May 13, 2007

Bremer speaks...again

In the May 13 Washington Post, Ambassador Paul Bremer, former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, wrote an opinion piece again defending his disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army. He wrote almost an identical piece in the Wall Street Journal in January 2005. I wonder why two years later he feels a need to reiterate the same self-serving statements unless he is reacting to George Tenet’s book or hoping to rehabilitate his legacy. (See my response to that earlier article, Disbanding the Iraqi army - a mistake.)

Since Ambassador Bremer dismisses anyone who dares criticize his disastrous decisions as “usually people who have never visited Iraq,” let me assure him that I have been to Iraq, and over a longer period than him. I served at the American embassy in the late 1980’s, was a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces, participated in the CIA’s operations in Iraq in the 1990’s to remove Saddam Husayn.

Some of those operations entailed talking to the very army that Mr. Bremer disbanded, officers who were committed to being the new army of Iraq. That was the deal – don’t fight, work with us and be part of the future of the country. Many agreed - Bremer pulled the rug out from under them, putting 80,000 angry officers out of work. Ever wonder how the insurgency was born?

I don’t fault Mr. Bremer or the Defense Department for the de-Ba’thification order, but the disbanding of the army is probably one of the most damaging blunders in American Middle East policy since we failed to hold Iran accountable for taking over the embassy in Tehran in 1979 and holding American diplomats hostage. Comparing himself to General Eisenhower is a bit much.

He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now.