The Corner

Imperial Farce

(Full disclosure note: Jim O’Beirne is a friend, as is his wife, my colleague Kate O’Beirne.)


Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s front-pager in yesterday’s Washington Post, about how Jim O’Beirne allegedly hired Bush loyalists over experts to staff the Iraqi occupation, was a hit piece, pure and simple: thinly sourced, fantastic in parts, and propagandistic. Note, for instance, the photo accompanying the story. It shows two “U.S. troops” relaxing in a swimming pool in the Green Zone, where, according to the caption, “many Coalition Provisional Authority officials spent their days.” (In the pool?) This has nothing at all to do with Chandrasekaran’s thesis—O’Beirne, even on the reporter’s account, was in charge of political appointees, not the R&R of troops. But the implication is clear: O’Beirne was sending these political appointees to cushy jobs in Iraq. The article is excerpted from a book titled Imperial Life in the Emerald City.


Chandrasekaran repeats some of the innuendo of earlier iterations of the Iraq-cronyism charge, notably the claim that “the daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator” was “tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget,” even though she had no “background in accounting.” That’s a double lie: The woman in question, also a friend of mine, does have a background in accounting, and she wasn’t managing the budget.


To get to the main point of the article: O’Beirne wasn’t in charge of staffing the Coalition Provisional Authority; he didn’t have a “staff” of his own, let alone one that could ask crudely political questions of applicants; he didn’t ask anyone he interviewed about his views on Roe v. Wade (a claim that, careful readers will see, Chandrasekaran doesn’t quite tie to O’Beirne); he was eager to find Arabic speakers; and he has never been deluged with job applicants who opposed the Iraq war and the Bush administration but wanted to serve in a war zone (surprise, surprise). Much of the article recapitulates the well-known rivalry between the State Department and the Pentagon (where O’Beirne works), with some extra bitterness added by Fred Smith, a CPA official who was forced out. Great story otherwise!


The bloggers who have decided they believe the Post’s account—some of whom distrust the Post in general—don’t know a thing about O’Beirne, but are happy to accept the veracity of an account that gibes so well with all of their prejudices.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.