In this election year, one question is rarely asked in a very direct way: Is the Bush Administration competent at conducting the war on terror? Every few weeks it seems like there's more news about how badly it's going: Senior Administration officials like Colin Powell now admit the insurgency in Iraq is growing; terror suspects like Yasir Hamdi (who supposedly were so dangerous that having a lawyer talk to them about their case would compromise national security) are released without trial because the evidence against them is so flimsy; there was the Abu Ghraib prison scandal; and just this week, the former head of the U.S. operation in Iraq, Paul Bremer, declared the problem from the start was that there were not enough troops there. Host Ira Glass discusses whether the Bush Administration is simply not very skilled at fighting terror with Richard Perle and James Fallows.
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This American Life host Ira Glass talks about one thing you probably haven't heard about the occupational hazards of working in Iraq: Since you work every single day, you never know what day of the week it actually is.
The private security guys (from a company called Custer Battles) who guard Baghdad International Airport usually get along fine with the U.S. military personnel stationed there—except when Nancy happened to be taping, and a huge fight broke out.
A former military man, Hank was hired by Custer Battles to clean up one of its other Iraq operations, guarding businessmen. He has a very clear idea of who he wants working for him: "flat-bellied, steely-eyed professionals." Instead, he's trying to tighten up a outfit whose workers once engaged in an extended firefight at a Baghdad hotel—against each other.
The Green Zone is where the Coalition Provisional Authority has set up its headquarters, and the former seat of Saddam Hussein's government. Nancy ends up at a hidden restaurant by a helipad, with workers for Fluor Corporation, who have just arrived in Iraq to fix power plants.
On their way out to a power plant, Nancy and Lee, a supervisor for Fluor in Iraq, get shot at by men in a BMW. When they finally get to the plant, Nancy learns why it's been so difficult to get power plants running again in the country.
Karen Hahn, who works for Custer Battles at the airport, started out there screening women passengers—and learned a lot from their handbags. Unlike most people Nancy met in Iraq, Karen is not a former military person, she doesn't work with guns or big machines, and she's never been happier in her life.
Hundred of Iraqi police officers have been killed since the United States invaded Iraq. One Boston cop, Jerry Burke, is trying to keep them on the job, and train them in Western police practices.
Nancy finally gets Hank, the Custer Battles employee, to answer the question of whether he ever has any reservations about his mission—or the country's mission—in Iraq. (3 minutes)John Kimbrough composed original music for this week's show.