September 3, 2007

Babylon By Bus

Babylon By Bus
Ray Lemoine and Jeff Neumann


(September 3, 2007)

The authors are two young men who make their living selling YANKEES SUCK t-shirts on the street outside Fenway Park. They like to travel. In 2003, they decide to travel to Baghdad, and somehow find themselves running a small office providing liason between the CPA and non-governmental organizations. They have few or no qualifications for their job, and so they fit right in to the rest of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

It lasts for several months of hard drinking, hard partying, and somewhat effective distribution of cartons of used clothing. Indeed, their efforts to actually truck the cartons to Sadr City and get it into the hands of kids, and not politicians or scam artists or mosques, is one of the success stories of the occupation. They cope with all the usual enemies, and fly under the radar of “the Bremer youth” — the endless stream of inexperienced Young Republicans dispatched through the Heritage Foundation to administer Iraq. But it was a minor and ineffective gesture, and Lemoine and Neumann will be the first to admit.

There is no point in romanticizing what we did. We thought we were helping Iraqis. We were wrong. Because of our failure, we'd leave the Middle East in a state of regret. But our story does offer a window into the midguided ideals and rank ignorance that drove us.

A fine and (now) seemingly-inevitable epitaph for the entire American effort in Iraq.