Bremer Blames Violence on 'Poison' in Iraqi Society
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2004 A "poison" that built up through Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq is responsible for the recent wave of violence in the country, the coalition's civilian administrator said today.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III appeared from Baghdad on three Sunday news programs.
"There is a lot of poison still in this society, and it's got to come out," Bremer told Chris Wallace on the "Fox News Sunday" program. "And, frankly, it's better that it comes out now rather than later. It would have built up even more danger, I think, later."
Acknowledging that recent violence has made for "a rough week" in Iraq, Bremer insisted a relative handful of insurgents don't reflect the will of the Iraqi people.
"You know, you have to step back a little bit," he said. "We liberated a country of 25 million people here. We have a few thousand people who are opposed to the democratic vision of the future of Iraq. They represent, as I said earlier, something of a poison in the body politic, and we're going to have to deal with that.
"But we ought to keep a little perspective on this," Bremer continued. "There has been a huge amount of progress. The Iraqis, in poll after poll, tell you that they find themselves better off economically now than they were a year ago and expect to be much better off in another year. So our job is to keep them focused on that hopeful future while dealing with these extremists who are basically anti-democratic and don't believe in that future."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Bremer said repeated polling of the Iraqi people shows that "90 percent or more" want democracy in Iraq. "In these insurgents in Fallujah and in the mobs that support (radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr), we are seeing anti-democratic forces, enemies of freedom," Bremer said. "And they simply have to be gotten out of the body politic here for Iraq to move forward. And that's the process we're in now."
Bremer told Russert that while the makeup of the interim Iraqi government that will take charge of the country June 30 still is unclear, the transfer of sovereignty will take place as scheduled.
"We've always said that there are two dimensions to dealing with the problems of Iraq," he said. "One, of course, is the military dimension, which we're working on right now. But the other is to give a political perspective for the Iraqis to have more and more responsibility. We've been working on that for months."
Bremer said the coalition wants to get an interim Iraqi government in place before the June 30 transfer of sovereignty so it can get some practice before taking over. U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is working with the coalition and Iraqi leaders toward that end, Bremer said.
"And I'm confident that working with him and with the Iraqi people, we in fact will get that," Bremer noted. "We'll get a representative government in place before June 30."
On ABC's "This Week," Bremer updated host George Stephanopoulos on the status of the cease-fire in Fallujah. "What we're trying to do is simply get the forces to stop firing, have the insurgents stop firing on the Marines, and then we'll have a delegation from the (Iraqi) Governing Council go in, and we'll try to find out how we can proceed from there," he said. "But at the moment, we're just trying to stabilize the cease-fire."
Bremer placed the blame for recent violence in Iraq squarely on Sadr's shoulders. "Muqtada al-Sadr's forces attacked and killed Americans in Najaf last Saturday," he said. "We did not start this. They started it. They attacked and killed people working for the coalition: a Salvadoran (and) they attacked Spanish soldiers and American soldiers in Najaf last Saturday. I don't think anybody would argue that we shouldn't react to that.
"He then rose up, had his people rise up in other parts (of the country and) in other cities, attacking Iraqi police stations, taking over government buildings, intimidating the people," Bremer continued. "He is basically violating the entire concept of a peaceful society which is governed by the rule of law."
He said most Shiia in Iraq share that view. "What is interesting is that the vast majority of the Shiia people in this country understand that, and are happy to have us deal with him," the coalition administrator said.
As he has maintained throughout his tenure, Bremer said insurgent violence is a sign that enemies of law and order are increasingly afraid a free and stable Iraq is close at hand. "I think the insurgency we're seeing now in places like Fallujah is an indication of people being worried that in fact we're going to succeed here. And we're just going to have to deal with them. We're going to have to see it through and pass sovereignty to an Iraqi government as scheduled on June 30."