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CPA's Top Achievement: 'Getting Rid of Saddam"

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 4, 2004 – The former chief of the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority said "substantial progress" was made in Iraq during his 13-month tenure, citing the capture of Saddam Hussein as the top accomplishment.

Administering post-war Iraq "was a lot harder than anything I'd done before," said L. Paul Bremer, a former U.S. diplomat and businessman, on Fox News Sunday today.

The CPA was dissolved June 28 as part of the handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

Now back in the United States, Bremer said his tour in post-war Iraq was "exciting, exhilarating," noting, "I think we made substantial progress in the last year."

Perhaps most important to the establishment of a new, free Iraq, Bremer noted, was Saddam's televised appearance July 1 before an Iraqi judge to answer for his crimes. The fact that Iraqis watched Hussein "beginning the process of standing trial, I think, will be very helpful," he said.

Bremer dismissed the notion that trying Saddam will incite terrorists in Iraq, such as al-Qaeda-linked Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to greater violence. "The Zarqawi, al-Qaeda terrorists don't need any spurring on," Bremer explained. Such terrorists, he said, "see correctly that as we go forward towards representative government in Iraq, it takes the entire base of their operations out from under them."

"Why should they be attacking a sovereign Iraqi government?" Bremer asked. "They're at war" with the new Iraq and the world, he answered.

Bremer predicted Saddam's upcoming trial could affect remnant Saddamists and Baathists in two different ways. "Some of them may finally realize that it's really over, that Saddam's days are really over and he's now going to stand trial," he said. Others, he added, may be angry about the proceedings and may try to escalate their attacks.

U.S. and coalition forces toppled Saddam's 25-year regime in April 2003. U.S. troops captured the former dictator in Iraq -- dirty, disheveled and hiding in a hole -- in December 2003.

"Getting rid of Saddam," Bremer asserted, "is an incomparably better place," with the former dictator in jail and out of power.

Bremer said he's also proud about the CPA's role in "developing political institutions that will serve Iraq well as it moves towards pluralism the idea of representative government, the evolution of power out of Baghdad, the principles of the Bill of Rights that are in the temporary (Iraqi) constitution."

The CPA also "opened up" the Iraqi economy to free trade and foreign investment, Bremer pointed out. "We (also) gave them fiscal responsibility and the elements needed for a responsible monetary policy," he said, noting they "are not insignificant achievements."

Bremer said he wishes that more reconstruction was done in Iraq during his tenure, but acknowledged, "The security situation, particularly in the last couple of months, certainly slowed things down."

Yet more than 18,000 individual reconstruction projects, he pointed out, were completed across Iraq in the past year, including work on schools, municipal centers, orphanages and hospitals. He saluted U.S. and coalition service members and CPA employees who were involved with Iraq reconstruction efforts.

Bremer acknowledged that the CPA early on should have paid more attention to the quality of Iraqi security forces rather than the quantity. "We were bringing lots and lots of (Iraqi) policemen onto the roles" in the fall of 2003, he recalled. However, Bremer said it was discovered during the April 2003 insurgent uprisings across Iraq that "it was not really a very professional force."

Bremer said he'd let history be the judge whether U.S. planning was adequate for the occupation of post-war Iraq. He did, however, answer critics who've said he mistakenly disbanded the old Iraqi Army shortly after he took charge of the CPA in May 2003.

"I did not demobilize the (Iraqi) Army," he asserted, noting that force had scattered and become nonexistent by the end of hostilities. To recall the old Iraqi Army "three weeks after they'd been shooting Americans" and after decades of military suppression of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, Bremer pointed out, would have been tantamount to inviting civil war to occur across Iraq.

In other news, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, appearing today on ABC's "This Week" news program, said his current priorities include providing security and infrastructure services for the Iraqi people, and preparing for national elections slated to be held in January 2005.

The prime minister said he respects Iraq's friendship with the United States and "appreciates tremendously" American and coalition help in ridding his country of a brutal dictator. "We know that the blood that has been shed here in Iraq," Allawi declared, "was shed for very good reasons -- both American blood as well as Iraqi and other partners in the coalition -- in defense of democracy and the defense of freedom and the defense of values."

Regarding the fate of Saddam Hussein, the prime minister noted the former dictator would get a fair trial, "unlike what he did to his victims in Iraq."

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