More from the ‘Buck Stops WHERE?’ Dept

Newsweek has an informative article about the apostasy of L. Paul Bremer III and the White House attempt to put the lid back on. But it buries the lead lede, and misses the real point in an interesting and sadly predictable way.

MSNBC – Inner Circle No More? At the heart of the controversy is a still-unresolved dispute over who was mainly responsible for one of the biggest mistakes of Bremer's 15-month tenure in Iraq, one that is commonly ascribed to him. This was the decision in May 2003 to reverse the efforts of Bremer's predecessor, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, to put the ragged elements of the Iraqi Army to work. After Bremer formally disbanded the army, some disaffected soldiers were believed to have joined the insurgency, which still rages.

Administration officials said today that this decision was made on the ground in Iraq, rather than in Washington. Before the war, the plan was to get rid of Iraqi Army officers but use regular troops for security and reconstruction after Saddam's ouster. But Bremer “flipped that around,” said a White House official. He added that Bremer and his deputy, Walt Slocombe, made the decision by themselves.

But Bremer and Garner have previously indicated the decision was made in Washington. According to one official who attended a meeting that Bremer had with his staff upon his arrival in Baghdad in mid-May of 2003, Bremer was warned he would cause chaos by demobilizing the army. The CIA station chief told him, “That's another 350,000 Iraqis you're pissing off, and they've got guns.” According to one source who was at the meeting, Garner then asked if they could discuss the matter further in a smaller meeting. Garner then said: “Before you announce this thing let's do all the pros and cons of this, because we are going to have a hell of a lot of problems with it. There are a hell of a lot more cons than there are pros. Let's line them all up then get on the phone to [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld.” Bremer replied: “I don't have any choice. I have to do this.” Garner then protested further, but Bremer cut him off. “The president told me that de-Baathification comes before the immediate needs of the Iraqi people.”

That Bush himself is directly and personally responsible for one of the major boneheaded judgments of the post-invasion period explains a lot. It should have been the lead lede of the story, not that poor Mr. Bremer can expect a horse's head in his bed Real Soon Now.

But lurking behind the story is yet another example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. Somehow, GW Bush is only potentially responsible for errors he personally orders? He has no responsibility for how his team screws up? Even when he keeps them around?

Talk about teflon!

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6 Responses to More from the ‘Buck Stops WHERE?’ Dept

  1. I don’t know that teflon is so much the issue as a general expectation of incompetence. I, and many of the people I know, tend to think of GWB as a born delegator with a list from Dad of acceptable delegates…I am always surprised when it turns out there was any actual washington input in any decision made under this administration, and tend not to give GWB’s actual intent much credence, assuming he’s uninvolved…

    Sad to say, tho, this looks like one more story that will never garner national attention on any significant scale…

  2. ed says:

    I always tend to insert “vice” anywhere I see this type of thing.

  3. Nell Lancaster says:

    Wow. Bush ordered the disbanding of the army, he ordered the assault on Fallujah (“I want heads to roll!”)…. now if it were to come out that he ordered the arrest of Moqtada al-Sadr in April, he’d truly have hit the Occupation Trifecta.

  4. Randy Paul says:

    In the Bush White House the buck doesn’t even slow down to catch its breath.

  5. CuriosityKilledTheCat says:

    “That’s another 350,000 Iraqis you’ve pissed off, and they’ve got guns!”
    Man, that CIA agent should get a commendation for straight talking advice. Kerry is under under attack by the Republicans as too unfit to be commander in chief. Just what kind of commander in chief gives an order like this, despite advice from those “on the ground”? Or was he on holiday at his “ranch” at the time? Does anybody think that Kerry would have lightly given the order to disband the Iraqi army before checking it out with those on the ground to see what the pros and cons were? Sometimes, simple decisions kill people.

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