Paul Bremer, the man who led the US civilian authority in Iraq following the toppling of Saddam, has written a new book about his experience in Iraq and, naturally, is doing the interview rounds to drum up publicity for the book.
On Sunday, Paul Harris of The Observer/Guardian covered one of those interviews
, with NBC, while today National Review Online had its own interview
with Bremer. It is interesting to contrast the two, especially the impression one gets of the tone of Bremers thoughts about Iraq.
For instance, Harris says that Bremer claims that “ultimately the White House bore responsibility for decisions that had led to the current violence.” In the NRO interview, when asked if the current insurgency was the fault of the US, Bremer says simply “No, the insurgency is the fault of the insurgents and the terrorism is the fault of the terrorists."
Harris says that in the NBC interview Bremer “recounted the decision to disband the Iraqi army quickly”, a “decision” which, Harris says, has come under much criticism. But in the NRO interview, Bremer says that no such decision was ever made, calling it a “myth”.
The facts are these: There was not a single Iraqi army unit intact in the country at Liberation. There was no army to “disband.” It had “self-demobilized,” in the Pentagon’s phrase. Hundreds of thousand of Shia draftees, seeing which way the war was going, had simply gone home. They were not going to come back into a hated army.
With regard to the NBC interview, Harris says that “Bremer’s comments will upset [the] optimistic picture [of Iraq being presented by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw].” However, in the NRO interview, Bremer says:
I stay in touch by phone, e-mail, letter, and message with many Iraqis. I think what would surprise most Americans is how optimistic most Iraqis are about their future despite the daily terrorist attacks. You could say, “Well that’s because they’ve been down so long there’s nowhere to go but up.” But they are going up and one of the least-reported aspects of Iraq is the enormous economic advances they’ve made. According to the IMF, per-capita income has doubled in the past two years.
Harris goes on to claim that Bremer “join(s) a lengthening list of Iraqi hawks turned critics of policy in the country.” Yet in the NRO interview, Bremer says that he remains “a strong supporter of the president, both in the war on terrorism and in the Liberation of Iraq.”
Not having seen the NBC interview, it is difficult to know just what accounts for the discrepancies. Perhaps Bremer is telling different stories to different audiences. Perhaps it was the nature of the questions he was asked. Or maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with Paul Harris spinning Bremer's comments to appear as negative about the liberation of Iraq as he possibly can.
You make the call.