EAST LANSING, Mich. – The former U.S. administrator in Iraq on Tuesday defended American actions there — a day after faulting troop strength following the ouster of Saddam Hussein (search).
L. Paul Bremer (search), appointed by President Bush (search) as the head of the Iraq occupation, said Monday that U.S. forces failed to stop widespread looting after toppling Hussein, and "paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness."
During a speech Tuesday at Michigan State University, he said his remarks had been somewhat distorted by the media.
"We certainly had enough (troops) going into Iraq, because we won the war in a very short three weeks," Bremer said.
But he added: "As I look back now ... I believe it would have been better to stop the looting. that was found right after the war.
"One way to have stopped the looting would have been to have more troops on the ground. That's a retrospective wisdom of mine, looking backwards. I think there are enough troops there now for the job we are doing."
Bremer's latest comments differed somewhat from those of Bush campaign spokesman Brian Jones, who in an unusual public acknowledgment of internal dissent said Bremer and the military brass had clashed on troop levels.
"Ambassador Bremer differed with the commanders in the field," Jones said. "That is his right, but the president has always said that he will listen to his commanders on the ground and give them the support they need for victory."
More than a dozen people were escorted outside during Bremer's speech. One woman accused Bremer of being a war criminal and another asked, "What do you get when you go into a country and kill innocent people?"
Several people also chanted "Paul Bremer, you can't hide. We charge you with genocide."
"I'll tell you one thing, if people had behaved like this in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, they would be dead," Bremer said at one point.