'Itching for a fight'
Al-Ahram Weekly | Opinion | 'Itching for a fight':
Greg Palast, author of Armed Madhouse, noticed something that escaped most other writers: why Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fired General Jay Garner on 21 April 2003, and the consequences.
Garner, appointed by Bush, made the mistake of 'taking the US president at his word'. He thought that his job was to keep the peace and bring democracy. Then he was given a plan. It was a 101- page document to guide the long-term future of Iraq. There was nothing in it about democracy or elections or safety. There was, rather, a detailed schedule of selling off 'all of Iraq's state assets,' 'especially' said the plan, 'the oil and supporting industries.'
The plan, according to Garner, included the sale of Iraq's banks and, curiously, changing copyright laws; 'items that made the plan look less like a programme for getting Iraq on its feet than a programme for corporate looting of the nation's assets.'
Garner did not think much of the plan. He had other priorities like food distribution and preventing famine. 'Seizing title and ownership of Iraq's oil fields was not on Garner's must-do list. He let it be known to Washington that 'what we need to do is set an Iraqi freely elected government represent the will of the people. It is their country, their oil.''
Apparently, Rumsfeld disagreed. 'Worse,' writes Palast, 'Garner was brokering a truce between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. They were to begin what he called 'big tent' meetings to hammer out the details and set a date for elections. But quick elections would mean the end of the state-asset sell-off plan. An Iraqi-controlled government would never go along with it. Garner had spent years in Iraq in charge of the Northern Kurdish zone and knew the Iraqis well. He was certain that an asset-and-oil-grab, 'privatisations', would cause a sensitive population to take up the gun. 'That's just one fight you don't want to take on right now.''
But that's just the fight the neo-cons wanted. Palast continues: 'And in Rumsfeld's replacement for Garner, they had a man itching for the fight. Paul Bremer III had no experience on the ground in Iraq, but he had one unbeatable credential that Garner lacked: Bremer had served as managing director of Kissinger and Associates.'
General Garner, watching the insurgency unfold from the occupation authority's provocations told Palast: 'I am a believer that you don't want to end the day with more enemies than you started with.' Such words seem from a different era to ours.
As Palast concludes, 'You can't have a war president without a war. And you can't have a war without enemies. 'Bring 'em on,' our commander-in- chief said. And Zarqawi answered the call.'