Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Three Years Late...

Let me turn the mike over to Marc Cooper:

Marc Cooper: Iraq: The 2% Truth: Beyond the fulminations and whimpers of the Bushies over a biased media, it seems that if anything the American press has been too polite in describing the catastophe underway in Iraq. Check out... veteran NYTimes war reporter Dexter Filkins, who says that the anarchy and bloodshed sweeping Iraq has placed 98% of Iraq "off-limts" to reporters. Asked his advice he would offer a reporter heading to Iraq, he simply said "don't go."...

According to Filkins, the New York Times is burning through money "like jet fuel" simply to securely maintain its operations in the country. In addition to the 70 local reporters and translators, the Times employs 45 full-time Kalashnikov-toting security guards.... The paper also has three armored cars, and pays a hefty premium each month to insure the five Times reporters working there.

American journalists, he said, spend their days piecing together scraps of information from the Iraqi reporters to construct a picture, albeit incomplete, of what life is like.... Most troubling was Filkins' assessment that the U.S. military may not know much more than the Times does about what life is like on the ground in Iraq. Soldiers barely leave their bases and they don't interact very much with average Iraqis, he said, so it is hard to say who, if anyone, has an accurate picture of the current situation. "Everyone is kind of groping around in the dark," he said.

That's re-assuring, isn't it? We also learned over the weekend at least one of the reasons why Iraq has gone so fubar. A book excerpt from WashPo reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran outlines how in the early phases of the occupation the way you got a job in Baghdad with the American authority was out of party loyalty to the GOP rather than out of any real know-how, knowledge or experience.

Instead of seasoned experts putting together the New Iraq, the Bushies employed snot-nosed Young Republicans whose top skills -- beyong organizing keg parties-- were dumbly herding into a polling booth and voting GOP or having a Republican-connected Mommy or Daddy. This stuff should make anyone's blood boil. The job selection was done, by the way, by another mediocre party hack, Jim O'Beirne, hubby of the grotesque right-wing pundit and Republican cheerleader Kate O'Beirne:

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...

... 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...

Endowed with $18 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds and a comparatively quiescent environment in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the CPA was the U.S. government's first and best hope to resuscitate Iraq -- to establish order, promote rebuilding and assemble a viable government, all of which, experts believe, would have constricted the insurgency and mitigated the chances of civil war...

... But many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States. Many of them spent their days cloistered in the Green Zone, a walled-off enclave in central Baghdad with towering palms, posh villas, well-stocked bars and resort-size swimming pools...

To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

... O'Beirne once pointed to a young man's résumé and pronounced him "an ideal candidate." His chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.

Some questions: How angry does that make you? How angry would you be if you lost a son or a daughter in Iraq fighting on behalf of these clowns? Can it any longer be a mystery as to why we were able to overturn one of the bloodiest dictatorships on earth but then manage to turn the entire country's population against us? What sort of jail sentence should we propose for Mr. O'Beirne?

And why couldn't we have been told this three years ago?

One answer is that we were told this three years ago--but not by the New York Times or the Washington Post. We were told this by Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Colin Soloway in the Washington Monthly.

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