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  • Friday, October 15, 2004


    ...and starring Paul Bremer as Fagin.

    CPA's vs. CPA:

    U.S. and Iraqi officials doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in oil proceeds and other moneys for Iraqi projects earlier this year, but there was little effort to monitor or justify the expenditures, according to an audit released Thursday.

    Files that could explain many of the payments are missing or nonexistent, and contracting rules were ignored, according to auditors working for an agency created by the United Nations (news - web sites).

    "We found one case where a payment ($2.6 million) was authorized by the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) senior adviser to the Ministry of Oil," the report said. "We were unable to obtain an underlying contract" or even "evidence of services being rendered."

    In a program to allow U.S. military commanders to pay for small reconstruction projects, auditors questioned 128 projects totaling $31.6 million. They could find no evidence of bidding for the projects or, alternatively, explanations of why they were awarded without competition.

    Hmmmm. Let's go to the Way Back Machine

    Item one:

    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.


    For Ledeen, the offer seemed like fate. One of her family friends had been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and it had affected her family deeply. 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.

    Others from across the District responded affirmatively to the same e-mail, for different reasons. Andrew Burns, 23, a Red Cross volunteer who had taught English in rural China, felt going to Iraq would help him pursue a career in humanitarian aid. Todd Baldwin, 28, a legislative aide for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. John Hanley, 24, a Web site editor, wanted to break into the world of international relations. Anita Greco, 25, a former teacher, and Casey Wasson, 23, a recent college graduate in government, just needed jobs.

    For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.

    Item two:

    Once one of America’s leading economic essayists, Paul Krugman has in recent years lost first his judgment, then his wit, latterly his reason, and now finally his decency. Yesterday in the course of yet another of his tiresomely repetitive anti-Bush rant, Krugman side-swiped a young friend, Simone Ledeen. Here’s the quote:

    “If the occupiers often seemed oblivious to reality, one reason was that many jobs at the C.P.A. went to people whose qualifications seemed to lie mainly in their personal and political connections — people like Simone Ledeen, whose father, Michael Ledeen, a prominent neoconservative, told a forum that ‘the level of casualties is secondary’ because ‘we are a warlike people’ and ‘we love war.’”

    I have to say that I am stunned by the implication that working in Iraq is some kind of sinecure that one obtains by wire-pulling. I wonder how many of Krugman’s dinner party pals are badgering their political connections to get their children internships in Baghdad? Simone Ledeen risked her life in Iraq for her country. One of her best friends was killed by a car bomb. She herself was frequently fired upon. I can attest first hand that her insights into the situation in Iraq were both shrewd and sensitive. Her intelligence and courage and idealism are the virtues that wartime America most desperately needs.

    Item three:

    Now if you will permit me one last personal note. Krugman engages in egregious character assassination in the article of Simone Ledeen, Michael’s daughter. This is the kind of personal attack I believe to be endemic to Krugman’s form of partisanship and should not have been allowed by The New York Times. Krugman implied that Ms. Ledeen benefited from nepotism and was not qualified to serve in Iraq. This could not be further from the truth. Simone Ledeen, who did accounting for the CPA, was a fully qualified MBA and exactly the kind of young person you would want to see serving in Iraq (not a simple thing to find, obviously, for a dangerous war zone). I met her for the first time last week, having dinner with her twice. I listened to her detailed analyses of what was going on over there that were in many ways as critical as Krugman’s, but far more subtle and educated because she had spent over half a year in Iraq, visiting many parts of the country, working with and training Iraqis with whom she became friends. I know nothing of the quotes that Krugman cherry-picked for his article or of their context, but can assure you and him that this young woman is no warmonger. The kind of reactionary (word chosen very specifically) character assassination he has engaged in is despicable.

    I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to all of the little Heritage Foundation's Artful Dodger's appearances before a grand jury.


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