BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Peter Galbraith, on July 9, 2006, in the "Washington Times," Christopher Hitchens wrote this.
"Peter Galbraith was arguing for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein when Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were opposed to it, and before George W. Bush was even the governor of Texas."
Is it true? And if you were, why?
PETER GALBRAITH, AUTHOR, "THE END OF IRAQ": I considered Saddam Hussein to have run one of the two worst regimes since the Second World War. The other was Pol Pot in Cambodia.
He committed genocide against the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs, brutally repressed the Shiite majority, and I thought that we should get rid of him.
LAMB: What do you think now?
GALBRAITH: I'm very glad he's gone. And I think that most of the people of Iraq, 80 percent of whom are Shiites and Kurds, are better off.
But I certainly don't think the United States is better off for the way we went about it.
LAMB: What happened?
GALBRAITH: We assumed that this would be easy. The administration put all of its effort into making the case for war. They argued that the Iraqi people embrace democracy, that the occupation would pay for itself.
And then they came to believe their own propaganda, so they didn't prepare to secure Baghdad after we arrived there. It wasn't that we didn't protect everything; we protected nothing.
We had conflicting strategies, confused strategies on whether we were going to turn things over to Iraqis or run it ourselves, whether we would recall the army or disband it.
And then we staffed the occupation government with unqualified political operatives rather than professionals who knew about Iraq, knew about nation-building or knew about the substantive responsibilities that they should have - they were carrying out.
LAMB: One name that comes up often that's in your book, you say you're a friend of Chalabi.
Who is he? When did you first meet him? And what should we know about him?
GALBRAITH: Ahmad Chalabi came from a wealthy Shiite family in Baghdad, and I visited his home the summer of 2005. It was once - it was a grand colonial home - Olympic-sized swimming pool, date palms all around it.
When the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, he left Iraq, became a businessman, made a lot of money. And he devoted himself to overthrowing Saddam Hussein - one of the smartest and most capable people I have ever met.
Now, he's been - and I met him 20 years ago in Virginia - he's been blamed for conning the United States into this war. And I think, if he hadn't lived, we would not be in Baghdad. He did persuade the officials of our government that this could be done and that it would be easy.
But I don't fault him for this. He was a - he is an Iraqi patriot. He figured out, as a matter of strategy, that the road to Baghdad went through Washington. He didn't have an army, so he got the United States to lend him one.
Any fault goes with the officials who took on face value everything he said.
LAMB: Judy Miller of the "New York Times" apparently had him as a good source and wrote what he said and put it on the front page of the "New York Times."
Did you know at the time that he was her source?
GALBRAITH: I knew that he was close. He spent his time cultivating people in Washington who he thought might be influential.
He didn't make the mistake of just trying to see the top fellow of the moment, but developed long-term relationships. And that paid off for him when this administration came into power, and people like - who were his friends - like Paul Wolfowitz came to have very influential roles.
LAMB: Explain more about him. What's he like up close?
GALBRAITH: He is - I mean, he's very smart. He has a fantastic memory, recalls things from - all sorts of faces (ph). He's very persuasive.
On the other hand, you also have to watch out for him a bit. At one point in the discussions about the Iraqi constitution last summer, he and I were talking about a provision, and he knew that the Kurds were listening to my advise, and we agreed on some language in English.
He wrote it out in Arabic, and, of course, the Arabic wasn't at all the same as the English. And, of course, the Kurds spotted it right away.
But he pursues his own goals effectively.
LAMB: One of the first things people say about him if they don't like him is that, when he was a banker in Jordan, that he was corrupt.
GALBRAITH: He was charged with embezzlement. He ran the Petra Bank, which collapsed. I never could figure out enough to make a judgment about that.
He claimed that he was targeted by King Hussein, who at that time was close to Saddam Hussein. That's entirely plausible.
I don't know whether this was the collapse that came about as the result of normal Middle Eastern banking practices, whether there was embezzlement, or whether he was blameless in the whole affair and set up.
LAMB: You said you met him 20 years ago. What were you doing then?
GALBRAITH: I was working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Judith Kipper, who was at the Brookings Institution, one of the Washington institutions' Middle East experts, she thought I should meet him. And we went out to Middleburg, Virginia, where I think he either owned a house or was borrowing one.
LAMB: Education in your case, Georgetown Law?
LAMB: You went to Oxford?
LAMB: To get what?
GALBRAITH: I got an M.A. at Oxford in politics and economics.
LAMB: And then you also went to Harvard.
GALBRAITH: As an undergraduate in history.
LAMB: Your longest job that you had during your life so far, was it the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
GALBRAITH: That's right. I was there for 14 years. I didn't plan on staying so long, but that's how it turned out.
LAMB: Who did you work for there?
GALBRAITH: I joined the committee when Frank Church was chairman in 1979, but he was defeated in 1980. And then I worked for the Democratic side. Claiborne Pell was the ranking member and then the chairman.
But I worked closely with other Democratic senators as well, notably Senator Moynihan, and some of the Republicans.
As I tell in the book, one of the closest collaborations, actually, in trying to pass the Prevention of Genocide Act, the sanctions on Saddam Hussein, the closest collaborator was Senator Jesse Helms.
LAMB: So, what got you into all this? And when did you first get interested in the Middle East?
GALBRAITH: I was always interested in foreign affairs. I grew up in a family that was very concerned with the world. I lived in India as a child. So this was, in general, an area, a matter that interested me.
When I joined the committee, I wanted to work on South Asia issues, and I did. And the Middle East was a natural extension of that.
My first foray into the Middle East, actually, began with the Iran-Iraq War, which began in September of 1980, and not very many people paid attention to it. But I saw something that was beginning to look like World War I. I wasn't sure what the consequences were going to be, but I was sure there were going to be consequences.
LAMB: Your dad was ambassador - John Kenneth Galbraith - to India in what timeframe?
GALBRAITH: 1961 to '63, Kennedy administration.
LAMB: How old would you have been then?
GALBRAITH: I was 10 to 12.
LAMB: What do you remember about that time?
GALBRAITH: A huge amount. But it was a wonderfully diverse experience, from talking to Nehru, who had tigers in his backyard, which I went out and petted.
I traveled around the country. We had a Convair and could fly around - being up in Kashmir. I think it was the extraordinary diversity of India. And also interested in sitting in the fringes of these very high level conversations.
And, of course, the other thing that strikes everybody who visits India, then and now, was the poverty.
LAMB: So, how many of you are there in the Galbraith family?
GALBRAITH: I have two brothers. And then I have a wife and three children.
LAMB: And your brothers are?
GALBRAITH: My brother Alan is a lawyer here in Washington with Williams and Connolly. He's nine years older.
And my younger brother - a year younger - James Galbraith, is a professor at the LBJ School in Austin, Texas, and an economist and author.
LAMB: What would you say your world view is of foreign policy and what it ought to be? And if you were secretary of state, what would be your number one item?
GALBRAITH: My - to be realistic. To see the world as it is, and not as I wish it would be.
I think the top priority has to - what we need is strategy. And strategy means prioritizing. We can't do everything.
Let us fix on what is most important to us, and also on the things that are achievable, and then carefully match the resources to the goals that we can achieve.
But beyond that, I certainly believe that human rights has to be a central component of U.S. foreign policy. Promotion of democracy and the prevention of - doing whatever we can to stop suffering.
I mean, genocide is an unspeakable crime. Where we can stop it at an acceptable cost to us, I think we should.
I think we did in the Balkans in the 1990s was noble and successful.
LAMB: When you were ambassador to Croatia - for what, five years?
GALBRAITH: I was, yes.
LAMB: What did you learn?
GALBRAITH: A lot. It was an extremely complicated time. The first two years was the Croatia war, and I was very much involved in the efforts to mediate that, as well as in Bosnia. Then two years of difficult peace.
Among the takeaways, if you will, are first, that when the United States gets involved and focuses its effort, we can make a difference. That Bosnian war looked like it could be another Middle East war, a 50-year conflict.
We got engaged. We took a while, but we applied the resources of the United States and we were able to end it.
But there are some other lessons that I apply to Iraq in the book, one of which is that, where you have people in a geographically defined area that don't want to be part of a country, you can't keep them in that country forever.
So, you couldn't keep the Slovenes and the Croats in Yugoslavia, just as I don't think you can keep the Kurds in Iraq.
And the other point, there are worse things than having a country break up.
We focused all of our attention in Yugoslavia on trying to hold that country together, when our diplomacy should have - which was a hopeless prospect. We should have focused our attention on trying to prevent the war that followed.
And again, the same point with Iraq. Whether Iraq survives or not is less important than how much violence is going to take place in that country.
LAMB: When you were working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there was a time over in that part of the world - in Iraq and the Kurds, and all that - where you became public. You became more public than staff people are supposed to be.
What was that time? And what impact did it have, that you as a staff person became public?
GALBRAITH: In 1991, as the Gulf War was ending, I was responsible for a conference at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where the Kurdish leaders came. The administration wouldn't see them, but the senators would.
And at that time, Jalal Talabani, who is one of the main Kurdish leaders - today, actually the president of Iraq - he told me of plans for an uprising, or that he anticipated one would take place once we had defeated Saddam Hussein. And he invited me to come to Kurdistan, if it took place - or when it took place.
And, indeed, that was the 27th of February '91. The uprising began about a week later. By the middle of March, the Kurds were in control of all of Kurdistan. And at the end of March, I accepted his invitation.
I crossed the Tigris River in a small boat under Iraqi mortar fire, traveled down to see Talabani in Duhok. It was a grand occasion.
The leading figures of Duhok were questioning him about justice, and how the new administration would occur - all these issues. But meanwhile, the city was being pounded by Iraqi shells.
The Kurds seemed almost not - unconcerned about this. But they should have been.
And the next morning, we ended up leaving the city at six o'clock in the morning, driving up into the mountains. The Iraqis were about an hour behind us, taking the city.
And there were thousands of people streaming to the mountains, fleeing for their lives, because they were certain that once Saddam re-conquered Kurdistan, he would resume the genocide.
And I had my video camera, a home video - the second time I'd used it, actually - and I filmed this.
I then got back out to Syria, which is how I had come in. And that was also quite harrowing, because the Iraqis were closing in.
And when I got to Damascus, I went to the ABC News bureau, because I knew the stringer. We were chatting, and I mentioned I had this video.
And this was, of course, before the days of satellite video feeds, and so they didn't - they had a correspondent in there, but he was trapped. Mine was the only film of the collapse of the uprising.
So, being an entrepreneurial stringer he said, can we use it? They didn't think much of my camera work, but in two hours they found a bit of it that they could use. I said, fine.
But then Peter Jennings called me at a Damascus restaurant and said, we'd like you to be on camera. And I had to make a decision.
The rules of the Foreign Relations Committee were that staff should avoid being quoted in the press. And, of course, that meant not doing television appearances.
On the other hand, I was eye witness to what I thought was the destruction of the Kurdish people. And there's just immense suffering in this massive exodus. In the end, two million people went to the mountains.
And the Kurds had risked their lives to get me out safely. So, I said, yes, I'd do that. So I went on the "ABC Evening News." It led the news.
Then "Nightline" called and asked if they could show my film. They showed about five minutes of it and I narrated it.
Then I continued from Damascus to Jordan and Jerusalem, and I got all these press interviews and I accepted every one of them - if you're going to break the rules, you might as well do it in a big way - including several other "Nightlines."
I expected I would face the music when I got back to Washington, and there was a certain amount of grumbling from my fellow staffers.
But, in fact, the senators were 100 percent supportive. They understood exactly what had happened, and they were - they were actually proud of what I had done. And Senator Moynihan made a very generous speech in the Congressional Record.
So, it turned out doing the right thing also was a good thing for me.
LAMB: Why was there an uprising at that time?
GALBRAITH: Well, first â€¦
LAMB: By the Kurds.
GALBRAITH: There was an uprising on the part of the Kurds and the Shiites. They weren't coordinated, but they occurred for the same two reasons.
The first is that both groups hated Saddam Hussein, and in the case of the Kurds, they hated Iraq. Saddam was defeated. They saw this as their opportunity to get rid of him, and in the case of the Kurds, possibly to break away.
But second, they were encouraged to have this uprising by the first President Bush, who, on the 15th of February, 1991, said, I call on the Iraqi - there's another way to end this war, and that's if the Iraqi military and people overthrow Saddam, the dictator. And they took him seriously.
LAMB: So, what happened?
GALBRAITH: What happened is one of the most tragic and, I think, disgraceful episodes in modern American history.
The uprising took place. And then the United States decided - the Bush administration decided - that no, this isn't what they had in mind. A military coup would have been fine.
But if the Shiites prevailed in the south, that this would give a great advantage to their ally, Iran. And if the Kurds prevailed in the north, that they might want to break away from Iraq, and that would cause great problems to our ally, Turkey.
So, they took the decision that they would let Saddam Hussein violate the terms of the ceasefire that had ended the Gulf War, use his military to crush the uprisings in the north and south, and also to use his helicopters, which were extremely important, particularly in the north, because the Kurds associated the helicopters with the delivery of chemical weapons.
Anyhow, they allowed him to use his helicopters against the uprisings.
LAMB: How many Kurds are there?
GALBRAITH: There are - the numbers are not known, but 25 to 30 million, of whom about six million live in Iraq.
LAMB: What is a Kurd?
GALBRAITH: A Kurd is an Indo-European - a people that speak an Indo-European language. They're some of the original inhabitants of this area, so they were there long before the Arabs.
They are ethnically, linguistically very distinct both from the Arabs and from the Turks, who speak a Turkic language. They are closest to the Iranians.
LAMB: Where do they live, if only six million of them live in northern Iraq?
GALBRAITH: There are 15 to 20 million in Turkey - and that's the largest group - and seven to eight million in Iran. Maybe half a million to a million in Syria, a certain number in the Caucasus and, thanks to Stalin's deportation, some in Kazakhstan.
And then there's a significant diaspora in Europe, and a very important Kurdish community in the United States, which has been politically active.
LAMB: Is there a way to define what a Kurd is like?
GALBRAITH: Well, yes, because the Kurds are mountain people. And the saying of Kurdish culture is, the Kurds have no friends but the mountains.
And they have the characteristics of mountain peoples, which is a great hospitality toward their guests. And I think one of the reasons why I enjoy my time so much in Kurdistan is that people are terrific hosts.
And you have a sense that once you're their friend, they'll do anything for you. They'll put their lives on the line. And I know that that was true in my case.
They are secular - they're Muslims, Sunni Muslims, but they're secular. A lot of their traditions go back to their pre-Islamic period - Zoroastrianism.
They love nature. Spring is incredibly important in Kurdistan.
And unlike other parts of the Middle East, you find families go on picnics often. They consume alcohol. Women dress in very colorful clothes. Men and women will dance together in these picnics.
So, it's a very different place from other parts of the Middle East.
LAMB: How much time have you spent there?
GALBRAITH: Oh, a lot of time. I made maybe 10 trips between my first one in '84 and 1993, when I went off to Croatia. And now I've gone back maybe every two months since, and I've spent significant chunks of time.
LAMB: What is life like there compared to what it is south of there in Iraq?
GALBRAITH: If you're in Kurdistan, you have no sense that you're in a country called Iraq. First, it's nothing like the news from Iraq. It is stable, prosperous. There's construction everyplace these days.
The Kurds have their - Kurdistan has its own government, the Kurdistan regional government.
It has its own army, which numbers some 60,000. It's the most effective military force in Iraq, except for the Americans.
It flies its own flag. The Iraqi army is not permitted to come there. The Iraqi flag is banned.
And, in fact, even when you come into Kurdistan, you need a visa to go to Iraq. But if you come to Kurdistan, you don't need a visa.
LAMB: So, why would somebody like - and tell us who Talabani is - become the president of Iraq?
GALBRAITH: The Kurds have taken a strategic decision that they're going to advance their interests, both by institutionalizing a separate Kurdistan, which they did in the Iraqi constitution, and by playing a full role in Baghdad.
Jalal Talabani is the veteran Kurdish leader. He's been part of the struggle against dictatorship in Iraq since - for at least four decades.
He is a man that is respected, not just by the Kurds, but by the Arabs. And I think for him, an arrangement in which Kurdistan retains the independence it now has, but doesn't separate from Iraq, is a satisfactory one.
And so, he's really put his energy into trying to keep Iraq together, as least as a loose federation, and most importantly, to trying to end the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
LAMB: The Turks' attitude toward the Kurds?
GALBRAITH: Well, traditionally, the Turks - well, historically, the Turks almost denied that there was a - that there were Kurds. Twenty years ago they referred to the 18 million inhabitants who spoke Kurdish of their country as "mountain Turks." And the speaking of the Kurdish language was illegal.
But Turkish attitudes have evolved, partly because the European Union, which Turkey would like to join, has imposed conditions. And that means legalizing the Kurdish language and having schooling in Kurdish, and that sort of thing.
With regard to the events in Iraq, Turkey has been very worried that the emergence of a Kurdistan in Iraq would be a threat to Turkey. But there are also people in Turkey who begin to see it a little differently.
They say, the Iraqi Kurds are secular, Western. They aspire to be democratic, and they're not Arabs. In short, they're a lot like us, and a Kurdistan in Iraq could be a useful buffer against Arab Iraq.
LAMB: If you put a Shiite and a Sunni and a Kurd - I know I'm mixing things here - in a room, could you tell the difference between them in appearance?
GALBRAITH: No. I mean, there are - the people of this part of the world are quite mixed up. You might find more fair features and blue eyes in the Kurds. But I'm assuming you're talking about Shiite and Sunni Arabs, because the Kurds are also Sunni.
But it's really quite mixed up. So I think you would not automatically be able to tell.
But you would be able to tell, obviously, by their language. You'd be able to tell by their dress. You would be able to tell by their names.
LAMB: They're all Muslims?
LAMB: They all follow the Koran?
LAMB: Do they have a different attitude about all that?
The Kurds are very relaxed about the religious practices. They're very tolerant.
Women, at least in many cases, are not covered, and they'll wear colorful clothing, whereas in the Shiite areas, women tend to be covered up and wear chadors.
They have been - although alcohol is not illegal in Iraq, the Shiite militias have been killing the Christians, who are the sellers of alcohol. And some of these same things are happening in the Sunni areas.
The Kurds also - Kurdistan is not just a place of Kurds. It has been one of the most diverse parts of Iraq with a significant Christian minority, as well as a Yezidi minority. This is a group that considers Satan to be, to have divine qualities, because - or Lucifer - because, after all, God created everything; therefore, he couldn't have created anything bad. They've been brutally repressed.
But the Kurds are very proud of these Christian and Yezidi traditions. And, in fact, the Kurdistan government, it does not fund the construction of new mosques. In fact, it doesn't even wish - it doesn't encourage that. But it will fund the construction of new churches.
LAMB: You open your book - well, first of all, why did you write the book, "The End of Iraq"? Is this your first book?
GALBRAITH: It is my first book.
I wrote it because I wanted to outline a - because I feel that we're in a quagmire. We have an approach to Iraq - I almost don't dare call it a strategy - that will condemn us to an endless war. And the reason that we have it is because we have not bothered to learn a lot about what the country is like.
So, I wanted to describe what the country is like, and in particular to make the point that this is a country that has already broken up, where there's a civil war.
And then to outline a strategy that can extricate us from Iraq, allow us to focus on more serious threats to our national security, and yet at the same time do the least damage to Iraq itself. And that's what this book is about.
LAMB: You live where now?
GALBRAITH: Townshend, Vermont.
LAMB: What do you do for a living?
GALBRAITH: Ah. Well, I write. I do some consulting. Those are the main activities.
LAMB: You write in your book on page 209, "There is no good solution to the mess in Iraq."
GALBRAITH: That is true.
LAMB: So, should we just leave?
GALBRAITH: Well, we basically have a choice. The president's strategy involves trying to - or goal - is to have a unified and democratic Iraq.
But the country is broken apart. So, if we were serious about that - and frankly, the administration is not serious about that - we would have to put this country together again. It would require half a million troops, many times the casualties. Our troops would have to become the policemen, because there are no police who are trusted by Sunnis and Shiites.
I don't think that that is something that is in our interest to make that kind of commitment, but it isn't going to happen.
If we're not going to do that, then you have to ask the question, what purpose is served by our continued presence in these different parts of Iraq?
And I don't think you can talk about the country as a whole. You have to talk about its different constituent components, because they are so distinct.
I would say we should withdraw tomorrow from the southern half of the country. It has been set up as a Shiite theocracy, but this reflects the will of the Shiites there who have voted in elections. We're not going to dismantle the militias that rule the place.
The only purpose - the consequence of our troops being there is they're potential hostages for the Iranians, if we should strike Iran, because the Shiites in Iraq are closely linked to Iran.
GALBRAITH: Because Iran - first, they share a religion. And it's the Shiite identity that is so dominant in Iraq, rather than the Iraqi identity, among the Shiites.
And secondly, Iran supported the Shiites for decades. All the major Shiite religious parties - well, all of the - two of the three most important Shiite religious parties were actually founded in Iran.
The most important, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, founded in Iran in 1982. Its name gives you a clue as to its agenda.
Iran funds the Shiite militias. Even to this day it provides significant support to them.
LAMB: Who is Sistani?
GALBRAITH: Ali al-Sistani is Iraq's leading Shiite cleric - very, very influential - certainly the most influential person in Iraq today. And he is an Iranian.
LAMB: And has no intention of becoming an Iraqi?
GALBRAITH: No. He has said, I was born an Iranian and I will die one.
LAMB: Who does he talk to in the American system?
GALBRAITH: Nobody. He refuses to see the Americans.
GALBRAITH: He considers them to be the occupiers of Iraq, and he is not going to deal directly with them.
LAMB: How does he relate to Sadr?
GALBRAITH: Of course, he doesn't say how he relates to Sadr. In fact, he only - he usually communicates through intermediaries.
But Sadr, who is this 30-something, radical cleric comes from one of Iraq's most revered Shiite families - the one, incidentally, that has the least connections with the Iranians, at least ethnically, because some of the others are Iranian by origin.
And Sadr is considered a threat to the Shiite establishment in Iraq, and to some degree a threat to Sistani. So, he's viewed as an upstart. On the other hand, he has a family legacy and he has a lot of supporters.
LAMB: You talk a lot about American government officials. And I want to go down a list of them and just get your perspective of them. Put them in context from your â€¦
LAMB: â€¦ from where you're sitting.
GALBRAITH: He's - he was one of the architects - one of the strongest proponents of this war. Interestingly, he has adopted a radically different position as vice president than the one he had as secretary of defense.
When he was secretary of defense, before the invasion of Kuwait he was one of those - he was part of an administration - that opposed sanctions on Iraq in response to Iraq's gassing of the Kurds.
That was too extreme, because they thought that Saddam could be a strategic partner. And that was up until the 2nd of August.
LAMB: What happened?
GALBRAITH: And then after the invasion of Kuwait, which took place on the 2nd of August, Cheney did a very good job in terms of orchestrating the - building a coalition and orchestrating the military response.
But then he was one of the people who said that we should not go to Baghdad and did not want to support the uprising in March of 1991.
And incidentally, when that uprising failed, the Kurds fled to the mountains. The U.S. had to re-intervene, because of the CNN effect, if you will, to rescue the Kurds. But up to 300,000 Shiites were massacred.
LAMB: What's the CNN effect?
GALBRAITH: Well, what happened was, the Kurds went to the mountains. The president of Turkey, whose grandmother was Kurdish, decided to let the cameras in. And so, we had these images brought home of these children dying on the mountainside under exposure.
And there was a public outrage at those images, and it eventually forced the first Bush administration to take action - which, incidentally, was very easy. It just ordered the Iraqis out, and the Kurdish safe area was created.
LAMB: Your opinion of Donald Rumsfeld?
GALBRAITH: Well, Donald Rumsfeld bears huge responsibility for what happened. He picked the number for the invasion out of thin air. He bullied the military into accepting this.
He failed to ensure that there was plans for what we do once we got to Baghdad.
And then he - and then when the looting took place, he actually chuckled about it, as if it was a big joke. But those comments had a huge impact in Baghdad.
I was there. An Iraqi said to me, your defense secretary thinks this is just a bit of untidiness and that, you know, that the looting of our museum is a joke. But this is our country and our heritage. How can you say this?
And, of course, he's now locked into this no-win strategy.
LAMB: Paul Wolfowitz.
GALBRAITH: Paul Wolfowitz - who is an acquaintance of mine, and who I liked - he was the intellectual father of this war. He was the one who did think we should have helped the uprising in 1991. I think he was very burdened by the fact that the administration of which he was part did not.
But he put all his effort into making a case for the war. And like Rumsfeld, he never quite grasped that he would be responsible for the consequences.
He also was responsible for many of the glib arguments that the occupation would pay for itself, that Iraq's Shiites would be different from the Iranians, that they would be a threat to Iran because they would be part of a Western, liberal democracy - when, in fact, it was the Iranians who had been supporting the Iraq Shiites and it was pretty obvious that Iran was going to emerge as the big winner from this conflict.
LAMB: How are you acquainted with him?
GALBRAITH: I met him in the, I suppose - oh, I met him first in 1986 when I made a trip for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Indonesia, and he was the ambassador.
LAMB: Douglas Feith.
GALBRAITH: Douglas Feith was the number three man in the Pentagon, the undersecretary for policy. And he was put in charge of the planning for post-war Iraq, and he didn't do it.
LAMB: Do you understand why?
GALBRAITH: I think that he was - he was part of a group of people who spent their entire life in the opposition. Their mentality was to make the argument. They thought it was going to be easy. They argued it was going to be easy.
They fell victim to their own propaganda, and never occurred to him again that he was responsible for what might follow. I think he's also quite disorganized.
LAMB: Ambassador Negroponte.
GALBRAITH: Ah. Now, that is a - there is a true professional, somebody I've known for close to 30 years.
He arrived in Iraq after this awful mess that was created by Bremer. He was very behind the scenes. That was exactly what was required at the time.
And now I think he's doing a first-rate job, as being in charge of U.S. intelligence.
Just interestingly, I think most people would say - and I hope you'll forgive me for being a little immodest - that in the U.S. government there probably was nobody who knew as much about the Kurds as I did. But among all the people who were planning for the war, there wasn't really any interest in getting my views.
But John Negroponte - the "New York Review of Books" sent him an article I wrote. And he wrote back a letter, and then he and I had a long chat. I'm not saying that he agreed with me, but at least he thought having a different point of view was worth hearing.
LAMB: Paul Bremer.
GALBRAITH: Paul Bremer, of course, was the coalition provisional administrator. He was the viceroy of Iraq.
A neighbor of mine in Vermont, he lives two towns away, actually.
He was given an impossible job and he did it badly.
Just to illustrate the lack of preparation, the administration said, oh, yes, we were always planning to choose an administrator. But he had two weeks' notice. There were two weeks from when he was first asked to consider going to Iraq to when he actually arrived in Baghdad.
This was a country he had never been to. He didn't speak the language. He didn't have a familiarity - he didn't have any experience in post-conflict situations.
His great fault is that, in spite of not having any background, he thought he knew it all. He thought he could do a better job of running Iraq than the Iraqis.
There was a mechanism for an Iraqi leadership conference, which was prepared to form the nucleus of a government. It turned out it was very representative in the 2005 elections. The parties in this seven-man Iraqi leadership conference won 90 percent of the vote.
But Bremer dismissed them. He said, you aren't representative. I know more than you. And he thought he could run the country.
Well, these people essentially disengaged during the Bremer period, and Bremer proved that he couldn't do anything.
His administration of the Coalition Provisional Authority - the CPA - Iraqis called it "Can't Provide Anything."
LAMB: Current ambassador, Khalilzad.
GALBRAITH: Zal, as he's known - Afghan American, part of the neoconservative group that were the architects of the war, somebody who is proud of his Republican credentials - nonetheless is a breath of fresh air and has brought a healthy dose of realism.
If he - when he arrived, the official - he arrived last summer just before the negotiations on the constitution. The official line was that there had to be a unified Iraq, there could only be a single Iraqi military, the central government had to control all the oil.
Zal understood that that wasn't going to work. And so, he brokered the compromises that made possible the constitution -the compromise that gave Kurdistan control of its own oil, that allowed Kurdistan to keep its own army, that allows the Shiites to set up their own region with their own military.
So, he's been - although he was an ideologue, he became a pragmatist, and he also has a very nice style. All the Iraqis that I've seen really like him. He understands them. He listens. He understands the culture of sipping tea discussions.
LAMB: President George Bush.
GALBRAITH: He's the man at the top. And what happened in Iraq is largely a consequence of a failure of his leadership. He's the one who failed to ask what would happen once we got to Baghdad.
I tell a story in the book that illustrates the lack of thinking about the post-war.
Less than two months before the invasion, three Iraqi Americans met with President Bush in the Oval Office. And naturally, the discussion turned to what was Iraq going to be like after Saddam Hussein was gone? And, of course, they began to talk about Sunnis and Shiites.
And it became apparent to them that the president was unfamiliar with these terms.
Now, I don't tell that story to say that he was ignorant, but rather, it reflects the lack of top level thinking about post-war Iraq, the lack of top level decision-making.
And after all, if you don't know that Islam is divided into two branches, you cannot possibly anticipate that one of the consequences of the invasion would be a civil war between two groups that you did not know exist. Or that Iran - Shiite Iran - would exercise a lot of influence in Shiite-majority Iraq.
He also - he failed to make the most fundamental decisions, like whether we should turn power over to Iraqis or whether we should run the country ourselves. The result is that the competing factions in his administration pursued both strategies at the same time.
Now, you can argue that one course or the other was correct. You cannot argue that doing both at the same time made sense.
LAMB: What's the best explanation you can give us in a short time, the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?
GALBRAITH: It's a schism that goes back 1,300 years. It is the question of who should have been the successor the Prophet. Should it have followed his descendents through his daughter and son-in-law, as the Shiites say, or the leader of the Islamic community, as the Sunnis say?
There are not a lot of doctrinal differences. They pray, or they hold their hands in prayer in a somewhat different manner, and a few things like this.
But there is in the psychology of the Shiites a real sense of having been persecuted. And that colors their thinking.
And it is why now, at this moment, there is this extraordinary sense of liberation, that this is their moment in Iraq, which is the site of their holiest places, for the first time in 1,300 years.
LAMB: Do they look any different than - I mean, there are two different groups. Do they talk any differently? And is their demeanor any different?
GALBRAITH: To the extent that the Shiites in the south and the Sunnis are in the center, you may have some differences in demeanor and accent, and also attire.
But you also have - one of the main ways you can tell is by names. No Shiite will name his son Omar, because that's one of the early Sunni caliphs, who was a persecutor of the Shiites. And I don't think very many Sunnis will name his son Ali, because that is the first of the Shiite imams.
And this turns out to be very serious, because if you arrive at a roadblock in Baghdad manned by police, what they may be - they may be police or they may be militia in police uniforms - look at your I.D.
And if it's Shiite police or militia, they see your name is Omar, they take you out and quite often your body turns up the next day with marks of some ghastly torture.
LAMB: How can there be this much hatred around religion? I mean, I know that sounds naive, because, in history.
But how can there be, right there among the same people who look alike, talk alike, same basic religion?
GALBRAITH: This is really about identity. And it's not so much about religion. Religion's only part of the picture.
The Sunni Arabs ran Iraq from its founding until 2003, but they were only a minority, 20 percent. So they had to rule by force. They put all their people in the top positions. They kept most of the country oil revenues for themselves.
And the Shiites, they forged an identity, both for this common, this historical experience of persecution going back 1,300 years, but also the experience they had under Saddam Hussein.
And I think what you have in Iraq, religion is part of a struggle for power between the Sunnis, who used to rule Iraq and who feel that they are the guardians of Iraq, and who do not accept that they were forcefully ousted by the Americans, and in their view, who turned the country over to Iran.
And the Shiites, who feel that this is - that now there's democracy, this is their opportunity to run Iraq.
LAMB: You say in your book that the consequences of an American withdrawal are not nearly as dire as Rumsfeld asserted.
You said that, and you also said that the country ought to be run, or broken up into three different groups.
What are the chances that that will ever happen?
GALBRAITH: The country has broken up into three different groups. And I think there's almost no chance that it will be put back together again.
Who is going to make the Kurds accept any authority from Baghdad?
Incidentally, the constitution of Iraq basically ratifies the breakup. The central government has almost no authority at all. It doesn't - it controls foreign affairs, but regions are entitled to their own armies. They control a good part of their own oil. They control almost all the functions of government.
So, you aren't - there's no mechanism to put this country back together again. It would only require force, and there's nobody who is going to apply the force.
But Rumsfeld said, basically, if we withdrew from Iraq, it would be like turning Germany back to the Nazis or the Soviet Union back to Stalin. And that's just nonsense.
The Baathists are not going to come back. They cannot prevail against the Shiites, who are three times as numerous and who are backed by Iran.
So, it was a kind of, if you will, a Henny Penny alarmism that - it doesn't dignify the political debate.
We need to understand - and this is why I wrote the book - we need to understand what is at stake here. We need to be realistic.
LAMB: You have a footnote early in the book, on page 12, Nobel Prize winner, Joe Stiglitz, and Harvard budget expert Linda - is it Bilmes? â€¦
GALBRAITH: Bilmes, yes.
LAMB: â€¦ estimate at least $1 trillion in total cost, and possibly more than $2 trillion in total cost for this war?
GALBRAITH: That is their estimate. It includes all the additional costs, for example, pensions for veterans, the lifetime medical care of those who have been injured and affected by the war.
Certainly, the war is extremely costly, and this is one estimate. But it's - obviously, when the range is $1 trillion to $2 trillion, it isn't all that precise, but it does give you a possible top figure.
LAMB: On the page before that you write, "The Iraq war has failed to serve a single, major U.S. foreign policy objective. It has not made the United States safer. It has not advanced the war on terror. It has not made Iraq a stable state. It has not spread democracy to the Middle East. And it has not enhanced U.S. access to oil. It has been costly."
But the other point of view coming from the White House is that we've freed 50 million people in that area, meaning both the Afghans and the Iraqis.
What do you say to that?
GALBRAITH: Well, the Afghan war is an entirely different matter.
It's hard to see - I mean, it may be a lovely thing to free the 26 million people of Iraq. It's not clear that that has served an important U.S. national security interest. It's good.
And I argue - I say, it is quite possible to argue that the Iraqi people, or Iraqis are better off. Eighty percent of them are Kurds and Shiites. They've been liberated from brutal repression or the threat of brutal repression.
My point is that it's hard to argue that the U.S. is better off.
We went into Iraq to eliminate WMD that did not exist. But while we were in Iraq, and because we were tied up in Iraq, Iran and North Korea have gone - other members of the so-called "axis of evil" - have gone full speed ahead with their nuclear programs.
The North Koreans became the only country in the world to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and have taken previously safeguarded plutonium and made maybe eight or nine new bombs.
The Iranians, who had suspended their uranium enrichment activities, have resumed them. And their leaders mock the United States. They say, you're bogged down in Iraq. There's nothing you can do about it.
We've had tough talk from the administration about how this is unacceptable, but no action.
LAMB: Let me ask you this, though. On whatever March date it was, 2003, what was your attitude about our invasion of Iraq? That day.
GALBRAITH: I went along with it. I never thought that Iraq posed a threat because of its WMD, because to my mind - I mean, I thought it did have WMD, but I thought it had what it had used, which were chemical weapons.
And they're not - I mean, there's one WMD that's in a category by itself, and that's nuclear weapons. That Iraq clearly did not have. And as long as inspectors were there, you couldn't possibly construct the facilities to make a nuclear weapon.
But I went along with it because of what I had seen of Saddam Hussein's regime, of the extraordinary cruelty of it, which is recounted in the book, at least my encounters with it, you know, visiting a raping room in Sulaimaniya, talking to a boy who crawled out of a ditch of corpses, including his entire family - hundreds killed in a Srebrenica-style mass murder.
And I was also influenced by the fact that all of my Iraqi friends - Kurds and others - supported this war. And I feel some deference to them.
But I was uneasy. And I wish I had been - I'd listened more to the uneasy side.
One of the things that made me uneasy is that I had seen the lack of planning in the Pentagon. I'd seen the fact that they hadn't - that they, in the case of Kirkuk, they didn't even know whether the police in Kirkuk were Arabs or Kurds, and that was going to be critical to how this city was going to be administered once we took it.
LAMB: How could you not know all that with all of the money available?
GALBRAITH: It was knowable, but they didn't think it was important to know.
LAMB: Why wouldn't they?
GALBRAITH: Because this was a war of ideology. This was not - and there was a - it was carried out by people so used to making arguments and not used to the idea that they were responsible.
You had to believe in order to participate in the occupation of Iraq. And that meant, if you were a State Department official who spoke Arabic, you were excluded, because maybe you didn't believe Iraq - you didn't necessarily believe the project would succeed.
They didn't want people in the occupation government who were experts on health care or electricity or budgeting. They really wanted true believers who would help remake Iraq.
You would have thought, since this presidency is defined by Iraq, they would have gotten the best people possible to make it a success. But that isn't how they went about it.
LAMB: Before we run out of time, what influence did your dad have on you?
GALBRAITH: Oh, immense.
He - public service and public affairs was the, was what our family was about. And so, it was always clear to me that what I wanted to do was, in some way, to serve my country and to work for a better world. And that's what I did in government, and that's I'm trying to do now.
He also encouraged me to write. He was a prolific author and a wonderful writer.
He always said that I wrote well. But, you know, sons are always a bit in the shadow of the great man. And also, since I was in government, there wasn't the opportunity to do something like write a book.
But when I started this book project, he was very enthusiastic. He read the first chapters. He liked them very much. He offered, as he always did, some suggestions.
And I'm only sorry that he didn't live to see the final book.
LAMB: What's the difference between you and your brother James?
GALBRAITH: Well, first - sometimes I like to say that we took up different parts of our father's legacy. My older brother Alan, the lawyer, he's the leader.
I took the easy route. I became a diplomat, because my father was only a diplomat for a couple of years. Whereas Jamie took the hard task; he became an economist.
But Jamie is an academic, whereas my career has basically been in government.
LAMB: Will you ever serve in government again?
GALBRAITH: Richard Holbrooke I think once told me, never turn down a job you haven't been offered.
LAMB: Thank you, Peter Galbraith, author of the book, "The End of Iraq."
GALBRAITH: Thank you.