The New York Times account of how the fateful decision to disband the Iraqi army was made is enough to make you laugh, cry, retch or just get too plastered to care, depending partly on your temperament and partly on how many people you know personally died as a result.
Some quick amateur observations, in no particular order.
1. Process? We don’t need no stinkin’ process. The President approved a plan to rebuild the Iraqi army. Ten weeks later, without any further consultation among the Washington players, Bremer announced in a phone call that he had decided to disband it instead, effective the next day. The President decided to back him up, for no particular reason. That’s not a CEO; that’s a figurehead. It’s now clear that GWB’s famous “resolve” is nothing but a whim of steel.
2. Bremer’s motivation was largely personal and PR oriented.
“It is desirable that my arrival in Iraq be marked by clear, public and decisive steps,” Mr. Bremer wrote in the memo. “These should reinforce our overall policy messages and reassure Iraqis that we are determined to extirpate Saddamism.”
3. Condoleezza Rice does not come out of this looking good. Yes, I’m happy that in her new role Rice seems to have worked well with Gates to restore a certain degree of adult supervision to American foreign policy, but a lifetime of brilliance wouldn’t really redeem her fecklessness as National Security Adviser.
Mr. Powell, who views the decree as a major blunder, later asked Condoleezza Rice, who was serving as Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, for an explanation.
“I talked to Rice and said, ‘Condi, what happened?’ ” he recalled. “And her reaction was: ‘I was surprised too, but it is a decision that has been made and the president is standing behind Jerry’s decision. Jerry is the guy on the ground.’ And there was no further debate about it.”
4. No wonder the ex-Iraqi soldiers joined the insurgency with such enthusiasm. For months before the invasion, we’d been doing psy-ops urging Iraqi soldiers to desert and promising them that, if they did, they’d be brought back to join a reconstituted army. They did in fact desert in droves, which helps account for the cake-walk. And then Bremer decided that, since they’d deserted, the army was no longer in being and therefore the commitment was no longer operative. Can you say “double-cross”? I was sure that you could.
5. The article does not reflect on how it was that this arrogant buffoon came to be in a position to screw up the most important overseas operation of the post-Cold War era. I recall seeing reports that Garner wanted to spend reconstruction money in Iraq, rather than allowing it to enrich U.S. contractors, and that he was pushed aside for someone who would be more generous to — just to pull a name at random — Halliburton. And of course when the switch was made, Dick Cheney (not even mentioned in the Times account) was the Grand Wazir of Bushistan.
6. Someone might want to ask the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and especially those of them who are running for President based on “national security” credentials burnished by that membership, whether they asked any questions at the time, and why not.