Here's an interesting question: whose idea was it to disband the Iraqi army? Formally, the decision was Paul Bremer's. But that only means that he executed the plan, not that he originated the idea or even necessarily agreed with it. He's taking the rap for it in a lot of corners. But I doubt very much the idea originated with him.
Here's what today's Washington Post article on the subject says ...
The demobilization decision appears to have originated largely with Walter B. Slocombe, a former undersecretary of defense appointed to oversee Iraqi security forces. He believed strongly in the need to disband the army and felt that vanquished soldiers should not expect to be paid a continuing salary. He said he developed the policy in discussions with Bremer, Feith and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.
"This is not something that was dreamed up by somebody at the last minute and done at the insistence of the people in Baghdad. It was discussed," Slocombe said. "The critical point was that nobody argued that we shouldn't do this."
Slocombe recalled discussing the issue with Wolfowitz on May 8 and with Feith several times, including on May 22, the night before Bremer issued the formal order. Trying to put the army back together at that point, he said, "would've been a practical disaster."
Slocombe's an interesting possible author of the decision since he's a highly respected former official from the Clinton Pentagon and a Democrat, if one with a fairly non-partisan hue.
I have heard, reliably, that Cheney was the key force in the decision. And that he was convinced by Chalabi and others in his circle.
On the other hand, an article
in the new Newsweek
says this ...
When Bremer arrived in Baghdad in mid-May, the insurgency was just getting started, and clots of former Iraqi troops were reappearing, asking to be remobilized. Bremer, who has been widely blamed for reversing the decision of his predecessor, Jay Garner, to hire such men and pay them, was warned he would cause chaos by demobilizing the Army instead. The CIA station chief told him, âThatâs another 350,000 Iraqis youâre pissing off, and theyâve got guns.â According to one official who attended the meeting, Bremer replied: âI donât have any choice ... Those are my instructions.â Then Bremer added: âThe president told me that de-Baathification is more important.â
Needless to say, the word coming directly <$Ad$>from the president is not at all inconsistent with Chalabi convincing senior officials, including Cheney, that this was the way to go.
A few other thoughts on this.
First, I sat down for an interview with a well-known defense policy expert at the very end of June. And the first thing out of his mouth was how bad an idea this was, and that no one could understand what they were thinking.
So I really don't think that it's correct to say that this is one of those ideas that seemed good at the time but has produced unintended results. Most people seem to have seen this as a pretty bad idea from word 'go'.
Second, the issue here, I think, isn't so much whose idea this was, as in a particular person, as just how it originated. Was it just bad decision-making by the people in charge -- not every call can be made correctly? Or was it another example of ideologues or those under the influence of Chalabi getting it into their heads that this was a great idea and then pushing it through over the objections of region experts, the CIA, the military, folks at State, etc.?