The war is over; we won; Iraq has been liberated. As mentioned frequently, both on FrontPage and elsewhere, the anti-war crowd was wrong - wrong about the numbers of civilian casualties, wrong about the extent of Iraqi resistance, wrong about the reaction of the liberated Iraqi people. Wrong about everything, really. But now that the war is over, they've quieted down, right?
Don't count on it - as long as there's an America, anti-Americans will have something to protest against. No, now that the war is over, the leftists among us are dedicated to criticizing its aftermath. One new website, StopJayGarner.com, is devoted to a scurrilous attack on President Bush's choice for the head of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, retired general Jay Garner. The former general, who left his home in Florida and traveled half a world away to help co-ordinate Iraq's transition to democracy, is the target of a sustained mudslinging from the site's operators, who'd prefer to see a diplomat run things under the authority of the United Nations. He's described as an 'arms dealer,' attacked for his former role in the Armed Forces, and criticized for his close ties to the Bush administration. As we will see, none of these criticisms have any merit.
Take a moment to browse through the site. It's all negative; if you stuck to it, you'd never know why President Bush selected Garner for his difficult and sensitive job. Garner's extensive qualifications have been completely hidden from view. That's not surprising, considering who's behind the site. Their rapidly growing coalition of human rights organizations consists of exactly one organization plus one individual. The individual, Michael Shellenberger, is a leftist web designer, researcher and P.R. man for hire; the organization, much more significant, is Medea Benjamin's Global Exchange.
The name 'Medea Benjamin' should set off alarm bells in the heads of regular FrontPage readers. As head of Global Exchange, Medea Benjamin has been a very busy supporter of a wide variety of anti-American causes. Born Susie Benjamin, she changed her first name to match the villain in a classical tragedy by Euripides, a barbarian witch whose murder of her own children was so vile even the stoic Greek chorus considered intervening. Interesting role model, no? Her organization, Global Exchange, is a fiercely pro-dictator and anti-President Bush organization partly funded by her wealthy father.
Founded in 1988, Global Exchange and Medea Benjamin have become well-known in recent years for their street theatre. As Green Party candidate for Senator in California in 2000, Medea was well known for disrupting other candidates' events by yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs. However, Global Exchange's main activity is propaganda - conducting 'reality tours' to various countries, including Fidel Castro's Cuba and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, that take naVve Americans to meet with 'ordinary people' hand-selected by the dictators. Unsurprisingly, these tourists see nothing but Potemkin villages, where they hear that all the problems of the world are America's fault and their own repressive hosts are nothing but victims. In fact, Medea Benjamin's support for oppression precedes Global Exchange - she got her start in the mid-80s, providing aid to the Communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua as a coordinator for the Institute for Food and Development Policy.
As John Perazzo pointed out elsewhere on FrontPage, Medea Benjamin and Global Exchange's record during the liberation of Iraq has been consistently embarrassing. With a strange and indefensible moral equivalency, Benjamin has asserted that defending our nation from terrorism is equivalent to terrorism itself. Next she'll be blaming women for defending themselves against rapists. As head of Global Exchange and the women's anti-war group Code Pink, she has stood on stage with all three Communist-dominated anti-war coalitions - the Workers' World Party-controlled International ANSWER, the Revolutionary Communist Party-dominated Not In Our Name coalition, and the creation of former Communist Party U.S.A. activist Leslie Cagan, the Coalition United for Peace and Justice.
To sum up: Medea Benjamin, hand-in-hand with communists and a variety of other radicals, opposed our defense against al-Qaeda and their Taliban supporters. She opposed the liberation of the Iraqi people, and the overthrow of the dictator Hussein. And now she opposes Jay Garner.
Perhaps this man deserves a closer look.
It turns out that Jay Garner is a sixty-four year old, retired three-star Army general with extensive experience in Iraq. During the first Gulf War, in 1991, he was responsible for the Kurdish forces in the north of Iraq, winning their confidence and helping them establish an autonomous, Kurdish-controlled territory as part of Operation Provide Comfort.
In addition to his wealth of practical experience, Garner exudes good character. His friends describe him as extremely brave - as General Thomas McKinney put it, Jay "wouldn't dodge bullets, he'd bite them." His neighbours describe him as both casual and humble. (source: The Guardian, April 2, 2003) And according to General Anthony Zinni, one of the primary providers of humanitarian aid in the first Gulf War, Jay Garner is "a very personable and likable individual, in addition to being highly intelligent and mission-oriented" (source: "From Kuwait, a Retired General Plans a New Iraq," Washington Post, April 11, 2003).
Of course, his detractors mention none of this - they're too busy attacking him. Let's take a close look at their criticisms, of which there are three. Garner is president of a military contractor, Garner's no diplomat, and Garner's got close ties to the Bush administration and other Republicans.
First, Garner's job. After leaving the Army in 1997, Garner was indeed hired as president of a company called SY Coleman, which helps develop missile guidance systems. This, according to Global Exchange, is what makes him an 'weapons dealer'. But is there anything really objectionable about what Jay Garner does for a living? The answer is provided by one of the 'Stop Jay Garner' coalition's own press releases dated March 31, 2003. In the release, Jack Taylor, SY Coleman's vice president of business development, is quoted as saying his company "has a wide variety of military contracts, including for missile systems that would see action in a war with Iraq - [including] immediately analyzing data from missile flights to improve guidance and targeting."
This is Global Exchange's complaint? I'm no weapons contractor, but to me, 'improved guidance and targeting' means more bombs hit their intended targets. That is, less bombs miss their targets. That is, less innocent civilians die. Global Exchange's Stop Jay Garner coalition is protesting Jay Garner and the company he heads for minimizing civilian deaths in Iraq! How can Medea Benjamin even pretend she cares a bit for the Iraqi people? The next time she gets up on her high horse, she should be promptly laughed off it.
Next, Garner's role as a general, rather than a diplomat. This isn't a draw-back. The American armed forces have been more concerned with the diplomatic aspects of conflict than any other force in history. Take Garner's role in the first Gulf War, as the general responsible for working with the Kurds after their incomplete uprising - a delicate situation if there ever was one, after it became obvious that Saddam Hussein would remain in power. Yet Garner managed to win the Kurds' trust, and between the first Gulf War and the second, it's no secret that the Kurdish areas of the northern no-fly zone, free from Saddam Hussein's direct control, was a far better place to live than the rest of Iraq. In other words, Jay Garner pulled off a feat any diplomat would be proud of, a feat that, over the past decade, has undoubtedly saved countless Kurdish lives. Medea Benjamin wants an administrator with diplomatic experience? She's got one - right in the person she's protesting against.
And last of all, as for Jay Garner's leanings to the Republican side of the political spectrum - is this at all a surprise, given the Democrats abysmal record on national defense? Democratic presidential candidate after Democratic presidential candidate stood to smear President Bush and his Republican administration during their successful liberation of Iraq, to the cheers of the Democratic Party's left-wing base. If Democrats were at all concerned with keeping America safe, Medea, the Bush administration could work with them, but after their recent antics, appointing a Democrat to rebuild Iraq is like hiring an atheist to lead a church - far better to recruit someone who believes in the enterprise.
In short, the criticisms of Jay Garner amount to nothing - nothing but an unprincipled attack on the Bush administration, which knows what it's doing far better than the people behind StopJayGarner.com. Their alternative - a diplomat, headed by the United Nations. Medea, would this be one of those diplomats who constantly called for more diplomacy, even while Iraqis were being tortured to death in Saddam's prisons? One of those diplomats who called for more inspections, even as the existing inspectors proved repeatedly ineffective? Would this be the same United Nations that grants a Security Council veto to France and Russia, two countries who had massive oil contracts with Saddam's regime? The United Nations did nothing to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq; worse, they impeded it. They prolonged the Iraqi people's suffering. Sorry, Medea, but they've done more than enough already.
The attacks on Jay Garner need to end. It's no crime for a retired musician to tutor students. It's no crime for a retired professor to give a guest talk. And it's definitely no crime for a retired general to put his impressive organizational and technical expertise to use - by developing the tools needed to defend America as president of a military contractor, or by helping a country move from a sadistic dictatorship to a lasting democracy.
When we look at the track record of Medea Benjamin and Global Exchange, one conclusion seems obvious: almost anything these neo-communists oppose is bound to be worth supporting. If they want Jay Garner out, we know President Bush has chosen wisely. Don't be fooled by their spin - Jay Gardner is a man with tremendous ability and experience. He's been an asset to the people of America, and he'll be an asset to the people of Iraq.