Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Lucid Moment

The man who was handpicked to replace retired general Jay Garner as the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, has lapsed into a fit of truth telling - again. Bremer had famously gone off the reservation in a speech given on Feb. 26, 2001, in his capacity as the co-chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism. Bremer is quoted as saying:

The [Bush] administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism...

What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, "Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?"

That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit.
Despite this stern criticism, the Bush administration selected Bremer to revitalize the post-invasion reconstruction efforts that they perceived as lagging under the stewardship of Garner. The AP, via the New York Times, is reporting that Bremer has criticized the Bush administration once again in a series of speeches discussing his tenure in Iraq.

Bremer's critiques echo those emanating from a growing camp of war supporters who are highly critical of the incompetence of the Bush team in securing the peace, though remaining steadfast in their support for the overall mission of deposing Saddam Hussein. Whether or not you agree with the decision to invade Iraq, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to acknowledge that the conduct and planning for the war's aftermath has been recklessly inept and uninformed.

In remarks published Tuesday, the official, L. Paul Bremer, said he arrived in Iraq on May 6, 2003 to find "horrid" looting and a very unstable situation...

"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," Bremer said during an address to an insurance group in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The group released a summary of his remarks in Washington.

"We never had enough troops on the ground," Bremer said, while insisting that he was "more convinced than ever that regime change was the right thing to do." [emphasis added]
Bremer has since tried to qualify these statements, or at least clarify his position on the current state of affairs, through a press release given Monday night to The Washington Post:

"I believe that we currently have sufficient troop levels in Iraq," he said in the e-mailed statement, according to Tuesday's edition of the Post. He said references to troops levels related to the situation when he first arrived in Baghdad "when I believed we needed either more coalition troops or Iraqi security forces to address the looting."
But Bremer could not fully repudiate the quotes attributed to him because he is already on the record expressing the exact same sentiments. Apparently Paul Bremer has displayed a willingness to admit mistakes that has thus far eluded the entire Bush cabinet.

In an earlier speech Sept. 17 at DePauw University, Bremer said he frequently raised the issue of too few troops within the Bush administration and "should have been even more insistent" when his advice was rejected. "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, Bremer said, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind. [emphasis added]
It remains highly unlikely that even if Bremer were "more insistent" about the need for more troops that he could have broken the ideological lockstep within Bush's inner circle - especially in regard to such a central tenet of Rumsfeld's vision for a transformed military. They have been slow to adapt to the changing environment, and stubborn in their rejection of expert input that reaches conclusions that vary from their preconceptions.

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