Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, May 24, 2004
This article in the Washington Post is a strange duck. It does show just how incompetent and politicized the CPA is, but goes to some pains to spin away what it shows.

The article discusses a team of 6 conservative activists who worked on budget issues for the CPA. It lets slip a few hints about who they are, stating that, "Many had strong Republican credentials... and had no foreign service experience." But that's rather an understatement, as is the later description of those profiled. It does focus on Simone Ledeen, daughter of neo-con activist Michael Ledeen, and also describes Todd Baldwin as an aide to Rick "man on dog" Santorum. But it also describes team member John Hanley as a webmaster; in fact, he is the webmaster of the Heritage Foundation and also worked as a columnist for While in Iraq, he wrote a dispatch including a photo of himself with Andrew Burns, another Heritage and CPA minion. Anita Greco, described as a "teacher", was an intern at Heritage. The other member of the team, Casey Wasson, was a recent graduate of Patrick Henry College (where she won the Beverly LeHaye Leadership Award), an institution specifically designed to train home-schooled children as far right activists. Although not an accredited school, PHC currently has 7 students working in White House internships. Among the 6 CPA employees that Cha profiles, the number with close Republican/conservative ties is 6. The number with expertise in Arabic, Islam, or economics is 0.

Cha also points out that none of them had to go through any conventional hiring process for jobs in which "almost everyone was making the equivalent of six-figure salaries."

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... 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.

Cha quotes a CPA spokesman as saying of the hiring "Nowhere did we ask party affiliation", apparently meaning that jobs were as open to Democrats who worked for the Heritage Foundation and the Bush campaign as to Republicans.

The article could have, but didn't, mention who wasn't working for the CPA - the people who have actual experience from the efforts to rebuild Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo after US or NATO interventions, and those who actually do know something about Arabic culture and the Middle East. They stayed home so that unqualified ideologues could have a free hand.

We are steadily told that Iraq is essential, that we can't afford to fail there. It's important enough to be worth the lives of the soldiers who die there almost evey day. But not, it seems, important enough for civilian jobs to be staffed by professionals instead of being a public works program for Republican campaigners in an off year.