Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Personal Aside: Terry Barnich, R.I.P.


Terry Barnich, RIP. Valiant Defender of Peace.

Those who have listened to my radio show through the years remember Terry Barnich. He was a superbly equipped conservative with great knowledge of business, government, the law and politics who appeared on it many times. He was lawyer, former general counsel to Jim Thompson, former chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission and president of New Paradigm Resources, a firm specializing in strategic planning in the energy field.

I am deeply sorry to report that Terry, whom I guess was about 55, was killed yesterday…Memorial Day… in Iraq where he had been serving his country as senior adviser for law and policy to the Iraq transition office of the Department of State. He was killed while riding in an automobile convoy yesterday (they are about 8 hours ahead of us) just outside Fallujah, in the province of Al Anbar roughly 43 miles west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. A roadside bomb—an IED (improvised explosive device)-- took his life. Terry was single (divorced) and had no children but many friends and admirers.

In Illinois, Terry was known as a deeply engaged and serious student of public affairs and endowed with sagacity and a luminous wit. In fact when I heard the surprise that he had allowed his name to be entered in the lists of people the Illinois Republican State Central committee was considering to run for the U. S. Senate following the resignation of Jack Ryan, I became deeply supportive. Unfortunately he was not chosen: if he had, Terry would have run a brilliant campaign against Barack Obama.

He embodied everything the GOP was…and is still… looking for: deep understanding of the issues, articulateness, with an exceeding attractive personality and mien and superb legal training, a graduate of Fordham law school. It will interest some to know that Terry surmounted the beliefs of some establishmentarians in the GOP in that he told me often he was a pro-lifer which position would have come out in his own campaign. Always professional in his politics, he ran the primary portion of the Topinka campaign for governor, leaving after he steered her to the nomination. I wrote at the time that the Topinka campaign would miss him greatly. It did and it is my belief that her campaign in the general would not have failed had Terry stayed.

It was at that point that Terry decided to serve his country as a civilian in a post where he was needed greatly—in Iraq. He went there in January, 2007 and…to highlight the tragedy of his death yesterday…was within weeks of coming back home. In his post there he served as general counsel to the electricity section of the State Department’s reconstruction office. In addition he served as legal adviser to the Iraqi Minister of Electricity, developing a modern of law and regulatory format necessary to attract private investment in the future. At the same time he served as liaison to policy-makers at the U. S. embassy in Iraq and the Iraqi embassy in Washington. When the president, vice-president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs came to Iraq Terry Barnich was one of their top briefers.

Terry Barnich had great personal magnetism, still was low-key. He was a friend and above all a great American patriot. Giving up the comfortable life as a highly respected business executive here, he volunteered to served his country by living in a 150-foot trailer in the Green Zone, the heavily-guarded area of closed-off streets in Baghdad which is where U. S. personnel live. Before his untimely death he had already survived a very close call: he missed being hit by two rockets by 44 paces and about eight seconds. He worked from 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. His statement he left with us months before this tragic death summarizes his greatness of heart:

“I like to think that in some small way I will have contributed my part in transferring certain knowledge to the Iraqis that will permit them to otherwise accelerate their seizing control of their own future and make this experiment in liberty a success.”

Chicago, Illinois and the nation have lost much with his death as well as the Republican party which could have derived inestimable benefit from the limitless gifts Terry had to offer if he had lived to return home. I’ll pass along to his many friends plans for a memorial service as soon as I hear.

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