September 17, 2006

Words Fail Me.

We blew up a country, parked 130,000 of our own troops (and several tens of thousands of our allies) on it, declared we owned the place, and then hired politically loyal but supremely incompetant idiots to rebuild it:

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.

Read the whole thing. It alternatively makes me want to strangle someone or break down weeping. I think, at this point, I'm closer to weeping.

Posted by baltar at September 17, 2006 12:13 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Atrocities of War | Corruption | Extremism | Iraq | Shine the Light on It


You beat me to it. I was just reading through this and thinking about how could I possibly blog it when I was stunned into silence.

Posted by: binky at September 17, 2006 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

The military isn't "losing the war," the CPA "LOST the war," and the military is being expected to clean it up, which they can't do because not only is the military not geared to do what the CPA was supposed to do, it has no capability to speak of to undo what the CPA screwed up.

Posted by: StealthBadger at September 17, 2006 02:02 AM | PERMALINK

Words do fail. There is a question worth considering, though: is this an administration problem, a GOP problem, or a Beltway problem? In other words, is the practice of choosing connections over competence for something like this a Bushie thing? Would a McCain (for example) Administration have done stuff like this? A Gore Administration? Is this just the way jobs like this get handed out in America? Or is there something about this White House that is completely fucked up on stuff like this, and if so, what is it and why?

Posted by: jacflash at September 17, 2006 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

Well yeah DC is a connections matter kind of place - but I really don't see a Romney or a Gore letting things be run this way. I put it down to a few (extremely unfortunate) characteristics of this administration that we've seen time and again - partisanship and loyalty mattering above all else; a greater interest in enforcing loyalty than in requiring simple competence; no central accountability that requires fixing messes that everyone sees in plain sight; and a dangerously incurious top level of government that doesn't check in and see how things are going.

Posted by: Armand at September 17, 2006 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

i'm with armand. cronyism is one thing, and is a fact of life in a spoils system, but this is way beyond the pale both in terms of the degree of incompetence, the prevalence of the problem, and the blithe way it's happening where the stakes, according to bush himself, really couldn't be higher.

i didn't share his view of the stakes in iraq at the outset, but with thousands of american troops dead, and with the wholesale slaughter of civilians that has occurred at least in part because we are failing on every front in getting the country back on its feet (after we knocked it down), it's beyond appalling the indifference we manifest in turning this putative salvage of a dying nation into job training for friends of the GOP.

Posted by: moon at September 17, 2006 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Warning: anecdote alert... I know someone who ended up over there working on reconstruction who really had no business doing it. Smart, ethical, enthusiastic, yes. But also 22 with no real world experience. I remember him running ideas by me that he was proposing to his employers (they had told him to come up with a plan for X Y or Z) and I was like whoa dude, I have no development experience...I've studied it, but the how to implement a plan part and deal with the on-the-ground things? No way. He didn't stay all that long, and intimated that shit was going to hit the fan and he wanted out before it did and didn't want to be involved in creating it. As I said, smart.

Posted by: binky at September 17, 2006 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

The accumulated evidence argues this is a "Bush" thing, not a "DC" thing, an "American" thing, or even (possibly) a "GOP" thing. Many, many of the books that have come out describing the decision-making that led up to, during, and after the war support the idea that this war was planned half-heartedly (we won because Saddam was so reduced by the 10+ years of sanctions), executed half-heartedly (Franks looks to be an idiot; whether one agrees with that assessment, it is beyond a doubt that he should not have been allowed to retire - or even have wanted to, if he had any honor - within weeks of the "mission accomplished" idiocy), and the aftermath (the famous "Phase IV" post-combat reconstruction) wasn't even planned half-heartedly.

Read Fallows (several articles in Atlantic Monthly), Packer (Assassin's Gate), Woodward (Bush at War), Ricks (Fiasco), Gordon & Traintor (Cobra II), and several others I haven't read (Larry Diamond, the article I quoted above is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, there are a few British books about reconstruction and working with the Americans, etc.). The evidence is overwhelming that whatever this administrations failings in planning for combat and the political issues around combat (UN resolutions, WMD talk, Plame, "coalition of the willing," ect.), they are dwarfed by the absolute negligence of how they administered the post-combat reconstruction. The moral, physical, logical, political, and economic failings are just staggering.

They are overshadowed only by Congress' utter inability to do it's Constitutionally mandated "check and balance" of the executive branch. Had we had any people in the majority party in Congress with any amount of integrity or interest in serving the greater good of the country, some of this might have been prevented. As it stands, no sitting member of Congress in the past few years in any party will ever get my vote for any further political office. They are all that culpable.

Posted by: baltar at September 17, 2006 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Uh - so does that mean you are planning to vote for Wakim in the House race. He's not an incumbent, but he's very clearly the White House candidate, so ... what to do?

Posted by: Armand at September 17, 2006 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

No, I guess I won't. However, I won't be happy voting for the Democrat, as he seems to be fairly slimy and clearly more part of the problem than the solution. The House Democrats can't really be blamed for much, as the Rules of the House give pretty much all power to whoever is in the majority.

In the Senate, on the other hand, I'm upset with people on both sides of the room. The minority party in the Senate has a great deal more authority to divert, modify, and prevent the actions of the majority than the minority in the House ever will. Our two Senators (Rockefeller and Byrd) have not covered themselves with glory. Byrd, the supposed champion of the Constitution, has rolled over on Supreme Court votes, and failed to make any public pronoucements about the very dangerous (to me, at least) Constitutional waters we're sailing in right now. Rockefeller is worse. He's on Senate Intel, and hasn't really done squat to force that committee to do it's (Constitutionally mandated) job. I may still vote against Byrd, but I won't be voting Republican in any event.

I may never vote Republican again; that depends on the housecleaning the party does after they loose power, and how much they repudiate the insane social, economic, and foreign policies they have been following for the past six year.

Posted by: baltar at September 17, 2006 02:20 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'll say this for Rockefeller - 1) There's not a lot he can do to investigate given that he's in the minority, and if nothing else the things he has helped bring to light in the new (if horribly late) Senate Intel report are importrant things that he's fought to bring to light - unlike Chairman Roberts; 2) from my interactions with him he's got a keen grasp of some of the fundamental national security problems we face, and a deeper understanding of threats to national security than a lot of politicians. And hey, I like that he's such a fan of Robert Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy".

My thoughts on Byrd are well known. I'm inclined to not vote for him (though I won't vote for Raese, who's heralding the second coming of the robber barons, either). But I imagine we'll do a post closer to the election on the strengths (to the degree there are any) and (the considerable) weaknesses of Byrd and Raese.

And as for me I will be voting to reelect Mollohan. Regardless of anything I might think about him personally, a vote for him is a vote to remove one impediment (obsessive partisanship) to Congress's ability to check the executive, and of course it's a vote to allow a host of bills to at least get to the floor on issues some of us care about (improved access to health care, better funding for the military and education, ENDA, whatever - the list is a long one).

Posted by: Armand at September 17, 2006 02:39 PM | PERMALINK
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