Envoy: Bush OK'd Plan To Disband Iraq Army

President Bush sits with longtime State Department official L. Paul Bremer, left, who is being appointed to be civil administrator in Iraq, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 6, 2003. Bremer is a former ambassador and head of the State Department's counterterrorism office. AP

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Just whose brilliant idea was it to disband the Iraqi army? The former U.S. boss of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, says President Bush knew about and supported his plans to dissolve Saddam's military, according to letters he released to the New York Times yesterday.

Annoyed that Bush was quoted in a recent book as suggesting that he had gone a bit Rambo out in the desert, Bremer disclosed his spring 2003 correspondence with the president.

The impetus for Bremer's action was Bush's interview with Robert Draper, author of the new book "Dead Certain," in which the president sounded as if he had been taken aback by the decision.

"The policy had been to keep the army intact; didn't happen," Bush told Draper. When Draper asked how he had reacted when the policy changed, Bush replied, "Yeah, I can't remember. I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"

But according to the Bremer letters, Bush responded to the envoy's briefing that he was planning to dismantle the Iraq military with a big thumbs-up the following day: "Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence."

The Times notes that the decision to disband the military is "now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents."

Pentagon Dragged Its Feet In Buying Troops Protective Gear

The Bremer letters were sent to the president through the office of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with whom Bremer claims to have discussed his plans to dismantle the military "several times," according to the Times.

Rummy also serves as a major, if absent, character in today's sweeping USA Today investigation tracking the Defense Department's slowness to equip the troops in Iraq with protective gear like body armor and devices to jam signals from detonators.

Even as the president and Pentagon officials claimed they were doing all they could to get these items for the soldiers, the paper digs up documents suggesting that "the military cut or underfunded several programs and moved so slowly and grudgingly that members of Congress" had to step in with "extraordinary measures."

Interviewed officials complained of a refusal among top military brass at the beginning of the war to believe that the fighting would be anything but brief. Once things started to get bogged down, there was a "peacetime mentality" guiding acquisition of "up-armored vehicles," the paper reports.

In one particularly striking example, Pentagon officials "balked at pleas from battlefield commanders and their own analysts to provide the lifesaving MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, for patrols and combat missions." Only after Rummy left and Robert Gates took over did the Pentagon embrace the MRAP.

But the Rumsfeld-isms continue to come, abeit filtered, from beyond the political grave. A spokesman for Rumsfeld told USA Today that "the former Defense secretary isn't interested in discussing the choices he and other made."

Memorial Day For American Labor Movement?

This Labor Day, workers flexed their muscle with a transportation strike that stranded thousands ... in London. Where it wasn't Labor Day.

The New York Times reports that 2,300 subway workers walked off the job for a three-day strike over pensions and security, closing down the bulk of the city's transit system.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the city that gave birth to the tradition of Labor Day parades, union leaders announced that they wouldn't be parading this year, according to the Times.

Instead, they'd be replacing their usual march on the Saturday after Labor Day with a rally at the World Trade Center site focusing on health issues of 9/11 workers. One labor historian proclaimed the decision was, in a head-scratcher of contradiction in terms, "a powerful message of weakness."

Separating Fact From Fiction

The Washington Post reports that researchers have discovered that "People are not good at keeping track of which information came from credible sources and which came from less trustworthy ones." So anyone seeking to discredit a misinformation campaign with more accurate information is facing a nearly impossible task.

University of Michigan social psychologist Norman Schwartz used a flier recently issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that attempts to combat myths about the flu vaccine. He found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remember 40 percent of the myths as factual. Younger people did better at first, but after three days, they made just as many errors as the older people did at first.

The psychological insights "show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths," according to the Post.

"This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was direction involved in planning Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi," the Post charitably suggests.

While the beliefs "likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account" - like this Washington Post article - "may in fact help keep it alive."

Which means that, in three days, nearly half of you will remember this posting as an account of how Bush was broadsided by Bremer's plan to disband the Iraqi military.

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  • Keach Hagey

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