Former CPA officials attack Rumsfeld for “Iraq Revisionism”

In a Feburary 15 Washington Post op-ed, former Bush administration officials Dan Senor and Roman Martinez criticized former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the “Iraq revisionism” in his new book, Known and Unknown. Senor and Martinez both served as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which served as the transitional government in Iraq following the U.S. led invasion. Senor and Martinez accuse Rumsfeld of “paint[ing] an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq's political transition” by misrepresenting his positions on policy decisions made regarding the transfer of power in Iraq. From their op-ed:

Rumsfeld's basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis “the right to govern themselves” early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a “swift transition” of power to an “Iraqi transitional government” and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon's plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld's own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 "Principles for Iraq - Policy Guidelines" that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.

To the contrary, Rumsfeld's instructions endorsed the top-down approach his book condemns. The CPA should “assert authority over the country,” he wrote, and should “not accept or tolerate self-appointed [Iraqi] 'leaders.' ”


Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government.

In fact, shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of DefenseDouglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would “take responsibility” for overseeing certain government offices and ministries - but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision. The IIA would lack independent authority to control Iraq's security forces, run Iraq's oil sector, appropriate Iraqi funds or enact legislation.

Rumsfeld claims that it was “startling news” when Bremer wrote on this page in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution.

But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: “You're on the mark,” he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. “I agree with your memo and will send it to [the president] and members of the [National Security Council].”


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