Friday, August 05, 2005

Jay Garner's take on Iraq

For a small town Steamboat Springs has a surprisingly vibrant cultural and intellectual life. Part of that is the Seminars in Steamboat a summer lecture program run by the Colorado Mountain College. The invited guest speakers are quite impressive. Last year they included Daniel Marcus, who was the General Counsel to the 9/11 Commission and Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. Last night we were fortunate enough to have Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay M. Garner who headed the initial humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

While he tried hard not to be directly critical of the administration and his successor L. Paul Bremer, Garner provided a clear insight into how in three days in the job Bremer destroyed any chance the US had of maintaining the goodwill of the Iraqis. According to Garner, in the first three days Bremer extended the de-Baathification of Iraq's government from the top two levels down about six levels (leaving the janitor and doorman but not much else in place at most ministries), reversed plans to remobilise Iraqi soldiers, and dismissed the informal council of prominent Iraqis that Garner had convened to provide an Iraqi face to the administration of Iraq. As Garner described it "we woke up on Saturday morning with 350,000 enemies we didn't have on Wednesday."

Garner expressed a strong view that there are insufficient forces in Iraq and that there have been since the day the formal fighting was over. "He should ask retired generals," Garner said in response to a question about President Bush's frequent remark that he'll send more troops if the generals tell him they are needed.

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