February 1, 2006  

To Ambassador L. Paul Bremer

the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, for publishing the first serious memoir by a senior official involved in making Iraq policy. Ironically, Bremer’s ghost writer, Malcolm McConnell, did similar service for retired Gen. Tommy Franks, but “My Year in Iraq” puts “American Soldier” quite in the shade. In Washington, Bremer’s book has been touted as simple self-justification, but that’s unfair. For example, Bremer makes the case for de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army forcefully and straightforwardly. And it is clear that Bremer was open-minded — if not forcefully on the side of the angels — about proper troop levels after the invasion. Even before he arrived in Iraq, Bremer was persuaded by a Rand report highlighting the need for a larger force. Bremer sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a copy of the report with the advice: “I think you should consider this.” No reply. Bremer also mentioned the Rand study to President Bush. Again, no action. Bremer’s performance was far from perfect, to be sure. And it will be a long time before a clear-headed assessment of what went wrong, when and why in post-Saddam Iraq. But “My Year in Iraq” is a milestone toward that assessment, and for that, as well as his service, the man deserves a full hearing.