Disbanding Iraqi Army in 2003


I originally posted this on another site on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War.  Recently, the media carried a story about how the decision was made in May 2003 to disband the Iraqi Army. [Philadelphia Inquirer, March 19, 2008]


American generals and the original Iraq occupation czar, retired Gen. Jay Garner, had approved a plan to disband only the Republican Guard, regarded as being too loyal to Saddam Hussein, and use the bulk of the Iraqi Army to keep the peace and participate in reconstruction.  U.S. leaflets dropped in the early stages of the war encouraging the Iraqi Army to lay down their weapons, not to fight.  The plan, approved by the Pentagon and the State Department, was to contact key Iraqi Army officers and have the officers encourage soldiers to rejoin their units and cooperate with the invaders, for which they would be paid salaries and given meaningful defense and reconstruction work.  


While Secretary of State Colin Powell was in Paris, and Condi Rice was not available, Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, had a video conference meeting with President George W. Bush.  Bremer told W. that he had decided to disband the Iraqi Army.  W. approved, totally oblivious to the fact that he had approved a completely opposite plan just a few weeks earlier.   


Bremer says he sent a memo to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld informing him in early May of his decision to disband the Iraqi Army, and Rumsfeld gave his approval.  However, both Colin Powell and Lt Gen. David McKiernan, the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq at the time, say they would have objected if they had been consulted.


At the time, Iraq was already descending into chaos, with looting and lawlessness in the absence of a police force capable of maintaining order.  Disbanding – or not recalling — the Iraqi Army left more than 100,000 armed soldiers without salaries and without prospects for employment.  Those soldiers and officers either had their weapons, or knew where the weapons were stored.  The situation virtually guaranteed the development of an armed resistance to “Coalition” occupation.


The catastrophic consequences of disbanding, and not recalling, the Iraqi Army can only be blamed on President George W. Bush.  He had been given a plan to retain and pay for the Iraqi Army, and the reasons for doing so.  The consequences of disbanding the Iraqi Army had been anticipated by the Pentagon and the State Department, and the President had been briefed.  After this decision, all of the senior U.S. generals in Iraq resigned and retired from the military.


During the 2000 election campaign, as well as early in W’s administration, Republicans touted W’s credentials as a graduate of Harvard Business School.  However, the early years of W’s administration show that an MBA is not the same as executive experience.  No competent chief executive, with or without a Harvard MBA, would agree to a major decision, recommended by a manager in the field, without a thorough discussion with the executive team reporting to the chief executive.  Furthermore, in my experience, most chief executives have good memories; a competent chief executive would remember that the proposed decision contradicted a plan on which he had been briefed recently, and no decision would have been made until all the principals had been heard.


One Response to “Disbanding Iraqi Army in 2003”

  1. bob gardner Says:

    What’s wrong with you? Don’t you remember W. landing on the Lincoln with the big banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished? and then sauntering across the deck, helmet under his arm? Funny, whenever he’s shown getting on or off one of the executive choppers or Air Force 1, or walking across the White House lawn, he carries nothing. He’s got everything in his mind. Yeah, right.

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