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Democrats, Bremer Spar Over Iraq Spending
Bremer insisted that he "took seriously" the responsibility to spend Iraqi funds.
Only a few Democrats pressed Bremer on other issues.
Rep. John F. Tierney (Mass.) asked Bremer about reports that many CPA employees were selected on the basis of political loyalty and connections instead of experience with post-conflict reconstruction or expertise in the Middle East. Bremer said that most staff members were hired by the Pentagon and that he was not involved in personnel issues.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.) asked Bremer whether he regretted disbanding Iraq's army and also whether he would admit that "your de-Baathification program helped to set the stage for the takeover of Iraqi politics by Shiite politicians with close ties to Iran."
Bremer contended that if he had called members of the former Iraqi army into service, it would have angered Shiites and Kurds -- who collectively make up more than 75 percent of Iraq's population -- and it might have led the Kurds to secede from Iraq. He also defended the overall thrust of his "de-Baathification" decree, but he acknowledged it was a mistake to leave the implementation up to Iraqi politicians, who "broadened it."
"It was the right policy, but poorly implemented," Bremer said.
Bremer, who received the Medal of Freedom from President Bush for his service in Iraq, appeared before the committee voluntarily. Waxman had also requested the appearance of Timothy Carney, a retired ambassador who was recently tapped to serve as the reconstruction coordinator in Iraq, but Waxman said the State Department refused.
Waxman said State offered several reasons Carney would not be able to appear, the last of which was insurmountable: He left for Baghdad on Friday.