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article imageReport: Reconstruction of Iraq a 100-billion failure

By Chris V. Thangham     Dec 14, 2008 in Politics
A 513-page report to be published soon bills Iraq’s reconstructions a big failure. Most of the rebuilding efforts were nothing more than restoration on what was already destroyed.
The report is titled “Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience,”and talks about the history of Iraq war and reconstruction efforts. It was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a Republican lawyer.
Bowne Jr., regularly travels to Iraq and has a staff of engineers and auditors in Iraq. Together, they compiled this report.
Draft copies of the report were made available for some news agencies and New York Times was one of them, who read and published a review Saturday.
When the war began, Donald Rumsfeld, the then Defense Secretary, and Jay Garner, then-head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, assured the public it will cost less than a $1 billion in construction, but now it has exceeded $100 billion and there is nothing concrete to show for it in Iraq.
Rumsfeld told the press:
My friend...if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.
The assumption was the money for the rebuilding efforts will come from Iraqis and from their oil revenues, but instead the U.S. taxpayers bore brunt of the expenses according to the report by Bowne Jr.
Even the former secretary of state Colin Powell complained about the indiscriminate spending in Iraq. He said in the report that the Defense Department kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces -- the number would jump 20,000 a week! We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.
The report concluded that despite spending hundreds of billion dollars there are neither any firm policies nor organization structures necessary to rebuild and maintain the reconstructions efforts in Iraq. The only thing the reconstruction program did mostly was to rebuild what was destroyed before and during the invasion.
By mid-2008, $117 billion were spent on the reconstruction of Iraq including about $50 billion in U.S. taxpayer money.
Some of the failures highlighted in the article are:
1.) The US Agency for International Development were given four hours to determine how many miles of Iraqi roads needed to be repaired and reopened. The official searched his agency library and his estimate was included in the master plan for rebuilding.
2.) Money for the local reconstruction projects were divided up by a spoils system and were distributed to the neighborhood politicians and tribal chiefs and most were not spent on rebuilding the actual projects.
3.) There was widespread corruption among the local chiefs. One of them threatened either to use their contractor or the work will not get done.
4.) Tables in the history show indicators like the national production of electricity and oil, public access to potable water, mobile and landline telephone service and the presence of Iraqi security forces all plummeted by at least 70 percent, and in some cases to zero, in weeks after the invasion.
5.) When the Iraqi government took over from the Americans in June 2004, no utility services except for mobile phone returned to prewar levels.
Once the report is made public we will see even more disturbing news.
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