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 .
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.
These days, I've been having a difficult time getting a really good righteous indignation fix. It use to be that I could just read any old news story about Bush saying or doing something dihonest, incompetent, corrupt, or evil, and I'd be set for a days. But lately, it seems that Bush rarely does or says anything that isn't dishonest, incompetent, corrupt, or evil anymore. For this reason, the kinds of news stories that had formerly compelled me to thrust my head into the wall--a compulsion I soon learned to supress--are now I dime a dozen, and I increasingly find myself in a state of political anger-fatigue. It's only the most brazen demonstrations of government ineptitude and unscrupulousness that can pull me from my apathetic slump. This WaPo article sure managed to do the trick, though. I think I'll be good to go for at least the rest of the day, but I'll make no promises that I won't be jonesing again by tomorrow.