The Rise and Fall of Corba (ACM Queue, Vol 4, No. 5, June 2006) describes the good, the bad and the ugly of Corba, and issues warnings to avoid the same with current initiatives for web services standards.
The short version of the article: Corba sucked because of complexity and in-fighting and it is the fault of the overly democratic process at OMG. From the article:
A democratic process such as the OMG's is uniquely ill-suited for creating good software. Despite the known procedural problems, however, the industry prefers to rely on large consortia to produce technology. Web services, the current silver bullet of middleware, uses a process much like the OMG's and, by many accounts, also suffers from infighting, fragmentation, lack of architectural coherence, design by committee, and feature bloat. It seems inevitable that Web services will enact a history quite similar to CORBA's.