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"More Finger-Pointing Over Iraq"

Op-Ed, The New York Times, Letter to the Editor

September 7, 2007

Author: Paul Kane, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, February 2004ľAugust 2008

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security



The following letter was written in response to L. Paul Bremer III's op-ed "How I Didn’t Dismantle Iraq’s Army" which appeared in The New York Times on September 6, 2007.


“How I Didn’t Dismantle Iraq’s Army,” by L. Paul Bremer III (Op-Ed, Sept. 6), about his role in firing the Iraqi Army in May 2003, is an exercise in bureaucratic finger-pointing.

I was on the ground in Iraq involved in combat operations when he did it. We marines were all left scratching our heads in disbelief.

I find it ludicrous that Mr. Bremer asserts that his releasing members of the old Iraqi Army to the wind and not reconstituting the force was right. With a pen stroke, he disbanded the Iraqi Army, releasing more than 400,000 heavily armed, mostly Sunni, soon to be very angry men. Overnight they lost their role in Iraqi society, their income and their promise of a pension.

The worst thing you can do to any Arab man is humiliate him. Mr. Bremer and his advisers humiliated nearly half a million Iraqi men. These Iraqis typically supported extended families of seven to eight others, derived their status from their service and possessed little or no other means of income. Mr. Bremer beggared more than three million Iraqis overnight.

Surprise of surprises that within weeks, a Sunni-led insurgency using military-issue weapons was ambushing convoys and being paid to plant bombs?

Mr. Bremer should have guaranteed all pensions for former Iraqi Army members, paid soldiers to muster at barracks, tallied their names and skills and involved them in reconstruction.

If only more veterans and fewer combat innocents were to be found among the civilian leadership today, especially among those who got us into and mismanaged this fiasco in Iraq to date, we’d likely get into fewer wars, and the ones we did, we’d prosecute them to win.

Paul Kane

Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 6, 2007

The writer is a Marine veteran of Iraq and a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School.


For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Kane, Paul. "More Finger-Pointing Over Iraq." The New York TimesLetter to the Editor, September 7, 2007.

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