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Old 05-23-2004, 06:22 AM
RTFirefly is offline
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Join Date: Apr 1999
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The Children's Crusade: Young Republicans Just Out of School, Running Iraq

Forget Abu Ghraib for a day, and maybe even put Chalabi and the Iran connection on hold for a few hours. The must-read story of the day is in the WaPo:In Iraq, the Job Opportunity of a Lifetime: Managing a $13 Billion Budget With No Experience.

[Simone] Ledeen's journey to Baghdad began two weeks earlier when she received an e-mail out of the blue from the Pentagon's White House liaison office. The Sept. 16 message informed her that the occupation government in Iraq needed employees to prepare for an international conference. "This is an amazing opportunity to move forward on the global war on terror," the e-mail read.

For Ledeen, the offer seemed like fate. One of her family friends had been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and it had affected her family deeply. Without hesitation, she responded "Sure" to the e-mail and waited -- for an interview, a background check or some other follow-up. Apparently none was necessary. A week later, she got a second e-mail telling her to look for a packet in the mail regarding her move to Baghdad.

Others from across the District responded affirmatively to the same e-mail, for different reasons. Andrew Burns, 23, a Red Cross volunteer who had taught English in rural China, felt going to Iraq would help him pursue a career in humanitarian aid. Todd Baldwin, 28, a legislative aide for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. John Hanley, 24, a Web site editor, wanted to break into the world of international relations. Anita Greco, 25, a former teacher, and Casey Wasson, 23, a recent college graduate in government, just needed jobs.
These (along with Ledeen, 28, newly-minted MBA, and daughter of neocon and Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen) were the kids who wound up running Iraq's $13 billion budget.

What were their qualifications, you ask? How were they selected?
For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.
Remember, they weren't interviewed, they weren't otherwise vetted. And they hadn't even worked for the Heritage Foundation; they'd just posted their resumes on its website. And that apparently was the sole qualification for running Iraq, these past several months.

Excuse the fuck out of me, but this was freakin' September. Five months after Saddam's statue fell, they didn't have a better way of hiring people than this for such a vital project??

The incompetence of the neocons in the Bush administration, which is the real point of this rant (even the whole how-to-hire-conservatives-without-asking-their-politics angle is secondary here) is just astounding to me. You'd think they could have at least found ideolouges with skills and experience who'd be willing to help out, and you'd think that by last September, they'd have been able to cast a far wider net to recruit for the sorts of people they needed, and that they'd actually have a somewhat selective hiring process. But you'd be wrong.

Several had impressive paper credentials, but in the wrong fields. Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement.

"They had come over because of one reason or another, and they were put in positions of authority that they had no clue about," remembered Army Reserve Sgt. Thomas D. Wirges, 38, who had been working on rehabilitating the Baghdad Stock Exchange.
Army Reserve Sgt. Glenn Corliss, who worked with the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, said staffers were so inexperienced and rotated out so quickly it was difficult for them to act on anything. In November many state-owned factories had been shut down for want of electricity, a potentially explosive problem because it left thousands jobless. Corliss had found private firms willing to invest in portable generators for the most critical factories. All they wanted was a letter of credit saying that they would be paid for their services. No one in the budget office would make a decision on it for months and Corliss finally gave up in March when he returned to the United States. "I wanted to pull their heads off oftentimes," Corliss said.

Brad Jackson, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who worked with the CPA, said the budget team regularly asked other ministries at the last minute to produce information that would take hundreds of people half a year to gather.

"There were a lot of people who, being political science majors, didn't know what an income statement was, who were asking the impossible. . . . That was giving us ulcers, quite frankly," he said.
I want to make it clear that my rant is in no way aimed at the kids themselves. I assume they were trying their best under difficult circumstances. But who the hell failed to ensure that there wasn't a cadre of much more skilled, experienced people running Iraq to begin with? That's who my ire is focused on.

I hope there will be a special place in hell for this crew that thought they could just sort of wing the reconstruction of Iraq: that they didn't need detailed plans, because it would all be easy, it would all work out. I don't know if the fundamental problem of Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds was resolvable to begin with, but if it was, giving the keys to Iraq to a bunch of kids with few skills and no experience had to drastically reduce whatever chances of success there were to begin with.

As Josh Marshall said about three weeks back:
In the popular political imagination we're familiar with the neocons as conniving militarists, masters of intrigue and cabals, graspers for the oil supplies of the world, and all the rest. But here we have them in what I suspect is the truest light: as college kid rubes who head out for a weekend in Vegas, get scammed out of their money by a two-bit hustler on the first night and then get played for fools by a couple hookers who leave them naked and handcuffed to their hotel beds.
Between this and the latest Chalabi revelations, it looks like Josh nailed it.