Former Viceroy of Iraq L. Paul Bremer criticizes the administration’s competence in “off the record” speeches:
“We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness,” he said yesterday in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. “We never had enough troops on the ground.”
Bremer’s comments were striking because they echoed contentions of many administration critics, including Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who argue that the U.S. government failed to plan adequately to maintain security in Iraq after the invasion. Bremer has generally defended the U.S. approach in Iraq but in recent weeks has begun to criticize the administration for tactical and policy shortfalls.
In a Sept. 17 speech at DePauw University, Bremer said he frequently raised the issue within the administration and “should have been even more insistent” when his advice was spurned because the situation in Iraq might be different today. “The single most important change — the one thing that would have improved the situation — would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout” the occupation, Bremer said, according to the Banner-Graphic in Greencastle, Ind.
A Bremer aide said that his speeches were intended for private audiences and were supposed to have been off the record. Yesterday, however, excerpts of his remarks — given at the Greenbrier resort at an annual meeting sponsored by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers — were distributed in a news release by the conference organizers.
In yesterday’s speech, Bremer told the insurance agents that U.S. plans for the postwar period erred in projecting what would happen after Hussein’s demise, focusing on preparing for humanitarian relief and widespread refugee problems rather than a bloody insurgency now being waged by at least four well-armed factions.
“There was planning, but planning for a situation that didn’t arise,” he said.
Once his comments were publicized Bremer tranformed into a committed Bushite once again:
In a statement late last night, Bremer stressed that he fully supports the administration’s plan for training Iraqi security forces as well as its overall strategy for Iraq.
“I believe that we currently have sufficient troop levels in Iraq,” he said in an e-mailed statement. He said all references in recent speeches to troop levels related to the situation when he arrived in Baghdad in May 2003 — “and when I believed we needed either more coalition troops or Iraqi security forces to address the looting.”
Bremer also said he believes winning the war in Iraq is an “integral part of fighting this war on terror.” He added that he “strongly supports” President Bush’s reelection.