Listen: Former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns Talks 2003 Iraq
"And former State Department officials seem to describe working at St. in the Trump era is almost a traumatic experience. And I imagine them many of them were listening wonder what it might be like on the other side. And frankly, if institution if the building will fully recover so trying to think of a different period of time for state, then might have been equally as challenging, and I thought of two thousand three when then secretary of State, Colin Powell went to the UN to make the case for war in Iraq. And he gave a presentation based on intelligence there was just catastrophically wrong. I knew you greatly admired Secretary Powell you worked at the State Department before during and after that period of time. How did the agency the State Department bounce back from such a difficult moment? It was a rough time, and you know, and you know that period. Well, Ben from your work on the Iraq study group of victory Baker in with Lee Hamilton, it was a it was a painful period, when you know, I I've seen lots of moments of differences between agencies, you know, during different eras in Washington. But that was the the most intense the differences between Powell State Department Rumsfeld's Pentagon differences with Vice President Cheney staff and the White House, and it was a another collection of allusions, which led us down. You know, what truly was a tragic path in Iraq in two thousand three. You know, we tried to be honest about our concerns again being self critical. I wasn't I certainly was not effective in winning any of those battles. You know within the administration in that era? Remember at one point Ryan Crocker who was one of my colleagues in the near east bureau in the State Department and other guy named David Pearson. I. Spent a couple of hours brainstorming about everything we sought could go wrong if the United States essentially on its own invaded, Iraq and toppled Saddam because our concern was always less about the military challenge and more about managing the day after in Iraq. And so we we put together a memo, it was really more kinda hastily collection. You know, put together collection of horrible 's more than a coherent memo. But just kind of listing all the things that we could go wrong, and it was our antidote to the incredibly rosy assumptions that were coming out of some of the civilians in the Pentagon, and you know, some folks in the White House, and it was imperfect. We got a lot of things wrong. But you know, I've always thought you got to be honest as a career official about our concerns, and my biggest professional regret to this day is that I didn't push as hard as I should have. And certainly not as effectively as I should have."