Accountabililty and Mr. Ole 60 Grit
I’ve written before of the wingnut husband of Kate O’Beirne who was responsible for oversight of so much of the reconstruction in Iraq, but not much has appeared in print about him up until now. As we eagerly await the release of Robert Greenwald’s film Iraq for Sale a very telling article about Mr. Ole 60 Grit has finally appeared in the Washington Post, courtesy of Rajiv Chandrasekaran from his book Imperial Life in the Emerald City. It shows quite clealry why you, me and every American — nay everyone who has had their lives touched by this disastrous war — should be outraged and calling for Congressional oversight:
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.
To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.
O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.
Yes, because that really will determine whether you can build a bridge or restore clean water to blighted cities. No wonder things are going so swimmingly.
Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.
Okay, sit down and think about this for a minute. Breathe. We’re stuck in a disastrous Bush/Lieberman war we can’t extricate ourselves from, and the reconstruction that just might have led Iraq into self-sufficiency was turned over to a bunch of 24 year-olds whose only qualifications were their anti-abortion sentiments.
Are you outraged yet? Because I know I am.
The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration’s gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation that sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.
Keep breathing. That’s good. Don’t hyperventilate.
Endowed with $18 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds and a comparatively quiescent environment in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the CPA was the U.S. government’s first and best hope to resuscitate Iraq — to establish order, promote rebuilding and assemble a viable government, all of which, experts believe, would have constricted the insurgency and mitigated the chances of civil war. Many of the basic tasks Americans struggle to accomplish today in Iraq — training the army, vetting the police, increasing electricity generation — could have been performed far more effectively in 2003 by the CPA.
But many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States. Many of them spent their days cloistered in the Green Zone, a walled-off enclave in central Baghdad with towering palms, posh villas, well-stocked bars and resort-size swimming pools.
It’s a vision of a world run by Jonah Goldbergs, the idyll of the mediocre and the entitled, fueled by wingnut welfare and the complete detachment from reality that created this untenable disaster. Yes, this is what an NRO universe would look like. They got everything they wanted and all the money they could burn to enact their grand schemes, and the result is — well, they speak for themselves really, don’t they.
Please read the entire article, because I’ll be linking to it again and again if the time comes and Congressional investigations actually become a possibility. But if it hasn’t been clear before, it should be now — this is your government on drugs.