And you wonder why we are losing in Iraq…?

The reasons for the colossal, insurmountable, life-draining mess that is today’s Iraq is right there in front of our faces. We really did have a windown of opportunty. Whether we could ever have “won” along the lines of Bush’s original promises (a cost-free and easy-to-implement beacon of democracy, Sunnis and Shiites living and working in partnership, the end of torture and oppression, etc.) remains highly questionable. But there was no reason it had to result in the total meltdown we are wtnessing today. You can trace the meltdown to various key decisions made by our war-time president, namely the shock-and-awe approach based on using few forces armed with star-wars weaponry; the abrupt dissolution of the Iraqi army and with it any means to maintain order (not to mention creating immeasurable ill will); Bremer’s delay of elections, the decision to focus on oil pipelines over drinking water and electricity – well, we all know the list by now.

But there’s another factor that isn’t as widely discussed that should go at the very top, and that is Bush’s choice to put all rebuilding operations in the hands of hacks and cronies, the very least capable people. This strategy was exposed in regard to Katrina, but the world has yet to understand just how lethal the same process proved to be in Iraq. It literally guaranteed our failure. This is so appalling.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What they needed to be was a member of the Republican Party.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions 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 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.

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 that sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people.

Digby writes a powerful post about this relatively unknown story today, and I wish there were a way I could force every independent and on-the-fence Republican to read it.

The Republicans are telling us that they should be re-elected because the Democrats aren’t serious about national security and only they can be trusted to keep the terrorists from killing us in our beds.

But the way the administration went about creating the CPA illustrates everything you need to know about the childlike sciolism of these so-called grown-ups. They insisted on invading a well contained country of 25 million people, ripped its society to shreds, and then put a bunch of low level cronies and inexperienced schoolkids in charge of creating a Club for Growth wet dream in the desert. And they spent billions and billions of dollars failing to do anything but lay the groundwork for civil war. I don’t know if it’s possible to screw up on a grander scale than that.

Here’s the question for the American people. Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that you don’t like Democrats. You have the vague feeling in the pit of your stomach that they just don’t have the cojones to do “what needs to be done.” You can’t get over the feeling that they aren’t serious enough.

But if you are a thoughtful person of any political persuasion who is concerned about national security or the economy, you simply cannot read that story above and have even the slightest faith that such people can be trusted to continue to run the government with no oversight.

Well, it’s true, but the key word in that last graf is “thoughtful.” Thoughtful people aren’t the ones to worry about, but rather the naive, the blindly faithful, the poorly educated, those who see Bush as the Second Coming, those who take Karl Rove seriously, those who get their news from FrontPage – and tragically, that’s a hefty chunk of the population.

Which brings me to my latest fear. As long as Karl and Karen wage an ingenious propaganda war that the Dems cannot effectively counter, none of us is safe and the GOP may well surprise us all once again in November. We will see the same strategy as 2004, when Rove gave up on independents and focused only on the base – the herd animals who can be manipulated with slogans and smears and Swift Boat Veterans and 15-second character assassination commercials. I want to think that 2006 has to be different, because Bush has so alienated so many Americans. But look at all he’s gotten away with to date, with nary a word of criticism for such obscene misdeeds as jamming the effort to buiild Iraq with Heritage Foundation flunkies. And I really fear he might still get away with it again.

Time to match Karl and Karen’s wave of propaganda with a wave of our own. You’d think we’d have learned something after 2000 and 2004, but the Dems never cease to amaze me with their political imbecilities. All the evidence is on the table; the article above exposes the sheer incompetency and stupidity that is the effort to rebuild Iraq. How can Rove use a piece of nonsensical, irrelevant, 30-year-old innuendo like “Christmas in Cambodia” and destroy the Democratic Party, while the Democrats can’t use red-hot, huge smoking guns like this to put even a nick in the infamously thick skin of the GOP? If we can’t win in November with all the devastating tools the Republicans have handed us on a Tiffany silver platter, then I have to give up on the Dems, maybe forever. It means we are destined to live in a GOP world, maybe for the rest of our lives. And that is scarier than hell.

The Discussion: 5 Comments


I understand and sympathize with your disgust with Dems and fear that despite the odds being on our side this year, the GOP will still win. However, I do not agree with it (well, except for the disgust with Dems part), on three counts.

First, this year, unlike ’02 or ’04, the odds (i.e. poll numbers) ARE on our side, and it’s looking more and more likely that we will or at least should (barring Diebold-like shenanigans) win big this November. The country is fed up with Bush and the GOP, and it looks like they’re going to make this known at the the ballot box.

Second, Dems have finally woken up and found some spirit and spine. Not as much as I’d like, but it’s a start, and vastly better than in the past few elections. So I think we’ll be in for a few pleasant surprises this year.

And third, even if we do lose (presumably fair and square–if we don’t then that’s a whole other issue), all is not lost. Bush will end up–at best–with razor thin congressional margins which will not be able to ram through bills as they have in the past. Enough disgruntled Repubs will go off the reservation to make like hell for their leaders and Bush. And Dems will take every advantage of this to play partisan politics the old fashioned way.

Plus, it took today’s GOP 40 years to get to where they are (or were, at their peak several years ago), and it’s not realistic to expect that a long past its prime Democratic party could rise to the challenge of standing up to it effectively in a couple of election cycles. The party is finally getting its act back together again, but it’s still very much a work in progress, and we’ve still a ways to go before we can consistently and forcefully challenge the GOP when at the height of its powers (which, thankfully, is not the case these days, but who knows where they’ll be in a couple of years after they’ve put Bush behind them).

So take heart, and don’t give up so easy. This is going to take a while longer. Focus on ’06, but don’t take your eyes off of ’08, ’10 and beyond. There are plenty of more fights yet to come.

September 17, 2006 @ 1:33 am | Comment

I am trying, but Bush got a two-point bump in the liberal Zogby poll late this week, Lieberman is poised to win as an independent, and the GOP has made a stunning rebound in recent days. I know the numbers, I understand just how fatigued America is with the GOP and its wars. But I also remember just how certain we were Kerry was going to win two years ago. Please do not discount Rove’s abilities to squeeze blood out of a rock. He transformed a decorated war hero into a lying, flip-flopping coward, much like he turned Ann Richards into a lesbian and McCain into a schizophrenic. I realize the issue is much broader since this is a House election in all states, but don’t ever sell the GOP Wurlitzer short. I marvel at it, the way you have to marvel at Alien in the Ridley Scott movie: slimy, evil, murderous…but absolutely perfect.

September 17, 2006 @ 1:57 am | Comment

All good points, and you may well turn out to be right. But Rove, while a master as his dark craft, is not a magician, nor omnipotent. I think that his most powerful attribute is his ability to convince his opponents that they are doomed. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this often comes true. Let’s not do Karl’s job for him and psych ourselves out prematurely.

Yes, we might well lose, but as I see it that’s not at all a foregone conclusion. As I see it, the real deciding factor here isn’t going to be Rove’s ability to win this despite the odds, but Dem’s ability to lose it, also despite the odds. Which, of course, was your point. That, I think, is the real unknown here. God help us all if they screw up yet again.

September 18, 2006 @ 6:28 am | Comment

All points taken. I think what I’m trying to do is warn against a cavalier attitude that the Dems are finally invincible. I thought that once before. We can’t let our guard down and we have to match their noise machine with out own. And this time, they (the Repubs) have given us the sheet music and the amplifiers. Yes, God help us if they can’t win this time.

September 18, 2006 @ 6:35 am | Comment

Agreed. Now’s not the time to ease up and go into cruise control. It’s the homestretch and we’ve yet to win anything. Nor are the polls so overwhelmingly in our favor that it’s even fair to say that it’s ours to lose. We might have the momentum but the GOP’s got the noise machine, experience and ruthlessness to still pull off a save.

Still, having said that, we’re definitely in the strongest position we’ve been in for years (both electorally and in terms of beginning to reorganize internally), which is something to build on and derive some hope from. And the worst thing that we could do now–a self-fulfilling prophesy, really–is to let our doubts–as legitimate as they might be–make this that much harder for us to pull off.

It’s a tough balancing act, between being overly confident, and overly cautious. My sense is that it’s better to err on the side of overconfidence, if you have to err, so long as you match it with an equal amount of action on the ground. And I see that happening this year, as opposed to in previous years. E.g. the “Fighting Dems”, attacking Repubs (I have no problem going negative on the likes of Burns, DeWine and Santorum), countering Swift Boat tactics, 50-state strategy, etc.

September 19, 2006 @ 2:13 am | Comment

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