Paul Bremer, CNN's Erin Burnett Argue Over Iraq

Monday, 16 Jun 2014 10:02 PM

By Greg Richter

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Ambassador Paul Bremer, President George W. Bush's envoy to Iraq, shared his thoughts across the media Monday on how the United States should handle the ISIS insurgency in Iraq.

His appearance on CNN's "Out Front with Erin Burnett" got testy when the host asked, "Aren't you the one who got us in this mess?"

Burnett then played video of Bremer's 2003 speech the day after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured. Bremer at the time called Iraq's future full of hope, and he said he looked forward to a democratic Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors.

"We now know, of course, none of that came to pass," Burnett said as the piece closed.

"Actually, Erin, you're wrong," Bremer shot back. "Every single bit of that came to pass."

Bremer went on to say that Iraq now has the Arab world's most progressive constitution, has conducted six democratic elections since 2003, and has a per-capita income six times what it was then.

"All of those things came true. They have all been reversed in the last three years," Bremer said.

Burnett countered that ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – is offering basic services, such as electricity, that are worse now than they were in 2003. Further, she argued, the latest democratically elected prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has purged his government of Sunni Muslims.

"You'd better get your facts straight," Bremer told Burnett.

Electricity was better and life expectancy up after Hussein's fall, he said.

"I'm not saying it's a great place to be . . . But it is not as if Iraq cannot be a success," he said. "It is now being put on the road to failure by these terrorists."

The two argued over deadlines placed on troop withdrawals by Bush and by President Barack Obama. Bremer said Obama telegraphed to the enemy when the United States would be leaving, while in Bush's case, "We had won the war by then. That's the difference."

Burnett asked whether it was wise to take Hussein out of power since he seemed to have kept all the factions in line even though he was a dictator.

Bremer said Hussein was brutal, killing 75,000 people a year, many more than the years of war have killed.

"That's a very poor argument," he said.

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