Lewis Paul Bremer III, also known sometimes as Jerry Bremer, is the official "Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance" for post-war Iraq. What a name, eh? Sounds like a character out of a history book.

Bremer arrived in Iraq on May 11, 2003, a few days after his predecessor, Jay Garner was fired on May 6 for failing to get Iraq under control; lawlessness abounded post-invasion, and Iraq's infrastructure wasn't coming back online fast enough.

Bremer's credentials seem pretty sound, he went to Phillips Academy, then Yale University, then received and MBA at Harvard University in 1967. He joined the Foreign Service as Officer General in Kabul, Afghanistan, later continuing his education at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques of the University of Paris, where he earned a Certificate of Political Studies (CEP). He was also assigned in Blantyre, Malawi as Economic and Commercial Officer from 1968 to 1971. He worked in the US State department in the 1970's, even as an assistant to Henry Kissinger from 1972-1976, and Executive Secretary and Special Assistant to Alexander Haig. Then-president Ronald Reagan appointed him as ambassafor to the Netherlands in 1983 and then Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism in 1986. He later retired from the Foreign Service in 1989, and took up a job with his old boss at Kissinger Associates, where he was made managing director.

In 1999, Bremer was appointed to be the chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism by House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert. In late 2001, with the US government reshuffling its organizations, he co-chaired a Homeland Security task Force which created the blueprints for the current Department of Homeland Security. So far, it looks like Bremer has been going to Congressional Hearings for the past two decades and has credentials as an expert on terrorism and internal security.

When Jay Garner was removed, Bremer was appointed to fill in his place. He is the chief US executive authority in Iraq. Bremer was not a military man, unlike his predecessor, Garner. People saw this as a good development, which meant that Bremer would have some political and diplomatic skills that the US military leaders sorely lacked, and still do today. Still, there was some criticism of him getting the role; when he chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, he appeared lassez-faire on the issue of working with groups that had a record of human rights abuses.

Officially, Bremer works under the US Department of Defense, and reports directly to the US Secretary of Defense. He has had several meetings face-to face with George W. Bush, where strategy was discussed, and the President advised. He speaks English, French, Norwegian, Farsi, and German (but not Arabic). He usually is seen in a business suit and desert combat boots.

Bremer's job in Iraq is to oversee the Occupation, that is, until the US returns control of Iraq to the Iraqis, expected in Summer 2004. In the meantime, he has been issuing "decrees" to shape the current policies in effect in Iraq. Notably, he:

  • Outlawed the Ba'ath party and its members from participation in Iraqi government and civil service- Perhaps a big mistake, under a single-party country, you had to be a member to get promoted anywhere. This shuts teachers out of jobs, prominent local leaders out of future leadership, longtime imams from giving sermons, ordinary innocent people who were coerced into membership, you get the idea. Some have suggested that only active Ba'ath party leaders and officials should be banned, and the rest allowed, but this hasn't come to pass yet. This has widely been regarded as a move that destabilized the country (in addition to Bremer blocking local elections) and invited some rebellion from certain sectors.
  • Disbanded the Iraqi army entirely. This is widely considered one of the main reasons the insurgency grew popular. "It was the day 250,000 Iraqis turned against us," one US official recalled. The US had guaranteed, via leaflets and phone calls and broadcasts, that if the Iraqis surrendered, they would still keep their jobs and salaries, and when the US fired them all, it put entire families into unemployment (and into the arms of insurgents). The government realized what a catastrophic mistake it made, and tried to reinstate back pay and pensions, but it's inconclusive how well this helped. Former British Home Secretary David Blunkett has revealed that the idea of dismantling the Iraqi army and bureaucracy in May of 2003 came from US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (It is often blamed on Bremer, but it has all along been obvious that he was ordered to do it by higher-ups). A precise timeline for the development of this policy (which had been ruled out at the Pentagon as late as March 15, 2003) and a precise account of where it came from has never been published.
  • Removing all restrictions on freedom of assembly - This is the purported decree, but a fat lot of good it does if demonstrations frequently turn bloody, as several times in early 2004, soldiers fired into crowds. Many Iraqis have pondered "Why allow demonstrations if you're going to shoot at the people?"
  • Temporarily banned certain news outlets, notably Al-Jazeera, from all news conferences and government events. This was deemed in response to any "support" of efforts against the US Occupation authorities. Many were upset over this. Also, Bremer ordered a popular newspaper, al Hawza, closed for its anti-occupation standpoint, though the reason was ostensibly that it was provoking attacks, though never directly. Personally, I see this as a poor move; it triggered the mass uprising of Al-Sadr's Mahdi militia. Also, it's unfair; the people have a right to disagree with the future government the same way Americans did with the Anti-Federalist papers.
  • Establishing a Central Criminal Court of Iraq - All of the judges have been appointed by the US Occupation and chosen Iraqi leaders. Currently people feel that they are just a puppet to help legitimize the rule of the US in Iraq. Case in point, a US-appointed judge issues a warrant for the arrest of Muqtada Al-Sadr, a prominent and powerful shia Iraqi cleric. Bremer has made the claim that an Iraqi court issued the warrant, but it's uncontested that it's at the whim of the US.
  • Approved the creation of an Iraq Interim Governing Council, supposedly "ensuring that the Iraqi people's interests are represented." The council members were all appointed by Bremer, and each chosen from prominent political, ethnic, and religious leaders to help give the various groups in Iraq the feeling that they are represented. They have some powers, like the appointment of a cabinet, and a temporary Presidency that rotates through the candidates every few months or so. However, Bremer retains veto power over all their proposals. He has already said he will veto any "Islamic law" in Iraq, even if unanimously decided, and despite his claims that he would withdraw all US forces if they asked, it's highly doubtful he'll follow through on that claim, particularly as more and more Iraqis want the US out.
  • Attempted to enact some form of "Weapons Control" which took away all guns from Iraqis except for home use, and then only "small arms." Iraqis didn't like it, some were far too scared to part with any weapons due to the looting, skyrocketing kidnappings, and rape that were going on throughout Iraq. At the same time, some saw the right to own any kind of gun, even heavy arms, as a right and didn't want to be disarmed in case they had to revolt against the occupation. I don't know how popular the latter opinion was. The decree was originally passed in May 2003, then later amended in December 2003, making it a crime to have more than 50 rounds of ammunition in houses. Many Iraqis were ticked off, as US soldiers raided many thousands of houses to look for contraband weapons and perhaps an overstock of guns, which would then make them suspcted insurgents and subjecting the whole family to arrest and the whole house to ransacking.
  • Opened a new Ministry of Defense for Iraq - The irony of the situation wasn't lost on Iraqis- the head of the occupation announcing a "Ministry of Defense". To defend against what? Occupation? Ha, ha… or maybe it's to secure the borders from unwelcome foreigners carrying guns and riding tanks? (this decree and joke courtesy of Iraqi blogger riverbend)
  • Set up the Iraq Communications and Media Commission - The commission is based on the American FCC, and has nine appointed members. It will license broadcasters, draft media laws and help develop "professional and ethical standards. First up, it will open bidding for two licenses to set up national TV channels and have to work out whether foreign ownership will be permitted and whether the stations will be affiliated with a particular party or religion. So far, this also was botched, an Iraqi newspaper Al Hawza was shut down because of its anti-coalition stance, triggering riots and a chain of events that led to a showdown between Muqtada Al-Sadr, a shia leader, and Bremer. So far, there have been 600 dead in Fallujah alone, and Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have been running with the story, and Bremer's crew is looking worse because they seemingly can't control the country.
  • Signed into effect a new law that will give legal protection, after the transfer of sovereignty, to U.S. and other coalition military forces. It said the Central Criminal Court authorities "shall not compel" foreign military forces to appear if they are in Iraq "in support of operations sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution." This means that US troops can operate in Iraq, regardless of what the Iraqi government tries to do. That's still occupation, regardless of whoever claims to be in charge.
  • Excluded all members of "illegal" (according to laws written by the US-led coalition) militias from running for elective office because of their membership. This is specifically to prevent Muqtada Al-Sadr and his lieutenants from running for office for 3 years. This has been regarded by some outside analysts as an act of stupidity; the parliamentary government was hoped to draw off their energy. The AMAL party (a Shia group in Lebanon) eventually give up terrorism in the 1980's and became involved in the Parliament, which moderated their tone. AMAL is now a pillar of the Lebanese establishment and a big supporter of a separation of religion and state. The only hope to deal with various groups in Iraq nonviolently was to entice them into civil politics, as well. If you exclude groups from the democratic process in Iraq and turn them into outlaws, then those groups will work to overthrow it and be spoilers, and more people won't give any confidence in the nascent government.
  • Bremer also issued at least 97 "binding" edicts to push his concepts of governance long after the US handed over official sovereignty. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support. It also bans militia members from office and barrs campaigners from using hate speech or intimidation. Critics such as Juan Cole say that the electoral commission can therefore ban anyone it doesn't like, hypocritically in ways similiar to Iran's barring of certain candidates. (which the US condemned, yet supports here) He also ordered that the national security advisor and national intelligence chief be given five-year terms, which imposes the current choices onto the new government slated to take over in 2005. Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government, installing inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution. Some Iraqis are upset, they view this as meddling, and most see this as extremely difficult to reverse. The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in "emergency conditions only" and requires a driver to "hold the steering wheel with both hands." Of course, few people in Iraq follow any of those laws today.

    Other regulations promulgated by Bremer prevent former members of the Iraqi army from holding public office for 18 months after their retirement or resignation, stipulate a 30-year minimum sentence for people caught selling weapons such as grenades and ban former militiamen integrated into the Iraqi armed forces from endorsing and campaigning for political candidates. He has also enacted a 76-page law regulating private corporations and amended an industrial-design law to protect microchip designs. Those changes were intended to facilitate the entry of Iraq into the World Trade Organization, even though the country is so violent that the no commercial flights are allowed to land at Baghdad's airport.

    Some of the new rules attempt to introduce American approaches to fighting crime. An anti-money-laundering law requires banks to collect detailed personal information from customers seeking to make transactions greater than $3,500, while the Commission on Public Integrity has been given the power to reward whistleblowers with 25 percent of the funds recovered by the government from corrupt practices they have identified. In some cases Bremer's regulations diverge from the Bush administration's domestic policies. He suspended the death penalty, and his election law imposes a strict quota: One of every three candidates on a party's slate must be a woman. Iraqis have already scoffed at these, saying they will reinstitute the death penalty.

Typically, he's been trying to provide a positive spin on the declining situation in Iraq. He's compared the occupation with the post-WWII reconstruction of Germany or Japan, which is perhaps an oversimplification. Bremer's project was to be General MacArthur in Tokyo, except in Baghdad. Many Iraqis aren't fond of him, they see him as a worthless talking head most of the time, as useless of a mouthpiece as Al Hurra. The only time I've ever seen Iraqis cheer him is when he announced the capture of Saddam Hussein. Of course, it's easy to criticize him, but I really wouldn't want his job.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Tony Blair’s envoy to Iraq, resigned early in 2004. It's no secret that it was triggered by his frustration over Bremer's conduct. Sir Jeremy and other British diplomats believe that Bremer is now refusing to listen to his Iraqi officials, military or his allies - and is focused only on the political calendar in Washington.

It's expected that Bremer will be replaced by the US's former ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, cutting short his expected rule of Iraq from 2-3 years to about one. However, by June 30, 2004, Iraq will be run either by an Iraqi government or pass into UN control, so Negroponte will be, ostensibly, only an ambassador. I'm skeptical to see if the US will try and intervene in the affairs of the Iraqi government. So far, analysts expect that much of the laws will be dropped once sovereignty is handed over to Iraqis, because they're written from an American perspective instead of an Iraqi one (ie. they won't work out). Also, it is likely that Bremer will appoint an Iraqi government, which will then have sovereignty handed over to them. Naturally, many Iraqis are justifiably upset, complaining bitterly that he is not consulting Iraqis thoroughly but is acting rather high-handedly instead.

What will happen to Bremer? He'll probably get a nice sinecure somewhere in the US. Juan Cole, a middle east analyst, astutely compares him to Robert Clive, the first British governor of Bengal, from 1765. As the Iraqi Civil war heats up, he may go down as the fool who hired Iraqis based on ethnicity, which split the country into chaos.

http://www.cpa-iraq.org/regulations/index.html (list of decrees and new government regulations)

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