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Context of 'June 23, 2003: Ultimatum Imposed by Former Iraqi Soldiers Expires'

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May 23, 2003: Paul Bremer Dissolves Iraqi Army

Paul Bremer, head of the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, issues Order 2 formally dissolving the Iraqi Army and other vestiges of the old Ba’athist state. [CNN, 5/23/2003; Coalition Provisional Authority, 5/23/2003] The order, drafted by Douglas Feith’s office in the Pentagon and approved by the White House, triggers mass protests among the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 former Iraqi soldiers who are left without a job and who are given only a small, one-time, $20 emergency payment. [New York Times, 5/24/2003; Agence France Presse, 5/26/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 225] Together with the de-Ba’athification program, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army leads to some 500,000 people losing their source of income. [Los Angeles Times, 6/5/2003]
Criticism - The action will be highly criticized as a major blunder of the war. The decision was made by Walter Slocombe, a security adviser to Bremer, who proclaims that “We don’t pay armies we defeated.” A colonel on Jay Garner’s staff (see January 2003) will later say: “My Iraqi friends tell me that this decision was what really spurred the nationalists to join the infant insurgency. We had advertised ourselves as liberators and turned on these people without so much as a second thought.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2005]
Garner's Reaction - Garner himself will later speak on the subject, telling a Vanity Fair reporter: “My plan was to not disband the Iraqi Army but to keep the majority of it and use them. And the reason for that is we needed them, because, number one, there were never enough people there for security. [A US military commander told him the US Army was guarding a lot of places it had not planned to guard.] So we said, OK, we’ll bring the Army back. Our plan was to bring back about 250,000 of them. And I briefed [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld. He agreed. [Deputy Defense Secretary] Wolfowitz agreed. [National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice agreed. [CIA Director] George [Tenet] agreed. Briefed the president on it. He agreed. Everybody agreed. So when that decision [to disband] was made, I was stunned.”
Iraqi Colonel's Reaction - US and UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer will later say of the decision: “One Iraqi colonel told me, ‘You know, our planning before the war was that we assumed that you guys couldn’t take casualties, and that was obviously wrong.’ I looked at him and said, ‘What makes you think that was wrong?’ He goes, ‘Well, if you didn’t want to take casualties, you would have never made that decision about the Army.’” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Jay Garner, George W. Bush, Scott Wallace, Paul Wolfowitz, Walter Slocombe, George J. Tenet, Douglas Feith, L. Paul Bremer, Condoleezza Rice, Charles Duelfer, Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Former Iraqi soldiers, angry about their loss of employment one month after the order to disband was issued, say that they will begin to take up arms against the US occupation if they do not receive any financial compensation. They had previously set this day as the deadline for when the coalition must pay them. A former soldier named Tahseen Ali Hussein is quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying, “We are all very well trained soldiers and we are armed. We will start ambushes, bombings and even suicide bombings. We will not let the Americans rule us in such a humiliating way.” [Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2003] The same day, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority agrees to pay the soldiers (see June 23, 2003). Most of the soldiers consider the payments inadequate (see July 15, 2003).

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq begins a program of paying out monthly stipends to former members of the Iraqi Army (see June 23, 2003). [Office of Management and Budget, 7/14/2003, pp. 9 pdf file] Most former soldiers consider the payments to be inadequate. According to the Boston Globe, many of the ex-members receive only about half the amount that they were paid under Saddam Hussein. [Boston Globe, 7/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Coalition Provisional Authority

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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