L. Paul Bremer

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L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III (1941-) is an American diplomat who became Presidential Envoy to Iraq after the Iraq War, heading the Coalition Provisional Authority serving from 2003 to 2004. He now spends full time painting scenes of Vermont, going back to his undergraduate days of studying art history. [1]

He was a strong supporter of the policies of George W. Bush, an important issue in a time of both internal infighting in the Administration and external criticism.

The press has been curiously reluctant to report my constant public support for the president's strategy in Iraq and his policies to fight terrorism. I have been involved in the war on terrorism for two decades, and in my view no world leader has better understood the stakes in this global war than President Bush.[2]

He agreed with the President that "The direction that all of us followed was from the president, and his direction was quite clear: that we were going to try to set the Iraqis on a path to democratic government and help them rebuild their country."[3] In his mind and the President's, the job was not just reconstruction, but democratization of a society that had never known democracy. Bush later presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


"In mid-April 2003 Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz contacted former Ambassador Bremer to serve as the senior American official in Iraq. Bremer would replace Jay Garner and Zalmay Khalilzad in leading Coalition efforts to help shape the new Iraq. President Bush publicly announced the decision on 6 May 2003, 17 days after Garner arrived in Baghdad as the head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA).The CPA’s stated mission was to “restore conditions of safety and stability, to create conditions in which the Iraqi people can safely determine their own political future, and facilitate economic recovery, sustainable reconstruction and development.” The US Government never issued a formal order dissolving the ORHA." Some of its staff members joined the CPA, and Garner returned to civilian life.[4]

He came to the job as a terrorism expert, not an expert on the area or culture. It was tougher than he expected, in part, because "The planning, as it turns out, was based on the wrong assumptions. … In some ways, even more importantly, the information that we had about the state of the Iraqi economy was not good."[3] He said he thought the RAND study by Dobbins et al.[5] was "important" and he sent it to Rumsfeld, but does not know what they did with it; they did not send the additional troops it suggested were needed.

Relations with the Military

I did one thing that wasn't very smart, which was suggest to the staff meeting that I thought our military should have authority to shoot the looters, which they did not have at that time. I pointed out that when we had faced a similar kind of a problem of looting in Haiti in the mid-1990s, our forces had shot some looters, and that was the end of the looting. This wasn't very smart to do, because somebody on the staff immediately told the press that I had suggested shooting the looters, and we had a problem.[3]

Afterwards, he suggested to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and GEN John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander, that the rules of engagement should be reexamined and more military police were needed. Bremer reminded the interviewer that Saddam had let large numbers of ordinary criminals out of prison, increasing the lawlessness.


He said that he did not create the policy, but was given it by Pentagon staff. Isikoff and Corn say it was drafted by Douglas Feith's office. [6] They reported Feith told Bremer "We've got to show all the Iraqis that we're serious about building a new Iraq, and that means Saddam's instruments of repression have no place in that new nation."

Bremer said "The impetus for this was not some idea that sprung full blown from somebody's head in the United States government. This was based on the recommendation of Iraqis who were in exile. ..." Asked about Ahmed Chalabi, he said found Chalabi especially insightful on economics, but highly controversial, with a reputation for being slippery, a "complex figure, very smart, extremely articulate, very media-wise, savvy in how to use the media, and one of the very few Iraqis whom I met in my time there, in government or outside, who actually understands a modern economy and what it took to open Iraq's economy."

Garner said that he had protested full de-Ba'athication to Bremer, who said "These are the directions I have. I have directions to execute this..." [7]

Bremer insists de-Ba'athification was the right policy, but the implementation was wrong. He denies he gave it to Chalabi. He made a mistake, he said, in giving it to the Iraqi Governing Council, which did give it to Chalabi. Bremer said he should have created an Iraqi judicial body that understood the nuances of why someone was in the party — to hold a job, or to be a believer?

Forming the Interim Governing Council

He found this very difficult, taking orders from Condaleeza Rice, but also having to work with the Iraqis and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi had threatened to leave.

Private enterprise and advisory service

Before Iraq, he was chairman and CEO of Marsh Crisis Consulting,M arsh Crisis Consulting, a risk and insurance services firm which is a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., a trustee on the Economic Club of New York, and a board member of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Akzo Nobel NV, the Harvard Business School Club of New York and The Netherlands-America Foundation. He served on the International Advisory Boards of Komatsu Corporation and Chugai Pharmaceuticals. Before Marsh, he was Managing Director of Kissinger Associates.

Appointed Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism by House Speaker Dennis Hastert in 1999, he was also a member of the the National Academy of Science Commission examining the role of Science and Technology in countering terrorism. In late 2001, along with former Attorney General Edwin Meese, he co-chaired the Heritage Foundation's Homeland Security Task Force, which created a blueprint for the White House's U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Foreign Service

He was a career Foreign Service Officer for 23 years under six Secretaries of State, rising to the grade of Career Minister and retiring in 1989. Bremer was an assistant to Henry Kissinger between 1972 and 1976. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Oslo, Norway from 1976-79, returning to Washington to take a post of Deputy Executive Secretary of State where he remained from 1979-81. In 1981 he became Executive Secretary and Special Assistant to Alexander Haig. Bremer was named ambassador to the Netherlands in 1983, and was appointed ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism by Ronald Reagan in 1986. In 1999, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert appointed him chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism.

His first assignment was as a general-duties officer in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1967. He was also assigned in Blantyre, Malawi as Economic and Commercial Officer from 1968 to 1971.

Early life

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he went to high school Phillips Academy, graduated from Yale University in 1963, and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1967. He also earned a Certificate of Political Studies (CEP) from Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (more widely referred to as Sciences Po). He speaks Arabic, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Farsi, German, and Spanish.


  1. Paul Bedard (4 March 2009), "For Former Envoy L. Paul Bremer, Vermont Looks Better Than Iraq", U.S. News & World Report
  2. L. Paul Bremer III (October 8, 2004), "What I Really Said About Iraq", New York Times
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Interview, L. Paul Bremer III", Frontline, Public Broadcasting System, June 26 and Aug. 18, 2006
  4. Donald P. Wright, Timothy R. Reese with the Contemporary Operations Study Team, Part II, Transition to a New Campaign; Chapter 4: Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign; The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005
  5. James Dobbins, et al. (2003), America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, RAND Corporation
  6. Isakoff, Michael & David Corn (2006), Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, ISBN 0307346811, pp. 224-225
  7. , Interview: Lt. General (ret.) Jay Garner"The Lost Year in Iraq", PBS Frontline, Aug. 11, 2006