Cleaning Up Iraq
By Steven Ehrenberg

Tuesday, May 13—The American official appointed to take charge of rebuilding Iraq got to work on Monday. L. Paul Bremer III, a veteran diplomat who specializes in combatting terrorism, will try to bring order to the troubled country.

L. Paul Bremer (left) holds a press conference moments after landing at Baghdad's airport as retired General Jay Garner listens. (Photo: Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Two weeks after President Bush declared an end to fighting in Iraq, Baghdad is a mess. Hundreds of looters roam the capital city, and criminals exchange gunfire with other criminals. Several neighborhoods still lack electricity and water, and piles of garbage dirty the streets. There is still no police force in the city.

Bremer replaces Jay Garner, a retired U.S. general who arrived in Baghdad on April 21 to lead the rebuilding efforts. One of Bremer's first actions will be to meet with many of Iraq's leading politicians on Wednesday. They plan to discuss how to create a temporary government for Iraq.

"We intend to have a very effective, efficient, and well-organized handover [of power]," said Bremer when he arrived at Baghdad International Airport. (The airport used to be called Saddam Hussein International.)

Some observers believe that Bremer has been put in charge because other American officials were slow to help Iraqis recover from the war. "Order had broken down in a far more serious way than they had expected," said one official. But Bremer spoke highly of the Americans who tried to rebuild Iraq before him.

"I want to say...how proud I am of everything they have done here in the last couple of weeks under extraordinary circumstances," he said.