Paul Bremer on Himself
Andrew Sullivan offered this interpretation of Paul Bremer's remarks on October 5, 2004:
NOW, BREMER: The main criticisms this blog has directed at the conduct of the war have been the insufficient troop numbers and allowing the looting and disorder to spread after the liberation. Now comes Jerry Bremer to say exactly the same thing:
"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the ground."
That's a big admission. Why doesn't Edwards bring that up directly tonight with Cheney? And since it was so obvious so soon, why didn't the administration do anything to change that policy once its failings had become so glaring? Pig-headedness? Ignorance? Hubris? Or merely Rumsfeld - shorthand for all three?
The Belmont Club replied a few hours later:
Bremer's own interpretation of his own comments was rather different. He claimed the coalition was shorthanded when it arrived in Baghdad.
"I believe that we currently have sufficient troop levels in Iraq," he said in an e-mailed statement. He said all references in recent speeches to troop levels related to the situation when he arrived in Baghdad in May 2003 -- "and when I believed we needed either more coalition troops or Iraqi security forces to address the looting."
... The Fourth Infantry Division, at that time the most modern armored force in the Army, was not absent due to the "Pig-headedness? Ignorance? Hubris?" of Donald Rumsfeld. It was missing directly as a result of the machinations of those supposed to administer Kerry's Global Test to America in the United Nations, who were large part responsible for closing Turkey to the United States. To continue Sullivan's quote: "Why doesn't Edwards bring that up directly tonight with Cheney?" Cheney should. And to Sullivan's question: "since it was so obvious so soon, why didn't the administration do anything to change that policy once its failings had become so glaring?" one might answer that it did, re-embarking the 4ID and sailing it a total of 1/5th of the way around the world into congested ports which had never planned to receive them, before marching it 600 kilometers up to Baghdad.
From which Sullivan concluded that "Wretchard claims that his only goal is the articulation of military strategy and that I don't know what I'm talking about. The alternative explanation is that he is a partisan Republican, spinning the facts for political purposes. I link. You decide."
Paul Bremer decided to clarify his remarks three days later. In a signed article carried on the New York Times, whose version in Der Spiegel is linked below, Bremer says what he means. The relevant remarks are reproduced verbatim, with no further comment.
|Andrew Sullivan on Paul Bremer
-- Daily Dish, Oct 6, 2004
|Paul Bremer on Paul Bremer
-- What I Really Said About Iraq, Oct 8, 2004
|BELMONT'S SPIN UNRAVELS: The biggest news of the week was not the vice-presidential debate, of course. It was the revelation that the major criticism that many of us have made about the management of the Iraq war - that we never had enough troops and still don't - was shared all along by none other than L. Paul Bremer! That's a staggering concession - and one that Cheney had no real response to last night. Wretchard of the Belmont Club blog immediately countered by saying that what Bremer meant was that there were too few troops merely at the very beginning of the occupation, and that Bremer's criticism was directly related to the absence of the Fourth Infantry Division, caused by the Turks' refusal to allow the U.S. to use their country as an invasion point. Nice try. Bremer's full quote is as follows: "The single most important change - the one thing that would have improved the situation - would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation. (My italics.) Wretchard either removed the words "and throughout," or missed them. Either way, his case collapses. Traveling yesterday, I missed those two crucial words myself and was far too conciliatory in myposting. Not only that but even the administration now concedes that Bremer kept pressing for more troops. According to the NYT, "'The reality is that Paul kept pressing the issue, because it was immediately clear that a lot of facilities - even arms stockpiles - were unguarded,' said one senior official who was part of that debate but insisted on anonymity." Case closed. Wretchard claims that his only goal is the articulation of military strategy and that I don't know what I'm talking about. The alternative explanation is that he is a partisan Republican, spinning the facts for political purposes. I link. You decide.||In recent days, attention has been focused on
some remarks I've made about Iraq. The coverage of these remarks has
elicited far more heat than light, so I believe it's important to put my
remarks in the correct context.
In my speeches, I have said that the United States paid a price for not stopping the looting in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of major combat operations and that we did not have enough troops on the ground to accomplish that task. The press and critics of the war have seized on these remarks in an effort to undermine President Bush's Iraq policy.
This effort won't succeed. Let me explain why.
It's no secret that during my time in Iraq I had tactical disagreements with others, including military commanders on the ground. Such disagreements among individuals of good will happen all the time, particularly in war and postwar situations. I believe it would have been helpful to have had more troops early on to stop the looting that did so much damage to Iraq's already decrepit infrastructure. The military commanders believed we had enough American troops in Iraq and that having a larger American military presence would have been counterproductive because it would have alienated Iraqis. That was a reasonable point of view, and it may have been right. The truth is that we'll never know.