Bush Can't Recall How Iraqi Army Got Disbanded, or His Own Reaction to It

Tuesday, September 04, 2007 at 07:22 PM

I sincerely thought my opinion of our erstwhile leader couldn't go lower. Then I read an excerpt of the new Bush biography Dead Certain, and a few other pieces about it. Looks like the Gonzales "I don't recall" disease infects the entire White House.

We are simply screwed until January of 2009, and probably for years to come after that.

Jim Rutenberg wrote a piece on the biography for this Sunday's NY Times. How disconnected from the gravity of Iraq does our president have to be for this exchange described below (emphasis added) to have taken place?

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

I read that several times, trying to convince myself that it meant something other than my first take on it. But it always comes out the same: the President, who was the "decision-maker" behind a war gone horribly wrong claims to simply not know how one of the most crucial decisions was made. And to this day remains so unconcerned about it that (1) he hasn't bothered to find out how the decision was made and by whom, and (2) he can't even remember his reaction to finding out about the decision, even though it purportedly ran contrary to his war policy.

Apparently Mr. Bush is "the decider" but not "the remember." The latter job falls to Mr. Hadley.

You can't be cynical enough. Just can't. The whole idea that he doesn't know how the decision was made, who made it, or how he felt upon learning of the decision defies all belief. If that's true, we now know all we need to know about the Bush presidency.

But the biography reveals several other aspects of Mr. Bush that, at least in my mind, also justify describing him as the worst president that we've ever had. There's this, also from the NYT piece (emphasis added):

... in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, he continued, “This group-think of ‘we all sat around and decided’ — there’s only one person that can decide, and that’s the president.”

Mr. Draper said Mr. Bush took issue with him for unearthing details of a meeting in April 2006 at which he took a show-of-hands vote on the future of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was among his closest advisers. Mr. Bush told Mr. Draper he had no recollection of it.

No recollection of a meeting on whether to fire one of his closest advisers?

From an an excerpt in Slate there's this (emphasis added):

The subject was himself—how his leadership skills had evolved over time, and how he had dealt with disappointment and defeat, going back to his loss to Senator John McCain in the New Hampshire primary of 2000 and now, once again, in 2006.

Bush, as always, bridled at the request to navel-gaze. "You're the observer," he said as he worked the cheese in his mouth. "I'm not. I really do not feel comfortable in the role of analyzing myself. I'll try. But I don't spend a lot of time.


"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG.


I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."

Speaking of not getting driven by the polls, he certainly does not, which could, under some circumstances, be a good thing. But the book also indicates that Bush may go so far as to think that taking them into account in trying to predict the future--a very different thing than being ruled by them--is a waste of time, as indicated by this excerpt:
I thought we were gonna hold the House and the Senate in '06. I thought we'd lose nine or ten seats, and I thought we'd be one or two up in the Senate."

Bush had held that view, almost manic in its optimism, all the way up to election day, in defiance of all available polling data. At the very mention of such data, his face began to curdle.

It's one thing to think that you need to follow a specific policy even though polls say that the policy will be unpopular with the public; it's another altogether to privately continue to believe that an election will have a vastly different outcome than what all the polls are predicting. The future effects of a policy are inherently uncertain. The likely outcome of a national election, on the other hand--and notwithstanding our two suspicious elections in 2000 and 2004--has long been predicted with a considerable degree of accuracy for a long time.

And there's this:

Bush seldom if ever implied that he carried the burden of regret or self-doubt—that he required healing of any sort. Did the grieving sense that need in him? For, as he acknowledged, "I'm told by some politicians here that the people they meet with say, 'Get out now.' That just doesn't happen with me. A couple of wives I think in Fort Hood might've said, 'It's not worth it. Bring 'em home now.' Some say, 'Get 'em home as soon as you can—but my child volunteered, they're proud of what they're doing.'
On the other hand, the Times piece also offers this:
In response to Mr. Draper’s observance that Mr. Bush had nobody’s “shoulder to cry on,” the president said: “Of course I do, I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot.”
That last quote drove me back to Ron Suskind's 2004 piece for the NY Times Magazine, Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush. That's the piece that has the famous "reality-based" discussion, as follows:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''

We're in some serious shit, here, folks. This is the same President who is making real noise about engaging in war with Iran, and the only people who can stop him are the same collection of human windvanes who occupy those comfy seats in the Senate and House.


Yeah. Look, here's a link to the NYT article written by Bremer: mparent7777-2.blogspot.com


Yeah, again. Look, I'm an idiot.
Here's the specific link:

The Bremer piece is questionable. While I don't doubt his statements about having informed the administration of his intention to formally disband the Iraqi military, I seriously doubt his other points.

The idea that the Iraqi military had already disbanded de facto is probably true but ignores the real point: was it ready and willing to be reconstituted? From what I gather, there had always been some lines of communication between the U.S. and senior Iraqi military officers, with the initial U.S. plan being to use those contacts to keep the army functional after the formal military defeat of Iraq.

Bremer's other point that Iraq was better off without reconstituting Saddam's Baathist army is also very debatable, at the least. I believe that the standard procedure after WWII was to largely keep the conquered nations' military and civil structure as intact as possible. With good reason.

Ask any of the U.S. military commanders on the ground in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad how much difficulty they had figuring out what was going on, who was who, and all the other things they needed to know to provide basic safety and services to the defeated country.