Saturday, October 07, 2006
Blogging Woodward (12)
Who chose L. Paul Bremer as presidential envoy to Iraq?
Since Bremer is one of the major villains of Woodward's account, the person who chose him should bear a major portion of Woodward's blame for all that went wrong. Right?
No, not quite right.
On p. 174, Woodward chastises Rumsfeld for being
a little defensive about his role in selecting Bremer when I interviewed him in 2006.
Woodward even suggests that Rumsfeld was less than fully honest in his explanation of the Bremer choice. He quotes Rumsfeld as telling him in that interview,
"Jerry Bremer, of course, was a presidential envoy, and such he reported to the president and to Condi and the NSC staff," Rumsfeld said.
"You picked him," I said.
"Just a minute," Rumsfeld said. "We all agreed on him, that he was the guy. I think I've forgotten where his name came from, but it might have been George Shultz that recommended him."
"That is not correct," Shultz said later when I told him of Rumsfeld's recollection.
OK. Now flip back just one page.
(Remember - a Woodward book is not exactly a "book" as you or I might think of one. It more like a raw intelligence product, full of unverified and often contradictory assertions. Nor is it "written" as you or I might write, that is, by composing one page after another to form a coherent narrative or argument. Rather it is compiled in rough chronological order of incident, without much regard to sequencing of thought. So while it is possible for someone like NSC official Meghan O'Sullivan to be presented as a person of rare competence on p. 127 and as utterly unfit for her job on p. 331, it is equally possible for these contradictions to appear much closer to one another.)
On p. 173, we find Rumsfeld proposing Bremer - but we see that Colin Powell and Richard Armitage bear at least as much responsibility for the choice, maybe more.
On April 24 , Rumsfeld called Powell to propose Bremer. Powell said he would have to think about it. He and Armitage reviewed Bremer's 23-year foreign service career and his close association with Kissinger and the State Department. "Yeah!" cheered Armitage. Bremer was a likely ally. But they didn't want to express too much enthusiasm. That would kill the appointment for sure.
Those two final sentences of self-pitying paranoia are not at all accurate. In fact, we see Powell's enthusiasm or lack of it swaying events throughout the book: for example, speeding the rapid rise of the aforementioned Meghan O'Sullivan from a very junior position to overall responsibility on the NSC for both Iraq and Afghanistan. But Powell has to deny his influence witthin the administration - otherwise he would have to accept at least partial responsibility for the administration's actions.
10/07 09:33 AM