The debate over the decision to dismantle the old Iraqi army continues:
A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to “dissolve Saddam’s military and intelligence structures,” a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army.
Mr. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Mr. Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that American policy had been “to keep the army intact” but that it “didn’t happen.”
Honestly, I guess I don’t see the point of all this. It appears to be little more than a sort of after-the-fact “gotcha” game where one side says something and the other contradicts it with evidence, which the other side will shortly contradict with other evidence.
I continue to believe that disbanding the old Iraqi army and building a new one from scratch was the best long-term solution. I wrote in 2005:
We didn’t want the old Iraqi army, regardless of whether it would have been loyal or not. We want a new Iraqi army that is professional and capable. Yes, this decision was a serious short-term trade-off with massive security implications. But we are in Iraq for the long haul.
See also Leaders and mentors in a professional army from last year, which includes:
The NCOs in Saddam’s army were not (for the most part, anyway) professional soldiers in anything but name. Many of those who hadn’t been given their rank and position as a family favor bribed their way into it. They were often nothing more than thug enforcers, concerned mostly with intimidating their troops and the local populace into submission. That’s not what we wanted, so we scrapped the whole thing and started over.
The NYT article has this near the top:
The dismantling of the Iraqi Army in the aftermath of the American invasion is now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.
and this near the bottom:
“I might add that it was not a controversial decision,” Mr. Bremer said. “The Iraqi Army had disappeared and the only question was whether you were going to recall the army. Recalling the army would have had very practical difficulties, and it would have political consequences. The army had been the main instrument of repression under Saddam Hussein. I would go on to argue that it was the right decision. I’m not second-guessing it.”
The only apparent value of Mr. Bremer is that he contradicted the President’s recent quote, not what he thought of the topic of discussion.