March 4, 2010
By Ken Krayeske • 10:20 AM EST
Tom Foley gives a press conference at the Connecticut state capital, March 3, 2010. Photo by Christine Stuart, courtesy of CTNewsJunkie.
Ed’s Note: This is Part III of a four-part interview with Tom Foley, Republican candidate for Governor of Connecticut. Part IV of the interview with will be published on March 10, 2010.
Part I, published the week of February 10, 2010, featured some of Foley’s ideas about voter participation, being an ambassador to Ireland, and UConn’s tuition increase.
Part II, published the week of February 17, 2010, scratched the surface of his participation as the Director of Private Sector Development for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from August 2003 through March 2004.
Economist Peter Galbraith's critique of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq does not sit well with Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.
Foley, of course, was a high ranking official with the Coalition Provisional Authority from August 2003 through March 2004. After his stint in Iraq, he became the Nutmeg state's chair to re-elect Bush.
Foley's official title with the CPA was Director of Private Sector Development, and Foley disputes any contention that his job was to privatize Iraq's almost 200-state owned industries, even though his boss, L. Paul Bremer, admitted more times and places than I can fit here that the CPA sought to privatize the Iraqi economy.
Galbraith's book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End, published in 2006 by Simon & Schuster, has received minor criticism outside of Foley.
Michael M. Gunter reviewed Galbraith’s book for the Middle East Journal in September 2006. Gunter said despite Galbraith's overreaching title, the book was a "devastating critique of… US cronyism and ... even outright corruption."
"Written in a journalistic, even polemical style lacking any scholarly documentation and limited in its bibliography, Galbraith's treatise reads more like a lengthy editorial," Gunter wrote. "Nevertheless, it is a well-written, intelligent one that makes many valid and disturbing points that need to be aired."
Of Foley, Galbraith wrote: "Tom Foley, a top Bush fundraiser with no experience in handling economic transitions (and no knowledge of Iraq) was put in charge of privatizing Iraq's industry." (p. 126).
Foley's response: "He's wrong. I wasn't put in charge of privatization. My job was private sector development. My job was to begin laying the foundations for a private sector economy in Iraq. A small part of that responsibility was to put together a plan for privatizing state owned enterprises."
For example, Foley said that there wasn't a credit based banking system in Iraq.
Isn't that a reflection of Islamic culture and sharia law that frowns on charging interest on loans, I asked.
"It is a reflection of a dictatorship," Foley said. "Loans are extended on credit worthiness. In a dictatorship, loans are extended on how well you know the dictator. They had no ability to assess credit and rank credit and credit worthy borrowers. Saddam and his lieutenants ordered the banks to make loans."
Foley maintained there was "no infrastructure and none of the skill base to make credit assessments. It was all complicated and a very broad charge I had and privatization of state owned enterprises was a small part of it. More of it was getting state owned enterprises back up and running."
Galbraith again: "After a few months, Michael Fleischer, a brother of Bush's first press secretary, Ari Fleischer, replaced Foley. Michael Fleischer told the Chicago Tribune without any apparent irony, that the Americans were going to teach the Iraqis a new way of doing business. 'The only paradigm they know is cronyism.'" (p. 126).
Foley's response: "Cronysim assumes that somebody was getting a pat job. Nobody wanted to go to Iraq. It is absurd that somebody would attribute cronyism to serving one's country in harsh conditions in a war zone. That is not cronyism.
"Cronyism is where somebody gets appointed to a cushy job where they have a friendship and not qualified. Both Michael Fleischer and I were extremely qualified for the job we had. People were not lining up to go over and serve in Iraq," Foley said.
Foley maintained that his two degrees from Harvard, his time at the world-famous Mackinsey and Company consulting firm and his experience in turning around two companies qualified him.
"You don't need anything more than that," Foley said. "You take my resume, the responsibilities, and it is an excellent fit."
Although he acknowledged that while working at Mackinsey, he did not consult on privatization work. But there has been a lot of material written on privatization by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Foley said.
"There is a lot of experience in the Eastern bloc countries and a lot of other places around the world have transitioned from state owned economies to market based economies," Foley said.
"This is what has been happening around the world for 50 years," Foley said. "Go down to any reference library, a lot has been written about it. There is a body of expertise that is easy to access and pretty easy to master."
Galbraith again: "The CPA's inspector general Stuart Bowen issued a report saying that $8.8 billion of the Iraqi funds were spent, or otherwise disappeared, without proper accounting." (p. 130).
Foley's response: "That is a misleading statement. A lot of it may not have been well accounted for. This statement makes it sound as if it was stolen or disappeared. A lot of money was used to make payrolls for Iraqi state employees."
Foley maintained that his Office for the Development of the Private Sector had nothing to do with the missing billions.
His office, he said, "had a small team, a small budget for our mission. There was a group within the CPA, the equivalent of the Office of Management and Budget, they were distributing funds to the government of Iraq, ministries, and contractors."
The OMB of the CPA, Foley claims, "didn't have teams of accountants running around Iraq, accounting where it was going. A lot of it was being paid in cash. The banking system had collapsed. It didn't disappear. It was all spent in ways consistent with the policies of CPA and the U.S. government."
I told Foley how foolish I thought this policy was, and that governing the state of Connecticut would be much easier if our foreign policy didn't consist of military adventures that drain the public fisc. That $8.8 billion could settle Connecticut's budget deficit, and make life much easier for the new governor.
"That's an issue for you to take up with the federal government," Foley said. "I had nothing to do with policy, any of the decisions that resulted in the US government being in Iraq."
But you were there, I said. Your very presence seems to indicate that you were behind the idea of invading Iraq.
"There were a lot of people serving in the armed forces who didn't agree that they should be there, but it was consistent with the agreement they made with the armed forces," Foley said. "I was a volunteer. I didn't go because I agreed with the policy.
"I went because we were there and the government needed people to make sure that we succeeded to the extent we can," Foley said. "Ultimately, the goals that were set by the Bush Administration for Iraq will be achieved."
So, Mr. Foley, do you think it was a good idea to invade Iraq?
"I think our grandchildren will have to decide that," he said. "We don't know what the outcome is, and we don't know how much it is going to cost. Until those two things are known, I don’t think you can decide. I think it will be for people a lot younger than I to decide."