Secretary Of War Donald Rumsfeld



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    Instead, it just disappeared. Douglas Feith, a top Rumsfeld aide and the Pentagon's policy chief, says, "The army in effect disbanded itself" as the U.S. swept into Baghdad. But within a few weeks, soldiers began to reappear, looking for work. They started showing up in May, Garner recalls. "We had planned to use them for a variety of things. They had skill sets we needed for reconstruction, clearing rubble, working on roads." The idea was to pay each of them $40 a month. The funds would come from the nearly $1.7 billion in Iraqi money frozen by the U.S. "I briefed everybody on that--[Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and the President--and nobody said no," Garner says.

    Retired U.S. Army Lieut. General Paul Cerjan, who had been hired to oversee this effort for Garner, says, "Our plan was designed to put them to work in footprints around the country, keep them at home, pay them every night so the next morning Mama would kick their ass out of the house and tell them to go back and get another dollar. You have to get the angry young men off the street. If that had happened, we would have had a lot of people back to work, and the unemployment levels wouldn't be at 70%."

    But instead of remobilizing the Iraqi army, Washington simply dissolved it on May 23. Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer arrived and did away with the Ministry of Defense and the plan to pay the Iraqis. "I don't lay that at Jerry Bremer's feet." Garner says. "He came over with a briefcase full of orders."

    U.S. officials said at the time their hand had been forced because the old army had dissolved and the Iraqi army posts had been so thoroughly looted that the U.S. lacked the infrastructure to support a remobilized militia. Also, there were fears among the U.S. honchos in Baghdad that a standing national army would be as much a force for instability as for stability. And there was another worry: in the days after Saddam fell and his circle of advisers disappeared, the U.S. had no idea whom it could trust in the Iraqi chain of command. Faced with those unknown unknowns, as Rumsfeld might say, Washington simply bagged the whole force.

    Who made that call? White House aides finger Bremer. Bremer aide Walter Slocombe claims some responsibility, but it's unlikely that a Clinton-era Democrat like Slocombe would have been allowed to make such a big decision. Wolfowitz says the decision to disband the army was unanimous. Asked whether it was Rummy's call, Feith says, "You could say that."

    Rumsfeld admits as much, in his way. Actually, he has three answers. Short: "I don't remember." Medium: "Everything that gets done--good, bad or ugly--is mine." And long: " It's perfectly right for people to debate whether it was a right or wrong decision. I haven't got time for that. My interest is, Let's get more of these guys recruited, let's get on with building the Iraqi security forces, let's create the training. That's what I'm focused on." Besides, Rumsfeld hints that the back-and-forth about demobilization no longer matters because the "overwhelming majority" of the new Iraqi army is made up of conscripts and soldiers from the old force.

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