March 18, 2004, The Guardian
by David Leigh
Jay Garner, the US general abruptly dismissed as Iraq’s first occupation administrator after a month in the job, says he fell out with the Bush circle because he wanted free elections and rejected an imposed programme of privatisation.
In an interview to be broadcast on BBC Newsnight tonight, he says: “My preference was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can, and do it with some form of elections … I just thought it was necessary to rapidly get the Iraqis in charge of their destiny.”
Asked by the reporter Greg Palast if he foresaw negative repercussions from the subsequent US imposition of mass privatisation, Gen Garner said: “I don’t know … we’ll just have to wait and see.” It would have been better for the Iraqis to take decisions themselves, even if they made mistakes, he said.
“What I was trying to do was get to a functioning government … We as Americans like to put our template on things. And our template’s good, but it’s not necessarily good for everyone else.”
Describing his dismissal after he called for elections , he said: “The night I got to Baghdad, [the defence secretary Donald] Rumsfeld called me and told me he was appointing Paul Bremer as the presidential envoy … The announcement … was somewhat abrupt.”
Gen Garner was careful not to criticise his successor directly. He said the imposition before elections of free market economic schemes drawn up by the US as early as 2001 “was a more orderly approach” than his own.
But he had wanted the Iraqis to decide economic policy for themselves. “They’ll make mistakes, and that’s OK … I don’t think they need to go by the US plan.”
Despite being a protege of Mr Rumsfeld, Gen Garner was the subject of what was alleged to be a White House whispering campaign, describing him as weak.
A year after the invasion, his disclosure of policy differences with the White House highlights the dilemma still faced by the US occupation forces.
- The Pentagon said yesterday that it would withhold payment of $300m to Haliburton, its biggest contractor in Iraq, until an audit of the company’s financial controls was completed.