THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB?

by RAY FLEMING

MR Bush and Mr Blair are to meet in Northern Ireland on Tuesday to discuss the progress of the war (which may be over by then) and what to do about the peace - specifically, who will run Iraq when Saddam Hussein and his government have gone. There can be no doubt that an interim military regime will be necessary, if only because it is quite likely that when the people of Iraq know that Saddam's iron grip has been loosened, there will be tribal and religious uprisings around the country that will have to be controlled. When this has been done and some semblance of normalcy established, who will take over? Unless Tony Blair can persuade George W Bush that it is the UN's job, the name in the frame is Jay Garner and it will become increasingly familiar to us as the man chosen by the American government to run the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) in Iraq. He has been in Kuwait for several weeks putting a skeleton administration together which will consist of some thirty departments run mainly by US Army officers each with Iraqi advisers who come mostly from exiles now returning to their homeland. Jay Garner, 65, is a retired lieutenant-general of the US Army. In 1991 he was commanding officer of Operation Provide Comfort in Northern Iraq and by all accounts did a good job then in calming the turbulent region. Since retirement from the army he has been in the defence business and is currently on leave from his job as president of SY Coleman, an arms company which provides technical support to missile systems such as the Patriot which has been extensively used in the current war. SY Coleman is also involved in the Arrow missile system deployed in Israel. In 1998 Mr Garner visited Israel as a guest of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and in 2000 he was one of some 40 retired US officers who signed a statement praising the Israel army's “remarkable restraint” in handling Palestinian unrest. While Mr Garner's administrative competence is not in question, there must be doubts about the political appropriateness of his appointment to a humanitarian role given his association with the defence industry and links to Israel.

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