The just-released Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s draft report contains the following remarkable dialogue between Jay Garner and Donald Rumsfeld:

Mr Garner presented Mr Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

“What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr Garner said.

“My friend,” Mr Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

Obsidan Wings draws attention to another passage, in which the distinctive Bushite melody is loudly played on the two keys of ineptitude and amorality:

Ambassador George Ward, head of ORHA’s humanitarian pillar, asked, “How am I going to protect humanitarian convoys, humanitarian staging areas, humanitarian distribution points?”

A flag officer who had flown in from CENTCOM said, “Hire war lords.”

“Wait a minute,” Ward thought, “folks don’t understand this. There are warlords in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. There were no warlords to rent.”

“At that point,” Ward says, “I thought this was going to fail because no one is paying serious attention to civilian security.”

As Ward notes, warlords are, indeed, much easier to locate in Afghanistan. Consider General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a key US ally in that country. Back in the heady days of 2001, Dostum took custody of thousands of prisoners of war. He loaded the men into packing crates where they duly suffocated and then dumped their bodies into a mass grave. When stories of the atrocity leaked out, the US acknowledged only a few accidental deaths. Physicians for Human Rights has now obtained a State Department intelligence assessment from November 2002. It advises:

Government officials that the remains of between 1,500 and 2,000 individuals were deposited at the site, and that approximately four Afghans who witnessed the death of the prisoners and/or the disposal of their remains had been detained, tortured, killed, and/or disappeared.

Despite having this information, the US Government did not revise its public statements on the issue, nor did it launch a vigorous investigation into the circumstances surrounding these alleged crimes.

General Dostum has recently sent bulldozers and backhoes to the scene to destroy any remaining evidence. The McClatchy report that broke the story concludes with the following: “American officials say that Dostum’s suspected war crimes are a matter for the Afghan authorities.”

Which would be somewhat more reassuring if the key Afghan authority in the north of the country wasn’t … a certain General Dostum.

The emerging liberal consensus is that the Iraq war was botched by poor planning. But that reverses the causal sequence. The suppression of an unwilling population necessarily becomes incredibly complex and extraordinarily vicious, and so the maintenance of an army of occupation provides the perfect incubator for both corruption and brutality. One doesn’t hire the Dostums of the world because one likes them; one hires them because they’re necessary to get the job done.

It’s easy to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld and his crew as Keystone Cops, the Homer Simpsons of pre-emptive invasion. But back in 2003, the commentariat hailed Rumsfeld as the smartest guy in the room.

Now President-elect Obama is preparing his own surge into Afghanistan, intensifying a war as aimless and lethal as that in Iraq. The Iraq Reconstruction report has shown us this movie once. Get ready to see it again.