accepting that we have the opportunity for everybody to serve. I don’t want to be making judgments. But I said it poorly.

What I ended up doing was first of all, throwing gasoline on a fire, and more importantly I hurt the members of the Armed Forces who are gay and are lesbian, and they did not deserve to be hurt because I came across as judging them as immoral people. I don’t judge them any more or less morally than I would heterosexuals outside the bonds of marriage. I could have done a much better job of articulating that.

So I hold myself accountable for being a big boy and not properly articulating my position because it is my belief and I have a responsibility to uphold all orders unless they are illegal or immoral. In my mind saying that it’s OK for heterosexual activity and it’s OK for homosexual activity outside the bonds of marriage for me is beyond my moral bounds.

I don’t mind people being upset with me if they disagree with my ground that I’m standing on. I’m very comfortable with the ground I stand on. I’m unhappy with myself with the way I stood on the ground because I hurt people who did not deserve to be hurt. I do believe that there is, rightfully so, a place in the U.S. Armed Forces for gays and lesbians, absolutely. They’ve always been part of the Armed Forces. Again, I took my moral obligation in the way I take it and I articulated it poorly.

All that said then tells me that when presented with the possibility of it being contentious, that perhaps some members of Congress also believed not only that, but no one has ever said that to me. Nobody has to give me any explanations for why the Secretary of Defense made a decision that was his to make. But if you say to me might some folks have thought that the gay issue was important in their decision making? Some folks might have.

With regard to Scooter Libby, never heard that before.

Perry

I hadn’t either until I read it in the briefing book.

Pace

In fact I cannot even remember—I mean I certainly believe that Scooter Libby was left hanging in the breeze. I don’t recall, but I certainly would have supported his activities that I knew about as the Vice President’s representative at the Deputies Committee. I don’t remember standing up for Scooter Libby, but if I did, I’m OK with that. I also think that at the end of the day they got the wrong guy.

Haddock

I think there was a letter, sir.

Perry

That’s the reference. Yes, that’s the reference.

Haddock

Late on. You were probably in the transition.

Pace

I don’t remember signing a letter about Scooter when I was on active duty. Did I?

Haddock

That’s what I’m saying. I sort of remember reading it when I was in the transition office.

Pace

I’d like to see the date. If I signed that, I’d love to see the date, because I believe that if I had done that it would have been after active duty.

Haddock

I think it is.

Pace

On active duty I would have had the opportunity to speak for him from my position.

Perry

In an official position.

Pace

Yes.

Perry

That is something you can easily check the record and put that into the interview because it makes it seem like—and again, it is a journalistic article, but it makes it seem that it was while still in service.

Haddock

I can almost remember sitting in the transition office reading the draft of it.

Pace

Was it—?

Haddock

It was about his—

Pace

We need to get a copy of the letter and read it because it seems to me in the back of my head that a) it was after I retired, and b) it had to do with what kind of punishment he should be receiving.

Perry

So it was about—of course Vice President Cheney was—that was a point of contention at the end of the Bush administration that Vice President Cheney was asking President Bush to pardon him and President Bush refused to do that and instead commuted the sentence as I recall. The Vice President famously said, “Sir, you’re leaving a wounded man on the battlefield.”

Pace

I would need to reread the letter and I just can’t—something is not sparking in my head, but I do believe—

Perry

I’m glad then that I raised it.

Pace

I believe they got the wrong guy—not me. They got the wrong guy. It wasn’t Scooter Libby. [laughter] It’s somebody else and I know who that somebody else—in my mind I know who that somebody else is, but I have no proof and I’m not going on the historical record saying that it is X, it’s not Y. But I do believe that they got the wrong guy.

Perry

There you are. We should note at this point as we come to the end that in 2008 President Bush awarded you the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Pace

That was a great honor. That was a surprise. You know, when you read his book and he says—you figure I would remember because he said it about me—but it meant a great deal to me that in his book he says that he wished he had renominated me. I take that from the book, that he wished he had renominated me and that in some small part he felt that the Medal of Freedom was a way of him saying that. Those are my words, not his. But when he hung the medal around my neck he said, “You’re a man of courage and I miss you.”

Haddock

Brings tears to my eyes.

Pace

I was close to tears with that. He and I have never spoken about not being renominated because it was not my place, nor will it ever be my place to go past the Secretary of Defense to ask the President why they did what they did. If the President ever wants to tell me, that’s his business. But in the book he presents the same explanation that Secretary Gates presents in his book.

I work with President Bush now and I had then, still have for him enormous respect. I wish he had fought for me, but he had the Presidency of the United States on his shoulders and he had a war in Iraq that was just beginning to show the fruits of the surge as my renomination process would have started to unfold and it would have been revisiting the previous six years. So again, I cannot—and I never would sit in judgment of his decision because it was his decision to make and I respect it. If he ever wants to say to me, “Pete, this is why I did what I did,” that would be fine, but if he never says that to me, that’s also fine because he was the President of the United States and he had a lot of stuff on his plate.

Bakich

I don’t recall reading anything as poignant about a nomination as what he wrote about you. That last page in that chapter—

Pace

He calls me his friend; he always calls me his friend. To have the President of the United States say that he considers you his friend—there is a military relationship, there is a Commander in Chief–Chairman relationship, and then there is the fact that he considers me his friend. Those are two very different things. They’re equally important to me.

Whenever he asks me to do things I’m going to do it because I have that much respect for him. Vice President Cheney was a little more direct in his book. Go figure. I did do the “Washington read,” I read about myself. Vice President Cheney says, “I would have fought for him.” So thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Bakich

It’s hard not to do a Washington read.

Pace

Yes, but at the end of the day you really have to have humility about these jobs. First of all, to even be in the job; to have six years as a counsel to the President of the United States, four as Vice Chairman and two as Chairman, and to have him every single time not do things I said we really shouldn’t do and have him value my opinion. Then at the end of the day to say, “Oh, God, I only got 40 years instead of 42?” Give me a break. I was lucky; I was fortunate, I was blessed to have that.

I cannot end this without mentioning my guys from Vietnam because they’re the reason. Lance Corporal [Guido] Farinaro and Lance Corporal Chubby Hale and PFC Whitey Travers, Corporal Mike Witt, Lance Corporal Little Joe Arnold, Corporal Dan Miller, Staff Sergeant Freddy Williams. Those guys, those Marines, died following Second Lieutenant Pace’s orders in combat. I have always owed them more than I could ever repay. I didn’t even get a scratch.

In Hue City, Tet of ’68, there were 158 Marines in my company. I’m told 155 were killed or wounded. I’m a rifle platoon leader, not a scratch. There were at least two other times when I know I should have been killed, not a scratch. I have always believed since Vietnam that the good Lord had something he wanted me to do, and along the way when I would get assignments that I would have rather have done something else, I always told myself that Guido and the other Marines I mentioned earned that opportunity for me and I’d just better suck it up and take it on and do the best I could. I always believed there was something I was supposed to do.

When I became Chairman I believed that was the something. But the deal I made with the good Lord coming out of Vietnam was I had no idea why I was still alive but I would stay on active duty until I was no longer needed. I would know I was no longer needed when I didn’t get promoted. So I become the first Marine Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That part worked out pretty well. So if—and this is why it is important in context—if I believed then like I still believe, that I was on God’s mission, and if I believed that I should stay on active duty until I was no longer needed, then came the day when I was told I was no longer needed, OK. It might have come when I didn’t expect it, but it came 40 years after.

So there is absolutely no way that I can feel victimized. I feel blessed. And if the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States decided that I was no longer needed, then I was no longer needed.

I was absolutely spot-on the whole time I was on active duty. Now the best I can do is nonprofit work and giving speeches and talking to military audiences and all that, but the truth is, at the end of the day, I am no longer serving something greater than myself, and I miss that. So that is what I miss. I miss telling the troops I love them and I miss being able to do something day to day that might make their lives better. I miss serving something bigger than myself, but I don’t miss per se the day-to-day stuff in Washington, D.C., at that level. You can understand that.

So it is difficult for me to get through that emotionally because it is so basic to who I am, but those stars were not mine. At the end of the day when people look back on me, for the times that I used whatever power I had for the good of others, yee-ha, and for the times that I hope were rare when I used it for myself, shame on me. The fact that the folks who served in the military with me are kind enough to seek me out still and say nice things to me about what my leadership meant to them, I feel good. The fact that President Bush still reaches out to me and asks me to do things and tells me that I’m his friend means a lot. So I appreciate it.

I’m sure when I read this transcript that there will be many, many things where I’ll say, “Oh, I should have said that. I shouldn’t have said that.” I’ll wake up tomorrow morning thinking, I should have said this. I do appreciate being able to get my thoughts to your questions on the table, but I also want to reiterate that if my recollections turn out to be factually, historically incorrect, then I accept that in a heartbeat because I only know the truth as I know it and I only know the truth from where I sat. If the truth is not the truth I know, then time to educate me.

Perry

But the truth is what you know.

Pace

My truth is what I know.

Perry

That’s right, and that’s why we want it on the record. I think we can say that at least for these five hours today that you so generously gave us along with Katie that we believe that that is serving a cause bigger than all of us. Because we know that this will remain in history and as long as people are studying—we have 13 million hits a year on our American President website, which is a nonbiased, non-Wikipedia resource about the American Presidency that we know teachers and high-school students and even some college students use, and that is just one slice. That doesn’t include our oral histories, our recordings of Presidents. So we know that it reaches people who will help kids in civic education. We know that this will be of major importance to military historians, to folks like ourselves who are political scientists and who study these.

Most important, what we want to say for the record is you served your country with distinction for four decades and we are grateful to that and for that, but we also see this as another way of serving your country, and you’ve done it again generously and brilliantly, so we appreciate that.

Pace

Thank you. I would ask you to consider one thing. There are three five-minute vignettes—

Haddock

I’ll send those later.

Pace

If you can get copies of that. I did an interview, about an hour-and-a-half-long interview from which they—we have the whole thing—distilled down to five vignettes, about why I served, and it captures—when I saw these vignettes I said, “Whoa, that’s very powerful.” I would appreciate it if you would take the 15 minutes it takes to view those and see if anything that I say in there would be worth capturing because it is me talking about myself, but it is the clearest, most poignant articulation I’ve heard myself say of why I served in the military. You would do me honor by at least considering using all or part of those.

Perry

We would be happy to. The other thing to do as well is if you will add that to your transcript, then that will be certain to go into the oral history transcript and that will therefore go up online. You can imagine people being able to just touch that link and go directly to this conversation with you.

Pace

These are video.

Perry

Even better.

Pace

We need to find out how long those videos will hang out there and whether or not there needs to be—

Perry

If we need to constantly update or refresh as the technology changes that would be helpful too if you want to send copies to us.

Pace

That’s what I’m asking, if you would accept a copy and then look at it and see if a) you could use any of it, and b) if you could attach it.

Bakich

I believe the answer to that would be yes.

Perry

That would be a resounding yes. What we would hope to do as time goes on as we continue to do these oral histories—we’ve put them up; we started with the Carter years. Actually, the Miller Center started doing Presidential oral histories in the late ’70s with Gerald Ford’s administration and we have the most amazing photograph of Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Brent Scowcroft in the late ’70s on the steps of the Miller Center. We did a symposium-style oral history with them. Then moving into the Carter administration we started the individual conversations. We continue to do some symposia—domestic policy makers, speechwriters, et cetera, but primarily now we do these.

So as you go to the Miller Center website, you’ll go to Ronald Reagan and you click on Ronald Reagan; you go to Bush 41 and there will be 30 to 50 of these interviews that have been released. If you click on it, it will take you right to the transcript, the authoritative record.

What I’d like to do going forward is make a bigger package of these. So you can imagine for yours that we would have the transcript and then we would have links to these interviews that we could put up that would give people even more flavor, and we’re also—I’m hoping as we go forward we will begin to do these in video. I just think for younger generations coming along it is easier for them to comprehend the video world. We’re such a visual world that I’m hoping that we can do that.

Pace

A lot of the message is visual. When you’re laughing, your body language. Do you believe this person is telling the truth? It’s one thing to read the words; it’s another thing to see the physical.

Perry

Exactly. So now we have to say, “I’m doing air quotes” or we say, “The general is smiling when he is saying this.” I just think it would be so much better to have video. In any event, please do send us anything like that. Again, as you go through your transcript, if there is any other linkage like that, any document that you want to put in, if you think of another description or story and you want to type up a page or two, we are happy to include that in the transcript.

Pace

Thank you. The only thing that might help is the NDU [National Defense University] presentation on the surge. Could you send me that? That might be useful. What I remember today and what I might have remembered while I was still on active duty may be different. One of the lieutenant colonels asked me a question and I gave him a pretty straight answer, I think.

Bakich

Did the stuff that we talked about, the surge, correspond to the NDU presentation that you gave?

Pace

I hope so. [laughter] I think I gave the same answers. The question is, did I?

Perry

Documents will say yes or no. Again, General, thank you so much.

P. Pace, 1/19/2016