Bremer Letters Show Bush OK'd Disbanding Iraqi Army
On Sunday, I detailed Bush biographer Robert Draper's stunning portrait of the President asleep at the switch as the disastrous May 2003 decision to dissolve the Iraqi army moved forward. As the New York Times relayed, a nonchalant Bush told Draper "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen" and " Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"
As Tuesday's New York Times now suggests, Coalition Provisional Authority viceroy L. Paul Bremer indeed told Bush that he planned to disband Saddam's military and that the President casually - and unquestioningly - went along for the ride.
Using letters provided by Bremer, the Times documents that President Bush indeed casually approved L. Paul Bremer's May 2003 plan to dissolve the Iraqi military. Bremer released both his May 22, 2003 letter detailing his plans and progress on de-Baathification and the disbanding of Saddam's army, as well as President Bush's May 23rd response.
In his May 22 letter, Bremer informs Bush that:
"We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished...I will parallel this step [de-Baathification] with an even more robust measure dissolving Saddam's military and intelligence structures to emphasize that we mean business."
In his shockingly brief May 23 response, Bush seemingly blesses Bremer's fateful step to dissolve the Iraqi military:
"Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence. You also have the backing of our Administration that knows our work will take time."
So much for President Bush's tall tale to Dead Certain biographer Robert Draper, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen." Once again, Americans must ask, what didn't the President know and when did he realize he didn't know. The dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces, along with overzealous de-Baathification and privatization of the economy, ensured the United States faced an insurgency - and chaos - in Iraq. And for that, apparently, George W. Bush thought Paul Bremer deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For more background on the Draper interviews and President Bush sleepwalking his way into disaster in Iraq, see:
"NYT: Bush Slept as Iraqi Army was Disbanded."