Less than a month later, on June 15, Bremer sent Rumsfeld a message with a subject heading asking “Should we pay the ex-military?” It stated, “We have been studying the problems that the disbanded Iraqi armed forces pose to force protection, general security, and law and order. When we dissolved the MOD and the old armed forces, we dismissed their employees. That has left some 230,000 officers and NCOs unemployed.” There were “tens of thousands, some of whom have been demonstrating in cities around Iraq protesting their not having been paid. This discontent among a respected group with training in weapons and with networks of contacts and loyalties presents a significant threat.”[13]

Such easily predictable consequences were no doubt precisely why the OSD and Joint Chiefs had specifically warned against immediately demobilizing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and putting them “on the street”.

On April 21, 2006, the New York Times reported that the decision to disband the Iraq army “was approved by Mr. Rumsfeld.”[14] Three days later, Rumsfeld circulated a memo saying that statement “does not ring true to me”. Without outright denying that he had approved the order, he wrote, “It is difficult for me to imagine that I approved something of this nature without the kind of interaction we normally have around here that involves the Chairman or the Vice Chairman.” He requested a review of briefing and meeting notes.[15]

On May 24, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter W. Rodman sent a memo including the OSD and Joint Chiefs of Staff documents discussed above, and reminding Rumsfeld that on May 19, 2003, “Ambassador Bremer informed you that he intended to issue an order dissolving Iraqi military and security organizations (including the regular army) as part of the de’Ba’athification effort.”[16]

While the decision-making process leading up to the issuing of Order #2 remains veiled in ambiguity, perhaps the most important facts now known are that Rumsfeld had been advised against putting Iraqi soldiers “on the street” and that he knew perfectly well that Bremer was going to issue an order contrary to that guidance, with predictable and immediately observable consequences. If Bremer had acted on his own, it is instructive that Rumsfeld neither rescinded the order nor disciplined Bremer for acting contrary to or outside of his instructions. These facts perhaps render the question of whether Rumsfeld explicitly authorized the decision moot. He was responsible for the decision either way.

But if Rumsfeld had indeed issued a directive contrary to the policy guidance he had received, and given the predictable consequences, it would explain his otherwise puzzling forgetfulness.

Notes

[1] L. Paul Bremer III, “How I Didn’t Dismantle Iraq’s Army”, New York Times, September 6, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/06/opinion/06bremer.html.

[2] “Dissolution of the Ministry of Defense and Related Entities,” Memo to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from head of the Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul Bremer III, May 19, 2003, http://library.rumsfeld.com/doclib/sp/340/2003-05-19%20from%20Bremer%20re%20Dissolution%20of%20the%20Ministry%20of%20Defense%20and%20related%20Entities.pdf#search=%22dissolution%22.

[3] Edmund L. Andrews, “Envoy’s Letter Counters Bush on Dismantling of Iraq Army,” New York Times, September 4, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/washington/04bremer.html.

[4] Bremer.

[5] “Rebuilding the Iraqi Military,” Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense, January 21, 2002. Included as Tab A of “Disbanding the Iraqi Army,” Memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter W. Rodman to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, May 24, 2006 (hereafter “Rodman Memo”), http://library.rumsfeld.com/doclib/sp/339/2006-05-24%20from%20Rodman%20re%20Disbanding%20the%20Iraqi%20Army%20-%20CLEAN.pdf#search=%22dissolution%22.

[6] “Draft Agreement between USG and ‘Iraqi Interim Authority’ (IIA),” Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense, March 3, 2003. Included as Tab B of Rodman Memo (see fn 4).

[7] “Reshaping the Iraqi Military,” Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense, March 7, 2003. Included as Tab C of Rodman Memo.

[8] “Draft Policy Guidance: De-Baathification of Iraq,” Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense, May 7, 2003. Included as Tab D of Rodman Memo.

[9] Rodman Memo.

[10] Andrews.

[11] Bremer.

[12] Andrews.

[13] “Should we pay the ex-military?” Memo from L. Paul Bremer III to Donald Rumsfeld, June 15, 2003, http://library.rumsfeld.com/doclib/sp/341/2003-06-19%20To%20Jerry%20Bremer%20re%20Response%20to%20your%20should%20we%20pay%20the%20exmilitary%20proposal.pdf#search=%22ex-military%22.

[14] Michael R. Gordon, “Criticizing an Agent of Change as Failing to Adapt,” New York Times, April 21, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/21/washington/21military.html.

[15] “Disbanding the Iraq Army,” Memo from Rumsfeld to Gen. Peter Pace, et al, Department of Defense, April 24, 2006. Attached to Rodman Memo.

[16] Rodman Memo.