[Marxism] A rightwing brat pack in Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 23 07:34:26 MDT 2004


In Iraq, the Job Opportunity of a Lifetime
Managing a $13 Billion Budget With No Experience
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2004; Page A01


BAGHDAD -- It was after nightfall when they finally found their offices 
at Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace -- 11 jet-lagged, sweaty, 
idealistic volunteers who had come to help Iraq along the road to 
democracy.

When the U.S. government went looking for people to help rebuild Iraq, 
they had responded to the call. They supported the war effort and 
President Bush. Many had strong Republican credentials. They were in 
their twenties or early thirties and had no foreign service experience. 
On that first day, Oct. 1, they knew so little about how things worked 
that they waited hours at the airport for a ride that was never coming. 
They finally discovered the shuttle bus out of the airport but got off 
at the wrong stop.

Occupied Iraq was just as Simone Ledeen had imagined -- ornate mosques, 
soldiers in formation, sand blowing everywhere, "just like on TV." The 
28-year-old daughter of neoconservative pundit Michael Ledeen and a 
recently minted MBA, she had arrived on a military transport plane with 
the others and was eager to get to work.

They had been hired to perform a low-level task: collecting and 
organizing statistics, surveys and wish lists from the Iraqi ministries 
for a report that would be presented to potential donors at the end of 
the month. But as suicide bombs and rocket attacks became almost daily 
occurrences, more and more senior staffers defected. In short order, six 
of the new young hires found themselves managing the country's $13 
billion budget, making decisions affecting millions of Iraqis.

Viewed from the outside, their experience illustrates many of the 
problems that have beset the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority 
(CPA), a paucity of experienced applicants, a high turnover rate, 
bureaucracy, partisanship and turf wars. But within their group, inside 
the "Green Zone," the four-mile strip surrounded by cement blast walls 
where Iraq's temporary rulers are based, their seven months at the CPA 
was the experience of a lifetime. It was defined by long hours, 
patriotism, friendship, sacrifice and loss.

The CPA was designed to be a grand experiment in nation-building, a body 
of experts who would be Iraq's guide for transforming itself into a 
model for democracy in the Middle East. Unlike previous reconstruction 
efforts, it was to be manned by civilians -- advisers on politics, law, 
medicine, transportation, agronomy and other key areas. They were 
supposed to be experts, but many of the younger hires who filled the 
CPA's hallways were longer on enthusiasm than on expertise.

L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's top civil administrator, may have been the public 
face of the CPA, but it is these rank-and-file workers who defined the 
occupation at the ground level. This account of the budget team's time 
in Baghdad is drawn from direct observation and interviews with more 
than three dozen civilian and military members of the occupation 
government.

full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48543-2004May22.html

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