Skip to comments.What Bremer Got Wrong in Iraq
Posted on 05/15/2007 5:24:50 PM PDT by ASC2006
Despite Bremer's assertions, Saddam Hussein's regime was not a Sunni regime; it was a dictatorship with many complex alliances in Iraqi society, including some with Shiites. If anything, the old tyranny was a Tikriti regime, led by relatives and clansmen from Hussein's hometown.
In Bremer's mind, the way to occupy Iraq was not to view it as a nation but as a group of minorities. So he pitted the minority that was not benefiting from the system against the minority that was, and then expected them both to be grateful to him. Bremer ruled Iraq as if it were already undergoing a civil war, helping the Shiites by punishing the Sunnis. He did not see his job as managing the country; he saw it as managing a civil war. So I accuse him of causing one.
Bremer claims that Iraqis hated their army at the time of the U.S. invasion. In fact, the army was the most nationalist institution in the country, one that predated the Baath Party. In electing not to fight U.S. forces, the army was expecting to be recognized by the occupation -- and indeed, until Bremer arrived, it appeared that many soldiers and officers were hoping to cooperate with the Americans.
Bremer is wrong to say that Shiites hated the Iraqi army. He treats Iraqis as if they were Hutus and Tutsis, claiming that "Shiite conscripts were regularly brutalized and abused by their Sunni officers." This is just not true. To be sure, Sunnis were overrepresented in the officer corps, and Shiites sometimes felt as if they faced a glass ceiling. But just as there were Shiite ministers under Hussein, there were also Shiite generals. At least a third of the famous deck of cards of Iraqi leaders most wanted by the Americans were Shiites.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
NRO - April 2004:
Rumsfelds War, Powells Occupation (April, 2004 NRO article)
National Review Online ^ | April 30, 2004 | Barbara Lerner
Rumsfeld wanted Iraqis in on the action right from the beginning.
The latest post-hoc conventional wisdom on Iraq is that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld won the war but lost the occupation. There are two problems with this analysis (which comes, most forcefully, from The Weekly Standard). First, it’s not Rumsfeld’s occupation; it’s Colin Powell’s and George Tenet’s. Second, although it’s painfully obvious that much is wrong with this occupation, it’s simple-minded to assume that more troops will fix it. More troops may be needed now, but more of the same will not do the job. Something different is needed and was, right from the start.
A Rumsfeld occupation would have been different, and still might be. Rumsfeld wanted to put an Iraqi face on everything at the outset not just on the occupation of Iraq, but on its liberation too. That would have made a world of difference.
Rumsfeld’s plan was to train and equip and then transport to Iraq some 10,000 Shia and Sunni freedom fighters led by Shia exile leader Ahmed Chalabi and his cohorts in the INC, the multi-ethnic anti-Saddam coalition he created. There, they would have joined with thousands of experienced Kurdish freedom fighters, ably led, politically and militarily, by Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Working with our special forces, this trio would have sprung into action at the start of the war, striking from the north, helping to drive Baathist thugs from power, and joining Coalition forces in the liberation of Baghdad. That would have put a proud, victorious, multi-ethnic Iraqi face on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and it would have given enormous prestige to three stubbornly independent and unashamedly pro-American Iraqi freedom fighters: Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani.
Jay Garner, the retired American general Rumsfeld chose to head the civilian administration of the new Iraq, planned to capitalize on that prestige immediately by appointing all three, along with six others, to head up Iraq’s new transitional government. He planned to cede power to them in a matter of weeks not months or years and was confident that they would work with him, not against him, because two of them already had. General Garner, after all, is the man who headed the successful humanitarian rescue mission that saved the Kurds in the disastrous aftermath of Gulf War I, after the State Department-CIA crowd and like thinkers in the first Bush administration betrayed them. Kurds are not a small minority and they remember. The hero’s welcome they gave General Garner when he returned to Iraq last April made that crystal clear.
Finally, Secretary Rumsfeld wanted to cut way down on the infiltration of Syrian and Iranian agents and their foreign terrorist recruits, not just by trying to catch them at the border a losing game, given the length of those borders but by pursuing them across the border into Syria to strike hard at both the terrorists and their Syrian sponsors, a move that would have forced Iran as well as Syria to reconsider the price of trying to sabotage the reconstruction of Iraq.
None of this happened, however, because State and CIA fought against Rumsfeld’s plans every step of the way. Instead of bringing a liberating Shia and Sunni force of 10,000 to Iraq, the Pentagon was only allowed to fly in a few hundred INC men. General Garner was unceremoniously dumped after only three weeks on the job, and permission for our military to pursue infiltrators across the border into Syria was denied.
General Garner was replaced by L. Paul Bremer, a State Department man who kept most of the power in his own hands and diluted what little power Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani had by appointing not six but 22 other Iraqis to share power with them. This resulted in a rapidly rotating 25-man queen-for-a-day-type leadership that turned the Iraqi Governing Council into a faceless mass, leaving Bremer’s face as the only one most Iraqis saw.
By including fence-sitters and hostile elements as well as American friends in his big, unwieldy IGC and giving them all equal weight, Bremer hoped to display a kind of inclusive, above-it-all neutrality that would win over hostile segments of Iraqi society and convince them that a fully representative Iraqi democracy would emerge. But Iraqis didn’t see it that way. Many saw a foreign occupation of potentially endless length, led by the sort of Americans who can’t be trusted to back up their friends or punish their enemies. Iraqis saw, too, that Syria and Iran had no and were busily entrenching their agents and terrorist recruits into Iraqi society to organize, fund, and equip Sunni bitter-enders like those now terrorizing Fallujah and Shiite thugs like Moqtada al Sadr, the man who is holding hostage the holy city of Najaf.
Despite all the crippling disadvantages it labored under, Bremer’s IGC managed to do some genuine good by writing a worthy constitution, but the inability of this group to govern-period, let alone in time for the promised June 30 handover finally became so clear that Bremer and his backers at State and the CIA were forced to recognize it. Their last minute “solution” is to dump the Governing Council altogether, and give U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, the power to appoint a new interim government. The hope is that U.N. sponsorship will do two big things: 1) give the Brahimi government greater legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people; and 2) convince former allies to join us and reinforce our troops in Iraq in some significant way. These are vain hopes.
Putting a U.N. stamp on an Iraqi government will delegitimize it in the eyes of most Iraqis and do great damage to those who are actively striving to create a freer, more progressive Middle East. Iraqis may distrust us, but they have good reason to despise the U.N., and they do. For 30 years, the U.N. ignored their torments and embraced their tormentor, focusing obsessively on a handful of Palestinians instead. Then, when Saddam’s misrule reduced them to begging for food and medicine, they saw U.N. fat cats rip off the Oil-for-Food Program money that was supposed to save them.
The U.N. as a whole is bad; Lakhdar Brahimi is worse. A long-time Algerian and Arab League diplomat, he is the very embodiment of all the destructive old policies foisted on the U.N. by unreformed Arab tyrants, and he lost no time in making that plain. In his first press conferences, he emphasized three points: Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani will have no place in a government he appoints; he will condemn American military action to restore order in Iraq; and he will be an energetic promoter of the old Arab excuses Israel’s “poison in the region,” he announced, is the reason it’s so hard to create a viable Iraqi interim government.
Men like Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani have nothing but contempt for Mr. Brahimi, the U.N., and old Europe. They know perfectly well who their real enemies are, and they understand that only decisive military action against them can create the kind of order that is a necessary precondition for freedom and democracy. They see, as our State Department Arabists do not, that we will never be loved, in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East, until we are respected, and that the month we have wasted negotiating with the butchers of Fallujah has earned us only contempt, frightening our friends and encouraging our mortal enemies.
The damage Brahimi will do to the hope of a new day in Iraq and in the Middle East is so profound that it would not be worth it even if empowering him would bring in a division of French troops to reinforce ours in Iraq. In fact, it will do no such thing. Behind all the bluster and moral preening, the plain truth is that the French have starved their military to feed their bloated, top-heavy welfare state for decades. They couldn’t send a division like the one the Brits sent, even if they wanted to (they don’t). Belgium doesn’t want to help us either, nor Spain, nor Russia, because these countries are not interested in fighting to create a new Middle East. They’re fighting to make the most advantageous deals they can with the old Middle East, seeking to gain advantages at our expense, and at the expense of the oppressed in Iraq, Iran, and every other Middle Eastern country where people are struggling to throw off the shackles of Islamofascist oppression.
It is not yet too late for us to recognize these facts and act on them by dismissing Brahimi, putting Secretary Rumsfeld and our Iraqi friends fully in charge at last, and unleashing our Marines to make an example of Fallujah. And when al Jazeera screams “massacre,” instead of cringing and apologizing, we need to stand tall and proud and tell the world: Lynch mobs like the one that slaughtered four Americans will not be tolerated. Order will restored, and Iraqis who side with us will be protected and rewarded.
Barbara Lerner is a frequent contributor to NRO.
7 posted on 11/02/2006 9:10:53 AM EST by Matchett-PI (To have no voice in the Party that always sides with America’s enemies is a badge of honor.)
Rumsfeld’s Prophecy Has Come True
By Cal Thomas October 26, 2006
A better title would be...What We Did Wrong by Sending Bremer to Iraq...
I still can’t believe Bush gave that moron and Tenet the Presidental Medel of Freedom.
You will like this post.
I don't know what General Douglas MacArthur may have slipped into the Japanese articles of surrender or anything else. I do know this. My father was there in 1946 and he shot looters on site, on orders. That's what MacArthur ordered him to do. No shennagins. The message was clear.
Bremer is a weasel - just like Powell, Tenent, and the rest of them.
Wow. Thanks. I never saw that article at the time, but at the time, and since, I was hoping somebody would write something like it!
imho, we should have treated Iraq and Afghanistan the way our parents did germany and japan.
Full and total occupation, NO DISCUSSION OF SELF-GOVT UNTIL DE-JIHADIFICATION.
I dunno, Nir. Many problems as I have with Bremer, and State, and the CIA, I think I'm gonna continue blaming the M_____ F_____s blowing up the mosques and marketplaces.
Do you have evidence for the assertion about Bremer? I honestly am interested in better understanding the man and what he did.
Good point and most shouldn't forget this - (regardless of how inept Bremer and State were)
Thanaks for posting this.
I have long maintained that majority of whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq were due to arrogance and ineptness of Paul Bremer’s (State Dept) management of period of occupation there, before transfer of power, and his micromanagement and overriding of some military decisions.
I hate the CIA. Bunch of incompetents.
I’ll amend that to “I am disgusted” with the CIA.
“imho, we should have treated Iraq and Afghanistan the way our parents did germany and japan.
Full and total occupation, NO DISCUSSION OF SELF-GOVT UNTIL DE-JIHADIFICATION.”
Exactly. The enemy has never been humiliated during this War on Terror. The enemy needs to be humilated first, then defeat shortly follows.
“Do you have evidence for the assertion about Bremer? I honestly am interested in better understanding the man and what he did.” ~ Theo
Here’s one excerpt of what you’ll find there:
January 14, 2006
The Bremer Paradox
The standard criticism of the former head of Iraq’s rebuilding is groundless. It’s the real errors of the man who cried “We got him” that remain troubling.
By ROBERT L. POLLOCK
January 14, 2006; Page P10
My Year in Iraq
By L. Paul Bremer III, with Malcolm McConnell
Simon & Schuster, 417 pages, $27
“...on the political front, Mr. Bremer stumbled badly. In “My Year in Iraq,” he claims that he was under persistent pressure from some Pentagon figures, who indulged a “reckless fantasy” that Iraqi sovereignty could be rapidly returned to the “unrepresentative” group of “exiles” who had formed the core of the anti-Saddam opposition. This argument is something of a straw man. The issue wasn’t so much one of sovereignty as one of putting an Iraqi face on the occupation. And Mr. Bremer could easily have done so by giving the Iraqis more governing responsibility and a more prominent place in the spotlight — all while reserving the right for the U.S. to intervene in extremis. Instead, he kept the spotlight on himself. Even as late as December 2003, seven months after his arrival, Mr. Bremer was still the “we” who famously announced “we got him” when Saddam was captured. Such missteps badly delayed the development of Iraqi self-government.
A senior American military commander once described Mr. Bremer to me as something of a “control freak.” The urge for control is on full display in “My Year in Iraq.” Mr. Bremer fulminates over inconsequential “leaks” and complains when free Iraqis dare to express opinions at odds with his own. Ahmed Chalabi is alleged to be “incorrigible” for contending that the Iraqi political process should move more quickly than Mr. Bremer envisions. Indeed, Mr. Bremer’s unhappiness with challenges to his authority leads him to accuse two of the most capable and secular-minded leaders in Iraq — Mr. Chalabi and Jalal Talabani (the less “tribal” of the two most prominent Kurds) — of “intriguing” against him.
Nor is Mr. Bremer shy about denigrating, as he has before, the rest of the 25 Iraqis who emerged as members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in the summer of 2003. Echoing what he and his spokesman, Dan Senor, frequently told reporters at the time, Mr. Bremer accuses the council members of “lax work habits,” calling them so incompetent or indecisive that they (yes, he really writes this) “couldn’t organize a parade, let alone run the country.”
Even now, Mr. Bremer wonders at all the bad press that came out of Iraq during his tenure. But even as the security situation deteriorated, he himself was routinely giving reporters a bleak picture of the country’s political prospects. And, strangely, he was reluctant to replace his “unrepresentative” council of Iraqis with elected ones — until pro-democracy pressure from Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made it clear that he had no other choice. Eventually, too, Washington intervened, shortening the long leash that Donald Rumsfeld had given Mr. Bremer and placing him under the daily supervision of Condoleezza Rice, then the U.S. national security adviser, and her new “Iraq Stabilization Group.”
Iraq surely paid a price for Mr. Bremer’s foot-dragging. It was clear by early 2004 that it would be impossible to pull off elections that June, when Washington had decided it did want to transfer sovereignty from the Americans to the Iraqis after all. So Ms. Rice threw something of Hail Mary pass, calling on Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat from the United Nations, to do the job that Mr. Bremer had been reluctant to tackle: i.e., name an interim government. The resulting administration of Ayad Allawi, to its credit, did see the country through to elections finally in January 2005. But it also lost those elections to what was essentially the core group of the old Governing Council.
In short, the gang that “couldn’t organize a parade” is now running the country — Mr. Talabani (now Iraq’s president), Massoud Barzani (Kurdistan regional president), Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (leader of Iraq’s largest political bloc), Ibrahim al-Jafaari (prime minister) and Mr. Chalabi (deputy prime minister). That Mr. Bremer dismissed these men as not “representative” enough to form even a caretaker administration meant that the better part of two years was lost for building post-Saddam institutions. Had Mr. Bremer allowed the country’s eventual leaders to flourish earlier, Iraq might now be doing a better job at providing basic services and ensuring its own security.
It is impossible to finish “My Year in Iraq” without thinking that President Bush might have avoided a lot of difficulty — and saved a lot of time — if he had kept in place retired Gen. Jay Garner, the civilian point-man in the invasion’s immediate aftermath. Gen. Garner knew the key figures in the Iraqi opposition and had a kind of humility that Mr. Bremer never seemed to possess. Zalmay Khalilzad, the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had similar qualifications and might have also played a constructive role early on.
Instead, we were given Paul Bremer playing proconsul. For all his experience in the field, he failed, ultimately, to be a diplomat — to see his role as that of a facilitator more than an administrator. Perhaps a better title for his book would have been “My Lost Year in Iraq.”
Mr. Pollock is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.
Write to Robert L. Pollock at email@example.com
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You're welcome. I post it every chance I get. :)
Also see my previous post to Theo just above this.
You’re welcome. See post #21 also.
The Sunni are an absolute minority, and are divided into Kurds and Arabs.
Those statistical truths destroy the utility of whatever it might have been he wanted to get across to us.
I was terribly disappointed when Garner left after less than two weeks (?) in Iraq, it was a bad omen. I did not know who Bremer was then, but I knew that Garner was Lt. General (Ret.), Bremer was a career Foreign Service “official” - and that was all I needed to know.