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Terry Barnich, RIP. Valiant Defender of Peace

Thomas F. Roeser 26 May 2009 13 Comments

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.

Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Joseph A. Morris said:

    Terry Barnich was a yeoman citizen of Chicago, of Illinois, and of the United States. He believed that a citizen could participate seriously in the politics and government of his community and nation without making a career of it. He also believed that ordinary Iraqis, just like ordinary Americans, could be the masters, rather than the servants, of government, and that it is possible, in a religiously-diverse country, to have a government that is neutral among religions without being hostile to religion. He understood the importance of a peaceful Middle East to the future of America. For these reasons he volunteered to help build a modern, peaceful, democratic Iraq. He was in the middle of that work when he was killed yesterday by a roadside bomb. He should be honored by Americans as an American patriot and hero. I hope that he will be remembered by the people of Iraq as an American friend of Iraq who had deep faith in the ultimate ability of the Iraqi people, no less than Americans, to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.

  • David Karmol said:

    I did not know much about Terry’s background, other than what he told me during the time we worked together in Baghdad. He was apparently modest about his accomplishments. I was there from July 2006 -July 2007, and Terry arrived about halfway through my tour.

    He was a wonderful guy, with a great sense of humor and a deep respect for the Iraqi’s and a strong hope that we all shared, that they would succeed in their effort to transform their proud and ancient country into a modern model in the middle east.

    I am sure Terry would agree that, although the terrorists may have cut short his life, they will not succeed against the millions of Iraqis who want peace, and the many Americans as well as the many people from many other nations who are helping them to rebuild their country.

    I believe Iraq will become an important ally of the U.S., in an area where we need allies, in part because of Terry’s work and those who continue to serve in Iraq.

  • Chris G. said:

    Terry’s first day with State was my one-year anniversary there. I had spent 2006 in Iraq and was going back for more. We ran into each other and almost immediately starting to chat about GOP politics (I suffer in NJ), Iraq, and the endless State HR nonsense one has to go through. Once we both got over there, I found out we were office neighbors. Killed a few brain cells on Thursday nights. :) Great guy. He will be missed.

  • Chris Robling said:

    Hear, hear, Tom, for your note on our friend Terry and his passing.

    Death sits not well on the face of one so — even at 56 — youthful. His memory — many memories of him, as Joe points out above — will be blessings to us, as will forever be his example of courage in facing peril to do for others what they need to do for themselves.

    There was great generosity in his going there — years of work and income and opportunity lost — and that was a price Terry was quite willing to pay. Of course he knew this could happen, and he was prepared to pay this ultimate price as well.

    If many of us fail to appreciate the freedoms for which our countrymen have fought and died, Terry stood apart. Only one who reveres the franchise, the debate, the process, the campaign and the guts of politicizing, as it were, would leap as he did to serve others who hungered for what we sometimes take for granted.

    To lose one so vital and giving makes this a very sad day.

  • Mimi Jordan said:

    You really captured the essence of Terry, at least his political/intellectual essence. Terry hired me as a paralegal in Governor Thompson\’s office and later discovered I was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I never had a better debating partner, and never learned so much from a conservative, perhaps because he was the only truly principled, intellectually consistent conservative I ever met. This is a heart-breaking loss for all of us.

  • sara said:

    such a sad day, I wanted to share a bit of one of the last emails I received from Terry

    I can’t tell you how exciited I am about
    >> wrapping
    >> >> up this adventure
    >> >> > and coming home. I find myself daydreaming
    >> about home
    >> >> a lot and it
    >> >> > increasingly makes me smile as the day gets
    >> nearer.

  • Melinda said:

    I was a classmate of Terry\’s @ Geo.Washington H.S.,class of 1971.We were in the Honors program and on the yearbook staff. He was politically savvy,even back then and challenged/questioned the history teachers all the time.I believe he was my opponent in a debate re: legalization of marijuana…don\’t recall the outcome,but I was con…so,he may have won. It\’s a sad day when a classmate dies, no matter the circumstances. He did well in his life,raised in a blue-collar neighborhood and middle-class family.My condolences to the Barnich family,Rest in peace,Terry.

  • Johnna Holeman said:

    This is the best site for my weary eyes today. People that worked, loved and knew Terry Barnich also know what an incredible human was lost on Monday. It is funny how some of us reach our full potential in our fouries and then feel almost let down by the lack of progress. Conversations with Terry made the rest of life seem so uniteresting in that he sought the adventure in the day, always \"looking\" for that thing he could mark and then become a part of…A life of significance, Terry Barnich made it fun, and full. He is forever ageless and alive.

    The message from Mimi Jordon made my heart swell. Her story is the essence of who Terry was ~ No judging, not interested in boxing you up, but, one of understanding you point. Listening to others and finding their strengths, their voice and then if applicable, he would argue :)

    He felt compelled to put what he believed into action and not just watch and for this reason, he was put into danger. He is a brave, noble soul that wanted only good things and to touch others\’ lives. We talked recently about a lovely piece of art that he was looking forward to: Rememberance. In that conversation, we both agreed that is the best thing you can do for someone when you love them…is to remember them everyday. He is eternally alive in my heart.

    We are all better for knowing Terry Barnich and he will be missed every day of this life. A recent poem we shared is called, \"The Laughing Heart\" By, Charles Bukowski. Read it and smile knowing he identified with it. God bless Terry Barnich, keep him safe and occupied, \"Boredom is his Hell\"! The Honorable Terrence Barnich

  • Steve Hill said:

    Terry and I worked together for two years in Iraq. He was a true gentleman and a pleasure to work with. Despite the stresses and constant demands of embassy life, Terry was always met the task at hand with enthusiasm. And when it came time to relax, his companionship was always appreciated. His loss is terribley sad.

  • Loy Layman said:

    Terry was a great guy and a good friend. I was a year ahead of him and we played football together. He always had his head on straight all through school. I was always very proud to see his name in the news for some of his accomplishements. He will be missed by all Americans.

  • Moh said:

    I’m in Iraqi, who works for the Iraqi government; I worked with Terry during his last visit to Washington DC couple of months ago.
    He was a great guy, one of his dreams to see progress Iraq, and he lost his life unfortunately to make that dream come true.
    We all at my office feel very sad for this big lose for USA and Iraq, we feel very sorry for his fiancée. She is a very nice person.
    We will pray for him and may God forgive us all.

  • Carrie Lionberg said:

    Having been a close friend with Terry beginning in childhood, it is inspiring to bear witness to his many accomplishments throughout the decades of his life. He would of course be a bit uneasy and would likely poke fun at such a remark. But one of the most incredible truths about Terry’s life is that he consciously and unerringly lived his beliefs and passions through his actions on a daily basis. He was an inspiring fellow who truly walked the talk. My brother recently recalled that during grade school, Terry proudly wore a “Nixon for President” button on his lapel. This, during an era in which the Daley political machine hummed through the vast majority of households in our working class, southside Chicago neighbourhood. But Terry never wavered from his personal political vision, which was obviously well-developed even at a very early age. His life’s work was predicated on firm conviction and integrity, and his example may provide us with renewed commitment to live our own lives in a way that is congruent with, and honours, our own personal core beliefs. Remembering Terry in this way may help to ease the pain so many of us are left with in the wake of this senseless, tragic loss. He leaves an outstanding legacy for all of us and although Terry will be sadly missed, he will never be forgotten!

  • Patrick Peterson said:

    I knew Terry for a few years in the early 90s. From what I can tell, Tom Roeser, you got Terry about right. He will be missed.

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