Monday, January 15, 2007
The Greatest Mistake
When one's options are taken away, there always exists one remaining option--to fight. What might have happened--and where would Iraq be now--if we hadn't made The Greatest Mistake?
Retired Army General Jay Garner was originally assigned to make sense of the aftermath of the United States and coalition forces invasion of Iraq. It appears that he was doing an excellent job, despite an invasion that occurred perhaps prematurely, leaving Garner and his people not quite in place to organize security forces against looting and other destruction.
Garner's plan was to involve as many as 400,000 Iraqi army soldiers in the security and reconstruction of their country, providing them a generous paycheck that would at least offset the lucrativeness of a career in the insurgency.
Suddenly, Garner was replaced. Perhaps the images of day-after-day looting and upheaval weakened the Bush Administration's resolve. Enter Henry Kissinger protege, L. Paul Bremer.
In May, 2003, Bremer issued a decree disbanding the Iraqi army from top to bottom. An unnamed US Official in Baghdad at the time said "There was never a discussion that I was involved in where we would disband the military. It caught me completely by surprise."
During the transition phase, while Garner was still in Iraq, he was handed Bremer's "Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] Order Number 1--De-Baathification of Iraqi Society", which effectively removed thousands of public school teachers and ministry workers who were members of the Baath party only because they had to sign up if they wanted their job. "We can't do this," Garner said, seeing the havoc it would cause in Iraqi society.
The very next day, Bremer's CPA issued an order disbanding the Iraqi army. The plan to throw hundreds of thousands of potential security and reconstruction workers out on the streets without a job was seen as a disaster by Garner.
A disaster it turned out to be.
In his recent book, State of Denial: Bush at War Part III, Bob Woodward discusses the results of CPA Orders #1 and #2. Electricity failed. Sewer systems backed up. The disorganization grew to beyond anything anyone had imagined. And the first Improvised Explosive Device went off, taking everyone in Bremer's group by surprise.
Beginning in early June, hundreds and then thousands of former Iraqi soldiers gathered outside the Saddam Palace that the CPA had decided to make as its headquarters. Now out of jobs, they threatened Bremer and his people that they would turn into aggressors against the occupation. Bremer did not listen until it was too late.
A recent documentary, produced by PBS Frontline, details the grievances and makeup of the Iraqi insurgency. While it is true that mujahideen have come from many other countries, including the West to fight, the common thread that wound through the Frontline documentary, "The Insurgency" was this--the bulk of the Iraqi insurgency is made up of former Iraqi military members who lost all their other options when the rug was pulled out from under them by L. Paul Bremer.
Where would we be now if the imperial Henry Kissinger acolyte L. Paul Bremer had not surprised a lot of people by disbanding the Iraqi government and military? It's hard to say exactly. But it is easy to say that it would have been much better than it is today.