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2003-05-07

As President Bush Names a New Ruler of Iraq, Humanitarian Groups Say the U.S. Is More Concerned with Building An Administration Than with the Health and Well-Being of the People

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Once again, Iraq has a new ruler.

President Bush yesterday named L. Paul Bremer the 3rd as his special envoy to Iraq. That means Bremer will replace retired General Jay Garner as the American in overall command of occupied Iraq.

The New York Times reports the power shuffle is intended to resolve a major dispute between the Pentagon and the State Department over control of Iraq. The Pentagon is insisting Iraq remain under military control while the State Department says that a civilian with diplomatic skills and foreign policy experience should be in charge.

Senior administration officials told The New York Times Bremer’s appointment: "underscores the White House’s intention to speed the transition from a military occupation toward civilian administration."

But Bremer will be reporting directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Anonymous officials quoted in the New York Times say Rumsfeld personally chose Bremer and has known him for years. Bremer is also close to leading neoconservatives in the Pentagon.

L. Paul Bremer III served in the State Department for 23 years. He headed the counter-terrorism department under Ronald Reagan. After leaving government, he became the managing director of Kissinger Associates, a global consulting firm run by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The power shuffle may also help the Bush administration in its propaganda efforts. Even Jay Garner’s supporters acknowledge he has not been a successful statesman. Last week, reporters pressed Garner about the shortcomings in the effort to restore civilian order and services to Iraq. Garner replied: "We ought to look in a mirror and get proud, and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say, Damn’, we’re Americans!"

Still, National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told the Times while Bremer will guide overall reconstruction policy, Jay Garner will still handle the day-to-day work.

All of this infighting comes as the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders says the US is breaking international law in Iraq. As the occupying power, the US is required to ensure the health and well-being of the Iraqi people.

But Doctors Without Borders says the US is giving priority to building an administration rather than meeting its humanitarian obligations.

Well today, we are joined by Nicolas De Torrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders.

  • Nicolas De Torrente, Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins San Frontiers.

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