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Either way, there are not nearly enough police to make a difference, and some of the few in uniform aren't even the real thing. The Iraqi Red Crescent learned that lesson when thieves posing as traffic cops held up one of the organization's workers and made off with his car. Automobile theft has become such a recurring problem that the relief organization CARE has ordered workers to use taxis to get around the city. "We half expected the police force to still be functional, but they were not," Army Major General Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said last week. Although more than half of Baghdad's regular policemen--about 1,700--have returned to work, few have cars, all need to be retrained and their looted station houses are not open around the clock.
Few had expected the U.S. to have this much trouble bringing order to Iraq. "It's difficult to imagine how this could have happened," says a British government official. "But it appears that there was no planning whatsoever."
From the outset, the Bush Administration was overly optimistic and in many ways unprepared for the myriad, messy challenges of rebuilding Iraq. The Pentagon had expected the postwar transition in Iraq to be orderly and quick, without requiring a major, long-term commitment of U.S. forces and other resources. Washington, it now seems, spent too much time thinking about how to reform institutions and not enough time on how to provide people with basic security or infrastructure such as electrical grids, oil-refining equipment, hospitals and museums.
The situation wasn't helped by the fact that Garner and his team at OHRA tried so hard to avoid looking like an occupying power. Holed up in headquarters at one of Saddam's opulent palaces, where their satellite-phone communications were spotty at best, they rarely ventured out. All too often, the American overseers found themselves relying on Western journalists to tell them what was happening in the city. When reconstruction officials did try to make their way around town, they went in a convoy of armed humvees, which was not exactly the friendly image that the U.S. wanted to project.
The challenge of turning things around now falls to Bremer, a consummate Washington operator who worked for Henry Kissinger's consulting firm for more than a decade after 23 years in the State Department. His record as a tough, capable administrator somehow manages to satisfy both Pentagon hard-liners and State Department moderates. "He takes no prisoners," says a U.S. official, who nonetheless wonders whether Bremer can truly make a difference as long as Washington remains reluctant to conduct what the official calls a "proper" occupation, which means enough men, resources and commitment for the long, hard job of rebuilding.