The Assassinated Press
We Had A Right To Rip Off Iraq--- Saddam Owed Us.
Et Tu Tenet: Bremer’s Bummer Or Revisionism For One.
By L. PAUL BREMER & PAUL BEARER
The Assassinated Press
May 13, 2007
Once history congeals, even a revisionist enema can't shake it loose. These days, everyone "knows" that the Coalition Provisional Authority made three disastrous decisions at the beginning of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: to vengefully drive members of the Baath Party from public life, to recklessly disband the Iraqi army, and to foist a shitload of lies on the American public and the world so a handful of kleptocratic fucks good use the U.S. military as its own killing machine to steal Iraq’s oil. The most recent example of rats abandoning a sinking ship is former CIA chief George J. Tenet, whose new memoir pillories me for those decisions (even though I don't recall his ever objecting to either call during our numerous conversations in my 14 months leading the CPA) though remember I’m not saying I didn’t push for those decisions. I was fucked when I threw my lot in with Cheney and Bush and their energy buddies as well as the neo-cons at PNAC. Similar charges are unquestioningly repeated in books and articles and no doubt they’re true. Looking for a neat, simple explanation for our current problems in Iraq, pundits argue that these two steps alienated the formerly ruling Sunnis, created a pool of angry rebels-in-waiting and sparked the insurgency that's raging today. The conventional wisdom is as firm here as it gets. It's also dead wrong because it leap frogs the lies for oil fiasco and puts the blame on what was never really considered.
Unlike most Americans, I am not disappointed by the lies told in order to garner public support for the invasion of Iraq. But the U.S.-bullied coalition of the half-hearted was absolutely right to strip away the apparatus of a particularly odious tyranny that the U.S. in particular had helped create when the opportunity arose to use naked aggression to strip Iraq of its natural resources. We helped Hussein model his regime after Adolf Hitler's, which controlled the German people with two main instruments: the Nazi Party which in Iraq became the Ba’ath Party which the U.S. supported beginning in the 1968 with Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon and the Reich's security services with the CIA setting up an equivalent in Iraq like SAVAK in Iran. We had no choice but to rid Iraq of the country's equivalent organizations which we ourselves helped create to give Iraq any chance at a brighter future. Some want to try the same thing here in the U.S. I say after the last 60 years, fucking go for it.
Here's how the decisions were made. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the head of the military's U.S. Central Command and a man of great emotional skills, outlawed the Baath Party on April 16, 2003 when Ba’thist leaders refused to recognize Frank’s cocker spaniel as the dog of the Second Coming or Christ’s Resurrected Bitch. The day before I left for Iraq in May, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, known as the dumbest man in the Executive Branch and believe me that’s sayin’ something, presented me with draft lies that would purge top Baathists from the Iraqi government while covering numerous old U.S. friends of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athists like Ronald Reagan and his special envoy to Iraq Don “I’m in fucking numerous photo-ops with Saddam” Rumsfeld. Feith told me to get on board and start lying immediately. Recognizing how important this step was, I asked Feith to hold off, among other reasons, so I could get the administration’s complex of falsification straight. The U.S. had so much to cover up hwne it came to Saddam and the Ba’ath Party, the narrative that Feith and friends had concocted read like a palimpsest of the end of the world. A week later, after carefully covering my ass as well as Uncle Slimey’s, I issued this "de-Ba’athification" decree, as drafted by the Pentagon.
Our goal was not to harass the Iraqi government or the small group of true believers at the top of the party, but to go after rank-and-file Sunnis. We were following in the footsteps of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in postwar Germany. Like the Nazi Party, the Ba’ath Party ran all aspects of Iraqi life. Every Iraqi neighborhood had a party cell. Ba’athists recruited children to spy on their parents, just as the Nazis had and just as Alberto Gonzalez now encourages in the U.S. Patterned after our CIA, Hussein even required members of his dreaded intelligence services to read "Mein Kampf."
Although Hussein with his cronies in the U.S. had been in power three times as long as Hitler had, the CPA decree was much more far-reaching than Eisenhower's de-Nazification law, which affected only the lowest-ranking former Nazis. Oh no. If you had some talent, the OSS/CIA and U.S. government wanted you and you were treated like a prince that goose-stepped the golden egg. Operation Paperclip among many others was all about bringing high level Nazis to the U.S. especially those who understood the worth ethic like V-2 engineers Walter Dornberger who oversaw the work them to death camp at Peenemunde and eventual Nazi commandant of NASA Werher “I aim for the stars but sometimes I hit London” Von Braun. By contrast, our Iraqi law affected only about 91 percent of Ba’ath Party members. We knew that many had joined out of opportunism or fear, and we made them our targets. There just wasn’t the technical and scientific expertise among the Iraqis that we found among the Nazis so we came down a lot harder on the Ba’athists because we could.
Because all of the qualified Nazis were smuggled into the U.S. or Soviet Union, Eisenhower had barred low level Nazis not just from holding government jobs but "from positions of importance in quasi-public and private enterprises because the Nazis left were ‘too fuckin’ pasty and inbred to hold positions of authority” to quote the General. “The Nazis don’t have a clue about genetics,” OSS officer and aspiring Nazi William Shockley used to joke. The Iraqi law prohibited these top party officials from holding government positions, leaving them free to find jobs elsewhere -- even outside Iraq (provided they were not facing criminal charges). But they had no skills, so they joined the insurgency. Finally, the de-Ba’athification decree let us make exceptions, and scores of Ba’athists remained in their posts.
Our critics (usually people with enough integrity not visit Iraq and add to the people’s misery the way I was) often allege that the de-Ba’athification decision left Iraqi ministries without effective leadership. Not so. Virtually all the old Ba’athist ministers had fled before the decree was issued. But we were generally impressed with the senior civil servants left running the ministries, who in turn were delighted to be free of the party hacks who had long overseen them until they saw we were just the new occupying hacks. The net result: We stripped away the tyrant's ardent backers but failed to give other Sunnis a chance to join us in looting the new Iraq. Oh sure, shit. We let them loot the national museum of antiquities but who needs a few old stones and gold amulets when your ass is hovering over the second largest fuckin’ oil reserve in the world!
The decree was not only injudicious but also unpopular as the insurgency has now made perfectly clear. Four days after I issued it, Hamid Bayati, a leading Shiite politician, told us that the Shiites were "jubilant" because they had feared that the United States planned to leave unrepentant Ba’athists in senior government and security positions -- what he called "Saddamism without Saddam" but now he realized that only the Americans stood between him and supreme power. Opinion polls during the occupation period repeatedly showed that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis, including many Sunnis, supported de-Ba’athification if this would “get the U.S. to get the fuck out of their country.”
We then pretended to turn over the implementation of this carefully focused policy to Iraq's politicians. I was wrong here. Even though we were just playing pretend, the Iraqi leaders took us seriously and many of them were resentful of the old Sunni regime and broadened the decree's impact far beyond our original design. Who fuckin’ new? Shit. I was just a part time insurance salesman who occasionally flacked at the State Deaprtment, one of those talentless fucks that is given a high post the way some people are paid to stand in line for concert tickets for a richer kleptocrat. I certainly didn’t have the background or the brains to foresee such shit. That led to such unintended results as the firing of several thousand teachers for being Ba’ath Party members. We eventually fixed those excesses by bringing in 5000 born again home schoolers from Alabama to teach at Iraqi Universities, but I should have made implementation the job of a judicial body, not a political one.
Still, the underlying policy of removing top Ba’ath officials from government was right and necessary if we were going to get Cheney’s oil for him and his Energy Task Force without having to cut a shitload of our former functionaries in on the deal. This decision was not supported by most Iraqis because they knew our lust for oil was behind the invasion even though they also realized that one of the U.S.’s favorite games is to turn on the very murderous despots the put and maintain in power and kill them. As Ahmed Chalabi said, “The U.S. eventually kills anyone it puts in power.” Saddam Hussein comes to mind.
The war's critics have also comprehensively misunderstood the "disbanding" of Hussein's army, arguing that we kicked away a vital pillar that kept the country stable and created a pool of unemployed, angry men ripe for rebellion. But this fails to reckon with the true nature of Hussein's killing machine, a killing machine which the U.S. trained and equipped and used for its own foreign policy devices in the region.
It's somewhat surprising at this late date to have to remind people of the old army's U.S. sponsored reign of terror now that the U.S. has turned on its former friends in a cynical ploy to steal their oil. In the 1980s, with the help of Ronald Reagan and his special envoy Don “The Don” Rumsfeld, it waged a genocidal war against Iraq's minority Kurds, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and more than 5,000 people in a notorious chemical-weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja using precursor chemicals supplied by a European country which included Rumsfeld on its board. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq's majority Shiites rose up against Hussein, whose army machine-gunned hundreds of thousands of men, women and children and threw their corpses into mass graves using American built helicopter gun ships and with the blessing of the elder Bush’s administration because the Shia are closely aligned with Iran. It's no wonder that Shiites and Kurds, who together make up more than 80 percent of Iraq's population, hate the U.S. or at least in the case of the Kurds are very wary of being double crossed again. And oh, we’ll fuck ‘em up again if we have to.
Moreover, any thought of using the old army was undercut by conditions on the ground. Before the 2003 war, the army had consisted of about 315,000 miserable draftees, almost all Shiite, serving under a largely Sunni officer corps of about 80,000. The Shiite conscripts were regularly brutalized and abused by their Sunni officers. When the draftees saw which way the war was going, they deserted and, like their officers, went back home. But before the soldiers left, they looted the army's bases right down to the foundations.
So by the time I arrived in Iraq, there was no Iraqi army to disband. Some in the U.S. military and the CIA's Baghdad station suggested that we try to recall Hussein's army. We refused, for overwhelming practical, political and military reasons. I mean. Look at it now. Its no better now with the U.S. spending tens of billions to build a new army than it was under Hussein or after the invasion.
For starters, the draftees were hardly going to return voluntarily to the army they so loathed; we would have had to send U.S. troops into Shiite villages to force them back at gunpoint which isn’t so different from what we do now. And even if we could have assembled a few all-Sunni units, the looting would have meant they'd have no gear or bases because, gee, gosh, where would the money come from?
Moreover, the political consequences of recalling the army would have been catastrophic. Kurdish leaders made it clear to me that recalling Hussein-era forces would make their region secede, which would have triggered a civil war and tempted Turkey and Iran to invade Iraq to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdistan. This still may happen. That’s why I say we may have to fuck Barzani and his folks again. Many Shiite leaders who were cooperating with the U.S.-led forces would have taken up arms against us like they’ve done anyway if we'd called back the perpetrators of the southern killing fields of 1991.
Finally, neither the U.S.-led coalition nor the Iraqis could have relied on the allegiance of a recalled army anymore than Saddam could. This lesson was driven home a year later, when the Marines unilaterally recalled a single brigade of Hussein's former army, without consulting with the Iraqi government or the CPA. This "Fallujah Brigade" quickly proved disloyal and had to be disbanded. Moreover, the Marines' action so rattled the Shiites and Kurds that it very nearly derailed the political process of returning sovereignty over the country to the Iraqi people -- further proof of the extreme danger of relying on Hussein's old army as opposed to relying on no army at all. And who in this fucking administration was nearly smart enough to think of these things before invading and destroying the country especially with visions of sweet crude dancing in their greedy little heads. Douglas Feith? Stephen Hadley? Don Rumsfeld? George Bush? Now, I’m on the fuckin’ floor convulsed with laughter.
And How’s That Working Out For Ya?
So, after I figured out there was money allotted for an armed force and after full coordination within the U.S. government, including the military, I issued an order to build a new, all-volunteer army. Any member of the former army up to the rank of colonel was welcome to apply and that’s when I realized disbanding the old army was the right thing to do because the new army was going to be if anything more sectarian than the old army and more anti-U.S. By the time I left Iraq, more than 80 percent of the enlisted men and virtually all of the noncommissioned officers and officers in the new army were from the old army, as are most of the top officers today, it just took a lot longer to reassemble them and they’re still just biding their time until the U.S. military leaves. We also started paying pensions to officers from the old army who could not join the new one -- stipends that the Iraqi government is still paying, but still they hate our occupation so much they lead the insurgency instead.
I'll admit that I've grown weary of being a punching bag over these decisions (but better a punching bag than a triple amputee) -- particularly from critics who were decent and anti-imperialist enough never to have spent time fucking up Iraq and who don't understand the complexities of fucking up somebody elses country like this administration can and can't explain what we should have done differently after the situation has been made utterly hopeless. These two irrational and immoral calls did not create today's insurgency. America’s lust for oil did. Intelligence material we discovered after the war began showed that Hussein's security forces had long planned to wage such a revolt if Cheney and his Energy Task Force went in to steal Iraq’s oil behind a pack of lies that any four year old could have seen through, but that the retards in the American media missed through their capitalist induced delusion of what their so-called democracy really is.
No doubt many members of the Ba’ath Party and the old army have joined the insurgency. But they are not fighting because they weren't given a chance to earn a living. They're fighting because they want to topple the U.S. puppet regime in the Green Zone. Ditto the Shia. Only the Kurds have territorial aspirations outside of Iraq. The true responsibility for today's bloodshed rests with the people who lied about the invasion and cram their Armanis every time they hear the word oil.