A Grand Mission Ends Quietly
"I knew there were big security concerns, but I figured that at the very least we'd have a ceremony with a few hundred Iraqis -- something that would be televised for the country to see," one American working for the CPA said. "This was embarrassing."
Another CPA staff member described Bremer's departure as a "tail-between-your-legs exit."
"We should have held up our heads high," the staff member said. "Everything may not have worked out as we had planned, but we did do a lot of good. Don't forget: We got rid of Saddam."
A senior aide to Bremer said the CPA had intended to hold the ceremony before the announced date, likely on Tuesday, because intelligence analysts had predicted a rash of insurgent attacks on Wednesday, the planned handover date. The aide said it was moved to Monday at the request of the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who met with Bremer to discuss it Sunday.
Bremer concurred with Allawi, but kept the information limited to a handful of his top advisers, a senior U.S. official said. The official said Bremer also informed the White House and the Pentagon of the schedule change.
The small cadre of CPA officials who knew about the change stayed up all night preparing for the event, which was held in the prime minister's office in the Green Zone. There were no banners or bands, just a few chairs upholstered in gold fabric arranged around a coffee table with a flower arrangement with a small Iraqi flag.
When Bremer informed his senior staff at 8 a.m. Monday that he would be leaving by noon, there was an emotional reaction but also a sense of the inevitable, participants said. "It was amazing to see how many people were standing out with nothing to do," one of them said. "We were waiting for this arbitrary day, so when Bremer announced it, I don't think there was a surprised face."
Two hours after the ceremony, he was at Baghdad International Airport, where a television camera filmed him walking across the tarmac with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. Both men were surrounded by plainclothes security guards. Without making any public comments, Bremer walked up the steps of an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane.
As he reached the top step, he turned, waved and ducked into the military aircraft that would take him back to America.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
The former U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, left, and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih are flanked by armed guards before Bremer boarded a flight out of Iraq yesterday, a few hours after relinquishing political authority.
(Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen Via Reuters)
An article June 29 on the departure from Iraq of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer stated that Bremer did not deliver a farewell address to the Iraqi people. Although he did not deliver prepared remarks to an audience on the day he left, a U.S.-funded television station in Iraq broadcast remarks he had taped two days earlier, his spokesman said.
_____Road to Sovereignty_____
What Lies Ahead: With the transfer of political power to an interim government, Iraq has taken its first step toward a constitutional government.
Transcript: The Post's Scott Wilson in Baghdad.
Transcript: The Post's Robert G. Kaiser discusses the handover of political authority in Iraq.
MSNBC Video: U.S. administrator Paul Bremer formally transfers political authority to Iraq's interim government.
MSNBC Video: The Post's Rajiv Chandreskaran describes the mood in Baghdad following the handover.
Transcript: Iraqi President, Prime Minister
Video: President Bush in Istanbul
Transcript: Bush, British Prime Minister Blair