Zalmay Khalilzad: Bush's big mistake was turning Bremer into MacArthur





[Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is anguished.] Khalilzad’s anguish centers on May 6, 2003. That’s the day he expected Bush to announce his return to Iraq to convene a grand assembly — something like an Afghan loya jirga — that would fast-forward a provisional Iraqi government.

Instead, the appointment of L. Paul Bremer III to head a Coalition Provisional Authority was announced. Khalilzad, incredulous, went elsewhere. In the place of an Afghan-American Muslim on a mission to empower Iraqis, we got the former ambassador to the Netherlands for a one-year proconsul gig.

“We had cleared both announcements, with Bremer to run things and me to convene the loya jirga, both as presidential envoys,” Khalilzad told me. “We were just playing with a few final words. Then the game plan suddenly changed: we would run the country ourselves.”

Alluding to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor, Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, Khalilzad continued: “Powell and Condi were incredulous. Powell called me and asked: ‘What happened?’ And I said, ‘You’re secretary of state and you’re asking me what happened!’ "

[According to Cohen, what happened was that Bremer persuaded Bush to follow the MacArthur model.]


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