Bremer Resists Getting Thrown Under The Bus

At the time of the Iraqi invasion, de-ba’athification must have seemed like a great idea.  Actually, to a point, it should have been.  Considering that the Iraqi people had been oppressed under Saddam’s Ba’ath party for ages, removing that party from power and prosecuting the upper echelon members who intentionally and directly took place and orchestrated the oppression would have done well to aid in our quest for the hearts and minds of the people.  Unfortunately, we kinda screwed that one up by blacklisting ALL government officials, regardless of their standing in Saddam’s old regime.

While this was a blunder, however, this was nothing in comparison to the complete and total expression of fucktardery that dismantling the Iraq army turned out to be.

There was, apparently, a line of thinking within the administration that declared that since the Iraq Army was part of the oppression of the Iraq people, its continued existence would hinder political attempts at establishing stability.  Curiously enough, though, this was a view held primarily by the civillian architects, and not nearly as widely held by those involved who were either currently in the military at the time, or those who had at one point in time worn a uniform (Bush doesn’t count here).

I think I know why.  Something that men in uniform would understand better than men who never wore a uniform might miss is that soldiers follow orders.  That’s their job.  They have opinions and beliefs, but these add up in the ultimate calculus of the execution of their duties in a considerably minor way.  If you tell a soldier to take a hill, he’ll do it, whether or not he wants to or believes it’s the right thing to do.

So those architects that were once soldiers probably figured, and I believe correctly so, that just as the Iraqi Army served Saddam, they too would serve towards helping keep and mend an Iraq that had just seen its leader toppled, security diminished, and infrastructure thrown into chaos.

As retired General Jay Garner of ORHA would later explain, he wanted to keep the Iraqi Army around because they had the discipline and skill sets to help restore the Iraqi infrastructure.  Meanwhile, another ORHA official, retired Colonel Paul Hughes, had lamented that during the looting that was rampant in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, Iraqi officers had come to him and told him that all the US had to do was say the word and the Iraqi military would mobilize to stop the looting and maintain order.

These were men who were beating the street, and attempting to reorganize the Iraqi military with their bare hands.

And then L. Paul Bremer, aka “Jerry”, the head of the newly instated CPA, made the announcement to disband the military.

All those men, without even the common sense measure of disarming them first, were fired.  You can’t pay people to be this incompetent.

Widely seen as one of the major contributing factors to the insurgency, and the level of sectarian violence, disbanding the military was truly one of the largest mistakes made following the topple of Saddam’s regime.

But lately, the impression from the White House was that Bremer was acting on his own, and that the administration had intended to use the Iraqi Army but out of the clear blue Bremer just up and disbanded them.  Not thrilled to be thrown under the bus for a decision he still believes was the right one, Bremer has recently released letters that clearly show the inaccuracy of this stance:

“We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished,” Mr. Bremer wrote in a letter that was drafted on May 20, 2003, and sent to the president on May 22 through Donald H. Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense.

After recounting American efforts to remove members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein from civilian agencies, Mr. Bremer told Mr. Bush that he would “parallel this step with an even more robust measure” to dismantle the Iraq military.

One day later, Mr. Bush wrote back a short thank you letter. “Your leadership is apparent,” the president wrote. “You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence.”

Further, not only was the letter received by Bush, but also a draft was sent to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the Joint Chiefs.  And yet, despite this and the administration line that Bremer went rogue, there we have the reply letter, “You have my full support and confidence.”

A reasonable person would take this to mean that Bush had read Bremer’s letter, understood it, concurred, and gave Jerry the good to go.  But those of us who have been watching this president from the beginning know that treating this administration as one of reason would be a grave error.

So the question still stands; did Bush really know?

Richard Clarke, in his book Against All Enemies, provides at least some evidence to the answer.  When Clarke was briefed on how Bush operated as a president, he was told not to make his reports long, to keep them down to a page or so, and that written reports were not preferred in the first place.  “This president is not a reader,” he was told, and that Bush preferred to receive his briefs orally, and typically by one of his advisors.

Bremer’s letter was three pages long, and the comment about disbanding the Iraqi military was not on the first page.  Which leads me to believe that there’s more than a strong possibility that, though he replied to the letter, Bush in fact never even actually read the damn thing.

In fact, as we learn in the movie No End In Sight, Bush outsourced his responsibilities as Commander in Chief in a large part to the Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld.  For much of the planning of the Iraq War, Bush remained absent.

It would be nice, would would think, that instead of wasting his time reading Travis McGee mysteries and My Pet Goat, the President of the United States could find some time in his schedule to read some documents that have a direct and significant impact on governing this country.  Just a little.

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