Bremer Details Top Accomplishments of Post-War Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 21, 2004 As he prepares to leave Iraq after the handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, the American who has led the country since the end of major offensive operations looked back and detailed what he believes are the three greatest accomplishment there to date.
"I think what's important is actually to step back and look at the broader picture of what's been achieved over the last year," Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III explained June 16 to American reporters in Iraq with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Bremer said changes in the political and economic structures and the "psychological approach to the government" account for the possibility of a stable future for Iraq.
On the political front, Bremer outlined four areas in which Iraq has made great strides:
- Representative government. The ambassador noted the Iraqi Governing Council was the most representative government in the history of Iraq. And the new interim Iraqi government will have even better representation of Sunnis and women. "In every respect, the interim government is more representative than what it succeeded, and it points the direction towards the elections, which will come in January," he said.
- Acceptance of the idea that the rule of law is what governs the country, and not the rule of man. "This is a change from how this place was run under Saddam Hussein," Bremer said. The rule of law is being established in Iraq by the new temporary administrative law and an independent judiciary, he said.
- Decentralized government "so that not every decision on every matter is made in Baghdad and not every decision in every ministry is made by the minister."
- Minority rights. Bremer called this a "very sensitive issue in a country that is so torn apart by sectarian and national tensions, which were all exacerbated under (Saddam's) tyranny."
Regarding the economy, the ambassador cited three major accomplishments:
- Open economy. Bremer said the economy in Iraq is more open than ever before, particularly during the past 35 years. Specific improvements include free trade, a liberal foreign direct-investment law, and low tax rates.
- Fiscal responsibility. "We have begun to get them into the mindset that you just don't print dinars to cover deficits, which is what Saddam did," Bremer said.
- Responsible monetary policy. An independent central bank for the first time in Iraq's history and a successful currency swap in the middle of a war are the biggest improvements to Iraq's monetary policy.
The final area of great accomplishment in Iraq has been in fighting corruption, Bremer said. An aggressive training program is fighting corruption in police and security forces, and three institutions are addressing corruption in government, he added.
Bremer appointed inspectors general in all 26 ministries, "something they've never had before." The IGs are paid through the prime minister's office to ensure their independence.
Officials have revitalized and reappointed the Board of Supreme Audit, which Bremer described as similar to the U.S. government's General Accounting Office. "It's basically auditors to look at how the government is spending money," he said. Also, officials have established a Commission on Public Integrity, "which is a kind of a national ombudsman that can hear complaints from anywhere around the country against any government officials for corruption and can investigate and bring cases in court," he said.
Bremer acknowledged these institutions aren't going to end corruption by themselves. "But," he said, "all three of these are fundamental structural changes that I think, once the security situation is in better control, will give Iraq sort of the building blocks it needs for a stable future.
"No doubt there are a lot of other problems here, and there will be a lot more violence here, particularly I think in the next few months as we run towards elections," he continued. "But a lot of the structural changes that are needed for the end-state of a stable Iraq are in place now."