The Axis of Ineptitude

Georgewbush_lpaulbremer20medal20of2 "Moreover, any thought of using the old army was undercut by conditions on the ground. Before the 2003 war, the army had consisted of about 315,000 miserable draftees, almost all Shiite, serving under a largely Sunni officer corps of about 80,000. The Shiite conscripts were regularly brutalized and abused by their Sunni officers. When the draftees saw which way the war was going, they deserted and, like their officers, went back home. But before the soldiers left, they looted the army’s bases right down to the foundations.

So by the time I arrived in Iraq, there was no Iraqi army to disband. Some in the U.S. military and the CIA’s Baghdad station suggested that we try to recall Hussein’s army. We refused, for overwhelming practical, political and military reasons."  Bremer


Tenet, Bremer, Franks.  This is a trio of sycophants and self-serving careerists, largely devoid of creative thought and any real intellect who were given the job of managing history when all they really wanted was to manage their careers and incomes.  They truly deserve to be known as the "Axis of Ineptitude."

Bremer has been allowed by the neocon leadership of the Washington Post to place a whining, mendacious piece in this Sunday’s paper.

It is filled with evidence of his stupidity, ignorance and willingness to deceive in self defense.

As an example, his characterization of the old Iraqi Army is nonsense.  That army was a NATIONAL army that stood at the very center of whatever NATIONAL institutions Iraq possessed.  That army fought very creditably against the Iranians.  Their performance has been much distorted in American popular imagination by the political warfare of the Iranians and their regional allies.  In the Iran-Iraq War the Iraqi national army’s mixed units fought well against the sectarian brethren of the Iraqi Shia.  There were many senior Shia officers in that army.  The commanding general of the Republican Guards Armored Corps in the invasion of Kuwait was a Shia lieutenant general.  He is currently employed in the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad.  The Iraqis did not fight in the First Gulf War?  Ask the US Marines of 2nd Marine Division who had to use MLRS in the "direct fire" mode to stop a counter-attack on their division CP just south of the Kuwait Airport.  Did you ever talk to them, Jerry?

US Forces found when they reached Baghdad in ’03 that the personnel records of the Iraqi military, including the Republican Guard, revealed that not more than 8% of the officer corps of the Iraqi military had been members of the Baath Party.  See "Cobra II" for that "nugget."

The army, including the Guard, did not fight us hard in ’03?  That’s right.  They did not.  The poor fools believed Bremer’s government’s propaganda which held out to them the prospect that they would participate in building a new Iraq.  It was the Baathist militias who fought us.  They fought rather hard. 

The understanding of the US military before the war was that the Iraqi military would be employed in stabilizing the country.  American generals were discussing the basis of that cooperation with their Iraqi counter-parts when Bremer (Feith’s lapdog) announced that they were out of business.  The Iraqi military felt betrayed then, and still do.  It had all been a lie.  Nothing has changed.  pl

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32 Responses to The Axis of Ineptitude

  1. MarcLord says:

    Sycophants. There should be another word for members of the AOI: psychophants.

  2. peterp says:

    Today it’s Bremer, tomorrow it will be Liz Cheney, the day after Ken Pollock or Fred Kagan — or, who knows, maybe even Paul Wolfowitz.
    Reading the Washington Post op-ed page these days is like reading Pravda in the twilight years of Communism. It’s an endless series of communiques from leading members of the Politburo — all insisting that nothing has changed and the party is still the vanguard of history. Meanwhile the crops are rotting in the fields, the factories are turning out crap that nobody wants to buy and the workers are all drunk on vodka. But the propaganda machine keeps cranking away.
    Which is appropriate, since telling fairy tales is the only core competency of ideologues.

  3. J says:

    that ‘triage’ of delusion has caused more heartache for so many than one could shake a stick at. too bad that the ‘three’ won’t ever face criminal prosecution for their ‘ineptitude’.

  4. whynot says:

    Now, that’s some good old fashion vitriol, Colonel.

  5. zanzibar says:

    “…willingness to deceive in self defense.” – PL
    Bremer, Tenet, Franks, Rumsfeld, Condi, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, etc – and all the architects of the “new” Iraq are accomplished in one thing – deceit!
    They not only deceived the American public before the invasion, they have continuously deceived us with their pronouncements of the occupation and now decieve in self-defense when we all know the disaster that is Iraq with incredible sacrifice of American and Iraqi life.
    I realize our politics will not hold of any of them to account and they will skate. But I know I will always hold them in contempt!

  6. Montag says:

    Former Gen. Jay Garner, Bremer’s predecessor, had a rough-and-ready proposal for separating the sheep from the goats in the Baath Party. He predicted that the Iraqis would simply kill any real bad actors and leave those who had joined just to get along alone. He was livid when Bremer ordered the firing of the entire army.
    Reminds me of a joke from the old Dick Van Dyke Show. They’re stuck in an elevator between floors and are reading the placard listing the elevator inspections over the years. All of them had been done by the same man without any problems, except someone else did the last inspection. Van Dyke says ruefully, “I sure wish they’d stuck with the first guy.”

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Who made the decision to disband the Iraqi Army?
    And why?
    Do you know?

  8. Marilyn M. Scanlan says:

    Bremer and Tenet share the Medal of Freedom …. a waste that should make Bush blush.

  9. D.Witt says:

    Bremer’s wildly flailing defense is laughable, not only for his rear-guard attempt to justify disbanding the military, but also for the number of times that he invokes Hitler and the Nazis. Who knew that we were so close to a Saddam-led blitzkrieg that would engulf the entire world?
    Bremer conveniently leaves out the third pillar of his inept administration: The ideological cronyism (similar to the Justice dept putsch) that placed inexperienced political appointees into positions far beyond their abilities.
    The relevance in this forum is this: No matter what strategic and tactical moves are made by our military leadership, ultimately, they are hamstrung by incompetent civilian leadership, whose sole fealty is to the corrupt neocon political machine. The goal for Iraq is, was and always will be, to serve the neocon political agenda, which is the reason why it is doomed to failure.

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    So far as I can see it was a decision of the neocon “collective,” something like the “Borg.”
    It was carried out by Bremer and Slocum, but I don’t think they made the decision. pl

  11. Dave of Maryland says:

    Col. Lang:
    As you mention that some few units of the Iraqi Army fought creditably in 2003.
    At the time some of us were glued to a website known as Venik’s Aviation. That site claimed to give daily updates on the war, presumably straight from Russian intelligence. Most of these were not flattering to the US. Presuming you saw these reports at the time, can you give an opinion of them?

  12. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    It is not for me to tell you what to do, but this posting should achieve wider circulation.
    Would you submit it either to the Times or the Post as an Op-Ed piece?

  13. psd says:

    –“So far as I can see it was a decision of the neocon ‘collective,’ something like the ‘Borg.'”
    Finally, an appropriate term for those neocon nincompoops who have totally trashed our foreign policy. Now instead of referring to BushCo, BushBabies, or whatever, I can just refer to this administration as the Borg. Thanks, Col.
    And in response to “It had all been a lie. Nothing has changed.” I say, of course they lie. That is what they do–as far as I can tell, it’s the only thing.

  14. Sandy says:

    What I’d like to know, Col. Lang, is what you think about Dick Cheney standing on an aircraft carrier threatening Iran.
    Bush and Cheney are still very much interested in bombing Iran and “regime change” as much, or more, as Iraq.
    Don’t you believe they WILL do it — American public opinion be damned — before Bush leaves office?

  15. Will says:

    According to Jay Garner the disband decision was made nominally by civ pentagon No. 3 Feith but probably higher up by the Shooter’s office “Scooter” and Pumphead.
    from the WashPo an earlier article
    “”We’ve made three tragic decisions,” Garner told Rumsfeld.
    “Really?” Rumsfeld asked.
    “Three terrible mistakes,” Garner said.
    He cited the first two orders Bremer signed when he arrived, the first one banning as many as 50,000 members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from government jobs and the second disbanding the Iraqi military. Now there were hundreds of thousands of disorganized, unemployed, armed Iraqis running around.
    Third, Garner said, Bremer had summarily dismissed an interim Iraqi leadership group that had been eager to help the United States administer the country in the short term. “Jerry Bremer can’t be the face of the government to the Iraqi people. You’ve got to have an Iraqi face for the Iraqi people.”
    Garner made his final point: “There’s still time to rectify this. There’s still time to turn it around.”
    Rumsfeld looked at Garner for a moment with his take-no-prisoners gaze. “Well,” he said, “I don’t think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are.”
    He thinks I’ve lost it, Garner thought. He thinks I’m absolutely wrong. Garner didn’t want it to sound like sour grapes, but facts were facts. “They’re all reversible,” Garner said again.
    “We’re not going to go back,” Rumsfeld said emphatically.
    Later that day, Garner went with Rumsfeld to the White House. But in a meeting with Bush, he made no mention of mistakes. Instead he regaled the president with stories from his time in Baghdad.
    In an interview last December, I asked Garner if he had any regrets in not telling the president about his misgivings.
    “You know, I don’t know if I had that moment to live over again, I don’t know if I’d do that or not. But if I had done that — and quite frankly, I mean, I wouldn’t have had a problem doing that — but in my thinking, the door’s closed. I mean, there’s nothing I can do to open this door again. And I think if I had said that to the president in front of Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld in there, the president would have looked at them and they would have rolled their eyes back and he would have thought, ‘Boy, I wonder why we didn’t get rid of this guy sooner?’ ”
    “They didn’t see it coming,” Garner added. “As the troops said, they drank the Kool-Aid.”
    Gen. Baptiste in today’s NYT tells it like it is.
    Meanwhile in NC a sorry bum by the name of McLaughlin says he will file against Rep. Walter E. Jones Jr. R-NC b/c by voting against Bush he is “not supporting the troops.” What a dumbass.

  16. VietnamVet says:

    From the top on down, the Party believed their own propaganda. Establish a pro-Israel colony, privatize industry and freedom will reign in the Middle East. The bureaucrats, who knew something about war and the Middle East and who had to deal with the crazies, shut their mouths and waited for their retirement date.
    The group instinct that looks the other way at torture and ethnic cleansing; until they too are herded on the chain-link buses, pensions gone.

  17. johnf says:

    Rajiv Chandrasekaran deals with the decision in some detail in “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    In my experience the Iraqi Army to include the Guard:
    -fought with increasing skill as the Iran-Iraq War progressed.
    -was defeated soundly by us and the coalition in the First Gulf War although some units put up a creditable fight. The basic problem the Iraqis faced in that war was their complete inability to deal with coalition air and the overwhelming superiority of the Abrams tank.
    – A decade of attrition through sanctions and neglect from Saddam.
    – Half- hearted participation in the ’03 War for reasons I stated. Some units fought around Karbala but in general my impression is that most of the harassment of our columns and resistance in cities was done by party militias.
    I am quite willing to hear other opinions on the ’03 business. pl

  19. Chris M says:

    Col. Lang,
    Any comments on this article in the Times today?
    Civilian Deaths Undermine War on Taliban

  20. walrus says:

    You are all wrong. It is not ineptitude that has led us to where we are now. It is not stupidity that has seen us compound the misery of the Iraqi people. It is deliberate policy.
    We are into nation destroying, not nation building. It is good for us and our clients. Do we really want to spread freedom, liberty and democracy around the world? Of course not, because if we did, citizens of many countries would vote to remove their corrupt governments that we have supported for so long. Look no further than South America. Do we want any more Chavez’s threatening our business interests? Do we really want more Spains?
    Does Israel want to be surrounded in a sea of modern Democratic, prosperous, secular Islamic states? Of course not! That would only highlight Israeli theocracy and apartheit and make the Jewish right wing religious fanatics look bad!
    Nope, we want our Ayrabs disorganized, tribalized, corrupt, ignorant and incapable of bootstrapping themselves out of misery and squalor for as long as possible, or at least until we have stolen their oil.
    Why do you think when Israel went to war in Lebanon that they attacked all of Lebanon’s infrastructure? Why do you think they sowed cluster bombs? It was about “nation busting”. Arab states must not be prosperous, nor secular, because it changes the landscape and terms under which the Palestinians are discussed.
    The longer they can be held in this disorganised, miserable state, the longer it will be before Israel has to confront the need for raprochement with the Palestinians.
    As for the Neo Cons, well the “war on terror” is a pretty good copy of Orwells “1984” isn’t it? Just substitute Osama bin Laden for Emmanuel Goldstein. It allows the ruling class to remain in power and avoid confronting the myriads of things America should be concentrating on.
    Like universal health care – “Why worry about health care when the terrorists will kill us in our beds?”
    Election and campaign funding reform – “Don’t you support the troops?”
    Strengthening the economy – “Better a smoking gun than a mushroom cloud”
    You are being led through the nose. Guantanamo, Al Ghraib, rendition, torture, the disbanding of the Iraqi army, the demonisation of muslims, the “surge”, the spectre of Iran. All these are deliberate constructs. They are not accidental at all.
    They are designed to leave America believing itself to be in a permanent state of war against an amorphous and shadowy enemy who will never, ever, go away, and whose defeat always remains a tantalizing possibility, leading us to further excesses and atrocities.
    Fear rules America. God help us all.

  21. jamzo says:

    this blog is a good example of the public discourse
    people are trying to figure out WHO did what to create the iraq and foreign policy mess the US is in today
    few seem willing to point to the man-in-charge
    the president, the guy who likes to call himself the “commander-in-chief”, the guy who likes to call himself “the decider”
    even though he won two highly contested elections by small margins, few people are willing to say that we have a failed leader

  22. Matthew says:

    Defeat is now certain. The fact that the official media organs are fully engaged in spreading Neo-Con nonsense confirms what Vali Nasr told my public affairs group recently. The Pentagon civilians are setting up the military to take the fall…. recently

  23. anna missed says:

    Even by Bremmers own words, the Iraqi Army was essentially Shiite conscripts under secular (although Baathist) administration. Secular. Nationalist.
    Now, four years later we can only dream of such an Iraqi Army. Now that chaos has been allowed to rule, sending that former army into the service of militias for protection and income. That we have now spent billions on re-training in a futile effort to turn back the clock. Stupidity on an epic scale.

  24. anna missed says:

    Anyway, Bush probably liked Bremmer mostly because he was into the whole costume thing too. You know the whole “Combat Boots and Business Suits” routine.

  25. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    For an accurate account of Iraqi conduct during the ’03 war, please read JFCOM’s Iraqi Perspectives Project report here:
    A summary can be found in the the May/June 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs:
    In short, the Iraqi Army might have put up a more credible defense but they were hobbled by Saddam’s and his kids “leadership” and inept Command of the military. Secondly, after the 1991 Shia uprising Saddam became even more fearful of coups, particularly from the military and particularly from the Republican Guard. It may come as a surprise to learn the Iraqi divisions had to use their own reconnaissance elements to find out where exactly other Iraqi units on their flanks were. Any “meeting” of division or other senior commanders was viewed by the regime as a probable coup plot and could easily get those commanders cut up into little pieces as an example.
    Also after the 1991 uprising, Saddam was unhappy with the slow reaction and performance of the Army in suppressing it. It was that uprising and the poor performance of the Army (in Saddam’s mind) that lead to the creation of the militias like the Feydeyeen Saddam. Their primary purpose was internal security, but they threw themselves against American formations in ’03 with predictable results.

  26. Cold War Zoomie says:

    His op-ed had my head reeling. It was so bad on so many fronts, there’s no reason to even critique it.
    So that leaves me with nothing more than questions.
    Who is the intended audience of this claptrap?
    And why did he really write it? I cannot imagine he would actually change any critic’s mind with such a weak performance.
    Or is he just really that dumb and believes this is a hearty defense?

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Bremer is not a small fish, more of a mid level one considering he was managing director of the Kissinger Group, HtheK’s consultancy. Kissinger has been a regular advisor to Bush43. Iraq war cheerleader George Shultz, as campaign co-chair with Cheney, helped create the Bush43 foreign policy team, “Vulcans.” Shultz, Kissinger, Rumsfeld and company are friends and colleagues.
    Is it possible/plausible that a consensus was reached at this level of the players and that lower downs like Bremer merely executed it? I think so noting op-eds penned jointly by Kissinger and Shultz on the Iraq War that have appeared in the US and in Europe.
    Would not the SeDef have had to sign off on the dismantling of the Iraqi Army/Baath apparatus? Or the White House at VP Cheney’s level at least? What about NSC sign off? What about State? No interagency process?
    Bremer biographic data:

  28. swerv21 says:

    I guess the broader question is to what extent would maintaining the iraqi army have impeded the development of militant shiite sectarianism in Iraq?
    It’s not the hardest thing to figure out. You now have literally an army of disaffected sunni officers and shiite grunts with axes to grind and no prospects.
    Garner and others have repeatedly told us that they made many noises about the debathification order and were ignored. But you needn’t ask them- any man on the street in Syria or Iraq could tell you what a colossal mistake and insult such an order would have represented. It doesn’t take an ‘expert’.
    So the question is, was Jerry Bremer, former abassador, 23 year foreign service veteran, Harvard grad, and former managing director of Kissinger Associates, etc. etc. really that clueless?
    Bremer himself has said that the baath party (and the army) was too representative of ‘the old Iraq’.
    Maybe we should take him at his word.

  29. taters says:

    Wasn’t ‘Viceroy’ Bremer one of the chief proponents of the no Arabic speakers need apply?
    He, among others deliberately avoided consulting with anyone with any expertise in the country or region. He is a pompous, insufferable ass and the price being paid for the mistakes during his tenure can not be under estimated.
    So we have an unholy trinity – the general who let bin Laden escape, a complicit, spineless CIA chief who was a big factor in cooking the books for our invasion of Iraq and the man who bears considerable blame for Iraq of today. All presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain folks…
    Col. Lang (and I’m sure some of you, too) – knows how long leaflets were being dropped on the Iraqi Army for if and when the time came to join the team. I believe it pre dated this admin.

  30. Antiquated Tory says:

    “So by the time I arrived in Iraq, there was no Iraqi army to disband…”
    I have heard Bremmer’s excuse word-for-word from a friend of mine who’s a solid Bush apologist working in US intelligence. This isn’t just something Czar Paul cooked up on his own. This is the view from the Bush camp inside the government and perhaps always has been, rather than being a justification in retrospect.
    I think it’s still nonsense but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe it.

  31. b says:

    Nir Rosen takes on Bremer’s oped in a counter-oped:
    What Bremer Got Wrong in Iraq

    In Bremer’s mind, the way to occupy Iraq was not to view it as a nation but as a group of minorities. So he pitted the minority that was not benefiting from the system against the minority that was, and then expected them both to be grateful to him. Bremer ruled Iraq as if it were already undergoing a civil war, helping the Shiites by punishing the Sunnis. He did not see his job as managing the country; he saw it as managing a civil war. So I accuse him of causing one.
    Bremer claims that Hussein “modeled his regime after Adolf Hitler’s” and compares the Baath Party to the Nazi Party. Set aside the desperation of the debater who reaches immediately for the Nazi analogy and remember that there is no mention of such “modeling” in any of the copious literature about Iraq. This ludicrous Nazi analogy permeates the entire article; it also permeated the proconsul’s time in Baghdad, when Bremer imagined himself de-Nazifying postwar Germany, saving the Jews (the Shiites) from the Nazis (those evil Sunnis).
    This thoughtless comparison is one of the main reasons why he performed so horribly in Iraq. (Remember, most Baath Party members were Shiites; so in Bremer’s analogy, I suppose most of the Iraqi “Nazis” would be “Jews.”)

  32. Trent says:

    b, thank you.

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