In This Review

My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope
My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope
By L. Paul Bremer III with Malcolm McConnell
432 pp, Simon & Schuster, 2006

Bremer arrived in Iraq only days after President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" in early May 2003. A more intractable mission was just beginning. Bremer replaced retired General Jay Garner, who had had little time on the job, and quickly reversed Garner's plan for an early handover of power to the Iraqis. He stayed until June 28, 2004, when he formally turned over sovereignty to an Iraqi government that he had worked to cobble together and then slipped away ahead of schedule to avoid a possible security mishap. Bremer tells us that he favored the early use of force against looters and insurgents such as Muqtada al-Sadr. He writes that he had argued early and late that more U.S. troops were needed. He justifies his decisions to ban Baathists from public office and dissolve the Iraqi army (it had already melted away, although he records that over 60 percent of those later recruited into the new army were former soldiers). He devotes pages to his efforts to work with the various Iraqi political figures, especially the powerful but elusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but does not present a very clear picture of why they acted as they did. This book offers an almost day-by-day narrative that sticks to what Bremer was doing and with whom he was interacting, without providing much analysis or introspection. That is both the strength and the weakness of this memoir covering developments during the crucial first year of the United States' venture into Middle Eastern state building.