Thursday, January 12, 2006

L. Paul Bremer III on Iraq on National Review Online

De-Ba'athification and Disbanding the Army:

Lopez: What was your biggest mistake while in Iraq and what are you proudest of?

Bremer: We were right to exclude the top Baathist-party officials from government jobs. Saddam modeled the party, openly, on the Nazi party — even having young members report on their parents. Our policy was designed to only the top one percent of the party’s members. And we were right to say that the implementation had to be handled by Iraqis. Only they could make the narrow distinctions about which Iraqis had joined the party because they believed the ideology, and which joined just to get a job or because of threats to family members. My mistake was turning the implementation over to a political body, the Governing Council, where it became embroiled in Iraqi political maneuvering. I should have foreseen this and instead put a judicial body in charge of implementation.[snip]

Lopez: What's the biggest myth about your time in Iraq you want to set people straight about in this book?

Bremer: I suppose the myth that we made a mistake “disbanding” the Iraqi army. The facts are these: There was not a single Iraqi army unit intact in the country at Liberation. There was no army to “disband.” It had “self-demobilized,” in the Pentagon’s phrase. Hundreds of thousand of Shia draftees, seeing which way the war was going, had simply gone home. They were not going to come back into a hated army.

The army and intelligence services had been vital instruments of Saddam’s brutal regime. He had used the army in a years’ long campaign against the Kurds, killing tens of thousands of them, culminating in the use of chemical weapons against men, women, and children in 1988. The army had brutally suppressed the Shia uprising after the first Gulf war, machine gunning tens of thousands of Shia civilians into mass graves in the south. Together these two groups make up about 80 percent of the population.

So recalling the Iraqi army (which would have meant sending American soldiers into Shia homes, farms, and villages and forcing them back into the army under their Sunni officers) would have had dire political consequences. The Kurds told me clearly that they would not have accepted it, and would have seceded from Iraq. Such a move would probably have ended Shia cooperation with the Coalition and perhaps even led to a Shia uprising, initially against such an Iraqi army, and eventually against the Coalition.

Read the rest if you're interested in hearing Paul Bremer's side of the story. I've argued all over the net that this whole "disbanding the army" was, in fact, a myth since it was clear from the reporting coming back on the drive to Baghdad that the army was essentially disbanding itself and didn't exist in any formal sense to "disband". Some disagree or try to point to the Baghdad police as an example, but I disagree there too since I was watching the coverage, staying up late every night due to the 9 hour difference and I clearly recall that the Baghdad police simply went home and stayed there, probably because they feared for their safety. Not from us, but from all those they had been complicit in suppressing or arbitrarily arresting and just generally poor behavior for a professional police force.

Although, if you ask *some* Iraqis, they would have preferred that too the lawlessness afterwards. But, I always liken that to the woman who prefers who abusive husband to the fear, loneliness and uncertainty of shelter. Better the devil you know and all that. on.

L. Paul Bremer III on Iraq on National Review Online

No comments: