For all that, however, the tribal leaders were offering to cooperate. At a time when suicide bombers were streaming to Iraq to wage war against the Americans, leaders of the Albu Nimr tribe wanted to help secure Iraq’s border with Syria and Jordan. Even in Fallujah, a hotbed of insurgent attacks, there were tribal leaders who were reaching out to the Americans.

“Sunnis in Al-Anbar have proposed plans to increase local security and facilitate economic growth by employing former soldiers to patrol the Iraqi border,” the memo noted. “While Sunni leaders aim to improve the quality of life for their constituencies, they also hope these initiatives will increase their influence in post-Saddam Iraq.”

Ignoring the Sunni’s offers carried considerable risks. “If they perceive failure in engaging the Coalition or the GC they may take order actions to include creating alternate governing and security institutions, working with anti-Coalition forces, or engaging in criminal activity to ensure the prosperity and security of their tribes.”

The memo was ignored. And when Col. Carol Stewart, the head of the intelligence plans section at Central Command, tried to advance a similar plan to have tribal leaders police their own areas — her plan to establish the Anbar Rangers would have cost less than $3 million for the first half 2004 — she got nowhere. Bremer’s team made clear that it did not plan to make the tribes a formal part of Iraq’s security structure.