America: The Pentagon Has Wrested Control of Postwar Iraq from the State Department, Just as It Took Control of the War and the Diplomacy That Preceded It. (Columns)

By Stephen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), May 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

America: The Pentagon Has Wrested Control of Postwar Iraq from the State Department, Just as It Took Control of the War and the Diplomacy That Preceded It. (Columns)


Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


I was talking to the wife of a very senior member of the Bush administration the other day. "You do realise," she said to me with great emphasis, "that we have only a matter of weeks to get things right in Iraq." To stress the short time left, she held her forefinger close to her thumb. "A matter of weeks--that's all," she repeated.

She was, in effect, warning that the administration's patience with Iraq will wear out if peace does not magically alight on the country by the end of the summer. It does not matter if, having shocked and awed the benighted country in war, America is impotent in peace.

The American public certainly does not care: the US military won a mighty victory, a venal dictator has gone, and it is now up to the Iraqi people to make something of their wretched little country--to show a bit of initiative, American-style.

Few Americans realise that there are still 160,000 American troops (plus 40,000 British) in Iraq. That public complacency filters down from the very top. As lawlessness, looting and threats of dysentery and cholera increase in Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, says airily: "Freedom is untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

Quite. More than six weeks after the de facto end of the war in Iraq, the US is failing to make any headway in its supposed rebuilding of the country. General Jay Garner, a friend of Rumsfeld who was appointed to head the reconstruction, has been sacked in favour of L Paul Bremer III, a career diplomat who was prominent in the Reagan administration.

But Bremer, though technically from the State Department, was chosen by Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz--and will report directly to Rumsfeld rather than to Colin Powell, the secretary of state (whereas Garner was reporting only to General Tommy Franks, chief of US Central Command).

It is the same lower down the ranks. I know two Americans who have gone to Baghdad to aid in the "reconstruction": one is from the State Department, the other from the Treasury. Each, though, has temporarily been seconded to the Pentagon. In other words, Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have taken control of postwar Iraq every bit as much as they took control of the war. The trouble is that they were appallingly ill-prepared: when Garner arrived in Baghdad after weeks of being heralded as Iraq's peacetime saviour, he had no e-mail links, no way for people outside to phone him, no cars, drivers or interpreters. …

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