Sunday, February 26, 2006


Bremer's year in Iraq

The NYTimes reviewed Paul Bremer's book, "My Year in Iraq," in today's paper. Apparently even administration lackeys are abandoning the president.
The most startling moment in "My Year in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer III's memoir from his days as the head of the American occupation, comes near the end, when violent uprisings were sweeping most of the central and southern parts of the country in May 2004. With the whole American enterprise verging on collapse, Bremer decided to secretly ask the Pentagon for tens of thousands of additional American troops — a request that, as the rest of his book makes clear, was taboo in the White House and Pentagon. Bremer turned to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, and asked him what he would do with two more divisions, as many as 40,000 more troops. General Sanchez did not hesitate to answer. "I'd control Baghdad," he said. Bremer then mentioned some other uses for the soldiers, like securing Iraq's borders and protecting its infrastructure, to which General Sanchez replied: "Got those spare troops handy, sir?"
In the memoir, then, Bremer confirms what most of us thought all along: the Bush administration prized ideology above results in Iraq. Not only did Bush place political loyalists in important positions, the administration refused to hear any information that ran contrary to its rose-colored worldview. This book follows a long line of memoirs and tell-alls about the Bush administration written by dissatisfied insiders -- Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neil the examples that spring to mind. But Bremer is different. He's a Bush man. That Bremer, loyal soldier, airs his dirty laundry in public, says much about where Bush stands in Washington these days. If this book is followed by silence from the right-wing spin machine, you'll know the administration is in political trouble. Still, waiting until now to point out the administration's dysfunction on Iraq, Bremer proves himself a coward. Oh yeah, and he's done his country a disservice:
But Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent — and so does General Sanchez. If we can assume that Bremer's recollection is correct, then General Sanchez' remarks indicate that Baghdad was indeed out of control, that both he and Bremer knew it and that without more troops, it was likely to stay out of control. And so it did, for many months after Bremer and General Sanchez left Iraq. Neither man ever gave a public assessment of the security situation that remotely approached the one Bremer gives here. By staying silent, Bremer ensured that there would be no public debate on the merits of deploying more American troops. By staying silent, he helped ensure that there would be little public discussion over the condition of the Iraqi security forces, whose quality he doubted. When his request for more troops was ignored, his silence helped ensure that the troops would never come.
Silence from dissatisfied or concerened Republicans will be an enduring hallmark of this 6-year political disaster known as the Bush presidency. That's part of the Rovian plan, though: not only did the GOP manage to speak as with one voice, they build the financial empire to reward loyalists and punish rebels, no matter how inane official policy or practical and well-intentioned the dissent. Abramoff and Tom Delay were the center of the pork-doling project constructed by the GOP. Now that they've been indicted, that financial center of the Repulican party seems to be missing. Now that Bush's approval rating dips below thirty percent, Dinky no longer is the rallying point for conservatives wishing for a political future. Finally the long string of scandals and bad news are beginning to catch up to the Republicans.
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