Two new books provide yet more depressing evidence of how horribly an ideologically-blinded Bush administration botched things in post-invasion Iraq.
In “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran tells how fealty to the Republican party and conservative principles trumped experience and expertise in Baghdad’s “Green Zone.”
In an article based on his book, Chandrasekaran writes that the Department of Defense imposed a political litmus test on Americans who wanted to work in Iraq on reconstruction:
[The] 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 .
Many of those chosen… 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.
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, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.
“We didn’t tap — and it should have started from the White House on down — just didn’t tap the right people to do this job,” said Frederick Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA’s Washington office. “It was a tough, tough job. Instead we got people who went out there because of their political leanings.”
…[T]he CPA’s headquarters in Hussein’s marble-walled former Republican Palace felt like a campaign war room. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations. In addition to military uniforms and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” garb, “Bush-Cheney 2004” T-shirts were among the most common pieces of clothing.
“I’m not here for the Iraqis,” one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. “I’m here for George Bush.”
Somehow a few people who were there for the Iraqis rather than for Bush and the Republicans– like the late Fern Holland— managed to slip through.
In another new book, “Blood Money,” Los Angeles Times reporter T. Christian Miller documents the massive waste, corruption, greed and favoritism that marked the US reconstruction effort in Iraq.
But even with all the horrors he discovered, Miller notes some successes. And he believes reconstruction is still worth getting right:
The administration has all but abandoned the reconstruction program. The biggest chunk of cash will be spent by the end of this month. All that will be left are funds for small scale public works–village wells and soccer fields that are useful, but not nearly comprehensive enough to lift up the Iraqi people and its economy.
It makes no sense to cut off the flow of funds while there are still troops in Iraq. That only deprives the U.S. military and the State Department of a vital tool. We have a moral, legal and political responsibility to restore the country to at least the shape it was in prior to the U.S. invasion.
To do otherwise would be the biggest failure yet in the reconstruction.
Instead of looking for quick and easy “exit strategies,” liberals show be raising hell about this.