Bremer claims he was used as Iraq ‘fall guy’ (Financial Times)

Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, says that senior US military officials tried to make him a scapegoat for postwar setbacks, including the decision to disband the Iraqi army following the US invasion in 2003.

In a memoir published yesterday that broke a more than year-long silence, Mr Bremer portrays himself in a constant struggle with Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and military leaders who were determined to reduce the US troop presence as quickly as possible in 2004 despite the escalating insurgency.

Among the tidbits selected by the article (go read it, there is more, notably on the infighting between Rumsfeld and Rice, and the decision to disband the Iraqi Army):

A Pentagon spokesman yesterday confirmed that Mr Bremer had sent Mr Rumsfeld a memo based on a report by the Rand Corporation consultancy that recommended 500,000 US troops would be needed to pacify Iraq – far more than were sent. But Mr Bremer’s advice was rejected by military leaders and Mr Rumsfeld.

The interesting twist here is that this may give some cover to Bush and Rumsfeld who said that they never got requests from the military to have more troops. But is it just Bremer trying to shift the blame, or did the military brass know and keep quiet?

Mr Bremer’s account of his 13 months as Iraq’s governor is at times vituperative – scathing of the Iraqi exiles who formed the initial Iraqi Governing Council, resentful of Democrats in Congress who sniped at his efforts, the press for focusing on the negative and feeding on leaks, and bureaucrats in Washington who obfuscated when he was trying to rebuild an entire country.

I suppose that’s the rule in such books: it’s everybody’s fault but the author’s. But…

What emerges clearly from the diary is that there was no detailed postwar reconstruction plan, that the US lacked decent intelligence to deal with an insurgency it failed to predict, and the naivety of Americans who were shocked at the dismal state of Iraq’s economy and infrastructure after years of sanctions.

In a book where he is supposed to defend his work, that this should come through is significant – although not so surprising given the reality on the ground.

In one particularly bleak moment in October 2003, Mr Bremer pleaded with the president to back him in this internal struggle. “I’m concerned that a lot of the Pentagon’s frenetic push on the political stuff is meant to set me up as a fall guy,” he told Mr Bush at the White House. When the president looked puzzled, he added: “In effect the DoD position would be that they’d recommended a quick end to ‘occupation’, but I had resisted so any problems from here on out were my fault.”

Mr Bremer lauds the president for backing him in most of these battles.

Puzzled, or clueless?

The book sounds as if Bremer does not want to cut himself off from the Bushistas, but a lot of actionable truth comes out.

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