Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bremer Interview

If this interview is any indication, Paul Bremer's memoir of his experiences as the president's envoy to Iraq is going to be a balanced and excellent account of the first year of the occupation. Check out this exchange:

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Ambassador Bremer, from before the time you landed on Iraqi soil you were concerned we didn't have enough troops there. You write that in July 2003 you told Condi Rice "the Coalition's got about half the number of soldiers we need here and we run a real risk of having this thing go south on us." You had made this point to Don Rumsfeld and to the president, among others. So why do you believe it was that you never got 'em?

L. Paul Bremer III: Look, the secretary of Defense and the president have lots of advisers around them, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, who are military experts. They reported that the military commanders on the ground said they had enough troops to accomplish their missions. And some in our military believed that having additional troops would exacerbate the situation. I respected their view, but disagreed. I felt that our fundamental responsibility was to provide law and order and that by not stopping the looting right after Liberation, we gave the Iraqis, including the insurgents, the impression we were not prepared to be tough with law-breakers.

Lopez: You're especially critical of the Pentagon in the book, but also of the president. What's the point of pointing your finger at still-in-place leaders while we're still at war?

Bremer: I am a strong supporter of the president, both in the war on terrorism and in the Liberation of Iraq. But I did have disagreements with officials in the Pentagon. These were based on honest differences of opinion.

I wrote this book because America has not undertaken a major occupation like this for a half century. And I thought it was important for historical purposes to record honestly and clearly how my colleagues and I approached the job in the hopes that if America is ever to have to do it again, our leaders could profit from our experiences.

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