Wasting the Golden Hour in America's Iraq Meltdown

James Clad
Content Type
Journal Article
The National Interest
Issue Number
Publication Date
July-August 2013
Center for the National Interest
IN LATE April 2003, I rode in an open car down Baghdad's wide-open airport highway. U.S. Army and Marine units had seized the city just two weeks before, at the end of a short invasion. I had come to Iraq for a few months, detailed to the White House from another agency, and I was heading that morning to Basra, the southern city occupied by the British Army. At the airport, I climbed into a C-130, an old model of the transport workhorse with just a few tiny windows. We were heading for a first official visit to the British zone, traveling with the retired U.S. Army general Jay Garner, the three-star commanding the occupation authority called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). When taking the job, Garner expected that his ad hoc occupation entity, and its anodyne acronym, would disappear in three months or less, leaving the Iraqis to rule themselves. It was not to be. As a dazzling dawn broke over Mesopotamia, Garner already had become the invasion's first political casualty, the terms of his engagement rewritten back in Washington, changed from “rapid departure” to “indefinite stay.” From my marginal place, I saw Garner working hard at what needed doing, predicated on our need to get out of Iraq almost as quickly as we had arrived.
Political Geography
United States, Iraq, America, Mesopotamia