Thursday, February 23, 2006

Plus ca change ... yadda yadda yadda.


Oh, Jesus:

The coalition government relied heavily on a revolving door of diplomats and other personnel who would leave just as they had begun to develop local knowledge and ties, and on a large cadre of eager young neophytes whose brashness often gave offense in a very age- and status-conscious society. One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man's audacity that he finally challenged him:

``You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.''

``Yes, I did,'' the young American replied proudly.

``I thought so,'' said the Iraqi, ``because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.''

What is it with this Republican affinity for really, really stupid 24-year-olds?

4 comments:

Lexington said...

That the Coalition Provisional Authority was used as a dumping ground for unemployed Republican apparachiks is old news.

From a Paul Krugman column (http://www.pkarchive.org/column/062904.html) in the NY Times entitled "Who Lost Iraq?", originally published 29 June 2004:

The Iraq venture may have been doomed from the start — but we'll never know for sure because the Bush administration made such a mess of the occupation. Future historians will view it as a case study of how not to run a country...

What the figures don't describe is the toxic mix of ideological obsession and cronyism that lie behind that dismal performance.

The insurgency took root during the occupation's first few months, when the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed oddly disengaged from the problems of postwar anarchy. But what was Paul Bremer III, the head of the C.P.A., focused on? According to a Washington Post reporter who shared a flight with him last June, "Bremer discussed the need to privatize government-run factories with such fervor that his voice cut through the din of the cargo hold."

Plans for privatization were eventually put on hold. But as he prepared to leave Iraq, Mr. Bremer listed reduced tax rates, reduced tariffs and the liberalization of foreign-investment laws as among his major accomplishments. Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time — but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics.

If the occupiers often seemed oblivious to reality, one reason was that many jobs at the C.P.A. went to people whose qualifications seemed to lie mainly in their personal and political connections — people like Simone Ledeen, whose father, Michael Ledeen, a prominent neoconservative, told a forum that "the level of casualties is secondary" because "we are a warlike people" and "we love war."

Still, given Mr. Bremer's economic focus, you might at least have expected his top aide for private-sector development to be an expert on privatization and liberalization in such countries as Russia or Argentina. But the job initially went to Thomas Foley, a Connecticut businessman and Republican fund-raiser with no obviously relevant expertise. In March, Michael Fleischer, a New Jersey businessman, took over. Yes, he's Ari Fleischer's brother. Mr. Fleischer told The Chicago Tribune that part of his job was educating Iraqi businessmen: "The only paradigm they know is cronyism. We are teaching them that there is an alternative system with built-in checks and built-in review."

Checks and review? Yesterday a leading British charity, Christian Aid, released a scathing report, "Fueling Suspicion," on the use of Iraqi oil revenue. It points out that the May 2003 U.N. resolution giving the C.P.A. the right to spend that revenue required the creation of an international oversight board, which would appoint an auditor to ensure that the funds were spent to benefit the Iraqi people...

Anonymous said...

Oops forgot the last sentence...

Instead, the U.S. stalled, and the auditor didn't begin work until April 2004. Even then, according to an interim report, it faced "resistance from C.P.A. staff." And now, with the audit still unpublished, the C.P.A. has been dissolved.

CC said...

Oh, I wasn't claiming this was breaking news. I was just amused by the coincidence, bu thanks for the link.

Lexington said...

I didn't mean to imply otherwise CC, I guess I should have been more explicit.

I just thought the link between the CPA and Republican insiders with no discernable qualifications other than political connections deserved more emphasis.

When the definitive history of how and why the American adventure in Iraq went so badly off script is written this will no doubt be an important part of the puzzle -though of course by no means the only one.