Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Post-Saddam U.S. Leaders Garner, Bremer and Chalabi All Have Neocon Ties

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Post-Saddam U.S. Leaders Garner, Bremer and Chalabi All Have Neocon Ties

Article excerpt

Once U.S. and British forces had rolled over the Iraqi army and taken control of Baghdad, it was time to put back together what Iraq's "liberators" had destroyed. In March the Department of Defense appointed Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's choice, retired Army Gen. Jay Garner, to be director of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance for post-war Iraq, reporting-until recently-to the Pentagon.

Garner, who cooled his heels in Kuwait until the fighting essentially was over, was touted as a highly competent administrator and logistician. In 1991, he had led Operation Provide Comfort, which delivered food and shelter to Kurds in northern Iraq after the first Gulf war, when thousands of Iraqi Kurds fled the wrath of Saddam Hussain.

This time around, Garner's responsibilities included managing Iraq's 23 ministries, each-with the exception of the Health Ministry, to be headed by an Iraqi-directed by an American administrator, aided by an Iraqi adviser. Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine was named Garner's regional coordinator for central Iraq, including Baghdad; W. Bruce Moore is the country's Northern Group coordinator, and F.J. "Buck" Walters "coordinates" the southern region.

As the weeks went by, though, increasingly impatient Iraqis continued to wait for water and food supplies and the restoration of electrical power. According to London's Financial Times of May 2, "Some Western officials in Baghdad have described the U.S.-led reconstruction effort as chaotic, contrasting it with the early efforts in Afghanistan under the leadership of the united Nations." Even the neocons' Iraqi wunderkind, Ahmad Chalabi, acknowledged that the "situation is critical because people are complaining and you may get acts of violence." He should know-Chalabi's protege, fellow former exile and self-proclaimed "mayor of Baghdad" Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, was arrested April 27 by U.S. forces "for his inability to support the coalition military authority and for exercising authority which was not his."

Garner, however, denied the country faced severe problems. "There is no humanitarian crisis," he told reporters in late April. Instead, he said, "We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'"

General Garner himself has strong ties to Israel and its American supporters. In 1998, he visited Israel under the aegis of the pro-Israel Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Two years later, he and 42 other retired military officers signed a letter stating that "A strong Israel is an asset that American military planners and political leaders can rely on," and praising Israel's "restraint" in its brutal response to the al-Aqsa intifada.

Just before the onset of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Garner, a personal friend of Ariel Sharon as well as of Donald Rumsfeld, was in charge of placing Patriot missiles in Israel. From 1994 to 1996 he was the commanding general of the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command. Garner currently is on leave from defense contractor SY Technology, of which he assumed the presidency after retiring in 1997 as a three-star general. The firm, which specializes in missile defense systems, was involved in the development of Israel's Arrow missile program. This year it received a $1.5 billion contract to provide logistical services to U.S. special operations forces.

Whether or not the general was spending too much time looking in the mirror, on May 5 President Bush named former Reagan "counter-terrorism ambassador" L. Paul Bremer head of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, with Garner now reporting to him. While Bremer's ascendancy was described as a victory for the State Department over Pentagon control of Iraq's post-war government-and may indeed have been perceived as such by the affected individuals-a closer look reveals that, while the coin may have been flipped, the currency remains the same. …

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