Bremer, L. Paul III

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L. Paul Bremer III

Born September 30, 1941

Hartford, Connecticut

U.S. civil administrator in charge of the postwar reconstruction of Iraq

"America has no designs on Iraq and its wealth. We will finish our job here and stay not one day longer than necessary...."

L. Paul Bremer III in the New York Times.

L. Paul Bremer III is head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the civilian (nonmilitary) organization in charge of the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. A retired diplomat and former U.S. ambassador, Bremer was selected by President George W. Bush (see entry) to oversee the process of rebuilding Iraq and helping the Iraqi people form a democratic government. Bremer faced a difficult task, as U.S. military personnel and international aid workers came under a series of violent attacks during the postwar period. But the Coalition Provisional Authority still managed to achieve some important successes under his leadership.

Builds a career as a diplomat

Lewis Paul Bremer III, known by the nickname Jerry, was born September 30, 1941, in Hartford, Connecticut. He earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1963, then spent a year in France studying at the University of Paris Institute for Political Studies. Upon returning to the United States, he earned a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1966.

Bremer decided to make a career in the U.S. foreign service. In twenty-three years as a diplomat, he served as an assistant to six different secretaries of state. He also worked at the American embassies in Afghanistan, Malawi, and Norway. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan appointed him as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. Upon leaving that post in 1986, Bremer became the State Department's ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism. He specialized in monitoring international terrorist activities and helping the United States and other countries prevent terrorist attacks.

In 1989 Bremer retired from government service and began working in the private sector as a consultant. He spent eleven years with Kissinger Associates, a prominent consulting firm run by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In 2000 Bremer became chairman and chief executive officer of the Marsh Crisis Consulting Company. This firm advises multinational corporations on managing the risks of doing business in foreign countries.

Appointed civilian administrator for Iraq

On September 11, 2001, members of a radical Islamic terrorist group known as Al Qaeda hijacked four commercial planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon building near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly three thousand people were killed that day. Immediately after these attacks against the United States, President George W. Bush announced a global war on terrorism that initially focused on Al Qaeda and other known terrorist organizations. As a recognized counterterrorism expert, Bremer was appointed to Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2002.

Bush eventually expanded the war on terrorism to include enemy nations that he believed supported terrorist activities. The president claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and could provide these weapons to terrorist groups. He argued that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (see entry) posed an immediate threat to world security. In early 2003 the United States launched a war against Iraq. The war succeeded in removing Hussein from power after only three weeks of combat, when the Iraqi capital of Baghdad fell to coalition forces on April 9.

On May 6 Bush appointed Bremer as the senior civilian administrator in Iraq. Bremer took charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.-run civil agency in charge of Iraq's postwar reconstruction. He replaced retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner, who coordinated the military's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid during and immediately after the war. Although Bremer reported to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (see entry), his appointment symbolized the transition from military to civilian control over Iraq's political and economic reconstruction.

Many people praised the selection of Bremer, an experienced diplomat with proven managerial skills, to oversee the process of rebuilding Iraq and helping the nation form a democratic government. Upon arriving in Baghdad, he outlined his goal of restoring stability and turning over power to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. "We are committed to establishing the conditions for security, prosperity, and democracy," he told the New York Times. "America has no designs on Iraq and its wealth. We will finish our job here and stay not one day longer than necessary.... Once our work is over, the reward will be great: a free, democratic, and independent Iraq that stands not as a threat to its neighbors or the world, but as a beacon of freedom and justice."

Struggles to solve Iraq's postwar problems

But Bremer's postwar plans for Iraq soon ran into trouble. Security became a concern as Iraqi insurgents (people who fight against an established government or occupation force) and foreign fighters launched a series of violent attacks against American troops and international aid workers in Iraq. U.S. officials knew that Hussein's fall from power would create a power vacuum, or gap, in Iraq, so they expected some security issues to arise during the postwar period. But the situation turned out to be much different and more complicated than they anticipated.

Critics claimed that some of Bremer's decisions worsened the situation. For example, one of his first acts as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority was to disband Iraq's army and security forces. He did this because he worried that Iraqi civilians would not trust the people who had been responsible

Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations Special Representative to Iraq

Sergio Vieira de Mello was appointed as the UN Special Representative to Iraq in May 2003, shortly after the end of combat in the Iraq War. He thus became the main person representing the interests of the international community during the U.S.-led occupation. His mission was to help the Iraqi people make a peaceful transition to democracy. His four-month assignment was cut short, however, when he was killed in a car bomb attack against the UN offices in Baghdad.

De Mello was born March 15, 1948, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was educated in Brazil and in Paris. De Mello chose to build a career as a diplomat with the United Nations. He accepted his first UN assignment in 1969. During the next thirty years, he served in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions around the world.

De Mello rose through the ranks of the United Nations. He was appointed Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees in 1996 and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in 1998. One of his proudest moments was overseeing the peaceful election of Xanana Gusmao as president of the newly independent nation of Timor-Leste in 2002. Afterward, he was appointed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "I view the position ... as a daunting challenge that I face personally, that the United Nations face collectively, to make our work in the field of human rights have true meaning," he stated.

In early 2003 despite a lack of UN support, the United States launched a military invasion of Iraq. The war succeeded in removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power after only a few weeks of combat. Once the war ended, the United Nations pressured President George W. Bush to allow the international community to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, especially the process of forming a new Iraqi government. The Bush administration welcomed UN assistance with humanitarian aid, but declared that the United States would handle Iraq's political transition.

In late May UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked de Mello to serve as the UN Special Representative to Iraq. His mission involved overseeing humanitarian aid, refugee return, economic development, legal reform, and civil administration on behalf of the international community. Upon arriving in Baghdad, de Mello expressed sympathy for the plight of the Iraqi people under U.S. military occupation. "It must be one of the most humiliating periods in their history," he acknowledged in Biography Resource Center. "Who would like to see their country occupied?"

As the reconstruction process continued, security became a major concern in Iraq. Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters launched a series of violent attacks against American troops and international aid workers. In a July report to the UN Security Council, de Mello emphasized the need to speed up the transfer of power to the Iraqi people. "Iraqis need to know that the current state of affairs will come to an end soon," he stated. "They need to know that stability will return and that the occupation will end."

On August 19, a week before de Mello was scheduled to leave Iraq, a truck bomb exploded beneath his office at the UN compound in Baghdad. Much of the building was destroyed. A U.S. Army unit that responded to the attack found de Mello trapped alive in the rubble, but they did not have proper equipment to extract the survivors quickly. As he awaited rescue, de Mello repeatedly asked about the welfare of his UN colleagues. He also conveyed a message to Annan requesting that the United Nations remain in Iraq and continue helping the Iraqi people build peace and democracy.

De Mello was freed from the rubble after several hours, but he lost consciousness and died soon afterward. The terrorist attack against the UN headquarters in Baghdad killed twenty-two other people and wounded one hundred more. Members of the United Nations and the international community expressed grief and outrage at de Mello's loss. "The death of any colleague is hard to bear, but I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the United Nations system, than Sergio," said Annan on the UN web site.

In September 2003 the United Nations withdrew most of its six hundred staff members from Baghdad and stationed them in Amman, Jordan. Some people expressed sympathy for the United Nations' security concerns, but others criticized the move for playing into the hands of terrorists.

By the time of his death, de Mello was one of the United Nations' most respected diplomats. He was often mentioned as a possible successor to Annan as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Several world leaders said that he should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. According to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called him "a hero who dedicated his life to helping people in danger and in difficulty. His loss is a terrible blow to the international community." Following a memorial service in Rio de Janeiro, de Mello's remains were taken to the Cemetery of Kings in Switzerland. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Sources: "Sergio Vieira de Mello." Biography Resource Center Online. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2003; "Sergio Vieira de Mello: Biographical Note." United Nations, August 29, 2003. Available online at (accessed on November 14, 2003).

for enforcing Hussein's rules. When unrest broke out in Baghdad and other cities, however, some observers questioned Bremer's decision. Critics claimed that a trained Iraqi security force could have prevented much of the violence.

The Iraqi resistance seemed to become more determined and organized as time went on. Bremer claimed that the insurgents grew desperate as the Iraqi people embraced freedom. "This is not yet a full democracy, but freedom is on the march, from north to south," he told the New York Times. He went on to say:

Sadly, this progress is despised by a narrow band of opponents. A small minority of bitter-enders—members of the former regime's instruments of repression—oppose such freedom. They are joined by foreign terrorists, extreme Islamists influenced by Iran, and bands of criminals.... These shadowy figures are killing brave Iraqis working with us, attacking soldiers and civilians, and trying to sabotage the fragile infrastructure.

The lack of security made it difficult for humanitarian aid, such as food, to reach the Iraqi people, so conditions in the country were slow to improve. For example, many Iraqis suffered from shortages of gasoline, electricity, and safe drinking water. Some people criticized the Bush administration for failing to adequately plan for reconstruction, and the United Nations began pushing for a larger role in the process.

Coalition Provisional Authority makes progress

As time passed, however, Bremer made significant progress on several fronts. He established the first transitional government in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq Governing Council (IGC). Its membership included twenty-five prominent Iraqis whose political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds reflected the diversity of Iraq's population. The IGC held its first meeting on July 13. The group created a temporary constitution that established broad civil rights for the Iraqi people.

In October the Bush administration announced its intention to speed up the transfer of power to the Iraqis. Bremer and the IGC set a goal of handing over power to an independent Iraqi government by July 1, 2004. "We will hand over to a sovereign Iraq government on June 30," he said in a Time interview. "The shape and structure of that government isn't yet defined."

In a major concession to Shiite religious leaders, Bremer agreed to allow the Iraqi people to elect a new government before drafting a new constitution. Several prominent Shiites had refused to cooperate with the political process because they believed that only an elected Iraqi government should have the power to create a constitution. The Bush administration, on the other hand, preferred to see its hand-picked interim government, the IGC, draft the constitution.

The Coalition Provisional Authority also made progress in rebuilding Iraq's economy. By late 2003, sewage treatment systems had been improved and electric power had been restored to prewar levels. Thousands of roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals had been repaired or rebuilt. Material goods were widely available in Iraq's cities, and unemployment levels declined. The CPA also established an Iraqi security force and trained seventy thousand new police officers.

On December 13, 2003, Bremer held a press conference in which he announced that coalition military forces had captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "This is a great day in Iraq's history," he stated to Associated Press. "For decades, hundreds of thousands of you suffered at the hands of this cruel man. For decades, Saddam Hussein divided you citizens against each other. For decades, he threatened and attacked your neighbors. Those days are over forever. Now it is time to look to the future, to your future of hope, to a future of reconciliation."

In March 2004, on the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Bremer emphasized the CPA's many accomplishments in rebuilding Iraq and establishing a democratic government. But he also acknowledged the difficult tasks remaining to complete the transfer of power to the Iraqi people. "I expect in the run-up period to the transition of June 30 that we will have some really bad days," he told the Associated Press. "The terrorists are going to continue and even accelerate their attacks, particularly on Iraqi men, women, and children."

Once he completes his job with the CPA, Bremer plans to retire permanently from government service. "I feel like I'm in a fast-moving car on a slippery mountain road. I don't spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror," he noted in an interview with Time. "I really am planning to retire this time. I think this will have worn me out sufficiently for the rest of my life." Bremer makes his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He has been married to the former Frances Winfield for nearly forty years and has two children.

Where to Learn More

"Ambassador Paul Bremer." Coalition Provisional Authority biography, undated. Available online at (accessed on March 19, 2004).

Bremer III, L. Paul. "The Road Ahead in Iraq—and How to Navigate It." New York Times, July 13, 2003. Available online at (accessed on March 24, 2004).

"L. Paul Bremer III." Biography Resource Center Online. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2003.

"One Year after War, Bremer Reflects on Ups and Downs in Iraq." Associated Press, March 19, 2004. Available online at (accessed on March 24, 2004).

Walt, Vivienne. "Interview: L. Paul Bremer." Time, March 7, 2004. Available online at (accessed on March 19, 2004).

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Bremer, L. Paul III

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