Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on reports by Ambassador Bremer that the president and his most senior advisors failed to address serious concerns about the war in Iraq. A fact sheet on the contradictory statements between Bremer and the Bush administration follows below:
“Ambassador Bremer paints a troubling picture of the Bush Administration’s decision-making process and honesty with the American people during a time of war. Bremer’s allegations about how the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense failed to address serious concerns about coalition troop strength, the Iraqi insurgency, and the readiness of the Iraqi security forces are disturbing. At a minimum, they suggest dysfunction in the President’s war cabinet. It would be helpful for the President and others in the Administration to explain to the American people what really happened and to assure all Americans that they really do have a coherent plan for successfully completing the mission in Iraq.”
Bremer Challenges Bush Administration’s Story on Iraq
The Former Head of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, has recently begun to speak out about the Bush Administration’s failures in prosecuting the war in Iraq. Bremer, who was on the ground in Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, paints a starkly different picture of the situation there than members of the Bush Administration, raising questions about how candid members of the Bush Administration have been about the war.
Bremer vs. the Bush Administration on Troop Strength
Bremer Says He Asked for More Troops on Multiple Occasions:
“Williams: (voiceover) ‘Just days after he got the job, Bremer says he saw an alarming report from a think tank, concluding it would take three times more US troops to stabilize Iraq than had actually been sent. He says he tried to get the attention of his direct boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld…[to Bremer] ‘You’ll need a half a million soldiers.’ It’s a paper you sent to Secretary Rumsfeld. How did he react to that?
Bremer: I sent a summary of it around to Rumsfeld, and just said I thought he should take a look at this. I–I never had a reaction from him.
Williams: (voiceover) Though Bremer said he never heard back from his direct boss, he says he then discussed his concerns with the President. According to Ambassador Bremer, President Bush said he would try to get more troops from other countries, but made no mention of increasing the number of American forces. [NBC, Dateline, 1/8/06]
Bremer Raises His Concerns About Force Levels Again With President Bush
“Bremer also said he raised his concerns with Bush at a lunch that month and again in June 2003 in a video link with a National Security Council meeting chaired by Bush. ‘I was trying to reach the president’s ear, because I had the impression that the armed services, and possibly Rumsfeld himself, were in a hurry to get our troops home.’” [Washington Post, 1/10/06]
“There’s one other important issue, Mr. President,” I added. “Troop levels. I’m a diplomat, not a general. But I just saw a pretty persuasive draft RAND report arguing that to stabilize Iraq we’ll probably need an awful lot more troops than we have now.” ["My Year In Iraq," L. Paul Bremer, page12.]
“But according to the CENTCOM briefing in Qatar, we didn’t yet have enough troops in Baghdad to secure key tactical objectives – traffic circles, bridges, power plants, banks and munitions dumps and also patrol the streets….This has got change fast. Fast.” [Bremer book, page 14.]
Bremer Raises His Concerns About Force Levels Again with Rumsfeld; Also Raises His Concerns with then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Powell.
“I report in the book about a private question I raised with General Sanchez, I raised a question, he didn’t. I said, ‘What would you do if you had two more divisions available to you?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’d do better at controlling the streets of Baghdad,’ and so forth. But I did not discuss my recommendation.” [NBC, Today, 1/9/06]
Williams: “[i]n May 2004 he [Bremer] sent a private message to Secretary Rumsfeld asking for more US troops, but nothing happened. He writes, ” I verified that the secretary received my message, I did not hear back from him,” [Interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Dateline, 1/8/06]
Williams: “Bremer says he also raised the security issue with then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. He says he told her of his fear that the US had become an ineffective occupier.” [Interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Dateline, 1/8/06]
Powell Conversation Suggests Domestic U.S. politics was influencing President Bush’s decisions on U.S. troop strength.
“Frankly, Colin, I detect mounting concern at the Pentagon, fed by the Army, about the coming troop rotation.” Powell said the problem was that the president might have to mobilize more of the National Guard, including in key states in an election year. “I realize we’re entering a campaign year,” I said. “But my job is to advise the president as best I can on what’s right for Iraq.” [Bremer book, page 203.]
But the Bush Administration Told Americans that a Relatively Small Number of Soldiers Would be Needed After the Major Conflict Ended
“What is, I think, reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark. The reality is that we already have a number of countries that have offered to participate with their forces in stabilization activities, in the event force has to be used. Second, it’s not logical to me that it would take as many forces … following the conflict as it would to win the war.” [Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Media Availability, 2/27/03]
Bremer vs. the Bush Administration on the Insurgency
Bremer Says We Weren’t Prepared for the Insurgency.
Colmes: But the problem is one of the things we did. And I know you wrote a book that in many respects is fair and balanced, but you do say that they were not prepared for the insurgency. They didn’t know. They didn’t expect it. How could you not have planned that as a contingency?
Bremer: The problem we had with the insurgency was, as I tried to say in the report, was that intelligence was largely directed at WMD before the war and in at least the aftermath of the war, trying to find the WMD, which so far we haven’t found. [Hannity and Colmes, Fox News, 1/11/06]
And he told the President about his concerns.
“Frankly, I still think we don’t have adequate intelligence about the insurgency.” “And my experience in counterterrorism has also convinced me that we’re up against a growing and sophisticated threat.” President Bush absorbed this, but did not respond. [Bremer, recounting his conversation with President Bush on September 24, 2003, page 175, Bremer book].
“We’ve got too many people looking for WMD, and not enough looking for terrorists.” [Bremer tells the President on October 27, 2003, Bremer book, page 209.]
But the Bush Administration Told Americans That U.S. Troops Would Be Greeted as liberators.
Vice President Cheney: “I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House…. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/16/03]
Cheney: “I think that the people of Iraq would welcome the U.S. force as liberators; they would not see us as oppressors, by any means.” [CNN American Morning, 9/9/02]
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “Think of the faces in Afghanistan when the people were liberated, when they moved out in the streets and they started singing and flying kites and women went to school and people were able to function and other countries were able to start interacting with them. That’s what would happen in Iraq.” [Media Roundtable, 9/13/02]
Bremer vs. the Bush Administration on Disbanding the Iraqi Army
Bremer: I Didn’t Disband Iraqi Army.
WILLIAMS: Fairly or unfairly, you may be forever known as the guy who disbanded the Iraqi army. Is that fair?
BREMER: Well, it’s not fair in two respects. (a) It wasn’t me, (b) we didn’t disband it. The decision was discussed by my advisors with the senior civilians in the pentagon for weeks before I made my recommendation, which was approved in Washington. [NBC Dateline, 1/8/06]
But, the Pentagon Said It Was His Decision To Disband Iraqi Army. “[General Peter] Pace said Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority in Baghdad, ordered the army disbanded on his own authority.” [AFP, 2/18/04]
Bremer vs. the Bush Administration on Training Iraqi Forces
Bremer: Expressed Concerns About Iraqi Force Strength.
WILLIAMS: Bremer thought the Pentagon painted a false picture of Iraq’s security forces and he said so.
BREMER: I raised my concerns about the numbers and quality of these forces – really, right from the beginning.
WILLIAMS: With whom?
BREMER: Well, with the president, with Secretary Rumsfeld, with senior military leaders. [NBC Dateline, 1/8/06]
But, the Bush Administration painted a rosy picture of progress.
President Bush: “We have continued our efforts to equip and train Iraqi security forces. We made gains in both the number and quality of those forces. Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions… Some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves.” [Address to Nation, 6/28/05]
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld: “The important fact is…that every day, every week, every month, the Iraqi security forces are larger, they’re better equipped, they’re better trained, and they’re more experienced.” [Defense Department press briefing, 9/30/05]
Bremer vs. the Bush Administration on a “Strategy for Victory”
Bremer Told Cheney there was no strategy for victory. Bremer: I said to the vice president, “You know, I’m not sure that we really have a strategy for winning this war.’ The vice president said to me, ‘Well, I – I have similar concerns.’ He thought there was something to be said for the argument that we didn’t have a strategy for victory at that time.” [Dateline, 1/8/06]
While the Bush Administration has Claimed To Have a Strategy All Along. After releasing a document entitled “Plan for Victory” in late 2005, “White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, characterized the document as an unclassified, publicly accessible explanation of strategies that the administration has been pursuing in Iraq since 2003.” [New York Times, 12/4/05]