Former U.S. official in Iraq to talk


Jay Garner, former director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, will speak Aug. 4 about his thoughts about U.S. policy in Iraq.

Garner, a retired lieutenant general, said his talk will cover "where we are, how we got to where we are and where I think we ought to be focusing" when it comes to U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Garner said that the current situation in Iraq cannot be described as simply positive or negative, but rather, somewhere in the middle.

What happens next hangs on the drafting of an Iraq constitution, he said. If a good, fair constitution is drafted and the United States is involved in the process, the country should get going in the right direction.

After that, he said it is critical that Iraqis provide security for themselves and that there is economic vitality.

He said he would support having more U.S. troops in Iraq if the troops were available but that the U.S. military simply is too small.

"There are a lot of moving parts, and we still haven't synchronized all of those moving parts," Garner said.

To support the country's economy, it is imperative to first eliminate its debt, Garner said. Next, small Iraqi businesses need to be established -- he thinks that large companies doing contract work in the area should use Iraqi companies for at least half of their work.

Also, Garner recommends in----fusing the local economy with funds by, for instance, giving families $1,000 in return for their efforts or sharing oil revenues with Iraqis. The latter would ensure that Iraqis benefit from their natural treasure and would give them incentive to protect oil pipelines and resources.

Garner said it's key to employ youths who now are unemployed. Otherwise, they could become the next generation of terrorists.

"None of these things are easy, but they're certainly all achievable," he said.

The United States' role in the process is to let Iraq go through the process and make its own mistakes, but with supervision.

"Our responsibility in that is to ensure there's not a total collapse," he said.

Iraqis are very skilled people, and the country is by no means "Third World," he said.

"It's a very sophisticated society that is incredibly complex," namely because of the ethnic, religious and tribal diversities, he said.

Unlike the culture in the United States, which is focused on the future, the culture in Iraq looks to the past, he said. The United States cannot try to put its own template of focusing on the future in Iraq, but instead must let it achieve that on its own timeline.

Garner commanded missile batteries during the Gulf War and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. After the Gulf War, he was in charge of securing Kurdish areas in Iraq and was named commander of the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command. He retired from the Army in 1997. Garner then served as president of a subsidiary company to L-3 Communications, which he continued for a year and a half after serving in Iraq in 2003.


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