my year in iraq
A friend of mine reads the NY Times Book Review; any book, in the review, related to the military he buys; most of the time he loses them or passes them along to me. There's a side of me that wishes he had lost Paul Bremer's book, My Year In Iraq.

For Bremer to say in his book, he asked for tens of thousands of more troops, makes me nauseous especially when I think of the mess we've made of our involvement there. In fact, in a shocking interchange between then commander, Ricardo Sanchez, and Bremer, Bremer asked him what he would do with 40,000 more troops? Sanchez responded: he would control Baghdad, secure Iraq's borders, protect the infrastructure. Now, of course, we know that didn't happen because the troops requested were not forthcoming. Baghdad, today, is in chaos relatively speaking and as much run by the insurgents and renegade clerics as it is by the fledging Iraqi government or the Americans.

The request by Bremer was reviewed by the joint chiefs and top generals and it was "determined that troops levels were adequate" said General Pace( who took over for General Richard Myers , Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). The troop level remained at around the original 130,000 until elections and it increased to around 140,000 troops.


What we see in Bremer and the generals is something that is almost inexcusable, "yes men." For Bremer, it borders on cowardice as I see it in not telling the powers that be "like it is"; and, if they would not listen, he should have found an audience who would. It is one of the biggest problems that we face in government or the military. People like the President or Secretary of Defense or high ranking generals surround themselves with "yes" men/women. Nobody tells them the truth or lays out the scenarios; or, if they do, we don't know about it.

Loyalty is a wonderful thing but not when lives are at stake. Hindsight gives way to soldiers who have died, along with a fragile democracy in Iraq bordering on civil war.

Could Bremer have made a difference? I think so. I think most leaders can; they come to a crossroads where they can say, "Here is where I stand." Unfortunately, few nail their 95 thesis to the cathedral door as Martin Luther did: Most modern types like Bremer feign loyalty, protect their own interests, and then write a book about it later. Great!


What we know now is that it was smoke and mirrors: Bremer claimed that there were 200,000 Iraqi police and army at one point ready to stand and defend. They simply disintegrated and disappeared. I have to think that if we are to believe what Bremer says either someone is lying or in such denial that it is pitiful. Think about it: the President in answer to more troops has said "He has given the Generals what they wanted." OK, they didn't want any troops, or had sufficient numbers? What gives?

Bremer says "Send us more troops." He was supposed to be in charge but didn't put up a fight. He did, in my opinion, what he thought the higher-ups wanted and gave a typical military response, "Yes sir, Yes sir, Three bags full."(whatever , you say, Sir). As an aside, I hope that at some future date, such behavior can be investigated by a study at the War College or somewhere: Do these upper level administration types and generals have this great loyalty, or has their pattern of behavior to get them where they are put them in so much denial that they can't speak the truth in reality?


However, even without his book, we have to say that Bremer has to bear a good bit of the responsibility for where we are today. Both Bremer and Sanchez knew Baghdad was out of control. Why did Bremer wait so long to give an assessment? Only he can answer; but, it appears to me his book My Year In Iraq is a wholesale indictment of leadership that at its worst was cowardice; and at best, simply misguided loyalty. Heaven help us because I don't see much change from Bremer's time until today.
March 08 2006
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