The intelligence agencies have now officially acknowledged the inescapable reality: The failed occupation in Iraq has stoked the global terrorist threat, generating recruits for increasing acts of terror across the globe. That conclusion is in the latest classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, portions of which were leaked to the media this past weekend.
Likewise, the premiere of Robert Greenwald’s stunning documentary, "Iraq for Sale," along with the publication of books ripping the cover off the Iraq occupation—Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco, T. Christian Miller’s Blood Money, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City —expose the sordid reality behind the failure in Iraq—the mélange of conservative ideological idiocy, incompetence, cronyism and corruption that is the hallmark of this administration. In the midst of this is the abject failure of a supine conservative Congress to enforce any form of accountability on the administration, as so-called moderate Republicans marched in lockstep with their conservative leaders to deep-six every effort to investigate the pervasive corruption and profiteering.
If progressives had an echo chamber to match conservatives, the basic facts would create a drumbeat—far beyond partisanship—for cleaning out the stables in Washington. The ideologues of the administration and their facilitators in Congress have not simply wasted billions of dollars and squandered the sacrifice of thousands of lives. They have undermined our security, while generating recruits for terror across the globe.
The administration fiasco in Iraq mirrors its catastrophic failures in the wake of Katrina. Once more, the public mission—in this case reconstruction and nation building—was scorned. Rumsfeld and his neocons made it clear—the U.S. military fights war, it doesn’t do school patrols.
The result was an utter, incomprehensible failure to plan. Tommy Franks, the general in charge of the Iraq invasion, didn’t think the aftermath was his responsibility. He assumed the troops would be out in 30 days. General Garner, the first head of the reconstruction, assumed that his task would be done in two months. American soldiers—with neither training nor guidance—stood idly by as Iraqis looted ministries, destroying essential records and making off with everything from guns to historic treasures to the electrical wiring.
Once the president decided that since there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found, we were really in Iraq to create democracy, ideology once more outlawed common sense. Instead of sending in experts on reconstruction, the administration consciously recruited conservative ideologues, those who avidly embraced the new cause. Interns and job applicants to the Heritage Foundation provided a core list of young zealots, who would come to Iraq for three months to get their resumes stamped. A 27-year-old daughter of neocon Michael Ledeen was put in charge of the Iraqi budget. A 28-year-old was put in charge of reopening the stock exchange. They lived in the Green Zone—Chandrasekaran’s “Emerald City”—ignorant of the language, the culture, the day-to-day reality of the country they ruled.
Not surprisingly, conservative ideology drove the reconstruction fiasco. Seeking to display his authority, Viceroy Paul Bremer ignored expert advice and disbanded the Iraqi army and purged the Iraqi ministries of experienced leadership. That provided the Sunni insurgency with hundreds of thousands of experienced and angry recruits, with guns. He pushed for privatization of Iraqi industries, for the elimination of fuel and food supports in a country with 50 percent unemployment. Private investment, not public enterprise, would rebuild Iraq.
The reconstruction—and the war—was privatized to an unprecedented degree. The second largest army in Iraq after the Americans was made up of private contractors. Contractors did everything from guarding the bases to providing the food. Most of the large contracts were no-bid, sole source, cost-plus agreements. Not surprisingly, cronyism ran rampant. Wired corporations like Halliburton lapped up contracts worth billions. Republican operatives invented companies and used their political connections to land multimillion-dollar contracts.
In this cesspool, there was no accountability. The Pentagon didn’t even have a representative from the Inspector General’s office on the ground for the first two-and-a-half years. The Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. authority in Iraq, had neither the staff nor the expertise to stem the corruption. The conservative majority in Congress not only repeatedly blocked efforts to create a bipartisan investigative committee—along the lines of the Truman Committee that policed contracts in World War II—it refused to hold hearings exposing the scope of the fraud and abuse to the public eye.
The harsh result was a catastrophic conservative fiasco. As Robert Greenwald’s stunning documentary shows, not only were billions lost, lives of patriotic workers were callously squandered. The profiteers made out like bandits. The politicians were succored with campaign contributions and lobbying junkets. But in Iraq, failure fueled civil war. And across the world, the occupation fueled fury, and provided al-Qaida with a new generation of recruits.
The incompetence, cronyism and corruption that led to this fiasco are hallmarks of modern-day conservatism. Accountability, expertise, planning, good management are not partisan issues. But the administration, blinded by its own ideological certitude, scorned even common sense. And the lapdog conservative majority in Congress chose partisanship over patriotism, protecting the administration rather than the nation’s security.
The Greenwald film will be shown in thousands of house parties across the country. (To join a house party or to host one, go to www.bravenewfilms.org.) Fiasco, Blood Money and Emerald City deserve a wide audience. The Campaign for America’s Future has published a report detailing the fiasco and detailing how individual legislators voted on efforts to establish some accountability.
With the press already into reporting on the elections as a horse race, the vast majority of voters are likely to have no clue about the depths of the failure this fall. But if Democrats can win back the House, the resulting hearings will be explosive—as patriotic American soldiers and workers are able finally to tell their story. No wonder the White House and its conservative allies are desperate to keep the majority that is their only hope for keeping the lid on the truth.
Cross posted at Straight Talk Live