The Next Face of Iraq ; How a Former US General Can Jump-Start a Nation

The Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Next Face of Iraq ; How a Former US General Can Jump-Start a Nation


Waiting patiently in Kuwait for the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime is an American official who would replace him.

John Garner, a former Army general from the 1991 Gulf War, has been piecing together an "Interim Iraqi Administration," which will have him as its unelected, civilian, and temporary ruler.

Known for his past humanitarian efforts in Iraq, Mr. Garner is on leave from a US defense contractor and is President Bush's best choice for the difficult task of jump-starting a new Iraq.

A victory over Mr. Hussein is weeks, maybe months away, but the United States already has written a basic script for a postwar civil authority in Iraq - and, so far, it doesn't include the United Nations.

Come V-I Day, Garner will be the new face of Iraq.

Having failed to win a final resolution on Iraq at the UN Security Council before the war, the US is rightfully skittish about returning for a long debate about a UN hand in Iraq, with the likelihood that France will once again play the spoiler.

Still, a diplomatic sandstorm over the UN's political role has begun, even as US and British forces liberate Iraq city by city and UN agencies urgently seek to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis (which is largely of Hussein's doing).

Behind the maneuvering at the UN are French and Russian concerns over retaining their oil interests in Iraq and whether their businesses will win rebuilding contracts.

Beyond those narrow interests, however, lies French President Jacques Chirac's promise to veto any UN resolution that would "give the American and British belligerents the right to administer Iraq." He's still fighting a war he's already lost.

Here's the horn-locking essence of the debate: The US figures France and others won't block the UN from helping in the humanitarian tasks; while France figures the US won't want to pay the estimated $20 billion a year to repair a new Iraq and keep it afloat and will, as the reluctant empire it is, ultimately seek UN help.

To be sure, once the glow of liberation has faded among the 23 million Iraqis, the US will need to quickly bring in as many non- American faces as possible to help rule and fix Iraq so that Garner doesn't look like General MacArthur in Occupied Japan or evoke Arab memories of Western colonialism. …

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