The first U.S. proconsul in Iraq was, of course, not Jerry Bremer, but General Jay Garner. Today’s Guardian has an account of testimony and an interview he gave over the weekend in Britain about the current state of play in Iraq. It would be correct to say that Garner is not an optimist about the current situation or about the prospects for success from the surge.
The man who led the initial American effort to reconstruct Iraq after the war believes the country is on the brink of a genocidal civil war and its government will fall apart unless the US changes course and allows a three-way federal structure. He has also urged talks with Iran and other regional players.
Jay Garner, the former US general appointed two months before the invasion to head reconstruction in Iraq, admitted that before the 2003 war coordination between the various US departments and military had been disjointed.
He also disclosed that the US state department official in charge of postwar planning, Thomas Warrick, was prevented from joining his team by Donald Rumsfeld, who was defence secretary. He said he was shocked by the Pentagon’s decision to reduce troop levels and disband the Iraqi army.
“The problem from my standpoint within the United States was that there had been a lot of planning done by each element … by the CIA, the state department, the treasury department, defence department,” Mr Garner told the Future of Iraq Commission chaired by Lord Ashdown, Lady Jay and Lord King.
It’s interesting the way General Garner puts a personal focus on the highly destructive role of Donald Rumsfeld. It’s not that no planning was done. The fact is that Rumsfeld personally intervened time and again to block all planning from being used in Iraq. And look at the other major stories that emerged this weekend: Sy Hersh’s account of the Taguba investigation; Dana Priest’s and Anne Hull’s account of the crisis in military health care. Behind each of these stories lurks Donald Rumsfeld and a small coterie of Rumsfeld generals, personally loyal to him, who appear not just incompetent, but actually malevolent in their conduct. Nothing like this has ever happened in America’s history before. It’s clear now that history will view Rumsfeld as the nation’s worst secretary of defense so far – but at this point it’s still hard to get a sense of the magnitude of the damage he’s done. It’s staggering.