In Iraq, the Job Opportunity of a Lifetime
"It's not okay, little girl," the woman snapped back. It was only then that Ledeen understood the mother wasn't worried about her safety. She was concerned about the Iraqi women who, as workers for the CPA, were seen by insurgents as collaborators.
The memorial service was held in the cavernous theater in the convention center with hundreds of seats, far more than needed for the small gathering. It was a mixed Muslim-Christian ceremony. A local mosque leader chanted from the Koran. A group sang a hymn. Bremer made a brief speech, but rather than remembering the victims he focused on the terrorists who had killed their friends.
Ledeen said the service was beautiful, but as she sat near Hadeel's family and fiance, all she could think of was how the victims' names hadn't been read aloud and how empty the room seemed.
"I was ashamed for all of us that there were so few people there," Ledeen remembered. "We should have filled those seats with CPA people to thank them for their sacrifice for us. We should have filled those seats."
Reinforcements for the budget team finally began arriving in February, another batch of young, eager faces.
Ledeen was assigned to train Brendan Lund, 26, a Merrill Lynch software developer. She taught him to greet people with "Salam alaykum," how to tighten the straps on his flak jacket, how to read the government employee payment spreadsheets. When he said, "We don't seem to have enough senior-level folks making the decisions in the right place," she responded that he was right and that he should be prepared to take the initiative.
During her last few days in Baghdad, the two met with a woman seeking money for heart surgery and with a former Ministry of Information official under Saddam Hussein.
Ledeen promised to help the woman by making calls to George Washington University and to influential members of Congress. She was equally decisive in her response to the former Baathist official who asked if he could get a raise even though he wasn't working and if his former co-workers could cash the 1 million dinar clothing allowance checks that they had been issued before the invasion.
"I laughed," she said. And then she showed him the door.
It was then that she realized, she said, that "I was all grown up."
Ledeen left Baghdad in late March to be with a sick cousin. The rest of the group departed soon afterward. On the plane ride home on May 15, Baldwin, Greco, Hanley, Wasson and Burns talked about being reunited with family and friends and about vacations plans. But the conversation kept turning back to Iraq -- what they did, what they could have done, what they should have done, what they could still do.
"I support what we're doing, and I absolutely don't think we should pull out and not finish what we started," Greco said. Burns wasn't as confident. He said he was at the same time full of "optimism, pessimism and realism. . . . In some ways we went looking to establish an American system in Iraq, and we can never do that."
Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, weeks before the June 30 handover when the CPA is scheduled to dissolve, staffing levels have finally improved. Twenty people are doing the old jobs of the six.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company