L. Paul Bremer — Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before
How does U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer plan to prepare Iraq for life after Saddam Hussein?
Former terrorism expert and career diplomat L. Paul Bremer took over as top U.S. Administrator for Iraq in May 2003. In his struggles to establish civilian rule, Mr. Bremer is faced with security issues, poverty, rebuilding infrastructure — and getting Iraq ready for life after Saddam Hussein. Our Read My Lips feature explores his views on the job at hand.
How would you define your job, Mr. Bremer?
“We came to overthrow a despotic regime. That we have done. Now our job is to turn and help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny.”
Did operation Iraqi freedom inspire you?
“The political liberation of Iraq is one of the remarkable events in the history of human freedom. Never before in warfare have so many been freed with so few casualties, in so short a period of time, with so little damage done to the country and its people.”
What is your biggest challenge?
“Security is my number one priority.”
Do your responsibilities allow you to sleep?
“What keeps me up at night is how to create jobs.”
Are all Iraqis happy with Mr. Bremer's performance?
“He’s acting like the president of Iraq. He says he is authorized to appoint people. But he isn’t.”
(Hamed al-Bayati, representative of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, July 2003)
How do you view the troubles ahead as far as Iraq's reconstruction is concerned?
“It’s just damn hard. It’s going to take a lot of money. It’s going to take time.”
Do the daily attacks on U.S. personnel cast doubts on your mission?
“We’re certainly not panicked. The reconstruction goes on.”
Why is economic freedom crucial for Iraq?
“Higher living standards — and political freedom — cannot emerge if economic freedom is denied.”
Where do you expect to direct capital flows?
“We need a major shift of capital from the value-destroying state sector to private firms.”
Does Mr. Bremer have his priorities right?
“Instead of encouraging Iraqi experts to reassert control of their industry, Bremer’s team is concentrating on de-Baathification.”
(Raad Alkadiri, Iraqi-born energy analyst, June 2003)
How difficult is it to organize elections?
“There is no census. There is no voting register. There are no constituency boundaries. There is no electoral law — and there is no law governing political parties.”
Is Saddam still haunting the Iraqi people?
“The fact that his fate is unknown certainly gives his supporters the chance to go around and try to rally support for him.”
Why does Saddam still have a following?
“We’re going to match political freedom with economic freedom — and they don’t like that.”
What kind of strategy seems to be behind the attacks?
“By their choice of targets, they’re trying to undo the victory we won militarily.”
How certain are you about catching Saddam Hussein?
“We’re going to get Saddam. The only question is who is going to get the $25 million — and move to another country.”
And finally, is there a historic precedent for Mr. Bremer's ambitions?
“Lord Bremer of Mesopotamia.”
(Wall Street Journal editorial, May 2003)