10 days ago, the Obama transition team notified about 90 of the Pentagon's 250 Bush political appointees that their services would no longer be needed after Inauguration Day. But despite DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell's declaration that holdover Republican Defense Secretary Robert Gates was "absolutely satisfied" with way the transition was being handled, one loyal Bushie at the Pentagon was anything but. Jim O'Beirne - the same Jim O'Beirne who famously populated the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad with Republican campaign hacks and Bush bath-water drinkers - is crying foul.
On Tuesday, O'Beirne emailed the Bush loyalists who had learned of their looming dismissals from Scott Gration, a senior official on Obama’s transition team. In his seething missive, O'Beirne, the outgoing special assistant to the secretary of defense for White House liaisons, accused Team Obama of playing politics. As The Hill reported:
In the email, O'Beirne tried to assure the soon-to-be displaced employees that the decisions were based on "policy change in the Obama administration" and not based on performance.
However, he said, if employees "harbor residual doubts" then they can "content yourself with the likelihood that it was your outstanding performance as a Bush appointee that drew the opposition's attention to you."
"In that regard, you may take justifiable satisfaction that you were among the first to be chosen," O'Beirne wrote.
Of course, when it comes to evaluating the qualifications of Bush appointees, Jim O'Beirne knows best.
As Rajiv Chandrasekaran detailed in his shocking 2006 account of the bungled American occupation of Iraq (Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone), O'Beirne was the gatekeeper on personnel assigned to Baghdad. And to be sure, the GOP loyalist and husband of crypto-conservative columnist Kate O'Beirne used the crudest of political litmus tests.
As the Washington Post reported in an excerpt from Chandrasekaran's book:
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.
Unsurprisingly, the staff of Paul Bremer's CPA in the Green Zone in Baghdad quickly resembled an after-hours cocktail party at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):
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.
As more and more of O'Beirne's hires arrived in the Green Zone, the CPA's headquarters in Hussein's marble-walled former Republican Palace felt like a campaign war room. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations. In addition to military uniforms and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" garb, "Bush-Cheney 2004" T-shirts were among the most common pieces of clothing.
"I'm not here for the Iraqis," one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. "I'm here for George Bush."
The results were predictable - and disastrous. Bremer's calamitous dissolution of the Iraqi army was matched by a tragic and often comical crusade to privatize the Iraqi economy. It was almost inevitable that O'Beirne's neophyte Republican minions presided over the loss of tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars to corruption, fraud and mismanagement. As Frederick Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA's Washington office, put it:
"We didn't tap -- and it should have started from the White House on down -- just didn't tap the right people to do this job. It was a tough, tough job. Instead we got people who went out there because of their political leanings."
Fast forward to Tuesday and Jim O'Beirne is furious about the political leanings of the Obama administration soon to take over his Pentagon. Ironically, back in Baghdad, the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today took control of the Green Zone from the United States. That would the same Green Zone Jim O'Beirne helped create as the lasting monument to the cynicism, cronyism and corruption of George W. Bush and his Republican Party.
(This piece is crossposted at Perrspectives.)