Ambassador Lewis Paul (Jerry) Bremer III is a
sixty-five-year-old preppie (Phillips Exeter, ’59), Yalie (’63), MBA
(Harvard ’66), and retired Foreign Service officer (1966–1999).
After retirement from the Department of State, he worked with
consulting firms such as Kissinger Associates and Marsh & McClennan
and was picked by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 from a
list of fifty candidates to become Presidential Envoy to Iraq.
Called on by President George W. Bush for that tough and complex
job, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer accepted, “because I think I can
help.” Worried that other appointees already in Iraq might interfere
with his work, he asked the president for “full authority to bring
all the resources of the American government to bear on Iraq’s
reconstruction.” The president agreed, giving him full executive,
legislative, and judicial authority, and with it full responsibility
for the future of Iraq.
Ambassador Bremer turned to the job immediately
with all his skill, energy, and determination. Fighting daily the
simultaneous political and bureaucratic battles of Washington and
Baghdad, he got up every morning for 418 days to fight again. He
made some serious mistakes and was often frustrated, but he never
shirked and he never quit. The foundation that he built in Iraq
still supports whatever is firm and solid there, politically,
economically, and psychologically. And now we have his memoir.
Ambassador Bremer does not state his purpose in
writing his memoir, but he has produced a detailed personal account
of his actions and thoughts as the Administrator of the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Iraq from mid-May 2003 to late June 2004. I
stress personal, because the book is all about Jerry Bremer: how
little he slept, how hard he worked, how frustrated he was with
squabbling Iraqi politicians, and how he confided every night in
e-mails to his wife, Francie. He does not question his decisions,
but explains each as being the best available course of action,
describes how he arrived at it, and names those with whom he
coordinated and cleared it.
The book is ghost-written by Malcolm McConnell in
the same relentlessly folksy style that McConnell used in General
Tommy Franks’s memoir. The Ambassador’s private thoughts are spelled
out in italics and all his many conversations, personal and
professional, are put in quotes as if they were taken from verbatim
transcripts, although clearly not all are. People are addressed by
their first names: Don and Condi, Clay (McManaway) and Liz
(Lineberry). The result is a coy and mind-clogging book that is a
chore to read but is important to anyone looking to understand the
transition of Iraq to an Interim Government after the U.S. invasion.
The University of Michigan
Suggested Supplements to Bremer’s My Year in
Cordesman, Anthony H. The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and
Military Lessons. New York: Praeger, 2003. —By a top Mideast
military analyst; last eighty pages on the occupation.
Diamond, Larry. Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and
the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq. New York: Times
Books, 2005. —By a senior political adviser to the CPA, Jan–Apr 2004.
Etherington, Mark. Revolt on the Tigris: The Al-Sadr Uprising
and the Governing of Iraq. Ithaca, NY: Cornell U Pr, 2005.
—British view from the governor of Wasit Province, Oct 2003–Jun
Glantz, Aaron. How America Lost Iraq. New York: Tarcher,
2005. —By a reporter for Pacifica Radio, critical of the CPA and
focused on Iraqis.
Gordon, Michael E., and Bernard E. Trainor. COBRA II: The
Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. New York:
Pantheon, 2006. —Two experienced writers on the plans, the
invasion, and, in the last 100 pages, the occupation of Iraq.
Packer, George. The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq. New
York: FS&G, 2005. —My pick for the best book on the occupation.
Packer writes for the New Yorker and won an Overseas Press
Club prize for his reporting on Iraq.
Phillips, David L. Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar
Reconstruction Fiasco. Boulder, CO: Westview Pr, 2005.
—Phillips worked on the State Department’s “Future of Iraq
Project” and covers the planning for an occupation of Iraq up to
the handover in June 2004.
Schultheis, Rob. Waging Peace: A Special Operations Team’s
Battle to Rebuild Iraq. New York: Gotham, 2005. —The author
was embedded with Civil Affairs Team-A 13 for six months of hard
work in a Baghdad suburb.
Shadid, Anthony. Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow
of America’s War. New York: Henry Holt, 2005. —A
Pulitzer-winning account of the effects of the war on the Iraqis.