As Juan Cole points out in Informed Comment, “Bush’s reply, however, does not prove that he read Bremer’s letter, only that Rumsfeld passed it on to him. You have a sense that Bush gets a lot of memos he doesn’t read, in response to which he pats people on the head and names them Turtle Poo. The real question, on which Bremer has never come clean, is who ordered him to disband the Iraqi army. It wasn’t Bush. Was it Cheney? I guess they don’t bother to tell George everything.”
Former US administrator in Iraq clashes with Bush on Iraq army
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer clashed in print with George W. Bush Tuesday, rejecting the US president’s suggestion in an interview that he was unaware of Bremer’s plan to disband the Iraqi army.
The disbanding is seen as one of the biggest US errors in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority in Iraq from April 2003 to June 2004, announced it May 23, 2003, two months after the US invasion.
In an interview for a book to be released Tuesday, Bush appears to suggest he was caught off-guard by the decision to break up the armed forces when the original plan was to keep them.
In one of six interviews with Robert Draper for the book “Dead Certain,” Bush said US policy had been “to keep the army intact” but that it “didn’t happen,” The New York Times reported.
Asked how he reacted when he learned that the policy was being reversed, Bush told Draper, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?'” the Times report added.
Bremer, among officials blamed for mistakes for which the United States continues to pay dearly, gave the Times letters which he said refute the notion that Bush was in the dark about the shift.
“We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished,” the Times quoted a Bremer letter sent to the president on May 22, 2003 through then secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld.
After detailing US efforts to strip from civilian agencies Baathist Saddam supporters, Bremer told Bush that he would “parallel this step with an even more robust measure” to dismantle Iraq’s armed forces, the Times report said.
A day later, Bush wrote back a short thank you letter saying: “Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence.”
Bush’s visit to Iraq Monday represented a stamp of approval for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is fighting for his political life after making little headway in reconciling the country’s bitterly divided communities.