Starting in October 2001, about a year and a half before the US and its allies invaded Iraq, the State Department spearheaded an effort called the Future of Iraq Project. Dozens of Iraqi exiles and international experts were brought together to figure out how to create a new Iraq should Saddam Hussein somehow be taken out of power.
Within the project, seventeen working groups covered such areas as the justice system, local government, agriculture, media, education, and oil. The various working groups began meeting in July 2002 and continued through March/April 2003. Twelve of the groups released reports. The project cost $5 million.
The project’s observations and recommendations were almost wholly ignored by the administration during its pre-war planning for the occupation. Soon after the invasion, though, CD-ROMs of the reports were sent to the staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Among other things, the working groups foresaw the widespread looting in the aftermath of invasion and warned against quickly disbanding the Iraqi Army.
The project’s reports have never been made available to the public. In October 2003, “Congressional officials” allowed two New York Times reporters to view the reports, but they were not allowed to take them. Upon reading this, I immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports, which was granted in February 2006. Eight of the reports were released in their entirety, while the rest were redacted to some degree.
The documents are all available here. Take the document on “Free Media”. A “highlight”:
Iraq is not Haiti, Somalia or Afghanistan. The media legacy of Saddam’s legacy will not be a void, a media desert, but a quite big propaganda infrastructure, with sophisticated equipment, that can produce instantly after liberation newspapers and magazines, radio and TV programs – unless this is destroyed in war. The existence of this infrastructure is a blessing if managed well. So, the situation will resemble that of Germany or Italy immediately after defeat.
The “Oil and Energy” section is also highly revealing, discussing the ways in which Iraq’s wealth can be privatised.