Book Review: Inside Centcom: The Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq


by Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, USMC (Ret.), Noah Lukeman

Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004. Pp. 222 . Illus., append., index. $24.95. ISBN:0-89526-020-4

Lieutenant General Michael DeLong was second-in-command of Central Command under General Tommy Franks during the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq. He and General Franks are probably the most authoritative sources on these wars. DeLong’s book is exactly what one would expect from a Marine – clear, concise, and to the point. There is no fluff, and no sugar-coating. DeLong calls it as he sees it, and his viewpoint is one well worth paying attention to. DeLong’s book is explosive in some aspects: He states with near certainty that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction will be found. He explains why, and he flat-out states that Syria was a hiding place for Iraq’s WMD. He also states, “Syria and Iran are problems that will have to be dealt with.”

DeLong also lays out the reasons for a lot of the post-liberation chaos, and does so with honesty. Saddam’s release of as many as 50,000 violent criminals, along with the “melting away” of the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army (and its later disbanding) combined to make a “perfect storm” for the post-war chaos. He also sets the record straight about the “missing” artifacts (which were hidden by the museum staff and later returned) – and which the American media never corrected the record.

He also states that if anyone was to be blamed for the “Mission Accomplished” speech the President gave on the Abraham Lincoln, it was him and General Franks – because they wanted to get assistance from countries that had promised assistance once “major combat operations” were over.

He is not complimentary of Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress and the darling of neoconservatives, and he backs it up. Chalabi and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were classmates (and friends), and he admits that Wolfowitz made a mistake. He also points out Wolfowitz’s strengths, and that he liked Wolfowitz.

DeLong’s defense of the decision to liberate Iraq also warrants mentioning. He cites the many factors in the decision, and he particularly points out that there never was a chance of seeing UN approval because of the vested interests some nations, particularly France, China, and Germany, had. His frustration with the media for not reporting this is palpable in his comments. But perhaps his best defense of liberating Iraq is his description of the encounter he had with “Chemical Ali.” His last sentence says it all.

What is equally important is that like General Franks, DeLong has NOT complained about Rumsfeld’s performance as Secretary of Defense. If anything, DeLong confirms what is apparent in Franks’ memoirs and Scarborough’s biography: Donald Rumsfeld might be a demanding SecDef, but he also will back his people up. As in other situations, DeLong backs this up, citing the way Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz defended the successful November 2002 attack on a car full of terrorists in Yemen.

DeLong and Franks dealt with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz on a daily basis from September 11, 2001 on. That neither have compared Rumsfeld to McNamara – in fact, both have said positive things about him – speaks volumes, and should be taken into account when Rumsfeld is criticized. The only area where DeLong and Franks did not comment was on their thoughts about Rumsfeld’s initial reaction on 9/11. DeLong merely mentions seeing Rumsfeld assisting victims of the attack, and Franks merely says DeLong told him what Rumsfeld was doing. The reviewer is somewhat puzzled by this reticence.

Ultimately, DeLong’s book in conjunction with General Franks’ memoirs, and Rowan Scarborough’s biography provide a superb first draft of history for the initial part of the war on terrorism, far more accurate than much of the media coverage.

Reviewer: Harold C. Hutchison   

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