3,694. 8/5/2002

"On the evening of August 5 [2002], [Secretary of State Colin] Powell had a long dinner with [President] Bush and [National Security Advisor] Condoleezza Rice at the White House residence. Powell told the president that he had been receiving briefings about the [Iraq] war plan, but had not heard enough on what the aftermath might look like. When the United States took out the Iraqi military it would be striking a blow at the institution that held the country together. When the army cracked, the Iraqi government structure would crack and Bush would be the proud owner of 24 million people. It would take time to put a new Iraqi government in place and in the meantime the United States would be the government. It would be a multiyear commitment, which would tie up 40 percent of the U.S. Army for years. It would, Powell said, suck the oxygen out of everything else the administration wanted to do. Powell was later said to have invoked the Pottery Barn rule: if you break it you own it. But the message was more blunt: it will break and you will own it."

 – Cobra II, Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, 8/5/2002

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