Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bremer: Wrong Again

A couple of weeks ago L. Paul Bremer wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that I found to be mostly self-serving rationalizations and justifications for the mistakes he quite deliberately made in his tenure as head of the CPA in Iraq. I meant to write something at the time and didn't, but fortunately someone with far more knowledge about Iraq than I have did. It's safe to say that Nir Rosen puts the hurt on Bremer in his own op-ed:

...the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority argues that he "was absolutely right to strip away the apparatus of a particularly odious tyranny," including the Baath Party and the Iraqi army. He complains about "critics who've never spent time in Iraq" and "don't understand its complexities." But Bremer himself never understood Iraq, knew no Arabic, had no experience in the Middle East and made no effort to educate himself -- as his statements clearly show.

Many Iraqis saw the Americans as new colonists, intent on dividing and conquering Iraq. That was precisely Bremer's approach. When he succumbed slightly to Iraqi demands for democracy and created Interim Governing Council, its members were selected by sectarian and ethnic quotas. Even the Communist Party member of the council was chosen not because he was secular but because he was a Shiite.

In Bremer's mind, the way to occupy Iraq was not to view it as a nation but as a group of minorities. So he pitted the minority that was not benefiting from the system against the minority that was, and then expected them both to be grateful to him. Bremer ruled Iraq as if it were already undergoing a civil war, helping the Shiites by punishing the Sunnis. He did not see his job as managing the country; he saw it as managing a civil war. So I accuse him of causing one.

It's clear from insider accounts that Bremer took many of his orders from those even more ignorant than himself in the White House, and for that reason I've always been somewhat sympathetic to the position that he was in. But to read his completely self-serving and historically revisionist op-ed makes it clear to me that Bremer mostly agreed with even what he did at White House command, and that just like his boss, he's more interested in how history will judge him for his actions than in the consequences of his actions for the Iraqi people.

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