Friday, September 07, 2007

Who made the biggest blunder of the war, dismantling the Iraqi army?
The Village Voice offers a comprehensive look at the conflicting claims, and shows that, in fact, according to the top British liaison with the Bush administration, the Home Secretary David Blunkett, it was, yet again, Rumsfeld and Cheney. All that's been missed in the recent news accounts about Paul Bremer telling Bush beforehand about the decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army -- and, it turned out, fuel the insurgency. But the Voice also quotes the savvy George Packer of the New Yorker, who points out:

No one has ever been able to explain the history of that crucial decision, which countless Iraqis have told me was the biggest mistake of the American occupation and a huge factor in the growth of the insurgency. When I was researching The Assassins' Gate I learned that, just before Bremer went to Iraq, in early May, 2003, he had discussed the issue at the Pentagon with Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Walt Slocombe (who became Bremer's adviser on Iraqi security forces in Baghdad), and then he cleared the decision with Donald Rumsfeld. This account was later borne out in Bremer's book. Did Condi Rice know? Dick Cheney? Bush himself? It's been impossible to be sure, and a former Administration official once told me that this fact alone shows what a dysfunctional policymaking process it was.

A history-changing decision, upending a previous policy, was made on the fly by a handful of officials at the Pentagon who consulted with no one else in Washington, let alone in Iraq. (In The Assassins' Gate, I describe the disbelief of a U.S. Army colonel, Paul Hughes, who at the time was knee-deep in the effort to organize and pay soldiers of the defeated Iraqi army; his outrage is the high point of the powerful new film No End in Sight.) Bremer's letter to Bush proves that the President was told at the last minute and gave the O.K. — but that's it. He had nothing to do with the decision either way and seemed barely aware of it.

For a good overview, check out this article:
The Village Voice: The Bush Beat

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