Wednesday, April 19, 2006


General Batiste recycles

Retired Army Major General John Batiste has a not all too interesting column in today’s Washington Post whereby he rehashes his criticisms of Secretary Rumsfeld.   A Case for Accountability

Among his litany of complaints is this:

“We disbanded the Iraqi military. This created unbelievable chaos, which we were in no position to control, and gave the insurgency a huge source of manpower, weapons and military experience. Previous thinking associated with war planning depended on the Iraqi military to help build the peace. Retaining functioning institutions is critical in the rebuilding process. We failed to do this.”

Of course, such a complaint adds nothing to the conversation here as General Batiste is merely regurgitating what has become a conventional wisdom. You get the idea that some of these critics would be less upset if we disbanded our own military. As usual, the disbanding is not all what it seems.

To begin with, it is not as if US authorities gathered the Iraqi army then gave them their discharges. Paul Bremer, the man behind the decision explains:

“If you go back and look at the statements that we made when we disbanded the Iraqi army—which was an unfortunate use of words, because there was no army to disband—they had already gone home and broken ranks. I said very clearly at the time that members of the former army would be welcome in the new security forces, the army, the police, the National Guard. And by the time I left, 80 percent of the enlisted men in the Iraqi army and civil defense force were in fact former members of the army and 100 percent of the officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers]. So, there’s nothing new in that. They have in fact been there, but we weren’t going to recreate an army the size of Saddam’s, which was more than a half million strong, the fifth largest in the world.” Bremer: An Early Withdrawal From Iraq Would Give Terrorists ‘A Big Victory’ - Council on Foreign Relations

The decision was made on May 23, 2003 as Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Order Number 2: Dissolution of Entities CPA Order #2. The order clearly spells out payment plans for the Iraqi Army members (except for certain senior Baathist Party members), including pensions:

“A termination payment in an amount to be determined by the Administrator will be paid to employees so dismissed,…

“Pensions being paid by, or on account of service to, a Dissolved Entity before April 16, 2003 will continue to be paid, including to war widows and disabled veterans,..”

Paul Bremer further explains what happened after the termination payment:

“We knew we had to make room in society for these guys, and so we established a system of paying them a monthly stipend as we called it, which was designed to be slightly more than they would have gotten if they’d had a pension from the Iraqi government. And that stipend was paid every month from then until the end of the occupation and then past that. So to argue that these people were sort of thrown out on the streets with no money [and became insurgents as a result] is simply factually wrong.”

General Batiste is certainly entitled to his opinion…and since his opinion is critical of this Administration he will never lack for a forum. Perhaps he can use these forums to explain just how he would have done things differently in this matter…including why a 500,000 man, Baathist-dominated Iraqi army would have been the more sensible alternative.

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