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The U.S. Ex-General Who Will Run Iraq
Sun April 6, 2003 03:06 AM ET
By Paul Holmes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When the Pentagon called on Jay Garner back in January to become Washington's "viceroy-designate" in Iraq, a thought may have flashed through his mind of a scene from the past.
The year was 1991 and a crowd of grateful Kurds was carrying Garner shoulder-high for a hero's send-off at the end of his humanitarian mission to shield them from the ravages of Saddam Hussein's army.
Twelve years later, as Garner, 64, prepares to go back to the country as President Bush's temporary ruler of some 26 million Iraqis, the retired three-star general might be forgiven for asking whether a hero's return awaits him.
The Vietnam War veteran has found himself in the middle of a turf battle between the Pentagon and the State Department over which should have more say in selecting a transitional government for a post-Saddam Iraq.
Aid organizations have complained that making them operate under the wing of man who once wore a military uniform and will answer to U.S. commander Gen. Tommy Franks will complicate the task of vital humanitarian assistance.
At the United Nations, which worries it will be cut out of a major role in Iraq by Washington, some diplomats are suspicious of Garner's military past, his defense industry links, and his reported favoring of the exiled Iraqi National Congress opposition group as a force for a future Iraq.
Many Arabs and Muslims mistrust him after it emerged recently that Garner visited Israel in 1998 at the expense of a Jewish lobby group that argues the United States needs a strong and secure Israel to project force in the Middle East.
Garner has said little in public about his plans for a post-war Iraq and didn't testify in early March before the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.
The media get their first chance to grill him on Monday when Garner is due to hold a news conference in Kuwait, where he has been closeted away at a seaside resort with U.S. and British officers and advisers, and exiled Iraqi confidants.
'SHERIFF OF BAGHDAD'
Garner's formal title is director, Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Post-war Iraq, or ORHA, the Pentagon-based agency charged with initially running a post-Saddam Iraq, including managing its oil riches.
Media reports prefer shorter titles, variously describing him as Iraq's president-in-waiting, a viceroy, a proconsul, a king, and even as the "sheriff of Baghdad."
Garner is a friend of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the administration's main hawks, and chaired a panel in the late 1990s on strategic missile defense.
Friends and former associates describe him as a straight-talker, modest but efficient, with a gift for getting things done, and a man with an air of informality that belies an instinct to tackle trouble head on.
"He wouldn't dodge bullets, he'd bite them," retired Air Force Gen. Thomas McInerney told Fortune Magazine.
Born on April 15, 1938, Garner joined the Army in 1960 and served two tours of duty in Vietnam before specializing in air defense systems.
During the 1991 Gulf War, he commanded Patriot missile batteries used to defend Israel from Iraqi Scud missile attacks. He was then assigned to lead the military mission to set up a safe haven for Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq after Saddam's brutal suppression of a post-war Kurdish uprising.
"We are in the job of saving lives and we're going to save lives and do a good job of it," Garner said at the time.
When the mission, dubbed Operation Provide Comfort, ended in July 1991, thousands of Kurds at first blocked the border to Turkey to stop the troops from leaving, then hoisted Garner on their shoulders to give him a grateful farewell.
"Thank you, but the job is half done," one placard read.
Garner went on to serve as one of the American generals involved in the "Star Wars" strategic missile defense program and retired from service in 1996 as assistant vice chief of staff for the Army with the rank of lieutenant-general.
He has since been president of SY Coleman, a defense contractor based in Arlington, Virginia, that specializes in missile defense technology. He is on a leave of absence.
Garner was among 43 retired senior U.S. officers to sign a statement in October 2000 blaming the Palestinian Authority for the violence that followed the collapse of peace talks and praising the "remarkable restraint" of the Israeli army.
The declaration was circulated by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington-based lobby group that says a strong and secure Israel is essential in the Middle East.
The institute confirmed last month it paid for Garner's visit to Israel in 1998 with other retired U.S. officers, but said it was "ludicrous" to suggest he was influenced by the trip.
Garner, who has a daughter, Lori, with his wife, Connie, recently bought a new $1.1 million lakeside home in the town of Windermere in his native Florida.
He was fixing the boat deck when the call came to turn his attention to rebuilding Iraq, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported last month.
"I'm going to be away for a while," the newspaper quoted him as telling a family friend. "I have to do a little work for Donald Rumsfeld."
投稿者 愚民党 日時 2003 年 4 月 06 日 07:16:01: