The first man in charge of Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime on April 9th 2003, retired US Lieutenant General Jay Garner visited UKH for second time after 12 years and delivered a seminar titled “The Way Forward for Kurdistan”.
Garner was on the ground in the Kurdistan Region after the uprising and the mass exodus in 1991, helping Iraqi Kurds and saving them from the brutality of air and ground attacks by the Ba’athist regime. Millions fled to the neighboring countries and hundreds died on the way from hunger, illness and the tough weather and war conditions.
Garner’s experience in the Kurdistan Region made him a “natural choice” for the Bush administration to appoint him as director for The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA).
The retired general opened his seminar with highlighting the progress the region has gone through compared to the first time he visited Kurdistan in early 90s. ““You are in a very vibrant place right now. When you think that you don’t like it here, think about how Kurdistan looked like the first time I was here in early 90s”.
He also shed light on the atrocities the people witnessed in the region, as well as the opportunities for further development in the future. However, “Unity between Erbil and Suleymania is a key for your strength” he said.
Answering questions from the audience Garner said that the US didn’t understand the cultural difference between “Kurdish Iraq” and “Arab Iraq” correctly. The differences are “enormous” he said, but the US administrations never took that into consideration.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has long been called “The Other Iraq” by the western media. Security, stability, economic development, freedom of speech, religious and ethnic coexistence are the main reasons behind why Kurdistan is labeled as such. “This is the only place in Iraq where democracy exists” he said.
Garner closed his seminar telling UKH students that they will need to pick up the torch and prepare for leading the country in the future. “You have the chance to do that, and you have the necessary resources for it” he concluded.
UKH President Bill Rammell thanked Garner for his visit and hailed his extensive experience in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. “Your insights, experience and advice has been invaluable. What has also shone through very clearly is your respect, admiration and support for the Kurds and Kurdistan.” he told Garner.