Bush: No Interest In How Iraqi Military Got Disbanded; No Effort To Reverse Decision?

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bush frustrated.jpg
James Fallows and I are both still in utter disbelief about what appeared in the New York Times yesterday regarding Bush’s comments to biographer Robert Draper that he really didn’t know much about why his policy on keeping the Iraqi military intact was reversed.
From the Times report:

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”
But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?'” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

There are several layers that need to be peeled back on this revealing admission from Bush.
First, who made the decision if not Bush? From Charles Ferguson’s prize-winning documentary, No End in Sight, we learn that CPA National Security Advisor Walter Slocombe had much to do with the decision.
On May 9, 2003, Walter Slocombe, L. Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith had a meeting discussing Iraq. A question came up: “What about the Iraqi military?” And according to Slocombe, no one said anything — which was a response in itself. The decision to disband was made by Slocombe and Bremer. My source does not know if the decision went up to Rumsfeld or not — but it did not go further to anyone else in the administration, including to the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, to the Secretary of State Colin Powell, to the Vice President, or to the President.
But then there is another question that just seems to SCREAM OUT.
When Bush & Co. realized that the administration’s policy on the keeping the Iraq military intact and all of those soldiers employed had been flipped upside down, why didn’t they reverse the decision? Why didn’t Bush demand an immediate reversal?
According to former senior CPA Office of Reconstruction Special Initiatives chief Paul Hughes — who is one of the few good guys in No End in Sight and who responded to a query of mine:

Steve Clemons: Why after the Iraq military had been disbanded — and it was made clear that this was not consistent with President’s Bush’s position — that the military was not immediately reconstituted/reassembled? Is there some technical reason why after a military is officially disbanded that that order could not have been rescinded — and then the Iraqi military reconstituted?
Paul Hughes: In a nutshell, Bremer was empowered to make the decision and it could have only been rescinded by him. The trick was how to make that happen.
Jay Garner tried to get him to roll it back some and Bremer refused; I suspect it would have taken Rumsfeld to make it happen and we know where he was on the issue.
The president was aware of the plans to use the military but he never had his hand on the throttle. So when the Pentagon leadership decided to abolish the military, it felt no need to inform either the President or the NSA (Rice). He was out of the loop on this decision because his management style enabled others to do end-runs around him.
Another aspect of this issue concerns how you put toothpaste back in the tube. Once the order was announced, there was no turning back because at that moment we stopped being an army of liberators and became an army of occupation. Once the Iraqis saw us in that light there was no way to go back and change that.

Paul Hughes is probably right that when this decision was implemented, it affirmed what many Iraqis and Arab Muslims throughout the region feared: that US forces were not “an army of liberators and became an army of occupation.”
But still. . .It is stunning to hear Bush himself admit his surprise that a policy this consequential to the Iraq effort had been reversed by his people — and that he knew little about it. No curiousity? No fury?
Perhaps the single worst mistake in Bush’s presidency despite the decision to invade Iraq in the first place and he tells Draper: “Yeah, I can’t remember. . .[to Bremer] This is the policy, what happened? . . .Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff.”
Stunning, frustrating, depressing honesty from George W. Bush.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “Bush: No Interest In How Iraqi Military Got Disbanded; No Effort To Reverse Decision?

  1. Jon Koppenhoefer says:

    This is no doubt the first of many self-serving confections to come from Bush in the years to come.

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  2. TonyForesta says:

    Biting Post Sandy. Bush is a pathological liar, an a “sociopath”.
    You remind us all of the facts underlying the fiction that is George Bush and the Bush government. This disturbing recollection forces all Americans to question the whatfor’s, why’s, how long, how much, and who profit’s from all the Bush government’s fascist predations and wanton profiteering, and to challenge the veracity, and facts of every policy pimped by the fascists warmongers, profiteers, and pathological liars in the Bush government.

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  3. Hatuxka says:

    Why should we believe that this incredible failure of thinking, seminal in causing the utter disaster that has continued to this day happened despite what Bush wanted? Not buyin’ it. “Stunning, frustrating, depressing honesty from George W. Bush.” Stunning gullibility by this Steve Clemons. Thanks for the washington insider spin on things, Steve. You’ve lived up to expectations.

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  4. Hatuxka says:

    Why should we believe that this incredible failure of thinking, seminal in causing the utter disaster that has continued to this day happened despite what Bush wanted? Not buyin’ it. “Stunning, frustrating, depressing honesty from George W. Bush.” Stunning gullibility by this Steve Clemons. Thanks for the washington insider spin on things, Steve. You’ve lived up to expectations.

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  5. Sandy says:

    POA and others, you talk about him as if he were “normal”. He’s a sociopath! His own mother slipped at some point and talked about how he enjoyed blowing up frogs with firecrackers as a boy. Just a “mischievous” little boy? Obviously not!
    Tucker Carlson, in a rare (not-thought-out) moment of candor, mimic’d him on tee vee before he coldly executed Karla Fay Tucker: “Oh, don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!” Bush joked with Tucker. HE HAS NO CONSCIENCE.
    He is completely NARCISSISTIC. God talks to him. He can DO no “wrong”. God is telling him what to do.
    As far as having been touted as a CEO president because he went to Harvard (who wrote the papers….took the tests? Jeff Gannon?…..obviously not Georgie Boy. His “ventures” into management resulted in complete FAILURES. Bailouts from Bandar-Bush and the rich Saudis the Bush family’s in bed with. Like Bin Laden. Carlyle, donchaknow. Fly ’em out on 9/11.
    The Texas Rangers??? Who funded THAT???
    His whole life is built on lies. His own father and mother never believed HE should be …..could be….president. They thought Jeb, “the smart one” would be that.
    Bush 41 became president as an after-thought (he wasn’t first choice as v.p…..just an after-thought). Georgie had Rove’s help.
    And, now, God help us all.
    World War III.

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  6. rollingmyeyes says:

    To my eyes, he looked like a man off the waggon the morning after the last election, when he announced that Rummy was out. Morning-after reaction?

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  7. David N says:

    When is anyone going to mention what this says about the “conventional wisdom” that Republicans are good managers?
    Bush was, remember, touted as among other things the “CEO president.” At that time, this meant that he was a good manager, not that he was primarily interested in helping CEOs empty the tills of their companies for their own benefit.
    Has the astounding incompetence of these goons led anyone in the corporate MSM to question this “conventional wisdom”? Has questioning this part of the CW led anyone to question the idea that Republican thuggery and “toughness” makes is safer rather than more vulnerable? Or that Republican worship at the alter of unlimited greed makes our free enterprise economy any more stable or productive?
    Most importantly, are we going to hear anything about these questions in the coming ClusterFuck to the White House? (That question really answers itself.)

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  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If in fact Bush is an alcoholic, it is obvious he has done nothing to address the pyschological or spiritual symptoms of the disease.
    Personally, I do not believe he could stay sober while living a life that is rife with dishonesty and denial. If in fact he is managing to live such a life without alcohol, than I pity him for how miserable he must be.
    Spiritual growth and an active maintained effort towards a healthy psyche is an absolute necessity if one wants to enjoy any sort of quality sobriety. I see no evidence that Bush is employing such a regimen.
    Instead, just off the top of my head, I would bet the few instances in which he enjoys any serenity are while peddling furiuously on his mountain bike, imagining a time in his childhood, long since past, when the demons weren’t dancing to Satan’s song in his pathetic and spiritually bankrupt little world.

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  9. MarkL says:

    Clio, my evidence that Bush is coached for hours and days ahead of his speeches is what I read in one or two puff pieces about Bush. I don’t recall the source. The amount of practice was intended to make him look like a hard worker. I do believe he works hard, now, because he has gotten much better at reading off the teleprompter since he took office.
    I have only a layman’s knowledge of alcoholism, btw.. I was speaking off the cuff. Still, I’m still stunned at the people that praised this obvious idiot for so many years.

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  10. LJ says:

    I go along with the theory that Bush signed off before the war on a debaathification program which also meant the disbanding of the Iraqi army. Clearly he gave Bremer the go-ahead.
    What to do about the “it didn’t happen” statement from the biography? Well, it takes the same form as Fredo’s testimony before Congress. “Gosh, I know that was the policy. Somehow, it just didn’t happen. Must be in Hadley’s notes somewhere? Steven? Oh, you burned them? Darn. Guess we will never know.”
    To believe that Bush had a policy that somehow was not carried out, is beyond credibility.

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  11. rapier says:

    The policy supposedly was to keep the army intact but it’s obvious that there was no plan to make that happen. Bremmer is right it would not have been an easy thing to do. What he fails to mention is that it wasn’t tried.
    The Joint chiefs complain they weren’t in on the disbanding decision but then they had done nothing to keep it intact. Bremmer says it had already fallen apart. Fair enough, but why? Because nobody bothered to tell the army to return to barracks, where they would be assured against attack as we swept into the country Where probably any plan would have started. No matter what strategy or tactics might have been formulated or used to try and keep the army intact let me suggest that in order to make it happen you have to make a plan then implement it. Duh. Are any of these players any smarter than Bush?
    Let’s face it. America is lead by idiots, self satisfied yes men and con men.

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  12. stickler says:

    Clio:
    Evidence that George W. Bush actually stopped drinking is patchy, circumstantial, and anecdotal at best. Circumstantial evidence that he’s still going on the occasional bender is just as compelling. Remember the pretzel-choking incident? Or the multiple facial scratches from falls and spills?
    This Administration is a big bag of wacked-out headcases. I for one look forward to the point twenty years hence, when all the memoirs have been published and we finally get to see just how dysfunctional they really were.

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  13. clio says:

    MarkL,
    Agree with you that Bush probably has alcoholic brain damage, which would be more severe since he began drinking heavily as a teen-ager.
    Are you in some loop that allows you to state this: “…When he gives a speech, he is coached for hours or even days ahead of time…” as opposed to surmise it? I ask because the reason most people of Bush’s socioeconomic class, and with his severity of alcoholism, stop drinking is that the blackouts become too frequent and often too embarrassing. Memory loss is common even after sobriety once blackouts have begun.
    I would have expected, however, that Bush’s memory would have improved more than you imply it has done in the 15-20 years he has reportedly been sober. If what you say is correct it would be strong evidence that he has been drinking again – even if only sporadically.

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  14. TonyForesta says:

    Word POA!

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  15. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    L. Paul Bremer says The Decider is a liar(Shocking, I know!!:
    http://tinyurl.com/2ecnbg

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  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bush is too self obsessed to even fathom what such an admission tells us about his leadership.
    “Hey, I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did” has been Bush’s mantra since childhood. And his parents allowed it. Monkey Boy has NEVER been held accountable, or accepted responsiblity for his actions. The Baker deal was just one more example of daddy trying to bail junior out of a self made mess, but Monkey Boy’s ego has outgrown his common sense, and he didn’t accept the bailout.
    I would like to say he’ll regret it, but he won’t. No matter what befalls him, this nation, or Iraq, in Monkey Boy’s mind, it is ALWAYS someone else’s fault.
    And, in Monkey Boy’s mind, it doesn’t matter who gave the order to disband the army, because he is entirely capable of convincing himself his lies are truths. Even if he did order it, by now he believes he didn’t.

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  17. Frank says:

    Of course it was Bush’s decision..After all, isn’t he the big cheese “decider” This clumsy obsfucation as to who made the decision to disband the Iraqi army, makes this “deciders” legacy as a leader even more damning if that were possible. What a cowardly response, but is in keeping with this stunning “deciderc” never having made a mistake in any of his criminal endeavours…
    Make ready the Nuremberg court house for the mother of all “deciders”.

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  18. Dan says:

    Steve,
    I think you give the president too much credit. It was his policy all along to disband the military. What Bush is doing here in this paper is that when his legacy comes on the line, he will play dumb, not recalling anything. You BET he knows about the decision, because it was HIS decision. This author of the biography will put something down on paper, a record. If you have noticed Bush has done a remarkable job of ensuring that nothing from his own record bespeaks of error or that the buck would actually stop with him.
    He is lying here. Yet again. He does remember. But he doesn’t want a recorded document tying him to the biggest blunder of the war.

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  19. TonyForesta says:

    Your sober and chilling assessment of the neocon, (in my view fascists) in the Bush governments’ machinations in the ME is deadon. The problem however with their visionary imperialist pipedreams, aside from the rank deception, the terrible costs in blood, treasure, and lost credibilty and the fouled moral implications , – is that the fascist plan is failing.
    While “…chaos, mass civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure and civil disorder in these two countries is a much better alternative to military regional and Islamic political powers” reads well on paper, – in practical reality Iran particularly, and all the oil producing islamic nations in the ME have been empowered and strenghtened by the fast unraveling events in Iraq. Further – any attempt at neuterng the military capabilities of, or executing regime change in Iran will unleash a wild array of unknown unknown responses in the ME, through-out the world, and maybe – allah forbid – here in the land of Oz.
    If this is truly the neocon(fascist) plan, – and I don’t doubt it is) then an all out devastation of the ME is the ultimate only strategically tolerable end. Because any tattered remains of islamic power will eventually reanimate, or mutate into some form or stateless and exceedingly pissed 4th generation warfare threat that cannot be defeated by America’s hypersuperior military alone.
    This evil and morally flawed fascist pipedream may be something the neocons/fascists in the Bush government HOPE to realize, – but as Iraq has proven – there are many unknown unknown reprecussions and a wild array of potential responses the “evildoers” can and will definately employ to counter the Bush governments imperialism. In short and brutal terms, the Bush government either executes this unspoken fascist policy with ruthless and devastating force, reducing all the enemy states in the ME smoldering pits of total destruction, and thrusting these states to the point of non-recovery, – or the enemies within those states will find very inventive, bloody, costly means to disrupt, counter, and ultimately pushback, or perhaps defeat what they percieve as, (and what America may actually be then) the great satan.
    “Deliver us from evil!”

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  20. Drew says:

    The Neocons real intent (not democracy and certainly not WMD) was to neuter Iraq as any military threat in the region.
    Chaos, civil war and ethnic cleansing are more effective at neutering that threat for decades, even at the expense of American causalities and treasure, and Iraqi deaths and displacements.
    This is just another one of their clever deceptions. It is naïve to think this was somehow some big unforeseen mistake by the Neocons. On the contrary, this was exactly their plan. They now have 150k some odd American soldiers policing an unwinnable Iraq civil, any the can quickly redeploy to their second and more important phase: regime change and the neutering of Iran military capabilities. In their view, chaos, mass civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure and civil disorder in these two countries is a much better alternative to military regional and Islamic political powers. US casualties and costs are an acceptable collateral expense.
    Their rationale is not completely nonsensical. Their deception, however, is unconscionable.

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  21. dan says:

    Condiar was responsible for the decision. She was the Iraq czar at the time when all critical decisions were made. Bush knew but he did not want to blame his mistress so he lied again by pretending he did not remember. It was Condi’s call and she made several bad calls during that critical period after the initial invasion.

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  22. DonS says:

    So Bush obfuscates,though “that was the policy” seems to align him against the disasterous practice, but not in such a definite way as will bring the screaming meemies out of the woodwork to say “bullshit that was the policy; no one even told me”. So, one, for history, Bush says he made the right decision but, you know, Hadley’s got the details. There was just this unfortunate slip in implementation.
    Then, on a slightly different level, Bush dissociates himself from the actual facts on the ground, the implementation of disbanding the army — which most call a very , very big error admist many very big errors. (although certainly easy to comprehend in the revenge-minded, simple-minded trimuphalism of the neos at the time).
    So, poof, Bush once again fails to admit or take responsibility for any bad news. I mean I haven’t read the book, but nowhere am I even hearing any pro forma “the buck stop here” or the like.
    Maybe someone will come out of the woodwork and clear this all up. But the cast of characters with cred and cahones to do that isn’t flourishing. Powell? Give me a break. Tenet? I don’t think so. Maybe some lower eschelon type (heh, what’s up Flynt?). But we know how easy they get smeared.

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  23. TonyForesta says:

    Bush “being out of his own loop” on one of the single most destructive decisions of the entire war is alarming news. Why would the president “be out of the loop”? Even if the decision fell to Bremmer, or Solcombe in the chain of command, – the fact is – Bush was either intentionally kept in the dark, – or too stupid to remember the decision process – or this is just another one of the festering litany of pathological lies pimped by the “decider” and the fascists in the Bush government. Either way, – this disturbing admission is proof positive of an administration that was and remains dysfunctional and pathologically deceptive.
    “Deliver us from evil!”

    Reply

  24. B.W. says:

    Steve is right to highlight that this exchange is from Bush’s own mouth, and in the bio that is about to be released, there doesn’t seem to be any real interest by Bush on why his folks disobeyed him.
    I don’t think that this is just more of the same. This is news, just like the de-Baathification stuff which bypassed Bush and other things.
    Maybe Cheney was in the know, but this is important information about Bush being out of his own loop.

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  25. Quantum Zapatista says:

    Therefore George Bush will hold his breath until he can destroy the world, or he turns blue in the face. Whichever comes first. Let us all pray that our insane boy king can’t hold his breath for very long.

    Reply

  26. Sandy says:

    “EXPECT MASSIVE AMERICAN CASUALTIES, especially in Iraq, where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able to call in precise coordinates….”
    Who gives a damn?

    Reply

  27. Sandy says:

    We “worry” that Bush “may have” lied??? Good grief! Spending even FIVE MINUTES thinking about this is wasted time. You didn’t know he is dishonest? Dumb? (when he wants to be)
    WHAT ABOUT WORLD WAR THREE??? Any interest…at all???
    The Next Quagmire
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070903_the_next_quagmire/
    Posted on Sep 3, 2007
    “…And the Iranians know that without the bomb, which no intelligence agency thinks they can produce for a few years, they are now probably going to be attacked. 
    The Pentagon has reportedly drawn up plans for a series of airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran.  The air attacks are designed to cripple the Iranians’ military capability in three days. The Bushehr nuclear power plant, along with targets in Saghand and Yazd, the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, a heavy-water plant and radioisotope facility in Arak, the Ardekan Nuclear Fuel Unit, and the uranium conversion facility and nuclear technology center in Isfahan, will all probably be struck by the United States and perhaps even Israeli warplanes.  The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the Tehran molybdenum, iodine and xenon radioisotope production facility, the Tehran Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories, and the Kalaye Electric Co. in the Tehran suburbs will also most likely come under attack.
    But then what?  We don’t have the troops to invade.  And we don’t have anyone minding the helm who knows the slightest thing about Persian culture or the Middle East.  There is no one in power in Washington with the empathy to get it.  We will lurch blindly into a catastrophe of our own creation. 
    IT IS NOT HARD TO IMAGINE WHAT WILL HAPPEN. Iranian Shabab-3 and Shabab-4 missiles, which cannot reach the United States, will be launched at Israel, as well as American military bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad.  Expect massive American casualties, especially in Iraq, where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able to call in precise coordinates.  The Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, will be shut down.  Chinese-supplied C-801 and C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines and coastal artillery will target U.S. shipping, along with Saudi oil production and oil export centers.  Oil prices will skyrocket to well over $4 a gallon.  The dollar will tumble against the euro.  Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, interpreting the war as an attack on all Shiites, will fire rockets into northern Israel.  Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, will begin retaliatory raids on Lebanon and Iran.  Pakistan, with a huge Shiite minority, will reach greater levels of instability.  The unrest could result in the overthrow of the weakened American ally President Pervez Musharraf and usher into power Islamic radicals.  Pakistan could become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon.  The neat little war with Iran, which few Democrats oppose, has the potential to ignite a regional inferno. 
    We have rendered the nation deaf and dumb.  We no longer have the capacity for empathy.  We prefer to amuse ourselves with trivia and gossip that pass for news rather than understand.  We are blinded by our military prowess.  We believe that huge explosions and death are an effective form of communication.  And the rest of the world is learning to speak our language.”
    Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times.  He spent seven years in the Middle East and reported frequently from Iran.  His latest book is “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

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  28. FMJ says:

    Is Bush really being honest? I thought the policy all along was to disband the army. The policy came out of the American Enterprise Institute, which still has its 2002 conference series on post-war Iraq is still on their website. Here’s a link for their plans on the Iraqi army:
    http://www.aei.org/events/filter.all,eventID.58/transcript.asp
    Here’s a quote from Michael Eisenstadt’s intro at the event:
    “Now, with regard to de-Saddamizing the security and armed forces, basically there are three components to this: Scrap, Purge, and Professionalize them. If you look at the total number of security forces, there are more than a dozen. Most of these, if not all of them, will have to be scrapped. And when you look at the total number of people in these forces, we’re talking about probably between 100- and 200,000 people. Now, not all of them–some of them will be probably tried for crimes against humanity, or war crimes, but I think the majority of them will probably be sent home–sent to pasture, so to speak.”
    It’s not a mystery who ordered the army disbanded. It was the AEI crowd in the Pentagon – Feith, Wolfowitz, et al., and they probably did it with the President’s consent. With Draper, I don’t think Bush is being honest at all. I think he’s trying to distance himself from a catastrophic decision that he likely signed off on. When he says “the policy was to keep the army intact”, he’s probably using some Cheney-esque definition of “intact”, the same way “last throes” means ten or twelve years.

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  29. MarkL says:

    There’s another level here.
    This story is another piece of evidence that Bush is non compos mentis.. at least by the standards of his job. The years of heavy drinking probably have made his memory very unreliable.
    When he gives a speech, he is coached for hours or even days ahead of time. In fact, I get the impression that Bush does little work aside from the speech practice. Even so, I doubt he could remember a speech he gave 2 months ago.

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