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Still, even the Pentagon realized that the U.S. had to start doing better fast and plainly hoped that a new boss would give the reconstruction effort a much needed makeover. Bremer began by making it clear that Saddam's loyalists from his now outlawed Baath Party would no longer be given key positions at government ministries. Many Iraqis had bitterly criticized Garner for the haphazard way Baathists had been let back into authority. Bremer won approval from Pentagon hard-liners in part, a Defense official says, because he was willing to "get in there and de-Baathify" Iraq. On Friday Bremer formally barred as many as 30,000 Baath members from government jobs. To show that the U.S. cares about ordinary Iraqis, soldiers are going into a different section of town every day to help with garbage collection and medical care. The U.S. had unwittingly ceded such basic services to Shi'ite organizations that opposed the American presence. Fuel deliveries are being speeded up, and mid-level Iraqi government workers, who haven't seen a paycheck in two months, have been told they will soon be paid and perhaps even be given a raise.
Bremer's tenure quickly raised eyebrows amid media reports that he had ordered military commanders to shoot a few looters. He has denied drawing up any such plan. But the U.S. policing presence is being heightened. Some 20,000 additional troops are bound for the region, and the number of U.S. military police patrolling Baghdad will soon double, to 4,000.
As for the political transformation, the Pentagon's desire to turn national leadership back to Iraqis by the end of the month has hit a roadblock. Although opposition figures told Bremer that the timetable for installing a transitional authority should not change, he quickly realized that neither they nor the U.S. was ready. American reconstruction officials have not been able to weld Iraq's rival opposition leaders into a unified, reliable body capable of rule. The U.S. will lose the peace if it leaves Iraq with a weak, ineffectual government. In the current state of disarray, no matter how tough Paul Bremer talks, he can't afford to take that kind of gamble. --Reported by Paul Quinn-Judge and Joshua Kucera/Baghdad, J.F.O. McAllister/London and Massimo Calabresi and Mark Thompson/Washington