Background: The New Iraq
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SPENCER MICHELS: Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Jay Garner began his visit to Baghdad this morning proclaiming it a great day.
LT. GEN. JAY GARNER: What better day can you have in your life than to be able to help somebody else to help other people. That’s what we intend to do.
SPENCER MICHELS: Garner came with a staff of 20 which will grow to about 500 in the weeks to come as he wrestles with infrastructure and security problems. He promised to make an immediate assessment. (Crowd chanting ) When American troops first arrived, some Iraqis greeted them with open arms and jubilation, but the mood is more mixed today, and Garner now must deal with anger at the U.S. His first stop was the thousand- bed hospital which was bombed during the war and looted afterwards. The U.S. presence was not welcomed by a nurse who called it a humiliation.
NURSE (Translated): They said they came as liberators. What liberation? This is an occupation. It is not a liberation. They’re supposed to provide us with a better life; the party opposition in exile — why don’t they come and create a government to rule the country?
SPENCER MICHELS: Currently armed Shia Muslims have been at the hospital at a security force. Throughout the city, Shiite protest marches were another reminder of the opposition that Garner and U.S. forces face. Garner will also have to deal with internal Iraqi disputes and security remains a problem. Just last week U.S. Marines stopped two robberies at bombed- out banks. At one of them, crowds gathered to cheer on the arrests, but jeered when the Baghdad police arrived ten minutes later. And then there’s the war-torn infrastructure. Garner’s arrival could not be watched by Iraqis on TV since most of Baghdad is without power. One of his first stops was at a power station, one of three that serves the blacked-out city of five million people. A U.S. engineer said he hoped 10 percent of Baghdad would have power tonight. At the power station, Garner said we “will be there as long as it takes. We will leave fairly rapidly.” And he downplayed his own role.
LT. GEN. JAY GARNER: I don’t rule anything. I’m the coalition facilitator to establish a different environment where these people can pull things together themselves and begin a self- government process and with our assistance begin the reconstruction process and end up with a democracy that represents the freely elected will of the Iraqi people.
SPENCER MICHELS: But even as General Garner made his rounds of Baghdad, many Iraqis remain skeptical of his mission.
MAN (Translated): The leadership must be Iraqi. We don’t need a British or U.S. mandate. We are Iraqi Arabs. First of all, we are Muslim and we don’t want to be ruled by American.
SPENCER MICHELS: The uncertainty Garner faces was echoed at the Pentagon this afternoon by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said he couldn’t predict how long the U.S. would maintain a military presence in Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It depends on how this thing ends. It depends on how rapidly this interim government evolves. It depends on how successful external influences are in trying to change what’s going on in that country adversely. There’s so many variables. It’s just not possible. We have no desire to be there for long periods. We simply don’t. That’s just a cold, hard fact.
SPENCER MICHELS: Rumsfeld added that the U.S. does not plan a permanent presence in Iraq and does not plan to function as an occupier.