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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
General Jay Garner speaks to BBC
Jay Garner, the retired American general chosen by the US to run Iraq's interim government, spoke to the BBC's Lisa Mullins about his new role and what approach he will be taking. Here is a transcript of the interview:

LM: So how will you go about this task?

JG: I think you begin with a British hand and an American hand but you can rapidly pull that hand back if they're willing to take the throttle themselves - which we hope that they do. So I think you'll see it in various stages - some places we'll keep sort of a guiding hand or friendly hand in things a little longer than other places. It will be up to the Iraqi people.

LM: Maybe you can give me an idea of how you go about doing this? How do you rebuild a nation that is an old as civilisation itself, that's diametrically different from your own country but one that has dissolved at the hands of your country through this coalition? This is a very complicated job you've got.

JG: The first thing I think is you don't try to build it in the image of your own country. You open it to the people and you begin a dialogue with the people and let them begin a dialogue with themselves. As you do that, the leaders will emerge and I think they'll take charge.

LM: When you say you don't try to build it in the image of your own country, what will be different? What are the expectations that you're finding that may not be met?

I don't have a timeline. We're in a process of trying to rebuild a country and rebuild human beings
Jay Garner
JG: I think that's a good question. They haven't had a democratic process, they haven't been free, they haven't been able to think for themselves - everything's been top down. This is going to be a new process for them and we're going to get them started on this and then I think they'll sort it out for themselves. I don't know what their expectations are but we'll find out and we'll try to meet those expectations and where we can't we'll work something out with them.

LM: What are your own expectations? I mean you've got a lot to do, you're only giving yourself three months to do it. What do you want to accomplish in that time?

JG: No I'm giving myself more than three months - if it takes more than three months. You know I don't have a time line. We're in a process here of trying to rebuild a country and trying to rebuild human beings at the same time and I don't think you put a calendar on that.

LM: I guess I'm wondering how you go about creating a democracy and, as you suggest, it may not be a democracy as we know it. But how do you go about doing that in a country without democratic traditions? Literally what are the steps to it?

JG: Well the first step is get them all together and start talking about it. And that's what tomorrow is [Tuesday's meeting in Nasiriya] - a meeting not of the principals but a level or two just below the principals.

To begin to work the process and begin to answer some of the questions; and talk about how do you do a democratic process; and how do we bring everybody together; and how do we get the people from inside Iraq that have never done this before; and how do we mix them with people who have been outside of Iraq for the last few years. So tomorrow's the first tile in the mosaic.

LM: Does that tile include, for instance, humanitarian aid or is that somebody else's role?

Civilisation began here and democracy is going to start here for the Iraqis
Jay Garner
JG: That's our role, humanitarian aid. All those tiles are going to be fit by the Iraqi people - at the end of that mosaic hopefully you have a democratic government or a government that at least expresses the freely-elected will of the people.

You know, I'm sitting right here in the cradle of civilisation - this is where civilisation began, right here where I am today. It's incredible. I was looking at it as the sun went down. And civilisation began here and tomorrow democracy is going to start here for the Iraqis - it's overwhelming and they'll not miss this opportunity.

LM: The world is watching and that includes the Arab world.

JG: I hope they do watch. I think they'll be pleased with what they see.

LM: Do you feel bound, in terms of your responsibilities on the ground there, by the Geneva Conventions and by the Hague Conventions in terms of what happens? Is that something that you are watching yourself in how things are carried out there?

JG: Well I think the coalition is bound by the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions. We're a very moralistic society and a very honourable society.

It was probably the most merciful war or campaign ever conducted
name here
I mean you've never seen a campaign waged the way this was with everything going against them - attacking on one front, limited to that, yet they minimised damage to the infrastructure - they made sure the oil fields weren't damaged ... they tried to protect the water lines. They did as little collateral damage as they possibly could. It was probably the most merciful war or campaign ever conducted. So sure, we always follow the rules.

General Jay Garner, interim post-war administrator
"The first thing is that you don't try to build in the image of your own country"


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