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Old 05-23-2004, 06:22 AM
RTFirefly is offline
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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.

Quote:
[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?
Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.
Quote:
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:
Quote:
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.
  #2  
Old 05-23-2004, 08:05 AM
Desmostylus is offline
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This story has been floating around for a while.
Quote:
AP: Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office
Sunday April 4, 2004 8:31 PM


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Inside the marble-floored palace hall that serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good news about Iraq. Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the Michigan Republican who's now Energy Secretary, heads the office packed with former Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill staffers.

<snip>

The U.S. team stands in deep contrast to the British team that works alongside it, almost all of whom are civil or foreign service employees, not political appointees. Many of the British in Iraq display regional knowledge or language skills that most of the Americans lack.
It's interesting to see the story finally being picked up by the mainstream US press. I guess they've noticed that the Titanic is sinking, and they've decided to head for the lifeboats rather than chaining themselves to the anchor.
  #3  
Old 05-23-2004, 09:28 AM
RTFirefly is offline
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Some of this has snuck into the US media before, but admittedly not that much or that often:

Piece from Dec 03 Washington Monthly:
Quote:
Simone Ledeen is serving her country. She is the daughter of Michael Ledeen, the Iran-Contra luminary, AEI scholar, and all-around capo in the neocon mafia. She's 29, a freshly-minted M.B.A., with little to no experience in war-torn countries. But as an advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad, she is, in essence, helping shape one quarter of that nation's economy.

When the history of the occupation of Iraq is written, there will be many factors to point to when explaining the post-conquest descent into chaos and disorder, from the melting away of Saddam's army to the Pentagon's failure to make adequate plans for the occupation. But historians will also consider the lack of experience and abundant political connections of the hundreds of American bureaucrats sent to Baghdad to run Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Seattle Times, April 5 2004:
Quote:
Coalition press office is heavy with Republicans

By Jim Krane
The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Inside the marble-floored palace hall that serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good news about Iraq.
Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the former Michigan Republican senator who's now energy secretary, heads the office packed with former Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill staff members.

More than one-third of the U.S. civilian workers in the press office have GOP ties, running an enterprise that critics see as an outpost of Bush's re-election effort.
Since that was an AP-written story, it got published in a number of US papers.

There was also something over the winter that galled me enough that I have a clear recollection of starting a thread I can't seem to find: a mention in a news story of CPA staffers leaving Iraq in substantial numbers to join the Bush campaign. This nearly coincided with one of the stories of troops' having their deployments extended, and I remember that was part of what fired me up - that the kids in the Green Zone had 'other priorities', as our veep might've put it, when the troops who probably also had other priorities weren't being given much of a choice. Especially when the Green Zone types felt that Bush's election campaign was more important to them than a job that was a national priority of the highest order. Wish I could find that thread, but I'm turning up a blank. I even remember one of the responses, so I'm having a hard time believing I meant to post it but didn't.
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Old 05-23-2004, 05:32 PM
rjung is offline
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Don't fret it too much, RTFirefly. As George W. Bush's own business career has demonstrated, years of experience is no protection against screwing things up.
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  #5  
Old 05-24-2004, 12:25 PM
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Yes, but a propaganda machine in the country we've invaded that is run *exclusively* by conservatives is exactly what Bush needs to win the next election. As has been shown over and over by the Bush administration, it doesn't matter if it is wrong, just as long as the right people (voters, in this case) hear it over and over again.
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Old 05-24-2004, 02:18 PM
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1) Young: I'm sure there are lots of 45 year old middle managers ready to go around the world and work 16 hour days, maybe for low pay, maybe as a volunteer, in a dangerous area.

2) Republicans: Do you think there are many liberals lining up to help the US effort over there? Should there be an affirmative action program to get more liberals into Iraq? Should the administration appoint to their own press office people critical of them?


In related, shocking, news, Bush's cabinet is composed entirely of Republicans who think he is a good President! Film at 11.


From Demo's cite:
Quote:
The office counts 21 Republicans - 11 of whom have worked inside the Bush administration before their Iraq posting - among its 58 U.S. civilian staffers, according to figures Senor provided.
Wow... almost half of them belong to one of the two major parties!
  #7  
Old 05-24-2004, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by furt
2) Republicans: Do you think there are many liberals lining up to help the US effort over there?
Well, I'm sure there are but hiring off a conservative website is no way to find them. For God's sake, they could've put an ad on Monster and found better-qualified people of all sorts of political stripes.
  #8  
Old 05-24-2004, 09:58 PM
RTFirefly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by furt
1) Young: I'm sure there are lots of 45 year old middle managers ready to go around the world and work 16 hour days, maybe for low pay, maybe as a volunteer, in a dangerous area.
Low pay?? You shoulda read the linked story. These kids were drawing six-figure incomes for their troubles.

And it wasn't particularly unsafe, since they could hardly bribe their way out of the Green Zone.
Quote:
2) Republicans: Do you think there are many liberals lining up to help the US effort over there? Should there be an affirmative action program to get more liberals into Iraq? Should the administration appoint to their own press office people critical of them?
They could have taken applications from the general population, rather than just from people who filed their resumes on Heritage. Wanna go over there and poke around? I did:
Quote:
The Heritage Foundation Job Bank assists conservatives in finding employment with conservative Congressional Offices, faith-based organizations, other public policy organizations, lobbying groups and trade associations.

Click here to view the Job Bank Mission.

Job Candidates:
Complete the online questionnaire

Employers:
If you are looking for a qualified, conservative or classical-liberal candidate to fill an open public policy related position, use Heritage's free and confidential Job Bank services.
You know what you're getting, certainly. And it gets better:
Quote:
THE JOB BANK MISSION

The mission of The Heritage Foundation Job Bank is to further conservative principles and policies by assisting those individuals and organizations who support Heritage's vision for America. Because public policy organizations derive their competitive advantage from the quality of their human capital, the Heritage Foundation Job Bank performs an important and necessary function in equipping organizations to achieve their missions. It is the goal of the Job Bank to provide its “stakeholders,” both employers and candidates a confidential, high quality service that will meet and exceed expectations.

The Job Bank’s mission is accomplished through the placement of conservative/classical liberal job seekers in a variety of policy-related positions. Job Bank matches qualified candidates with open positions in congressional offices, other public policy organizations, trade associations, polling groups, faith-based organizations, and more recently, colleges and universities. All Job Bank related services are provided free by The Heritage Foundation.
Nothing wrong with the Heritage Foundation being who they are. But drafting people from that particular site, and treating that as a free pass, seems kinda squidgy for the Department of Defense to do.
Quote:
In related, shocking, news, Bush's cabinet is composed entirely of Republicans who think he is a good President! Film at 11.
In more related news, there are both Democrats and Republicans throughout the government, and hopefully that will be the case as long as those two parties represent large numbers of Americans. Astonishingly enough, Democrats at, say, the Bureau of Justice Statistics don't work daily to undermine governance. I would think that would be true at the Coalition Provisional Authority as well.
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Old 05-24-2004, 11:57 PM
Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Well, I know what I'm taking from this thread: I put my resume on the Heritage Job Bank site.

Let's see who wants to hire a social liberal with a comparative politics degree worth about as much as the paper it's written on and a few months' experience as a legislative aide.
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Old 05-24-2004, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjung
Don't fret it too much, RTFirefly. As George W. Bush's own business career has demonstrated, years of experience is no protection against screwing things up.
As well, years of screwing up is no way to gain experience. But your point is well taken.
  #11  
Old 05-24-2004, 05:17 PM
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No, you see, I was having a bad day yesterday thinking that maybe my plans to take over a small African country and create a national personality cult dedicated to me and a sock puppet named Crinkles would never come to fruition.

After seeing how all those smart people with that relatively well-paid and professional army and billions and billions of dollars of resources behind them could still manage to fuck up Iraq, what chance did I have? And then I realized, "Oh, wait, they really are the biggest fucking morons possible."

Why golly gee thanks, RTF, you really made my day!!! [Evil villian] Someday, victory shall be mine...[/Evil Villain]
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