The Fall of Paul Bremer

Last July, I predicted the imminent fall of Paul Bremer, the American Viceroy in Baghdad. Bremer was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. It only gets worse.

You can tell a lot about a man the way he deals with dirty clothes and laundry. Me? I do my own. On the road, I wash and rinse; at home, I still wash my own clothes. If I go to the U.S. Senate, I will still find time for laundry.

I knew the end was near for Paul Bremer when it was reported that Baghdad Bremer sent his clothes to Kuwait to be cleaned. No laundry in Baghdad was good enough L. Paul Bremer, III. Whoa.

Paul Bremer is a "contenda" for the role of one of the worst sissies, dilettantes and all around prissies in U.S. diplomatic history. Laundry sent to Kuwait.

And, the vacation.

Where was Paul Bremer when the U.N. compound in Baghdad was bombed in August? Why on vacation of course. Despite the fact that Bremer had only started his job in May, less than three months later he was off on vacation. Good work if you can get it. Despite the fact that bombs were going off both before and after the U.N. bombing, and Bremer was responsible for a de facto war zone, he was off on vacation. On schedule. Bombs away.

Look at how Bremer dealt with Saddam’s "palaces." He should have opened the palaces to the Iraqi public, to let the average Joe Iraqi see how his money had been wasted by Saddam’s sadists. Bremer’s office should have been set up in a tent, outside, with a porta potty and maybe an open air cooking fire, to convey the stark impression America’s presence was temporary and transient.

But Bremer saw himself in the role of emperor, and took the main palace over for himself, locking out the Iraqi people. Another disaster. Instead of allowing Iraqis to see for themselves how Saddam enriched himself while he impoverished his people, Bremer sent the opposite message, that America was there to replace Saddam and to make good use of his palaces. Boo. Bremer has set himself up as a tinhorn dictator and worthy successor to Saddam, in Saddam’s own palace.

This week, another grenade was thrown at Bremer, obliquely and politely. Friendly fire. Someone, somewhere among the Bushies is unhappy. The first grenade was thrown in July, when it was bruited that another "III," James Baker, III would be installed to assist Bremer.

Now Condi Rice has become Bremer’s effective boss. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed source that they were "kicking butt." Bremer’ butt? Who else’s?

Bremer is a total failure. He has squandered the optimism of April in the squalor of October. He has converted "liberation" to "occupation" and presided with grand indifference. Worse, he is an embarrassment to Bush. That is why Condi Rice is now the overseer of Baghdad.

Bremer is busy building more and more concrete compounds, testaments all to his failure to engage the Iraqi people. Liberators do not need to barricade themselves behind concrete barriers.

So, the next time we appoint a civilian "administrator" for Iraq, to replace Bremer, don’t look at their resume. Look at how they do their laundry.