tv CSIS Discussion on Iraq War History Panel 2 CSPAN June 5, 2019 5:48pm-6:36pm EDT
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washington hosted a review of the army's report which covers successes and mistakes. up next a panel on the u.s. surge and withdrawal from the iraq war from 2007 to 2011. >> okay. we're back for volume two. is everybody okay in the back? okay. good. we're fortunate to have jim powell, colonel jim powell the author of volume two and talking about a period that lasts from the beginning of the surge all the way to the end. we'll get out of here about 11:15 so jim will take 15 minutes. ken will provide his remarks. and hopefully time for a little more question and answer from all of you. just to set the stage, i thought i would just outline the period as the authors found it in late 2006. bottas are because it's really a remarkable series of intersecting and complex challenges and choices that the army faces.
okay. so there is six that the authors have identified in late 2006. one, the united states distrust of prime minister malaki and his government are deepening. two there is open question whether them to have the will or capability of going after both militants, three, there is intensifying coalition warfare against shia proxies within iraq. or there is a looming inter- shia war with and there's, five, the coalition and attentions are running high because they are adapting diametric composition views of having to approach the shia militant problem. and finally six, this is six, not, clearly not a priority in the north, both arab, kurd tensions and the aqa threat of a festering with the coalition and the government of iraq means to resolve problems.
so as you could imagine trying to design a strategy to deal with those complex problems, they will describe how that occurred. >> thank you, and thank you for providing the venue to discuss this project. in the interest of time, i will offer four findings roughly categorized in accordance with the levels of conflict and the studies a fourth, at the level of policy or politics, the iraq war seems to be the highlight of multiple aspects associated with maintaining presumptive relations. one way to view civil military relations is that the dialogue is to align political ends with military means. in late 2006, volume one of our study ends and volume 2 begins. general george casey found himself engaging in this kind of dialogue with both president
george w. bush and prime minister maliki so here i am suggesting that first, the engagement with the host nation political leader, constituted its own strand of civil military relations with challenges, distinct with those. they treated maliki as a partner, one was driven by a unique political calculus, that concerns far more than the relatively narrow scope of american military interest. this case he recognized as the delicate civil military relationship and he managed it at times by deferring to maliki as a political leader when he perceived longer-term benefits in doing so. second, in these dialogues centered on the alignment of ends and means, i think what we
see in the maliki relationship is a case of diverging ends. where as in the case, of the bush relationship, we see diverging perception of acceptable means and the ways in which to apply those means. in the first case, i am referring to competing visions of future, of a future iraq. one in which stability would come through sunni shia reconciliation and the militia and terrorist groups. and one in which stability would come through shia dominance and sunni marginalization. in the second case, what i am suggesting is that bush shared an understanding of what was going on in state of iraq but a
host of reasons differed on their views on how to best achieve it. the most well-known difference centered on u.s. troop numbers and were critically the extent to which u.s. troops should participate directly in security operations. the indications of this bush divergence, were a loss of leverage that undermined casey's engagement with maliki. and an atmosphere of ambiguity that made the coalition struggle for leverage. over the government of iraqi. the iraqis know your hands are tied in washington he wrote. they want their view of iraqi society more than we want our view. and they both know this. and know that you know this. casey concurred wondering, with
a margin note, wondering the form of a margin note i should say, are we irrelevant because of our desire to withdraw? yet the general labor under a political constraint that was only imagined. bush as we know was willing to increase the number of u.s. troops in iraq and late 2006 in fact, eventually insisted on it. still, the president did not communicate this easy, and any definitive sense. until mid-december. and the result was messaging to maliki. who heard from casey a commitment to reduce u.s. troops and accelerate the transition of security responsibility from the iraqi government if the prime minister took steps to advance reconciliation with the sunnis and promised to crack down on the other.
meanwhile bush in a private meeting with maliki, offered assurances of more u.s. troops as a way of extracting the same concession. so, this and beauty get a and beauty reinforced or released left unchallenged, casey's predisposition that committing more u.s. troops would yield at best only temporary and local benefits and at worst, might exacerbate the conflict. and is worth mentioning that commander general and donald rumsfeld share this disposition. as a strategic level, one could explain the surge of u.s. troops in enabling forces in 2007 as a change in the alignment of ends ways and means.
we also speak of strategy in those terms and understand the strategies failure as a mismatch between the ends thought and the means applied. i think when we consider the surge alongside the strategy it replaced, you have a fairly simple similar conception of ends and a stable secure and open self-reliant iraq and you have a modest and substantial increase in means and a dramatic change in ways. the shift from an emphasis on accelerated transition to an emphasis on population security, was really just one plank in a raft of changes that formed a comprehensive and different approach. i will hazard an observation here, and say that both casey's transition strategy and the surge produced narratives that were internally consistent. that is to say there was a logic to the causal chain that each
narrative outlined. in a transition bridging strategy, in late 2006 for example, accelerating the transfer of security functions to iraqi control would theoretically bolster maliki's credibility and help the coalition acquire the leverage necessary to stop the government into advancing national reconciliation. this in turn would establish the foundation for long-term stability. it was, as he attempted to explain to bush, how the united states could win by drawing down. yet, for all of its internal logic or consistency the transitioning bridging strategy was not consistent with what a rock security environment demanded in 2006. the logic of narratives, sometimes works to cloud our view and strategy does not mesh with reality. to be fair, the narratives of 2007 contain their own flaws.
the idea that a growing patchwork of local accommodations would gradually jell into national reconciliation seem to apply the logic of arithmetic to a calculus problem. likewise, the idea that the coalition could actually obtain the conditions for irreversible momentum seems a bit fanciful in a world where most historians at least believe that nothing is inevitable. last two points will be somewhat brief. at the operational level, i want to highlight the persistence of controlling key terrain as an imperative. even in uncertainty operation, where we tend to emphasize certain functions or to use an old doctoral term, logical lines of operations rather than physical lines of operations.
the 2007 surge of u.s. combat troops and associated enablers could have been employed in any number of ways. that commander's committed these troops in baghdad and in the surrounding belt of the capital, simultaneously contributed to a pattern of reinforcing effects that eventually resulted in a dramatic reduction of violence. this deliberate choice of taking fight to the belt while ramping up pressure in baghdad itself attacked the enemy strategy in a way that had not been done before. and finally at the tactical level, i would like to point out the relationship between ways and means. and is this. while the means are, of strategy are often concrete the ways in which commanders apply them are malleable.
take joint security stations for example, although the coalition established the preponderance of joint security stations throughout 2007, the first were built in late 2006. under casey's tenure as mnf commander, casey originally envisioned the network of joint security stations as a mechanism to help baghdad police assume control of the city as coalition forces withdrew over time. each station would serve as a base of operations and given neighborhood and coordinate the goals among u.s. and iraqi forces. both army and police. general david, commanded in 2007, he transformed the purpose of a joint security station making them the mechanism by which u.s. troops would increase their presence on the streets of the capital. and then the last point, that i will mention harkens back to an
earlier question from the earlier panel and that's, a clarification on the approach to the development of iraqi security forces. also kind of a contrast in two models. so, in 2005, 2006, the model or mechanism by which to develop the iraqi security forces was primarily through military transition teams or mit teams as we would say. in the late 2006, this concept was going to be central to accelerating the transition to iraqi security forces by enhancing the mit teams. so the concept was we take the mit teams that are operating in an area and we will use u.s.
conventional forces or u.s. line units to provide security and enhance those military transition teams. and by doing so, by enhancing that capability will therefore be able to accelerate the transition of these iraqi security forces. the competing model which was fielded really revisited and fielded in 2007, was the partnering of u.s. forces with iraqi forces and this was made possible by the surge of u.s. units into baghdad and surrounding areas. so, more units and headquarters translated into the abilities to , for those headquarters and those soldiers to partner with iraqi army and national police units in their sectors. and so you had a synergy
between the partnership of units and the ongoing work of the military transition teams which were still in place. but both of those aspects were under the control of the combat team commander in the sector so you can achieve certain synergy. potentially as the plan was developed and implemented. and eventually this partnership was was transformed over time through the rotation of units and the stand up of the u.s. advise and assist brigade. and with that i will conclude my remarks only adding that i acknowledge that there is much of importance that i did not discuss so i look forward to the q and a. >> thank you all so much. i want to start by saying that i was one of the outside readers on these two volumes and i have
read the entirety of these two volumes. yes i know, i get a door prize for this, i am one of the very few people that can make that claim and i just want to tell you how worthwhile that actually is. frank and joel, the team enormously talented people, there is one thing that they are not talented at at all, which is actually explaining the worth of these volumes. they suck at that. these volumes are magnificent. peter put it earlier that these are likely to be the official history of the iraq war for the united states, i am good with that. i am so good with that. yes it would be lovely if we had more from the stateside, yes it would be fabulous if there was an official white house version. we are never going to get that.
these versions, these volumes cover it. they cover it magnificently. let's start there, they are so beautifully written, it drives me nuts when as joel pointed out, when we get in the media is this moronic, the conclusion of the army's history is that iran one. that is like watching lawrence of arabia and say the conclusion is do not drive motorcycles. or reading lord of the rings and saying, never pick up the ring on the floor of the cave. right, first you miss the beauty of the stories. themselves. right, and obviously these are painful, tragic gut wrenching stories. but there is such value in reading the stories. in their fullness, in their richness. because they are beautifully told and because they speak to so much more than these simple points that people are pulling out of them. you cannot boil down the lessons of america's experience in
iraq. to a couple of bullet points. there is far too much there. what is remarkable, what is incredible about these two volumes is how much you will learn from them. and it is easy to do the learning because it is so well- written. so beautifully written. most of you are and are rushing to and are a washington audience and they read with outages and fervor of the instructions of how to assemble your new typewriter or lawnmower. these are wonderful works. of nonfiction, they read so easily and it makes it so easy to take in all of the information. to get the insights and the wisdom that they are trying to impart but also to see for yourself insight to wisdom that you will pick out of all of the
information that is being revealed because it is presented so beautifully. in addition, when of the things that is so remarkable at the work that this group of people did was and how they weaved together all of the different levels of analysis. yes there are stories about tactical engagement but there are also stories about the highest levels of politics. about what was going on here in washington dc, about the interaction between the folks in washington wrestling with domestic politics and strategy and global questions about america's role in the world and the interaction. with america's white and middle east strategy, with the specific problems of iraq and how to translate that into winning this ludy war. and it is just incredible how they managed to weave all of those tales together. and the section on the surge to
me is one of the best examples to me in entire books, the surge is an unbelievably complex phenomenon. and for me one of the most painful things that i endlessly hear is people talking about the surge in incredibly simplistic ways, one of the things that volume 2 does, so magnificently, but again it is just, it explains the surge both in all its complexity, but in ways that are simple enough for you to grasp without getting completely lost in the weeds. jim was talking about the surge is about additional troops in iraq, it is also about the awakening, it is about the battle of baghdad and a couple of of phenomenal chapters in volume 2 about the battle of
baghdad and why that was so important, it is about dealing with the shia and the shia militia, i do not, they talked about the internals of wars that were going on, both the sunni and shia side. these volumes capture all of that. help you to understand it and understand it easily, and understand the interaction among all of these different events. and why it was the sum total of those interactions that ultimately produced this remarkable transformation of what is going on in the war. and that complexity is there throughout both of these volumes from start to finish, but they handle it so exactly that you know exactly what is going on. you're not just being hit with endless little details here, there, here, you have bewildered by what this is all supposed to mean, it is part of a wider narrative that helps take you through it and understand this conflict, in ways that i have not seen in any other work so far.
it is remarkable in that. that complexity also speaks to another thing that really stood out to me. throughout the entirety of this work, but especially in volume 2, i will quote from the patron saint of warfare, who famously said among his many brilliant observations that the most important thing in war is understanding what kind of war you are fighting. one of the things that really stands out from this but particularly in volume 2 is the struggle to understand what kind of war we are fighting, because of that complexity. the iraq war is a lot of different conflicts rolled into one. what was interesting to me was just in listening to different comments made this morning you heard all of that. people were talking about terrorist attacks, and there was
a terrorism component to this conflict. and people were talking about insurgency and there was an insurgent component to this cause and people were talking about civil war. and there was a civil war component of this conflict. and what was required to ultimately turn things around in that case for 2007-2008 period was to start the change, a whole series of different american activities that got all of those different problems. now i will also say, that i think i wonder, i wonder to what extent we paid the price for never fully grasping what this conflict looked like at the time. what i mean by that is english is a lovely language and it expresses so many different things but there is so much ambiguity in it as well and i do not want to really have much
of a conversation about semantics but it actually matters here, we talk about insurgency and we talk about global warfare, often times most people think that this is the same thing. they are not, they are completely different. right? technically every insurgency is a civil war but the truth is we talk about civil war we actually mean something very different. now, why is all of this so important? it's only important because what you do to solve the problem of terrorism is different than what you do to solve the problem of an insurgency to some extent, they are very similar. and is totally different than what you do to solve the problem of a civil war, in fact what you do to solve the problem of a civil war is the opposite of what you do to solve the problem of an insurgency, and the worst thing that the governor, the dumbest thing you could possibly do his mistake one to the other, and apply the wrong solution that is exactly what the united states did in 2005. and i can remember for my own experience going in and arguing with the white house staff
where they kept insisting this is an insurgency, we got it we are going to have elections, the elections will fix the insurgency. now, that would've been correct if what we were actually facing was primarily an insurgency. the problem was that by 2005, the insurgency had morphed into a civil war. and elections are the absolute worst thing you could do in the civil war. which is why when we held two rounds of elections in 2005, as you guys were talking about earlier, the year of the purple fingers, those elections helped propel iraq deeper into civil war. i will tell you that i was one of those people and an early proponent of the surge and i was talking about it in 2004 and 2005 and i too was talking about in terms of counterinsurgency. one level again, it is fine, on the military side of things, what you do to shut down a civil war, what you do to
combat it you are more or less the same, but the problems are going to emerge. i can remember having a conversation with joe clyde a journalist who was following this very closely and he talked about coming in and adopting a strategy and he said to me, you're telling me that this is not an insurgency anymore, it is a civil war, isn't that going to be problematic? and i said do not worry, the first 12 steps are the same. so what do they call it, counterinsurgency or shutting down the civil war it does not matter, we are going to do the same thing that is what matters and what is going to help and of course was correct. militarily what you do is more or less the same, there are some small tweaks but it is not a terribly important because politically they are very very different. in the biggest difference is that with an insurgency you are legitimizing and empower the government, with civil war, you want to get a power-sharing agreement that limits the power of the government. all right, so steps in the political realm in 2009 and 10 and 11, which again, the volume
you know, lays there. are exactly the things that help drive iraq back to the civil war. because we are empowering the worst elements of the shia led by nouri maliki, who is trying to win the civil war and who are using the government to try to do it. and i even wonder, some point, if you go back and have some conversations with folks in the obama administration as to whether they thought that they could walk away as they thought it was about counterinsurgent, and that we had a nice elections and we legitimized the government and therefore we didn't need to stay, which is something you can do in an insurgency once you have reached that point. the civil war, that force that we represented was a peacekeeping force by that point in time is needing to stay. because one of the great lessons of history is that it takes about 10-15 years for
people to learn to trust one another again so that you can withdraw that peacekeeping force and have a stable environment. that complexity also speaks to this problem that comes through in both of these volumes especially in volume 2, wrestling with this question of what kind of war is it that we were fighting. even how complicated a conflict it was, and of course added to that another theme that comes to these volumes over and over again is the limited willing of our political leadership to provide it with resources and time needed to actually address the problem. between that it brings me to the last comment i wanted to make, the last thing that really stood out to me in reading these phenomenal volumes has been the ability of our armed forces to adjust, adapt, to learn, and to change. i was arguing in favor of moving to a counterinsurgency strategy, additional forces,
reaching out to the sunni communities, all the components of what became a surge back in the 2004, 2005 timeframe and at that time, i will remember having the part of a debate, i am not going to tell it, more than that but part of a debate, small and private debate among a bunch of very, very, former, very very senior u.s. government officials. and i was making the case for what eventually became the surge and this was in early 2005 and one of the people present who had been us, a former and senior official, later went back and became an even more senior defense department official, that person said to me more or less, what you are talking about sounds reasonable, and right but this thing you that you are missing, is that our military will take 10 years to figure out how to deal low intensity conflict. and we do not have that much time.
and i remember at the time thinking you know, that's a pretty tough counterargument. and i don't know. if it's wrong or right. and one of the things that was stunning to me and again comes through in these volumes, because of the way that they treat both of the component parts and the bigger pictures and integrate them so beautifully, is how incredible a transformation that was. how our military adapted endlessly, you heard it in all the conversations all the presentations and discussions this morning, people talking about how our military was put in situations that they were never expecting, that they were told not to expect. and all of a sudden they are there, and they are forced to deal with it and they are working and adapting and getting it, as it was pointed out, sometimes they got it totally wrong. but, what was also really important about her story,
about that, was that everybody else in the unit knew that that was a mistake. they had learned the lesson. and what really comes through in volume 2 in particular is how, during the course of this time, unitary figures this stuff out. right, and some of it is coordinated and some of it is just on-the-job training. but they figure it out. and it is one of the most important stories is how the u.s. military transforms itself to deal with these problems that it was told never to expect, told not to plan for, or would never deal with. and i will simply and by saying that i know that one of the great debates that we are having in the u.s. military right now and one of the great quandaries that we are facing is whether to hang onto that experience, whether it matters for the future, whether we will ever fight a war like this ever
again. i don't know, typically we fight exactly whatever war we least expect. that seems to be the kind of constant in american military history. that whatever war we are expecting, we fight the polar opposite. i don't know where we will be, when the next war will be, hopefully there will never be another war but i suspect that there probably will be. i military did such a remarkable job in learning how to deal with the circumstances that it faced in iraq, as described so beautifully by these two volumes, it would be a tragedy if we lose that.>> thank you. let's open up for discussion for about 10 minutes. if you have a question please raise your hand and in the back and we will get you a microphone. >> yes, i have one question about at the same time you're talking about in the fall of 2006, early 2007, the army marine corps came out with a new counterinsurgency manual. could you come in history could
you tell if that really had any effect in the next two years? or was it really about, adaptation at the local level?>> so, when you say the marine corps manual, i am familiar with the joint army marine corps, 324, if that is what you are referring to, i think. but i think it had an influence in the sense that the general, who was in charge of the army portion of that, i believe general mattis was in charge of those, the marine portion of that. formulated a lot of the ideas, or took a personal interest in that manual, a lot of the discussion that provided the input for that manual took place in workshops and such that he and general betray us sponsored and so, it was kind
of a picture of you know, we are growing the past and the commander, i think how i would summarize it is you have a lot of counterinsurgency, general casey himself would say that he was fighting a counterinsurgency campaign so you have a lot of counterinsurgency techniques being taught in iraq, but it is not until 2007 where you have that kind of uniform application of those techniques throughout the country and not in isolated units but i think the ideas of counterinsurgency are known and implemented in some cases, i think after the
publication of the manual you have a more uniform application of it. a part of that i think is due to the manual. but the part of it is also because you've got a sponsor of that manual in charge of implementing. >> just to echo what jim said, i think that i saw that manual as being the kind of collective wisdom, and effort to take all of that improvisation i was talking about as well as older wisdom that was inherent in the military, codify it and say, this is what we are going to do moving forward, right? and especially at the tactical level i think that was very important in getting everybody on the same sheet of music, with that being said, i will mention a name here, pete, wonderful military officer and phenomenal historian and he wrote a nice book on the surge
called the surge. and at one point, i read the book and i thought it was excellent but there is a place in the book in the first half where, he lays out this is what we are going to do during the surge, right, it is really nice and clear. and i took that and i took, fm 324 and if you look at them, there is almost nothing in common, right? what is on those pages as well they knew was the right answer for iraq by politically, military, economically, they understood after having spent three years, too much blood, blood sweat and tears in iraq, they understood what needed to happen, by the way this is true on the political side as well, i remember having conversations with ryan crocker and charlie reese and a whole team at the embassy, they could not describe to you, what the theory of what they were doing was, they just knew that this was what needed to happen in iraq, and they went about doing
it. and it just so happens that what they did both on the military side with all those guys, what they did on the military side and what ryan and his team on the political side, what they did what exactly was there supposed to do, with a history teaches that you need to do to shut down a civil war. which is why it worked. all right, but it was less about the theory of this or that, it was much more about a group of people who had come to grips with this problem and learn how to do it and were implementing it.>> just to put a bow on that, i don't want to give the impression that fm 324 was a blueprint for what then happened because there was certainly and certainly does not complete or comprehend in that sense because it is not an answer for everything you encounter in iraq and an example would be, the approach to the awakening, and how to deal with civil wars within the
civil war, so there is general odierno used to refer to what he was dealing with with coin plus, so there is counterinsurgency but there was some medical dimensions to that, that exceeded what was in the manual. >> last question. >> here in the front. >> my name is fred peterson i served in operation iraqi freedom one and the second battle of falluja in the first battle of falluja was regarded as a classic case of making two mistakes, rushing in mistake one, pulling out quickly mistake two. and among other things we figured that pulling out, after rushing in gave the insurgents specifically the al qaeda rank guys, a lot of street credit and
in the sunni block and gave them a platform to further their ambitions and stirring up tensions and civil war, and the grander scheme of things, how much do you think that mistake played into the situation that we ended up having to deal with?>> i am going to treat that in the wider sense. again it was something that was really and having flashbacks in the first panel because we were talking about how the united states handled the invasion and the failure to actually deal with reconstruction and really take it on, because again a lot of the decisions that were made at the time, right, it is one of these, the book is so beautifully evenhanded as well, it is hard not to read it and say, that was a mistake. but the authors all went through such trouble to try to
pretrade the decisions in their proper contacts and give people their proper deal, i think it is a wonderfully important work and you know all of the decisions that were made at the time there is a logic to that. right, they stay in seam in many cases to be marked or coming set, right, and in many cases, you know it is people who are doing things that they have never done before, and have no contact for doing before, right, they do not even have a knowledge in their head, for what to do about it and so they do the things that i think makes the most sense. right, and we are listening to iraq and what was striking to me at the time would have strike me sense, was before we ever invaded, if he spoke to the community of people who had done close conflict reconstruction, all around the world and all of these different places, one of the most important things that they said was we do not allow the
iraqi or the indigenous population to run things for at least eight years. and one of the main reasons it goes to a point that kim was making on the first panel, which is you are not going to know what the right answer is. you are not going to know who the good people are and who the bad people are. i, you're not going to know, if you turn over security to this group or that group whether they are going to do the right thing or the wrong thing so the most important thing that you do is you hold onto sovereignty and security, until you are absolutely certain and so you built new institutions of security and new political institutions to run them and have worked out the relationships between them and they said, that takes at least eight years. and to me, the issue of falluja, like so many of these with the u.s. being caught in
between. right, we did get the fact that we didn't really know who these people were and we heard bad things, let's be honest, we had heard bad things about all of them. right, because everybody was saying bad things about everybody else. like, the number of people who were uniformly described as good, honest, wonderful, hard- working nationalists, i like, i could count on one hand, every iraqi has some enemy, has some rival, someone out there who is going to say bad things about them, so often times we would do something like that thinking what we need to go in and take those in and people would say no, that is the worst thing you can do, you're delegitimizing the people who you want to empower, okay, step out. and again, it was that absence of understanding that absence of planning, that absence of willingness to say you know what, this is truly on our shoulders. right, and we are going to have to make this work, and to me, the battle of falluja was just
one among many examples of that. let me just conclude by thanking the folks who wrote this and spent three years working on it. 3 1/2 years. the national security professional, and the government historian, to see how hard it was for them to do this, and just the logistic ways of making it happen, get it through a very large and complicated bureaucracy. and to tell the story as well as was described. i think really, they performed an admirable public service so thank you all for all you have done. thank you.
>> president trump continued his european trip today with event, reading d-day, he and the first lady joined dignitaries from several countries and ports meant england before heading to ireland for memorial day there and a meeting with the prime minister of ireland, this week marks the 75th anniversary of d- day, the invasion by allied forces in northern france during world war ii. tonight on cspan, features by president, ronald reagan, barack obama, george w. bush and discussions with authors of books about the battle of normandy and are filmed from a correspondent who cover the invasion of france. that is tonight starting at nine eastern on cspan, tomorrow is the big d-day memorial in normandy france, president trump will be there watch live coverage of president trump at the normandy event tomorrow
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>> up next, new technology how it handles race, academics talk about privacy, biases built into artificial intelligence and the use of social media as it relates to issues of race, university international communications association hosted this conference in washington dc. >> good morning. welcome and thank you for coming out to join us this morning for the center for critical race and digital studies event on race, technology and the future setting the agenda, so thank you all for making the time we hope you are able to stick with us for as much of the day as possible. before we go much further i want to make a brief acknowledgment we are gathered