Washington The retired Army general who will oversee the rebuilding of Iraq signed a statement that accused Palestinians of filling their children with hate and that praised Israel -- comments that could complicate his new job in the tinderbox Persian Gulf.
Arab and Muslim leaders say retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner's involvement with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs -- including the document he signed and a trip he took to Israel -- raises questions about whether he is the right person to oversee Iraq's reconstruction.
"I honestly think when Iraqis find out (about the statement) they are going to be genuinely appalled," said Hussein Ibish, a spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Garner was one of more than 40 retired U.S. military leaders to sign his name to a letter 2 1/2 years ago amid renewed Mideast violence. The letter supported Israel for exercising "remarkable restraint" and blamed the crisis on Palestinian.
Palestinian leaders taught children the mechanics of war while "filling their heads with hate," and Palestinian police and military commanders were "betting their children's lives on the capabilities and restraint" of Israeli defense forces, the statement added.
Garner, who 12 years ago oversaw U.S. efforts to aid Kurds in northern Iraq after the first Gulf War, is among more than 250 retired American military officers who have traveled to Israel with JINSA over the years. Garner, 64, served two tours in the Vietnam War and was the commanding general of the Army Space and Strategic Defense Command before retiring in 1997.
JINSA, which aims to educate the public about American defense policy and officials about Israel's importance, said the statement and Garner's travel to Israel should have no bearing on his new job.
"A distinguished general spends 31 years of his life in the military and because he spent 10 days of his life in Israel, they question his ability to serve the president in Iraq," JINSA spokesman Jim Colbert said Tuesday.
Some Arab critics predict Garner's selection for the reconstruction job by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be met with strong objections in the Middle East.
Sarah Eltantawi, spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, called the choice of Garner "very unwise -- it will not reinforce among the Iraqis the sentiment that their leadership is representative."