December 24, 2003


Once Skeptical, Briton Sees Iraqi Success (JOHN F. BURNS, 12/24/03, NY Times)

When Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb, a 50-year-old Briton, arrived in June to lead the mainly European force controlling southeastern Iraq, he was skeptical, he said. He felt that "this is going to be a lot more difficult than we realized."

But as General Lamb prepared to hand his command to another British general, he said at a news conference here on Tuesday that Saddam Hussein's capture and other changes, including progress in restoring oil installations, power stations and running water, as well as the Iraqis' fast-rising prosperity, had fostered a new confidence that the American-led occupation force can eventually hand a politically stable Iraq back to its people.

"Is this do-able?" he said. "You'd better believe it."

The British officer described himself as neither optimist nor pessimist but "a hard-boiled realist," then offered an upbeat assessment that matched that of American generals: "I think we're in great shape."

He took a jab at the press. Western reporters, he implied, had come to an early conclusion that the allied undertaking in Iraq would not succeed, and had failed to adjust. He compared this with criticism that greeted allied forces in the first stages of the spring invasion, when resistance stalled the drive to Baghdad.

The plan provided for 125 days to take Baghdad, and it was accomplished in 23 days, he noted. But, he told reporters, "you had us dead and buried in seven days."

Mr. Burns continues to take every opportunity to chastise his own profession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2003 7:23 AM

Not too difficult a thing to do, since they seem determined to continue ignoring all the evidence that opposes their preconceptions.

"Objectivity," of course....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 24, 2003 10:01 AM

I wonder how his editors back on West 43rd Street feels when he/she/they have to work with Burns' copy as it comes in over the modem. Editors have been known to make ideological as well as stylistic and grammatical corrections, especially at the Times, but Burns' is status is so high that I would assume they just have to grin, bear it and hit the 'send' button to the pagination department.

Posted by: John at December 24, 2003 7:29 PM