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Bremer: 'I made some mistakes' in Iraq

Two U.S. pilots killed in chopper downing near Mosul, military says

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(CNN) -- In a newspaper column Friday, L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator of Iraq, admitted, "I made some mistakes" in Iraq and argued the United States needs to be better prepared for post-conflict operations in the future.

Bremer made the remarks in a New York Times op-ed piece published Friday called "In Iraq, Wrongs Made a Right." The column follows a book Bremer has written entitled "My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope," which Simon & Schuster published this month.

Among the mistakes Bremer cited in the column were the implementation of de-Baathification and reconstruction policy.

While he defended the U.S. decision to ban former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public office, Bremer wrote that his "error was that I left the implementation of the policy to a political body within the nascent Iraqi government."

De-Baathification, he wrote, "became a tool of politicians who applied it much more broadly than we had intended."

The policy "should have been administered by an independent judicial body," he added.

Another mistake involved the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority placing "too much emphasis on large-scale reconstruction projects. While the urgent need for modern highways, electrical generating plants and the like was clear, we should have anticipated that building them would take a long time," he wrote.

"Our earlier efforts should have been directed more tightly at meeting Iraqis' day-to-day needs," he added.

He said he should have urged "exemption from the usual bureaucratic and contracting rules" to "speed up those larger projects."

Bremer described learning a few weeks after arriving that "six major hospitals in Baghdad urgently needed new generators to run their operating rooms and air-conditioning plants."

"Our budget director told me I could use American funds, which were subject to United States federal contracting rules, or Iraqi government funds, which were not," he wrote. "Using American money, he told me, would mean waiting four to six months for the generators. We used Iraqi funds and got the equipment in eight days. In the future, Congress must make provisions for legitimate exemptions."

Critics, including Republicans and military veterans, have complained the Bush administration was not prepared to handle the chaos in Iraq after Saddam was toppled from power.

As for the post-conflict phase in the future, Bremer wrote, reconstruction efforts "must be broadened through the government and especially the private sector."

"The goal should be a quick-reaction, public-private Civilian Reserve Corps consisting of people with expertise on matters like the establishment of telecommunications facilities, rebuilding of electrical power plants, modernizing health care systems and instituting modern budgeting procedures."

In Bremer's book, he asserted that at one point he asked for more troops, but the request was ultimately turned down. In Friday's column, he elaborated, saying he "disagreed" with the "respectable argument" from military leaders that "they had sufficient forces to ensure law and order and that additional soldiers might increase Iraqi hostility."

The Bush administration has long rejected criticism it failed to send enough troops to secure Iraq. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the request was seriously considered by the nation's top military leaders but rejected as unnecessary. (Full story)

In the column, Bremer said that while he "had concerns about the quality of Iraqi forces two years ago," improved training has led to their "playing an increasingly important role in defending Iraq."

But he called an immediate pullout of troops or setting a timetable to do so would be "a historic mistake."

Such moves would be a "betrayal of the sacrifices Americans and Iraqis have made; a victory of the terrorists everywhere; and step toward a more dangerous world," he wrote.

Other developments

  • Two American pilots were killed Friday when their OH-58D Kiowa helicopter went down near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the U.S. military said. While the cause of the downing remained under investigation, a U.S. commander in Iraq said "indicators" pointed to hostile fire. (Full story)
  • A car bombing wounded five policemen Friday in southern Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, according to an official in Diyala province. The bomb struck a police patrol around midday, the Diyala province's Joint Coordination Center said.
  • A bomber died Thursday night near the northern city of Tal Afar when his explosive "detonated prematurely," the U.S. military said. "Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment discovered the bomber's body and part of a shovel near a roadside blast crater," a statement said.
  • Four terrorist suspects were detained Thursday night after a bomb attack against coalition forces near Balad, north of Baghdad, according to the 101st Airborne Division. In addition Thursday, coalition forces found large weapons caches southwest of Baghdad.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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