Postwar Chief: 'We Will Help You…'

IRAQ: Retired US Lt. Gen. Jay Garner steps looks on during a tour in Baghdad, Iraq Monday April 21, 2003. The 64-year-old general will head the civilian administration that will start the uphill task of rebuilding the nation and prepare the way for an Iraqi government, although no date has yet been fixed for the handover of power.
The retired Army general in charge of an interim administration in postwar Iraq told patients and doctors Monday at a Baghdad hospital that American help was coming, but could take some time.

Lt. Gen. Jay Garner visited Baghdad's 1,000-bed Yarmuk hospital, which was overwhelmed with Iraqi casualties in the final days of the war. Its wards, including the coronary and respiratory care units, were then stripped of almost everything by looters.

"We will help you, but it is going to take time," Garner told doctors.

Some were unimpressed.

"If they give us anything, it is not from their own pockets. It is from our oil," said a female doctor, Iman. "Saddam Hussein was an unjust ruler, but maybe one day we could have got rid of him and not had these foreigners come into our country."

Earlier, as his plane touched down, black clouds of smoke still drifted through Baghdad's skies from fires set by looters in a lawless city.

In other developments:

  • Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress exile group, told the BBC on Monday that Saddam is alive in Iraq and moving from place to place. He said the INC is receiving information on Saddam's whereabouts 12 to 24 hours after the fact.
  • The New York Times reported Monday that a scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program told a U.S. military team that Iraq destroyed and buried chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began March 20.
  • As U.S. Marines withdrew in recent days, U.S. Army troops moved in to take jurisdiction over all Baghdad and have joined in patrols with a revived Iraqi police force.
  • One power plant in northeast Baghdad was operating Monday, providing power to an oil refinery and a nearby district. Traffic lights came to life, though they were temporarily stuck on red. Power has been restored to only 1 percent of the city.
  • A recently returned exile, Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, declared Sunday that he was Baghdad's new mayor and that he had formed a municipal government. But Barbara Bodine, the U.S. coordinator for central Iraq, traveling with Garner on Monday, said: "We don't really know much about him except that he's declared himself mayor. We don't recognize him."
  • Tensions appeared to ease between the United States and Syria, with President Bush saying that Syria appears to be heeding warnings against sheltering escaped members of Saddam's regime.
  • U.S. Central Command said forces had captured Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafar, Saddam's scientific research minister, on Saturday — a development that could shed light on Iraq's nuclear program.
  • Saddam's son-in-law and deputy head of Iraq's tribal affairs office, Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, hiding in Syria, were persuaded to leave that country and surrendered to members of the opposition Iraqi National Congress in Baghdad, according to a spokesman for the group, Haider Ahmed.
  • Trying to head off food shortages, the U.S. military opened a warehouse to U.N. aid shipments and stockpiled flour. Workers labored to restore basic services like power and water. A convoy of food arrived over the weekend for the malnourished animals at the Baghdad Zoo.

    Garner, who will report to Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks, said he intended to complete his work and leave as soon as possible, but declined to give a timeframe.

    The ORHA is to coordinate delivery of outside assistance to the 24 million Iraqis; oversee rebuilding of the nation's infrastructure, in disrepair after a decade of U.N. sanctions, neglect by Saddam's regime and three weeks of U.S. bombing; and oversee the establishment of an interim Iraqi government.

    For ordinary Iraqis, however, the first needs are for water and electricity — knocked out during the war — and, especially, for security in a city wracked by almost two weeks of looting.

    At the city's major electrical plant, Maj. Andy Backus of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Garner workers had managed to restore power to only 1 percent of the city, but "hopefully, this evening we will have the lights on in 10 percent of Baghdad."

    Electrical power is key to the proper functioning of other important civilian utilities, like water and sanitation.

    In Washington, Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said installing a strong democratic system will require at least five years because the United States did not plan adequately for the postwar period.

    "A gap has occurred, and that has brought some considerable suffering," Lugar said.

    The Americans' most difficult challenge undoubtedly will lie in trying to forge a peaceful, cooperative structure among Iraq's political, religious and ethnic factions.

    Shiite leaders — who are strongly opposed to the U.S. military presence, though pleased to see Saddam go — have called for political demonstrations during upcoming holy days, which run from Tuesday to Thursday.

    No Iraqi figures have spoken out in support of a strong U.S. role in the coming months.

    Even Chalabi has described Garner's job as one of getting Iraq's infrastructure and services back in shape "in a few weeks," after which Iraqis would take over and the Americans would be limited to military roles.