Paul Bremer's Rough Ride

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KAREN BALLARD / REDUX FOR TIME

On a chopper trip to say goodbye to Iraqi officials in Basra and Babylon, Bremer surveys the land he has governed

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The stresses of the job have worn on Bremer: he tells TIME that he plans to leave public life, write a book and enroll at the Academy of Cuisine in Washington. But while Bremer had hoped to leave Iraq in triumph, the persisting unrest means few Iraqis will be sad to see him go. Members of the now disbanded Governing Council are withering in their criticism of how Bremer treated them — issuing orders and backing them to the wall, rather than consulting. Even the U.N.'s Brahimi has called him "the dictator of Iraq." It wasn't a compliment, but it was close to the mark. This was the hand Bremer was dealt. He was the guy with the broom, standing amid all the broken crockery. He needed to make decisions, and he made them — sometimes for better and, as even he concedes, often for worse.

The supreme power he wielded only months ago has all but vanished. In his final days in Iraq, Bremer spends much of his time helping the new interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, get up to speed on all that will be required of him. On a recent Sunday, after a lengthy lunch with Jaafari — during which Bremer got to use some of the Arabic he has learned in daily half-hour lessons — he confers with the new Prime Minister in the green zone. The meeting with Allawi is about staffing a Prime Minister's office and a new anticorruption law that is about to be implemented. Bremer listens, offers advice. There are no orders given. The dictator's time, it's clear enough, is about up. Later Bremer discloses that Allawi jokingly complained to him about going to bed after midnight and being back at work by 6. A weary smile crosses the face of the soon-to-be ex-proconsul. "Yeah," Bremer says he told Allawi, "now you're getting it."

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