Jim O'Beirne's war

There are those who think Limited Inc is kidding about Iraq being Bush’s Vanity war. This article should clear up that contentious issue. The Iraq war was the first war in this nation’s history fought entirely to give a political party a leg up in the elections, and as a Romper room for its language challenged children. Iraq was a Club Med for the Heritage Foundation set. Something we pointed out when this story first appeared, about two years ago, but worth pointing out again, given this fuller account:

“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 seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's 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 .”

The article is riotously funny, actually. A completely corrupt mindset – conservative Republicans, circa 2003 – goes to Iraq for ideological fun and games. Comic capers, plus IEDs, ensue. Fun for the whole family! I particularly liked the anti-abortion advocate who takes charge of the Iraq Health system and sees, with his eagle eye, right into the heart of Iraq’s problems: they are all about smoking! And so he makes that his first priority. You can’t make this stuff up – the idiocy comes straight from the heartland.

Imagine translating the bar talk of some particularly louche frat bar into official U.S. policy, and voila -- you have the Coalition Provisional Authority.

This was all happening under the nose of the D.C. press corps. )Indeed, the political appointee, O'Beirne, who was stocking the CPA with Bush nomenklatura is married to a celeb media person, Katie O'Beirne). One might wonder, what is it that motivates that corps? Why is it so ghastly, so incompetent, so craven and at the same time so pompous?

David Broder, the mentor of so many a budding centrist and Pappa of pomposity, explained his beliefs this week in an interesting Q and A:
Washington, D.C.: Mr Broder, if you feel Karl Rove is owed an apology from the pundits and writers over Valerie Plame, did you also call for an apology to the Clintons after Ken Starr, the Whitewater investigation and the failed attempt to impeach President Clinton? If not, why not?

David S. Broder: As best, I can recall,I did not call for such an apology. My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned and turned over the office to Vice President Gore. I think history would have been very different had he done that.

Ottawa, Canada: I am curious about your statement regarding Mr. Clinton:"..that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned..." This resignation would have been because of private misconduct that he lied about. How sir, would you judge a president that overstated the facts and got the country into a war?

David S. Broder: I would judge that president harshly, as the majority of the voters in this country and in many other parts of the world has done. But I make a distinction between a terrible misjudgment and a deliberate lie. Do you?
Reston, Va.: We return a second time to President Clinton. What bothered me greatly about his actions was not what he said to his lawyers but what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff--You can go out and defend me because this did not happen. And he told the same lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing--and that is why I thought he should step down.

And so, in your opinion, the current president, vice president, secretary of defense, etc., have never lied to other government officials or the public and have lost no credibility?

David S. Broder: A classic have you stopped beating your wife question. How do I know whether they have ever lied to other government officials? The people in this administration are responsible for the decision that have led to the current miserable situation in Iraq, and Afghanistan and the worldwide damage to the standing of the United States. I think the American people know that and will hold them accountable--in this election and the next.”

So nice to know that lying about blow jobs is a national emergency, but the conduct of the Iraq war is a terrible and enigmatic thing. The are the values of a court society, in which breaches of decorum resonate far more than the pilfering of the national treasury, the usurpation of the nation’s army for personal ends, or the squalid incompetence that leads to the drowning of one of the Republic’s major cities. As long as the King is in his counting house, stealing all the money, the Broders of the world are sound asleep, and their children are running the Iraq treasury.

Ah, as the cornpone Kingdom runs out of gas and falls on the rest of us, at least this crow will have plenty to laugh at!


Paul craddick said…

You've proposed a strange non sequitur.

Whatever this article shows, what it emphatically does not demonstrate is that "The Iraq war was the first war in this nation’s history fought entirely to give a political party a leg up in the elections."

The article itself announces its point of departure thus: "the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq."

In that connection, I cannot believe that you're so naive as to have just discovered that the State is run as a spoils-system. Or must we still believe the comforting fiction that if only "our boys" controlled the power-house, all would be well?!
roger said…

First, a private bone to pick with you. Why didn't you email me that you were going to start up your blog again? I was hurt. I gave up going over there, and suddenly this surge of Craddickian creativity. Please, drop me a line when such things happen.

Okay, to the point. The use of war to advance a party, it was thought, dropped out of American politics about the time of the Spanish American war. You'll remember Kennedy's pick for ambassador to Vietnam when that conflict hotted up was -- Lodge, a prominent republican who, I believe, even campaigned as Nixon's vice president in 1960.

An easy comparison is Kosovo. Clinton's secretary of Defense at the time was a Republican. There was no evidence that the Dems, who weren't enthusiastic about being over there in the first place, overran the place with dimwit heirs.

Or we could look at Japan and Germany. The Japanese occupation was headed by McArthur, who made no bones about his conservative republican leanings. In Europe, you had the Dulles brothers, you had Bill Casey. Then you had Truman asking Herbert Hoover and John Foster Dulles to make a report on the economic infrastructure in Germany in 1946. Incidentally, it was on Hoover's advice, too, that the Japanese Occupational command pretty much dropped the ball on prosecuting Japanese industrialists for war crimes. Too commie symp.

Hmm, by contrast, you had "Buffy" Ledeen checking out that Iraqi infrastructure, and OLD Doc "I hate abortions" trying to come up with a way of getting Iraqis to buy more American pharmaceuticals, even as the hospitals became cesspits.

Now, did the U.S. try to force its peculiar economic views down Europe's throat? Yes. Did that work? No. Happily, the Europeans resisted the American plan to impoverish themselves further by letting the market run three, and to that decision they owe their subsequent prospertiy. As we all know. However, the U.S. policy was bipartisan, and where it was partisan, it wasn't -- let's find our dumbest partisans and let them party.

To say that some partisan stuff goes on when the ruling party administers a war is one thing -- to recognize that a line was crossed, early on, in Iraq, seems pretty simple to me. Scale counts.
roger said…
ps... "letting the market run free..." Sorry, I've been typing all day. I need a drinkypoo!
I'm sympathetic to Paul's points. There are a number of wars I would characterize as vanity efforts and the bipartisanship that marked them as measures to ensure the other side was dirty too. There's nothing like complicity and sweeteners to keep thieves tight. Better or more enlightened management of the spoils system seems like largely a matter of luck.
roger said…
Mr. Scruggs, on the specific point, bipartisanship did mark them.

But your larger point is - a court society that revels in bipartisanship is still a court society. Right? So, essentially, bipartisanship simply was one tool to promote aggression, and now partisan monoculture is playing that role.

However, I think the story is more complicated than that. The Cold War did see both parties sign off on the executive usurpation of foreign policy up to the cracks in the establishment circa 67, about Vietnam. However, I think there was an underlying feeling that checks and balances were still preserved -- even if pallidly. That system came undone just as we had Nixon, a man who went to the limit in accrueing unchecked foreign policy power. Nixon marks the high point, in my opinion, of pure inhumanity in American foreign policy. Nobody else has ever been that bad.

Then the cycle resumed, but the bipartisan consensus never really was the same under Carter, Reagan and Bush. Reagan really was limited by Congress more than we remember - although, unfortunately, he wasn't so limited in Afghanistan, which was sorta off the map for most Americans in the 80s. Who knows, perhaps the Nicaragua thing was a feint... but I doubt it.

Well, I'm not going to go through the tedious nuances of every prez, but I think what we see in Iraq -- the bold use of a war to promote one party only, and the crystallization of that party around unchecked executive power and unprovoked aggression -- does speed up and amplify aggression, as well as serving to remove the executive from any check -- which of course has gross and grave domestic effects. It isn't simply a nuance. In the GOP itself, it has the effect of destroying the part of the party that stands for civil liberties, and promoting the part of the party that stands for big government conservatism. I still maintain that scale counts, and that the selection of personnel for the CPA was more than just business as usual.
Fair enough Roger. I will agree that scale counts. I think so too and also that this has been more than just business as usual. Though taking a tangent from Paul's last point, I think the Democrats have increasingly allowed and encouraged the one party dominance that makes the true vanity war possible. And done so in the hopes of getting their turn at that kind of power. They too have worked to destroy checks and limit the influence of their more ethical components. I also think a consensus has developed that allows that kind of loutish playground sensibility, with murderous consequences. I think the cretinous majesty of Bushism obscures the fact that these things don't happen without a good push and some passive support. Alongside every Snopes stands a squirrel chittering about the possible benefits of barn burning.
I also think I've become dull with the Dem-bashing :-( They get kicked for the wrong reasons so often that I can't resist.
ahfukit said…
This crow must practice his laughing. He is now consumed by ((oof)). Can't laugh when you've taken a gut shot. Not just yet.

I cannot believe that you're so naive as to have just discovered that the State is run as a spoils-system.

I don't know one good strong decent person (all of whom I'd wager would say they'd shed their naivete long ago) who wouldn't be grievously wounded by the wapo link.

What a long strange trip this will be...
ahfukit said…
Shame is the word.

And we are cast to carry it. For them.
roger said…
Mr. Scruggs, if you give up grilling squirrels, I will have to commit suicide -- or at least get extremely drunk. Don't deprive a poor man of cheap amusement!

I think you are right about the Beinart temptation of the Dems, of course. But on a formal (ahem) philosophical (ahem, ahem) level (putting on my Hegel mask), to form a bipartisan alliance means having to compromise interests (the divided form of the Positive) among the allied parties (the bisected form of the Practical), leading to restraints on teh (not, Himmel, the, but the erased) Absolute.

Anyway, I agree with Mr. Afuhkit -- sometimes, your first feeling is your best guide. Shame it is, for me.
Paul craddick said…
I don't know one good strong decent person ... who wouldn't be grievously wounded by the wapo link.

For my opinion on this statement, see what Zarathustra has to say about the self-anointed "Good and the Just."

Roger, the question at issue, between us, is whether

The Iraq war was the first war in this nation’s history fought entirely to give a political party a leg up in the elections
[my emphasis]

In the conclusion of your rejoinder to me, you wrote:

To say that some partisan stuff goes on when the ruling party administers a war is one thing -- to recognize that a line was crossed, early on, in Iraq, seems pretty simple to me. Scale counts

That seems to me to entail some serious back-pedaling; now you're attributing a difference of "scale" between the "partisanship" of past wars and this one - a matter of degree. So, your historical exegesis notwithstanding, it remains to be established that your original, bold contention is the truth. Honestly, I don't even know how one could establish such a thing.

Anyhow, the article to which you linked, and in which you - and the other interlocutors here? - uncritically believe, concerns the character of the occupation. But, granted the Gospel truth of the article, it still doesn't follow that the latest Iraq "was fought" soley, even primarily, for partisan aggrandizement. Are you really prepared to say that such corruption was the ruling motive for the invasion? I find that thought outlandish, I must say.

J. Alva, some trenchant comments; I'm happy to see some sphere of agreement between us.
roger said…
Paul, I conceded the point - although of course I don't know the details of how the Republicans used the Spanish-American war, but I have a feeling they did.

But the major thesis still stands. I'm glad you describe what the Post story represents as corruption. My point was that it represents the identification of one party -- and in fact one faction in that party -- with a war fought on Uncle Sam's nickle.

The reason the Iraq war was fought seems to be a mystery to the President and Vice President, who recently claimed he'd fight it again, given what he knows now -- thus telling us that the Bush claim in 2002 that Iraq threatened us with WMDs was a farce. Surely this gang came into office meaning to fight this war. But whatever the root causes, the invasion and the stocking of the CPA with a group of partisan Bushites who seem, collectively, to have had the IQ of a bowl full of guppies -- or of George Gilder, whichever is the more insulting comparison - shows us one of the effects of the war -- its use as a partisan tool. Does that effect arise from a partisan attitude? I think it does.

Now for my question, Paul. Unlike you, I don't see too many holes in the article -- it fits in with other articles about the subject - but hypothesize, for a moment, that it is right.

How do you, a supporter of the war, feel about Joe O'Beirne's tests:

"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 seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's 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 .”
roger said…
ps - Interestingly, the one war I can think of that might have been fought simply to give a leg up to a party -- the Spanish American war -- happened under McKinley. As is well known, Karl Rove has a huge fondness for McKinley. He's said that he wanted Bush's administration to play a role similar to McKinley's way back in 2001.
ahfukit said…
Zarathustra is a sort of flyswatter, then? Very effective. ;-)

Good, in that they will entertain their own fallibility, strong, in that they can emerge from that entertainment perhaps changed but undiminished, decent, in that their argumentation is constructive versus zero-sum competitive.

And I was thinking very locally/literally: people I actually *know* who fit that bill.

Paul, who is your favorite actor?
roger said…
Ah, I've had some fun looking at comments on the Corner. After all, it is the children of the Corner-ites who are being featherbedded for government jobs by our mafia style White house. I really liked Jonah Goldberg's comment. It was so much like what some mafioso in On the Waterfront would say about hiring his kid as a union super:

"Re: The Post's Hit Piece [Jonah Goldberg]

I haven't chimed in because I thought everyone was doing such a good job and I thought perhaps protesting too much might give the misperception that the Post struck a nerve. To that end I have nothing to add on the merits to Andy's post or the rest (though I, too, am a fan of Simone Ledeen's), but I would just like to say that based on years of knowing Jim O'Beirne that he's always struck me as one of the most honorable, wise and decent men I've ever met. He's got a mensch quality you wouldn't necessarily expect from a career military man. And while I know very little about what he does for the Pentagon, I am pleased and grateful such men of integrity work in our government. America could use a lot more Jim O'Beirnes."

When you have an inside guy like Jim O'beirne, taking on the subdeb dimwit heirs of the limosine conservative crowd and giving them important positions for which they have no qualifications whatsover - well, you have to like that kind of guy.

Big government conservatism - it is like the meeting of peanut butter and chocolate. The liberal faith in government, conservative greed = D.C. Parasitism. I love it!
Paul craddick said…

If we grant the essential truth of the article, how do I feel about it?

That's an easy one - I feel depressed about it. But not particularly shocked. If what you're driving at is that I ought to regret my support of the dethroning Saddam based on this alleged revelation - I don't feel that. I might regret it for other reasons, but corruption in the administration of an occupation is not ... surprising.

Concerning this matter, I do notice that the good partisans are lining up as expected. The NRO Corner folks don't believe it, on principle - you and the dissidents here do. Actually, that's not quite fair - Ponnuru at the Corner attempted to adduce some reasons to distrust the article, on its own terms.

My own view is that the allegations might be true, but I don't expect to be able to get to the bottom of the matter reliably, and wouldn't care to waste my time doing so.

As to ahfukit's question - my favorite thespian, of course, is/was Hervé Villechaize.
ahfukit said…
Oh, Paul! I mean human actor. Little people are dogs from hell  ;-)
roger said…
Paul, your last comment gets us back to an old battle between us - as you know, my notion was that the invasion was not at all in America's interest, and shouldn't have been mounted -- but given that it was, it should have solely concerned the toppling of a dictator. Just as the invasion of Panama removed Noriega.

The classical liberal view, from Burke to Benjamin Constant, predicted exactly the kind of occupation we were going to have in Iraq, which I harped on maniacally at the time. I don't think that theirs is the only view, but there are powerful themes in that tradition, especially on the topic of changing a social order from above, that have to be answered by allusion to some specific circumstance before you simply ignore them. That you threw your lot in with the social engineers always puzzled me.

It used to be that the pro-occupation set tried to enoble their enterprise by comparing it to the occupations of WWII. Now, apparently, they are trying to diminish the occupations of WWII by comparing them to Iraq. That won't wash. The Americans in Germany were, in the end, very respectful of certain basic elements of the German social order, including, especially, the German idea of giving a much stronger place to organized labor than the Americans would ever have conceded. Also, in Germany of course, we saw a multitude of powers checking the Americans -- which was all to the good. In Japan, the culture of cartels was hardly touched at all (due, I should say, again, to the Republicans - since, again, the decisions on those occupations were bipartisan.)

That is just for starters. I haven't seen you name any particular instances of activity parallel to that in the WAPO happening in 1946-1948. There is good reason for that -- there wasn't any parallel. The expertise used in those occupations truly was bipartisan. It was also wideranging -- from Herbert Marcuse to Herbert Hoover.