Our CEO President
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 — 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 Saddams 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."
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. In releasing the letters, Mr. Bremer said he wanted to refute the suggestion in Mr. Bush's comment that Mr. Bremer had acted to disband the army without the knowledge and concurrence of the White House.
"We must make it clear to everyone that we mean business: that Saddam and the Baathists are finished," Mr. Bremer wrote in a letter that was drafted on May 20, 2003, and sent to the president on May 22 through Donald H. Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense.
After recounting American efforts to remove members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein from civilian agencies, Mr. Bremer told Mr. Bush that he would "parallel this step with an even more robust measure" to dismantle the Iraq military.
One day later, Mr. Bush wrote back a short thank you letter. "Your leadership is apparent," the president wrote. "You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence."
In an interview with Robert Draper, author of the new book, "Dead Certain," Mr. Bush sounded as if he had been taken aback by the decision, or at least by the need to abandon the original plan to keep the army together.
"The policy had been to keep the army intact; didn’t happen," Mr. Bush told the interviewer. When Mr. Draper asked the president how he had reacted when he learned that the policy was being reversed, Mr. Bush replied, "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"
Maybe Bremer will get around to remembering where he put that $8 billion. And explain how Bush gave him the authority to dispose of it.