If there’s one thing on which the talk-show bobbleheads and newspaper wiseacres all agree, it’s that Iraq envoy Jerry Bremer ruined a perfectly good invasion by disbanding the Iraqi army and thus creating the insurgency.

It’s nonsense, of course. De-Baathification might have enraged Sunnis but it probably bought some time with the Shiite majority, which mattered more. Besides, the insurgency would have happened anyway.

Nonetheless, given this consensus, it was revealing to see how President Bush handled the question when it arose in his interview for the new access-all-areas biography, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush.

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In between eating hotdogs and enthusing about the money to be earned as a freelance ex-president (“I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75 [thousand dollars per speech])”, W. discussed the Iraqi army with author Robert Draper.

“The policy had been to keep the army intact; didn’t happen,” he said. In other words, that nasty de-Baathification was nothing to do with him.

Unfortunately, Jerry Bremer is still alive and tiring of his allocated role as the all-purpose fall-guy for the Iraq fiasco. He responded by giving the New York Times documents that show that the president was informed of the Iraqi army policy in advance and seemed to have supported it.

Yet Bremer’s riposte was actually less damaging than Bush’s own admissions. When Draper asked the president how he’d reacted when he learned of the army’s disbandment, Bush replied: “Yeah, I can’t remember; I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’”

Perhaps sensing this was a little inadequate, Bush added: “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all this stuff” — a reference to national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley.

So there you have it. The leader of the free world doesn’t know what happened in Iraq – and he doesn’t much care. But he vaguely thinks one of his flunkies somewhere might have some idea.

If you listen to Bremer, Bush is a liar. If you listen to Bush, he’s a fool.

Welcome to Sydney, Mr President.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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