Skippering the Yacht of State

A few weeks ago, I wondered about General Jay Garner’s potential success as our modern colonial viceroy in Iraq, noting that this time he would be bereft of the influence of iconoclastic reconstruction and logistics genius, the beholden-to-no-one Fred Cuny.

The suspense has broken. Not only will L. Paul Bremer III, retired diplomat and counterterrorism expert, now lead the governorship in Baghdad, but Garner will not, as originally announced, stay on as the number two man. Garner and several of his staff will return the Washington after a short, sweet transition period.

Of course, transitions are really more like hell. No doubt our Iraqi friends feel our pain, exquisitely even. Especially when there is money to be made. Making money, however, is only part of the reason Garner is leaving. Certainly, Jay Garner is a wonderful public servant and remains truly dedicated the peaceful and productive rebuilding of Iraq. Much like Halliburton and KBR, in his way.

But the interesting aspect of the administration shakeup is what we all saw coming — the present-day political genoa jib is the Bush re-election campaign. Garner, with bad publicity regarding kick-backs and government scams, is electoral jetsam. Think Thomas "E. for Enron" White as former Army Secretary, and the lovely Richard "I wouldn’t dream of influence peddling with my newly formed venture capital company Trireme Partners" Perle as former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board. (Well, not true jetsam really, ’cause folks is folks.)

In contrast, not much is out on L. Paul Bremer, III, or "Jerry" to his friends. This is as hoped and planned. The words, conceptions, and images of the current and pending disaster in Iraq must now be bland and boring to the heartland. Bremer, of course, is well connected, and as expected, a loyal member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He knows nothing about Iraq, but is well versed on Hezbollah, complementing nicely the security needs of the singular small state that helped guide and promote the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. But nothing much for the local papers, it seems. While his performance of duty at his final State posting was criticized, relating to a certain lack of action taken on a particular warning about Pan Am Flight 103, his overall outstanding qualifications were noted by powers that be. He was hired in 1989 — immediately after leaving State — by Kissinger Associates, and surely that must be a comfort to everyone.

Last week, a mother of a Lockerbie victim was asked about Bremer’s new post in Iraq. She said simply, "I was shocked he was given the job.”

I’m not one to contradict anyone’s mother, especially so soon after Mother’s Day. But while we might have many feelings as we watch the slow unfurling of the statist flag over the U.S. channel into OPEC, "shocked" should not be one of them.

Read: "Jay Garner’s Missing Link"