Friday, May 28, 2004
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More on CPA recruitment
In my TNR Online piece yesterday, I briefly referenced the fact that ideological litmus tests were used to screen out otherwise first-rate applicants to the Coalition Provisional Authority. I've heard this from multiple sources, including those who were eventually hired, but many were reluctant say anything for the record. The Washington Post story confirmed some of this.
For a first-hand account, the following is reprinted from an e-mail I received from a former CPA employee who wishes to remain anonymous:
Now, let me be the first to say that a shared ideology should play a role in hiring decisions at some level. If an applicant was asked why s/he wanted to go to Iraq, and that person answered, "I want to expose the role of evil multinational oil companies in the exploitation of Iraqi resources," well, that person wouldn't make a terribly good CPA employee. Let me also say, as Kevin Drum pointed out previously, that the people who were hired to be CPA personnel have the best of intentions and appear to have spared no effort to rebuild Iraqi society.
That said, how does a person's opinion towards Roe v. Wade possibly affect their ability to function in Iraq?
This is a story crying out for further investigation.
In the meantime, CPA employees who believe that this is an exaggerated picture of the hiring process should feel free to e-mail. I'll be happy to reprint what's relevant to the topic.
UPDATE: A claifying missive from my anonymous source:
Me too.posted by Dan on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM
Dan, I'm really glad you posted this. Among the underreported stories about Iraq this is one of the most important. Even through the mainstream media we get a lot of information about who our soldiers are and what they are doing in Iraq. There isn't nearly as much coverage as to the civilians working for CPA.
I'm not saying I agree with the criticisms you mention at the beginning of this post, though they do square with my impressions of how Bush-led organizations do business. I just do not know enough to say, and will be interested to see any informed responses you get.posted by: Zathras on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
That said, how does a person's opinion towards Roe v. Wade possibly affect their ability to function in Iraq?
No one said it did, your correspondent mentioned it in passing without providing any context other than someone was asked a question about it by one other person (perhaps they volunteered the information because they agreed with the POTUS and thought it might give them an edge). You’re assuming that this was some sort of litmus test when we don’t even know that it factored into the decision-making (or even that it happened).
posted by: Thorley Winston on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Now, let me be the first to say that a shared ideology should play a role in hiring decisions at some level. If an applicant was asked why s/he wanted to go to Iraq, and that person answered, "I want to expose the role of evil multinational oil companies in the exploitation of Iraqi resources," well, that person wouldn't make a terribly good CPA employee.
OK. Now, what if the person who wants to "expose the role of evil multinational oil companies" answers the question "I want to help the Iraqi people"? I mean, do you REALLY think that someone would answer your proposed question by ACTUALLY SAYING that the want to expose oil companies?
So, how do you figure out who is ACTUALLY ideologically committed to the Administration's goals in Iraq? Might it have something to do with a shared affinity for other of the Administration's goals (like, oh, I dunno... re abortion)?posted by: Al on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
That being said, I find the topic fascinating. How DO they figure out who is ideologically committed enough to work for the CPA in Iraq???
I wonder if I'd pass the CPA's test... I'm not registered to vote, have never joined any right-leaning organizations, attended left-leaning college and law-school, and live in one of the most Democratic neighborhoods in NYC. My only tie to the right is a lapsed subscription to the Weekly Standard! Yet, as anyone who has read my blog comments knows, I'm very committed to the Iraq project...posted by: Al on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
On the other hand, Iraq is a mostly Muslim country and even if more secular than others in that region, it might not be a good idea to hire someone in certain positions who’s views might be seen as antagonistic to certain Islamic conventions (e.g. openly homosexual, openly pro-abortion, openly drinks to excess, etc.). That’s not to say that we should attempt to or are attempting to cater to everything in Islamic law, but rather that someone is making a rational and conscious effort to weed out those which unnecessarily conflict with Islamic law (but are not otherwise essential for our mission) or it may not be an automatic disqualifier but could be a tie-breaker.
Again I am not even agreeing that it happened (your correspondent provided no context to justify your assumption) or that it should be done. I am simply saying that if it did happen or was used as part of the screening process (nothing in his email suggests that it was anything other than one fellow asking a question), it could have a legitimate rationale depending on what the position was.posted by: Thorley Winston on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
I suspect foul play. Is Dan Drezner being Mobyed? Recently Roger L. Simon posted a story concerning a fraud being perpetuated by a Kerry supporter. This is his website, Republicans for Kerry 04:
A couple of weeks ago our host made a big deal about receiving an e-mail from someone alleging that they have a lot of conservative Republican friends who are now going to vote for Kerry. What particularly caught my eye is that one of them is supposedly employed by The Weekly Standard!
The liberal establishment is doing everything to bring down President Bush’s poll numbers. Their goal is to continue pushing one “scandal” after another until election day. I’m sure that they love the fact that Drezner believes “This is a story crying out for further investigation.” That might give them some more headlines for the next few weeks. Me thinks this just more bovine excrement that needs to be flushed down the sewer.posted by: David Thomson on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
I'll guess here, but when the United States or other countries are seeking staffers to fulfill roles in embassies and consulates in the Middle East is one question asked "Are you Jewish?". With obvious examples like Saudi Arabia I'd wager that these sort of questions may be part of the modus operandi for staffing any offices in the Middle East.
For instance, I wouldn't want a staffer that was a dedicated Christian Missionary to take a supporting role with the CPA unless I were to receive a pledge that private activities on your own time are aligned with the mission and goals of the CPA.
The State Department should be able provide some of the S.O.Ps for foreign service work.posted by: Brennan Stout on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
I should also mention the name of Richard Clarke. This back stabber has changed our national politics for years to come. The Bush administration has learned not to trust outsiders. Can anyone blame them?posted by: David Thomson on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
“I'll guess here, but when the United States or other countries are seeking staffers to fulfill roles in embassies and consulates in the Middle East is one question asked "Are you Jewish?". With obvious examples like Saudi Arabia I'd wager that these sort of questions may be part of the modus operandi for staffing any offices in the Middle East.”
“For instance, I wouldn't want a staffer that was a dedicated Christian Missionary to take a supporting role with the CPA unless I were to receive a pledge that private activities on your own time are aligned with the mission and goals of the CPA.”
I may sound like a gutless hypocrite. It is my conviction that currently American Jews should rarely, if ever, be sent to Saudi Arabia. This might cause more harm than good for the time being. Any administration, Democrat or Republican, should think twice about sending a Jew to any Muslim country. Let’s wait for a few more years. Am I being prudent, or just cowardly?
I would also adamantly do everything to make damn sure that a missionary Christian be rejected. We must indeed encourage a cultural shift in the Islamic world. However, we must be very careful not to shove it down their throats. Am I too timid?posted by: David Thomson on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Isnt that how most jobs in DC are handed out?? or in any state government?? MA is notorious for its nepostism.
Thank you for this post and for maintaining a highly interesting blog.
The "cruel irony" ("Fail Proof") by which the neoconservatives would be "responsible for unfairly discrediting their own idea" seems less ironic than tragic, since the neocons are caught in in a rhetorical trap of their own making.
When confronted with contradictions, they fell back on appeals to authority . They implemented an official language that relied on the use of logical fallacies to manipulate the judgment of the ignorant while "discrediting" the knowledgable.
The fact that the public "incorrectly" attacks the neocons' "strategy" in Iraq rather than its "execution" looks a lot like comeuppance.posted by: nuncstans on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Reminds me of the very similar practice in the old Soviet Union. Every organization, governmental or not) above a certain size had a senior position held by a party official reviewing all decisions for purity.
Yes, one's opinion on Roe V Wade would be important for those deciding policy.
You see, most Muslims are prolife and very conservative in sexual matters (P.J. O'Rourke said they reminded him of his Baptist relatives in these matters). Muslims actually would support limited birth control promoted for married women, since Islam stresses family spacing for the protection of the health of the mother and the child. But too many "development" programs get sidetracked into the radical feminist/proabortion/eugenics agenda. This is potentially a disaster in public relations. Poor people don't necessarily like rich white people coming in and telling them not to have greatly wanted children, or that their daughters should use safe sex (to fathers who see premarital sex as a major sin against honor).
Too often we see "aids" programs that spend money on promoting condoms that dry up and crack in hot climates, and which also advertise "safe sex" messages that promote sexual autonomy for teens and that promiscuity and prostitution are value neutral...to conservative African or Arab citizens....
Conservative Muslims have more in common with "red" America in their values than with the liberal "blue" America. Asking a position on Roe v Wade is a test question that shows if a person would be liberal enough to sympathize and to work with the conservative Arab world...presumably, other questions would weed out other types of rigid mind sets.posted by: tioedong on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
While I agree with many aspects of your article, I think the primary fault lies elsewhere. Reading the media reporting day after day, a couple of things struck me. First was the standard that the journalists were applying to fighting a war. From their point of view, which I hear in the words of the pundits and the politicians alike, the only wars this nation is permitted to fight are those which are (1) perfectly executed without any problems or mistakes, and (2) free from any casualties. Summed up, the only war our so-called elites (can't think of a better world) will tolerate is a war that is over in mere weeks and which involves no or at least historically limited casualties. Everything else is a "quagmire", a term which our esteemed journalists even applied to Afghanistan, a war of necessity if there ever was one.
tioedong, well put.
It would be helpful to know what the context of this question was as Dan's update really didn't shed any new information on the matter.posted by: Thorley Winston on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
You wingnuts are truly amazing. Its obvious none of you read the washington post article. Keep drinking the cool aid. The Post states that many CPA employees had no qualifications for their jobs othe rthan their idealogy. WHAT part of that don't you understand? WHat part is "liberal consipriacy to keep mentioning bad news"? DT, this CPA ineptitude story is now almost half a year old. The guardian carried a peice about it in january. CPA officials have publicallyl said it over the past month. The post has published an article on it.
tioedong, READ what's going on in Iraq. No one is suggesting that liberal people should impose their will upon the Iraqis. That is, just cause a liberal believes in Roe v. Wade, doesn't mean they are going to force it down Iraq. HOWEVER, the Wingnuts at teh CPA are forcing a ridiculous amount of privitization of Iraqi industries at a ridiculous rate -- i.e. they are shoving THEIR ideaology down the Iraqis throats. On top of that, they have prevented the formation of unions by Iraqi laborers.
You wing nuts really got the double think down pat.
If youa re going to reply to my comment, read the Post article FIRST.posted by: Jor on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Yes, this explains why the people over at Little Green Footballs get along with Muslims so well, and why they would make perfect employees for the CPA.
“the guardian carried a piece about it in january. CPA officials have publicallyl said it over the past month. The post has published an article on it.”
I consider the Guardian as nothing more than a lying rag. Likewise, one can almost say the same thing concerning the Washington Post. Both of these newspapers hate the President Bush and are infamous for distorting the news. I have not forgotten the WP’s coverage of the phony Valerie Plame incident. This story would have never received a front page headline if a liberal Democrat resided in the White House. At the very best, the latter publication deserves to be relied on only as a secondary news source.
This so-called scandal seems like much ado about very little. The Bush administration should be cautious on who it hires. After all, it had to deal with Richard Clarke. Democrats seem ready to betray the President in a heart beat. I’m not thrilled by the Roe vs. Wade question either, but it takes far more than that to justify weeks of an “investigation.”
"HOWEVER, the Wingnuts at teh CPA are forcing a ridiculous amount of privitization of Iraqi industries at a ridiculous rate -- i.e. they are shoving THEIR ideaology down the Iraqis throats. On top of that, they have prevented the formation of unions by Iraqi laborers."
Yep, that's what this is really all about. The far left want to turn Iraq into a socialist nation. Iraq is rapidly turning into a success story. This scares the enemies of President Bush. The good news will continue to increase. The liberal media can only hide it for so long.posted by: David Thomson on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
“On top of that, they have prevented the formation of unions by Iraqi laborers."
The odds are overwhelming that the Communist Party and their fellow travelers in Iraq are trying to force the private sector to its knees. Does anyone (who has a lick of sense) have further information?posted by: David Thomson on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
On screening candidates for their views on abortion, this was mentioned by Newsweek last year:
The day before he was supposed to leave for the region, Garner got a call from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who ordered him to cut 16 of the 20 State officials from his roster. It seems that the State Department people were deemed to be Arabist apologists, or squishy about the United Nations, or in some way politically incorrect to the right-wing ideologues at the White House or the neocons in the office of the Secretary of Defense. The vetting process "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," recalled one of Garner’s team.
The symposium exposed numerous fault lines destined to fracture Iraq soon after the Coalition Provisional Authority and United States sovereignty dissolve on June 30, 2004:...
The staggering blunders of the Bush administration in governing post-Saddam Iraq have left no satisfactory post-June 30 denouements. The least bad option is a managed partition into statelets for Kurds, Turkmen, Sunnis and Shi'ites to escape a reprise of Yugoslavia's blood-stained disintegration....
The United States should declare its post-Saddam nation-building enterprise a failure. It should begin immediately to arrange the partition of Iraq by regional self-determination plebiscites.
posted by: Carl on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
I find amusing the way this administration's unshakable defenders have jumped on the fact that both Muslims and Republicans tend to be pro-life as a justification for any use of that as a litmus test for CPA employees. This strikes me as the most desperate and obvious kind of grasping at straws--it's like arguing that the CPA should only employ orthodox Jews because neither of them eat pork.
If this administration was concerned about micromanaging the occupation at this level of detail to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities, they'd be better served by keeping women out of patrols sent out to search homes and knock down doors, for starters. I can think of a half-dozen other examples of ways we've ignorantly tread upon Islamic sacred cows during the occupation--and so you'll forgive me if I find it hard to take anyone seriously when they try to suggest that a pro-life litmus test for CPA employees is for the sake of the Iraqi people.posted by: Catsy on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Are you talking about a full blown government authorized investigation into CPA hiring practices? Or are you looking for an independent look at the situation by journalists or something?posted by: sam on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Sam -- no, I'm not calling for an official investigation. I think "an independent look at the situation by journalists" would take care of things quite nicely.posted by: Dan Drezner on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
David Thomson, why do you hate America so much?posted by: NeoDude on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Well Dan, it was nice while it lasted.
Now that you've decided to attack the administration and vote for the flip-flopping cipher who will almost certainly cut and run from the war on terror, since he doesn't understand what it is, I've decided to do some "cutting and running" myself. Hope you enjoy the new crowd you've attracted here. I'm sure in your mind the cipher will fight the perfect WOT and make the politically difficult choices necessary. You and the International ANSWER folks have a good time!
P.S. You owe yourself to study a bit of history and see what war is really like, the costs, the mistakes, the catastrophies.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Hmm, I must have missed the post where Dan endorsed John Kerry.
I hate to break it to some of you folks, but sometimes being intellectually honest requires criticizing mistakes made by your own "side." And applying idiotically narrow litmus tests is a mistake (even if, sometimes, I can sympathize with the motives, like jettisoning career Foggy Bottom bureaucrats; better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, IMO). That's what sets Dan apart from the sludge-mongers in the blogosphere who spend their time worrying about appeasing their commenters and readers and ensuring that the [D/R]NC talking points are the issue of the day in their blog.posted by: Chris Lawrence on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
Can you imagine being interviewed at Hewlett Packard, for example, and being asked your view on abortion? This would certainly shock the hell out of me. Then, can you imagine NOT being asked about your technical skills? Any smart interviewee would run for the door.
Knowledge of Arabic, and the Middle East generally, did not give CPA wannabes a leg up. In fact, from what I've read, these types of skills would actually work against you as you would be considered an Arab apologist or some such nonsense.
The argument that weeding out people who might support the right to choose is a good idea because it would make "the Arabs" more comfortable is ridiculous when you consider all the other areas of contention. It is conservatives (certainly not all) that have been supporters of the idea that torturing Iraqis can be an effective tool. It is conservatives (not all) who have been advocating selling off Iraqi state assets to foreign firms. It has been conservatives (not all) who have spoken the most demeaningly about Arab history and capabilities.
And one last point. Please remember that it is the red states who pay the least amount in taxes. That is, they receive more back from the federal government than they pay in. What gives the federal government the right to use blue state revenues to exclude people with a blue state mentality from the working in the CPA in governmnent financed positions!!posted by: moog on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
How about the Health Minister, who had been third
Supporting the Roe v Wade Abortion Amendment is a reasonable litmus test; the constant UN push for exporting radical feminism is not good for the effort of moderninzing Islam with respect.
The CPA only recruting pro-life folk can't be any worse than the US Senate refusing to vote, yes or no, on most top Fed judges for the same reason.posted by: Tom Grey on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
This thread is an illustration of how dependent the blogosphere still is on the mainstream media. There has been little reporting on civilian employees of the CPA (and I don't mean contractors for security, food service and so forth), so the blogosphere is reduced to mere idle uninformed speculation. Roe v. Wade as a reasonable litmus test for service in Iraq, indeed!posted by: Zathras on 05.28.04 at 10:39 AM [permalink]
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