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OP-ED | Tom Foley’s Time in Iraq, And Why it Matters

by | Jul 11, 2014 10:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion, White House

In 2003, President George W. Bush, fresh off the conquest of Iraq, needed a director of private sector development for the new Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which would govern the country from Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. He found an old Harvard classmate running a business specializing in corporate “turnarounds,” and offered him the job. Thomas C. Foley of Greenwich accepted.

Foley’s hire, given that he’d raised a ton of money for the 2000 Bush campaign, drew some speculation that it was a reward. Foley saw it instead as his skills being put to use. “[President Bush] knows that I have been involved in operating companies and particularly had done some turnaround work and managed companies in high-stress situations,” Foley told AFP at the time. “Does this sound [like] a reward? It sounds like the short straw.” And so off he went.

It’s surprisingly hard to pin down specifically what Tom Foley did in Iraq. Major sources on the CPA or the war in general tend to gloss over or ignore him. His campaign, when I contacted them for information, said that in addition to creating a privatization plan for Iraq’s state-owned businesses, “Mr. Foley [oversaw] 160 or so of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises. He was also responsible for restoring the foundations of a private-sector economy including a new stock exchange, a new commercial code, new credit-based lending, for example.”

Mostly it seems that Foley was concerned with the plan to privatize Iraq’s creaking state-owned enterprises — a plan that was eventually torpedoed by the Iraqis over fears the companies would be sold to foreign firms, among other things.

Other than that, was he successful? A RAND Corporation report from 2009 argued that the CPA was at least partially successful in reviving Iraq’s economy, pointing to vast growth in post-conflict GDP. “The CPA achieved these results,” says the RAND report, “By curbing inflation, issuing a new currency . . . reducing external tariffs, reforming the banking system, expanding liquidity, and stimulating consumer demand.”

Foley clearly played a role in some of this. “Mr. Foley’s team accomplished a lot while there,” his campaign said, including “. . . a modern stock market, a well-functioning, western-style commercial code, restored sources of credit for businesses and individuals, and so forth.”

But that isn’t all there is to the story. The book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post portrays the CPA as hopeless bunglers, and Foley as incompetent. “After Foley had been in Baghdad for a few months,” writes Chandrasekaran, “Bremer concluded that he wasn’t the right guy for the job, but he was a friend of the president. Bremer told people in the palace that Foley was ‘untouchable.’” The book also suggested that Foley actually stood in the way of the re-opening of the stock market, wanted to privatize everything within 30 days, and when told that seizing state companies would violate international law, he said “I don’t give a s*** about international law.”

Foley denied Chandrsekaran’s accusations during a 2010 interview with the Connecticut Post, calling the book “fiction.” Imperial Life in the Emerald City won the 2007 BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, and is still one of the most-cited works on the CPA.

As for whether his Iraq experience ties into how he might run Connecticut, Foley’s campaign said that there are “few lessons that could be applied to Connecticut.” One lesson could be that “. . . centrally planned economies and over-involved government do not work, but that lesson was obvious before Mr. Foley’s arrival.”

So why do we care?

Mostly, it’s relevant because it helps us understand the kind of man who might be our next governor. How does he work in incredibly high-pressure situations? Can he deliver?

It also matters because Iraq has bubbled back up into the American consciousness lately. Sectarian extremists have taken over many cities, leaving the U.S. and the feeble Iraqi government scrambling for a solution. “Mr. Foley believes the hope he had for the long-term outcome in Iraq . . . has been dashed by President Obama’s desertion of the Iraqi people and our interests there when he withdrew all our troops in 2012,” Foley’s campaign said.

Of course, there are those who see the invasion of Iraq, and the rise of sectarian violence that happened under the CPA’s watch, as the ultimate cause of today’s bloodshed.

In the end, Foley was part of one of the most controversial chapters of our recent history. For that reason alone, it’s worth knowing the facts about his time in Iraq.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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(13) Archived Comments

posted by: rpk31 | July 11, 2014  12:02pm

Yes, if not for Tom Foley’s incompetence, there would be the sustained peace in the Middle East that had previously been observed for centuries. God knows there wasn’t a place on Earth easier to install a free market system than Iraq immediately after the death of Saddam Hussein. If one thing is certain, it was the incompetence of Foley and the CPA and ONLY their incompetence that could possibly have been the root cause of the rise of ISS, I think we can all agree on that.

posted by: DanofiveO | July 11, 2014  1:20pm

Top to bottom I am totally fed up with the democratic lack of leadership. Some of the policies and big give aways are beyond comprehension. I think a kid with a successful paper route could do a better job in most cases. As a former democrat i can no longer ignore the increased veil of secrecy in government, the neglect of of veterans and poor in our own cities when illegal immigrants by virtue of flouting our laws are recieving legal assistance, health care, Shelter food and ultimately no cost citizenship and an education at the expense of our own legal citizens. I will never vote for a democratic lawmaker Ever again. I would vote for a potato before voting democratic again. This is what incumbent democrats are facing If Tom Foley can tear down this establishment he has my vote, besides he has a nice classic car and a head of hair good enough for me this time around!!!

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | July 11, 2014  2:24pm


are you suggesting Foley is the second coming of Mr. Potatoe-head?!

Yehaw! Smoke’em if ya got’em! Mr. Potatoe-head is back in town!


posted by: state_employee | July 11, 2014  7:50pm

@danofiveo;  ha ha ha ha,
“I would vote for a potato before voting democratic again.”  That made my day.
Thank you… :)

posted by: bob8/57 | July 12, 2014  10:18am


So.. a bumbling Foley was an instrumental part of the potato salad that was Iraq and now it’s spud boy to the rescue. I’ll stick with Malloy.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 12, 2014  4:09pm


Wow! Another chapter of Foley’s life that is shrouded in mystery and secrets… and I am sure money too.

Susan how about pursuing Foley’s finances and investments dating back to that time?

I would be curious to know if Foley, or any his companies, invested in Halliburton and other private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I mean many of the plutocracy have made tens of millions, if not billions, off the 2 trillion spent over the last 13 years.

Check this link out. Where was the teaparty when this feeding frenzy was occurring?


This link to an old story provides some other links that may help the readers fill some voids and consider other reasons for voting for, or against, Foley, other than for the fact of possessing a full head of hair.


posted by: Wakewhenover | July 12, 2014  11:29pm

Really, Susan?  Drumming up drivel like this ?
Ambassador Foley is our next guv and you best get used to it.  This news story seems like something DR HST (the real kook, not the leftist kook posing now) would be involved in.

posted by: One and Done | July 13, 2014  8:12am

You don’t have to get past the first sentence to know this is designed as a hit piece.  “Conquest of Iraq”.  You see in Susan’s world we didn’t oust their dictator and return sovereignty to the Iraqis.  We were conquerors.  In fact it became the 51st state and we stole all its resources.  All hail President Obama for removing our military and returning control of the state back to the murderous terrorists and dictator wannabes.  Now they can get back to their business of treating women like property and closing all the girl’s schools….and Susan can go back to fantasizing about how Republicans want to take away her reproductive rights by asking her to foot the bill for her own medicines.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 13, 2014  8:37pm


Look everyone @OneandDone aka. Bill O’Reily comes back to CT for stealth appearance.

We all know Hartford will always hold a special place in Mr. Reily’s heart.

@WakemeOver so I guess “a new direction” is all your need to sleep well at night?

Sorry buddy the voters of CT do appreciate substance and fact over orchestrated “appearances” any day.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 14, 2014  8:24am

I think people need to view this whole Iraq situation in a different way. We went into Iraq the first time mostly because Saddam Hussein was working with other countries to change the sale of oil on the world market from US dollars to the Euro, and he was making inroads. That could have destroyed our economy. WMDs were a distant second for going in.

Today we are facing a similar issue where the US is threatened by the Yuan becoming the worlds reserve currency. There is something very bad going on so look for a bad response or even a dirty bomb going off to create panic (ISIS just stole nuclear material).

Since we are talking about Iraq do you really think that ISIS was able to create an army with armament like they have (not just guns) without the US knowing? Suddenly an Islamic Army appears and takes over entire cities and the US was surprised? Iran and the US suddenly support the same cause and this ISIS group as Muslims threaten to destroy Mecca which would create World War 3 yet we don’t bomb them into the stone age?

This isn’t going to end well.

posted by: Bulldog1 | July 14, 2014  9:56am

Two posts here rail about the “removal of our troops” from Iraq. What, you want 100,000 of our men and women to hold the “liberated Iraq” together with American bayonets?  For how many years?  50 or 100 like John McCain suggested?  And who pasy for that? And continue to have our troops take casualities monthly just to prove we liberated Iraq?

Would Foley’s kids be any part of that mission?  Or would they be “doing other things” like Cheney the architect of the invasion?

The invasion of Iraq was a fool’s errand with the ultimate goal of getting US control of their oil reserves.  Done on the credit card because Bush wanted tax cuts so to pay for the war he borrowed the money from China.  Worked out really well, except of course for those killed, maimed or left with demons they can’t manage very well.

By the way, Foley was in charge when the five billion in shrink wrapped 100 dollar bills was flown in to Baghdad.  Money that was never seen again.  Real competence there with Mr. Foley, just don’t expect anything here to get done.

Oh, Maliki was Bush’s choice not Obama’s.  Iraq’s future was well planned by the bright light from Texas.

posted by: Jthinker | July 18, 2014  9:43am

I shudder to think this man will be the next governor. Although the Dems haven’t been all that great, at least they give lip service to caring about the people. Mr. Foley will only care about his own cronies, and their bottom lines.

posted by: ctguy | July 31, 2014  11:38pm

Personally I am a bit more concerned with the reports of US money gone missing and unaccounted for. Did this happen under Foley’s watch?
There was certainly plenty of incompetence in the aftermath of Iraq to make every party involved suspect. Failing to re-establish water, sewer, and electricity to a huge city is not a great resume builder.

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