And Why Scholars Need to Learn the Full Truth


This paper builds upon the existing literature regarding the Iraq War and Occupation and the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) Orders 1 and 2.  The paper follows from an analysis of the key experts and authorities involved directly in the decision to remove hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from their civilian and security jobs in May 2003, which many consider to be the primary source of the Iraqi insurgency and tens of thousands of American and Iraqi casualties.  It focuses on what is considered to be the most important question that has yet to be recognized or answered convincingly by the current literature: Who officially authorized CPA Orders 1 and 2?  It is a critical question in terms of history, the Iraq War and Occupation, and democratic leadership and accountability.  To this day, no one from the Bush Administration, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ever declared publicly that they officially authorized the creation of CPA Orders 1 and 2.  The blame is passed to CPA head L. Paul Bremer III for announcing the orders and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith for drafting the orders.  Yet, nobody has ever identified the higher authority who told them to carry out the orders.  This is critical since the orders completely contradicted the Bush Administration’s public declarations regarding the war and its objectives.  It also raises serious questions regarding international law.  So, either Bremer and Feith committed one of the greatest acts of insubordination in American history, or they were carrying out the wishes of their superiors, mainly Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.  None of the big three, or trinity, has ever acknowledged initiating and authorizing the orders.  This raises serious questions as to why there is such reticence on accepting responsibility for initiating the orders.  Thus, this paper analyzes and evaluates the issue and explains more fully the implications of this unanswered question.  And, it counters the attempts by some in the original policymaking group to avoid responsibility.  The paper ends with a call for all scholars, journalists, and others to seek out the answer to the last remaining major question of the Iraq War and Occupation: Who officially authorized CPA Orders 1 and 2?


As U.S. forces prepare to leave Iraq by August 2011, it is important to recognize that one of the most important questions of the Iraq War and Occupation has yet to be answered: Who officially authorized Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Orders 1 and 2?  The CPA was created by the Bush Administration on April 21, 2003 in the midst of the Iraq War, which began on March 19, 2003.  The CPA was intended to act as a caretaker government after Saddam Hussein’s regime was removed.  It was expected to oversee the transition to a new and democratically elected Iraqi government.  The CPA lasted until June 28, 2004.  L. Paul Bremer III was chosen to head the CPA.  Bremer’s first two official orders when he arrived in Iraq in May 2003 were targeted specifically at de-Ba’athification, i.e. the removal of all key Ba’ath Party members from their jobs (Order 1), and the complete disbandment of the Iraqi military and internal security forces (Order 2).  Order 1 was issued on May 16, 2003 and led to the immediate firing of an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 former Ba’ath Party members.  Millions more, however, who were required to be Ba’ath Party members as teachers, doctors, technicians, and other skilled workers, were targeted unofficially and driven from their jobs (through firing, threats, intimidation, violence, etc.) by many people, especially Shia, who wanted employment and retaliation for decades of Sunni oppression; Order 1 gave them the cover of official sanction and a very broad and open-ended directive.  Order 2 was issued on May 23, 2003 and led to the immediate firing of approximately 500,000 Iraqi military and security personnel.  These two orders alone are recognized by many to be the primary contributors to the creation of a large Iraqi insurgency and the subsequent long-term U.S. military occupation and mass casualties (Feith 2008; Ferguson 167-169, 186-187; Allawi 159; Tenet 426-430; Sanchez 198; et al).

Many books and articles have been written on Iraq since 2003, including those from the Bush Administration (Bush 2010; Bremer 2006; Feith 2008; Tenet 2007; Gordon and Trainor 2006;  Ferguson 2008; Allawi 2007; Woodward 2008, 2006, 2004; Sanchez 2008; Ricks 2006; Isikoff and Corn 2006; Dobbins 2009; Pfiffner 2010; et al.).  If one analyzes the literature and wording closely, then one will notice that there is an extreme nuance at best—if not, deliberate obfuscation or outright fear of at worst—regarding who exactly authorized the CPA’s Orders 1 and 2 (see especially Bremer 2006 and Feith 2008).  In fact, to this day, none of the former officials involved, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has ever taken public responsibility for officially initiating the drafting and, then, authorizing the two orders.  Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, drafted the orders according to many directly involved.  Bremer, as CPA head, released the orders to the public, which was highly publicized.  Who told Feith to draft the orders?  And, who told Bremer to issue them?  It is critical to know the answers since these orders were completely contradictory to the Bush Administration’s publicly declared war aims and they virtually guaranteed a mass insurgency and long-term American occupation, leading to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and American casualties and costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

Political Context and Importance

There has been much back and forth blaming, passing the buck, complete contradictions of each other, and a wide range of smoke and mirrors as to who actually initiated Orders 1 and 2.  This should raise many red flags for scholars and others interested in knowing the truth.  This issue went beyond scholarly inquiry and into the public light on April 6, 2008 when 60 Minutes interviewed Douglas Feith, while he was promoting his new book, War and Decision.   During the questioning, Feith contradicted everyone else’s claim that he had drafted Orders 1 and 2, and then he declared that Bremer only told him about the orders just before he flew off to Baghdad.  Steve Kroft, the 60 Minutes reporter, then asked Feith if Rumsfeld had approved the orders and Feith stated emphatically, “I did not find, in the record, any piece of paper in which Secretary Rumsfeld signed off on it” (60 Minutes online transcript).  In other words, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush had never told Feith or Bremer to draft the orders.  Yet, Feith admits in his book that he had given Bremer a large stack of policy plans, ideas, and recommendations for the CPA (Feith 2008: 423).  Many others have acknowledged that Feith was directly involved in drafting Orders 1 and 2 (Bremer 2006: 39-45; Gordon and Trainor 2006: 476-483; Dobbins 2009: 55-57; Sanchez 2008: 186; Ricks: 2006: 168; et al.).  Feith’s television response seemed to shock the 60 Minutes reporter, so much so that there was little follow-up questioning to this highly controversial statement.  Feith has now apparently backed off the claim of complete ignorance in terms of drafting the orders, but he still refuses to say who authorized him to do so.  So, with this line of argument, Feith cannot explain why he deliberately acted against his superiors’ publicly declared policy of removing only Saddam and his top henchmen from the Iraqi government.  Feith also has not explained why a comprehensive policy assessment was not undertaken before the orders were drafted, let alone issued.  Most experts agree that the two orders virtually guaranteed a mass insurgency, large numbers of American and Iraqi casualties, and hundreds of billions of dollars in a long-term occupation (Feith 2008; Ferguson 167-169, 186-187; Allawi 159; Tenet 426-430; Sanchez 198; et al).  A gathering of the experts to assess the policy proposal would have been the prudent thing to do.  Yet there is no evidence meetings ever took place regarding Orders 1 and 2 before they were issued.