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Jay Garner: The US general waiting to replace Saddam

mentre Bush continua a promettere un dopo Saddam con un governo
democraticamente eletto dagli irakeni, Garner, designato gia' a gennaio
"governatore" dell'irak, aspetta nel Qatar di predere possesso del suo
ecco un ritratto del generale fatto dall'Independent

Change th world before the world changes you, because a new world is

By Paul Vallely http://news.independent.co.uk
05 April 2003
General Jay Garner, being a military man, will have had his bag packed for
some time now. Any day now he'll be stuffing in his toothbrush and heading
for Baghdad. Garner, according to the media, has various titles-in-waiting.
Before too long he will be - as your preference dictates - King, Regent,
Viceroy, Pro-consul or President-designate of Iraq.
His official title is more prosaic. He is director of the Pentagon's new
Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq. Just as soon
as the US-led forces have control of Baghdad, Garner will move in as the man
in charge of rebuilding the country. Until a new Iraqi leader is selected,
he will govern 24 million Iraqis.
For the past few weeks, Garner and his team have been holed up, with their
gas masks, in a seaside hotel in Kuwait City. But he has been in the job -
planning - since January when President Bush summoned the 64-year-old
ex-soldier from his comfortable retirement home in the moneyed enclave on
the lakes just north of Disney World in the Florida magnolias, barely a mile
from where Tiger Woods lives.
On the face of it, his is a good appointment. The last time Jay Garner was
in Iraq the people didn't want him to leave. Twelve years ago, after the
first Gulf War, he was given the task of feeding and protecting Kurdish
refugees in northern Iraq. Three months on, when the time came to leave -
and Garner was the last man to cross over the river into Turkey after
watching the US flag lowered - several thousand Kurds briefly held up the
withdrawal. The refugees hoisted him on their shoulders like a sports hero.
Back in Washington crayoned pictures by Kurdish children hang neatly framed
on his office walls.
He was good at more than just the practical aspects of the job. Garner
managed to coax thousands of Kurds from the mountains whence they had fled
to escape Saddam. He faced down groups of Kurdish guerrillas, managed to
talk his way out of a number of tight spots and freed up the experts to get
on with their job. He is a "make-it-happen guy", in the words of a fellow
retired general, Ted Stroup, who has worked with Garner for decades. "He
is," said the head of the UN development agency, Mark Malloch Brown, "a
highly competent administrator and logistician."
He will need to be. Garner is stepping into what some have called "the
toughest job on earth". He will not just have to distribute food and
medicine and provide shelter for large numbers of displaced families. There
will be homes, schools, offices and telephone exchanges to rebuild. But more
than that, he will be responsible for purging the nation of Baath party
loyalists at every level and preparing the way for democracy. And he will do
so under pressure from the world's politicians, aid workers and a wide range
of domestic and expatriate groups, all with widely diverging agendas. It is,
by anybody's standards, a big job.
To make things more difficult Jay Garner turns out to be a controversial
character, in a number of respects. First is his status as an arms trader,
and one whose firm supplied the military technology responsible for
demolishing the country he is to set about rebuilding. An investigation by
the San Francisco Chronicle two months ago revealed that the former
three-star general - and a friend of Donald Rumsfeld, the contentious US
Defence Secretary - was, until he took up his new post, president of the
defence contractor SY Coleman, which specialises in missile systems. These
include the Patriots so heavily used in Iraq and the Arrow defence system,
which has been deployed in Israel. The Jewish connection we will come to
A row has blown up, both in the US and internationally, of such force that
the Pentagon has been forced to issue a statement saying this does not
constitute a conflict of interest. All very embarrassing just after another
Bush hawk, Richard Perle, was last week forced to resign as chairman of a
key defence board over business interests.
Some might argue that his critics are being overconspiratorial. After all,
isn't the defence industry the obvious place for a retired general to take
up employment? Until his retirement, five years ago, Jay Garner had been a
soldier for 38 years. He joined the US Army in the early Sixties and served
two tours in Vietnam. He became a specialist in terrorism and missile
systems, was a pioneer of battlefield lasers and predicted that one day -
though evidently not yet - national leaders will fight out virtual wars
before they decide whether to go to war.
In the first Gulf War his job was to deploy the Patriot missiles protecting
Israelis against Iraqi Scuds. He afterwards told a sceptical Congress that
the Patriot was effective, though defence officials later pronounced it a
dud. (The Patriots used in the present war have been much improved.) But
Garner rose to be commanding general of the Army's Space and Strategic
Defense Command - part of the Star Wars programme begun by Ronald Reagan -
and successfully walked a delicate line between Republican Star Wars
supporters in Congress and his doubtful bosses in the Clinton
Later, as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, he was the regular Army's point man
in the bitter budget battles of the late 1990s. "We all had our backs
against the wall," recalled Major-General Robert Scales, now retired, who
worked for Garner. "He was tenacious, but there was never any duplicity in
anything he ever did."
After retirement - in 1997, at the rank of lieutenant-general - he remained
a player, joining SY Coleman and serving on a presidential panel on space
and missile threats that was chaired by Donald Rumsfeld. He remained a
forward thinker. After 11 September he called for a redesign of reserve
forces so that military police, medics, and other specialists could better
handle the consequences of terrorist attacks. He also wanted more undercover
agents to infiltrate terrorists' inner circles.
"Unless we go back to the Second World War where we didn't care who we
killed," Garner said, "soldiers and Marines will have to be trained more
intensively and broadly in the stealthy and dangerous skills of finding and
killing terrorists who would do America harm."
All of which background, his critics say, makes him unsuitable for a job of
post-war reconciliation. Giving a defence contractor, partly responsible for
the destruction, the mandate for rebuilding and humanitarian aid seems, at
the very least, insensitive. "This is a lovely example of our indifference
to the people of Iraq," said Professor David Kirp, a specialist on business
ethics at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. "It truly bespeaks a
lack of serious thinking on the administration's part."
It is not the only problem. In 2000 General Garner went on what seems to
have been a routine 10-day freebie to Israel, organised by the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs, an organisation striving "to inform
the American defence and foreign affairs community about the important role
Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the the
Middle East".
To make matters worse, Garner then backed a statement by the group praising
the Israeli Army for showing what it called "remarkable restraint" when
dealing with the Palestinian uprising. "A strong Israel is an asset that
American military planners and political leaders can rely on," it said.
Garner fans say that the general does not share the extreme right-wing views
of the other arch hawks now running the Pentagon - including Perle,
Rumsfeld, Donald Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, George Bush's Vice-President.
But many hold him guilty by association.
They say that his has been a key voice in controversial defence policies,
such as the undermining of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty; and that
he will happily implement what is likely to be one of the first decisions of
a new Iraqi government - recognising the state of Israel.
What is unclear is where Garner stands in the row between the US State
Department and the Pentagon over who should run post-war Iraq. Colin Powell,
the Secretary of State, wants the US military administration to give way, as
soon as is practicable, to the UN. Donald Rumsfeld wants to retain US
control as part of a wider plan to reshape the political landscape of the
Middle East in America's interests; UN role, but not UN rule, is his
soundbite. One of the battlegrounds for this dispute is over the make-up of
Garner's staff.
The State Department drew up an eight-person team to help run the 23
ministries under Garner's control. Rumsfeld rejected the list, saying the
individuals were "too low-profile and bureaucratic". The eight, whom Garner
had put through security and training in preparation for departure for
Kuwait last week, were at the last minute told to "stand down". Rumsfeld
wants hardliners such as the former CIA director R James Woolsey instead. He
has already put one of his loyalists, the Undersecretary of Defence Douglas
J Feith, in as Garner's deputy - though Garner has, apparently, successfully
appointed (to the dismay of the neo-conservatives) some decidedly unhawkish
State Department officials at a lower level in his office.
Now the fight is on over which Iraqi advisers to appoint. The Pentagon is
pushing Ahmed Chalabi, a US-educated former banker with a conviction for
fraud in Jordan, who is leader of the controversial exiled Iraqi National
Congress. Rumsfeld and company see him as a known quantity who would be
malleable in an ambitious regional reshuffling of alliances, with Iraq
emerging as a pillar of US policy in the region. The State Department view
is that Chalabi would not be welcome in several Middle East countries.
The bickering over plans and personnel is said to have frustrated Garner to
the point where, according to the Los Angeles Times, he told some associates
that he had contemplated quitting. Garner himself is remaining tight-lipped,
to the point where The New York Times called his operation "obsessively
secret". It will not be long now, it seems, before events force him to put
his cards on the table.
Profile: Jay Garner
Jay M Garner, born 15 April 1938
Isleworth, Windemere, Florida; and, recently, Hilton Hotel Kuwait.
Wife, Connie; one daughter.
History degree, Florida State University, 1962; masters in public admin,
Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania)
Joined US Army, 1960. Served in Vietnam; specialised in missile systems and
terrorism; early advocate of using lasers; in first Gulf War, commanded
Patriot missile batteries; then supervised resettlement of Kurdish refugees
(he is pictured below with a Kurdish fighter); Commander of Space and
Strategic Defence Command; assistant Chief of Staff until retirement in
1997; president of defence contractors SY Coleman until January 2003. now
director of Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq.
He says
"We are in the job of saving lives and we're going to save lives and do a
good job of it" - on protecting Kurdish refugees after the 1991 Gulf War.
"We are aiming to work ourselves out of a job within 90 days" - on post-war
They say
"Jay is very down-to-earth. Very humble. You would never know he was a
three-star general" - family friend Renée Keenel.