You really have to read it to believe it. Today, The New York Times Web site has the full text of an exchange of letters between President Bush and his Iraq envoy, J. Paul Bremer. They seem to back up Bremer’s claim that the president knew about the decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army in the spring of 2003, a move that would turn out to have seriously detrimental implications, providing hundreds of thousands of angry men to fuel the nascent insurgency. Bremer himself supplied the documents to the Times in an effort to clear his name and counter statements by the president that the dissolution of the army had come as a surprise to him.
Though the letter to Bush from his envoy does seem to cover Bremer, it’s not its most revealing aspect. Rather its Bremer’s tone — breezy, fawning, seemingly unaware of what was happening outside the green zone and of how critical his every decision could be for the future of the country — this is what stands out in the exchange. That’s why I’m happy the Times chose to post the whole thing, because without reading the letter in its entirety, it’s hard to get a sense of how obsequious and disconnected Bremer is here.
He spends the first four paragraphs buttering up the president with observations like these: “As I have moved around, there has been an almost universal expression of thanks to the US and to you in particular for freeing Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny. In the northern town of Mosul yesterday, an old man, under the impression that I was President Bush (he apparently has poor TV reception), rushed up and planted two very wet and hairy kisses on my cheeks.( Such events confirm the wisdom of the ancient custom of sending emissaries to far away lands).”
And only at the end of the fourth paragraph, in the penultimate sentence, does he mention, offhandedly that, “I will parallel this step with an even more robust measure dissolving Saddam’s military and intelligence structures to emphasize that we mean business.”
The article about the letters makes the point that Bremer’s reference to the army is “almost nonchalant.” But it’s toward the end of the piece and is easily lost. It’s a moment when I’m thankful for the Internet, where space is not an issue, and I can see the damning evidence for myself.