What is even more remarkable however, after an investigation by The Times, is that just ten years ago Christian Bailey, whose US company is under investigation for planting fake news stories in Iraqi newspapers, was a nerdy, socially awkward English school-leaver called Jozefowicz.Glücksritter, or something with an ambiguity between "luck-rider" and "luck-knight", sums that up perfectly. He ran off to join the .com boom in the bubblegum colours, boutique sexuality and baroque finance of late-nineties San Francisco, found it ran out on him, and reprocessed himself as an establishmentarian Brit to the taste of the toast of Republican Washington, hopping on and off his luck all the way.
The transformation of the geeky but ambitious Christian Jozefowicz, who just a few years ago was growing up in a modest terraced house in Godalming, Surrey, to the charming, baby-faced multimillionaire Christian Bailey now rubbing shoulders with some of the most powerful figures in Washington — and who next year will probably face questions on Capitol Hill about his company — is one of the more extraordinary stories to have emerged from the Iraq war.
This month it was revealed that Mr Bailey’s US company, the Lincoln Group, was the recipient of a Pentagon contract to help to fight the information war in Iraq. It then emerged that the company was paying Iraqi journalists to plant optimistic news “stories” in Iraqi papers that had been written by the US military.
Iraq has been an absolute feast for them, the profiteering kind (like yer man, the mercenaries and - well, you know), the political kind, and the crazy idealist kind, like that guy who got shot in Basra, the German artist who put a bizarre statue of democracy in place of Saddam's before things got too hot for him, and the people who started a newspaper. But the thing about riding your luck, in both senses, is that it can never be relied on for too long.
Certainly, their Maximum Leader and Exhibit A for the political type is Ahmed Chalabi, and it looks like he's running out of road again, having gained less than 1 per cent of the vote and no seats. He has taken the wise precaution of making himself oil minister for a month (again), but you can't see how he can remain a political force after this. After all, isn't this meant to be a democracy? Allawi is a similar type, if less pornographically extreme, and he's just been dealt a hand like a foot too. All that can save either of these characters would be the Americans bullying the SCIRI into accepting a "government of national unity", or in other words, one with the people who lost the election in. And would anyone be so brave as to bet against such a cabinet containing Allawi and Chalabi?
We are now the party of the chancers, which someone like Tim Worstall or Jamie Kenny would probably say was a good thing. There is a respected theory among historians of the British Empire that a great historic turning-point was the shift from "pirates to prefects". Something similar? I'm not so sure. I was reduced to infantile giggles by the mention in Patrick Cockburn's interview with the New Left Review that the 26-year-old scion of a good Republican family who was appointed to reestablish the Baghdad stock exchange failed when he forgot to renew the lease on the building, with the result that the stockbrokers ended up in the street. A chancer, certainly. But the pirates-to-prefects theory assumes that we started off sending the able second sons, chafing at the restrictions of authority, to grab the world, but then began to replace them with bible-bashing bureaucrats from the new public schools. The opposite process seems to be in operation.
In a related digression, has anyone else noticed that the people who do really well in business studies at school almost invariably launch some sort of bizarre venture, hit the big time somewhere odd, then crash and burn into spectacular bankruptcy/go to jail/get caught disseminating propaganda in Iraq? The Financial Times supposedly gave up giving a Young Businessman of the Year award because so many recipients were ruined or exposed as frauds with embarrassing swiftness.