Iraqi reconstruction

An excellent article about Iraqi reconstruction in the latest Newsweek. While there are some positive achievements the overall picture looks pretty grim with plenty of inefficiency, cronyism and corruption.

Some choice quotes:
“Numerous allegations of overspending, favoritism and corruption have surfaced. Halliburton, a major defense contractor once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been accused of gouging prices on imported fuel—charging $1.59 a gallon while the Iraqis “get up to speed,” when the Iraqi national oil company says it can now buy it at no more than 98 cents a gallon. (The difference is about $300 million.) Cronies of Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, NEWSWEEK has learned, were recently awarded a large chunk of a major contract for mobile telecommunications networks.”
“The Bush administration’s favorite statistic from Iraq is the 1,595 schools it has just finished rehabilitating. This is, after all, the human face of occupation—freshly painted walls, American know-how and generosity, all wrapped up in smiling, adorable faces. And though that number is still less than a fifth of Iraq’s 10,000 schools, it seems like amazingly fast work. The problem: many of the “rehabilitated” schools don’t look ready for the morning bell. NEWSWEEK visited five schools in Baghdad’s Camp Sara neighborhood, all of which were among those listed as rebuilt, all by different Iraqi contractors working for Bechtel. None had enough textbooks, desks or blackboards. Most had refuse everywhere, nonfunctioning toilets and desks made for two kids that were accommodating four.”

“Tamara Dagestani is an Iraqi dissident who has become as fierce a critic of the Americans as she once was of Saddam. Like many Iraqis, she’s angry at what she sees as American arrogance and cultural insensitivity. What really raises Dagestani’s hackles, though, is the lack of jobs for Iraqi workers, especially skilled ones. Despite L. Paul Bremer’s new push to get contractors to hire Iraqis—”We realized that if they’re not working for us, they’re shooting at us,” one administration official said—the Iraqi Governing Council estimates unemployment is still as high as 75 percent.”

The last quote about the reconstruction not providing suffiicent jobs seems especially serious because as noted it feeds directly into the security situation. If the estimate of 75% unemployment is accurate that’s seriously bad news.

If the point of debate is “Is the reconstruction plan working?” then the answer would be not as well as it could be for the reasons you mentioned in your second sentence.

If the point of debate is, “How can the reconstruction plan be improved?”, then I would have to agree with an observation made by kwildcat in the OP of another thread that local business men with the local know-how and connections should be more efficiently utilised to speed-up the reconstruction process for an, obviously, larger cut of the profits to be made.

The debate is about both, really. I didn’t bother specifying the questions since there have been other threads discussing this before. I just wanted to continue the discussion and the new Newsweek article seemed substantial enough to deserve a new thread.

Incidentally I remember wondering in one of the earlier threads whether the Bush administration talking point on the number of rebuilt schools was really significant. The second quote seems to suggest no. It’s an example of how the administration talking points don’t mean mean without the context and the details.

A point that’s, (unfortunately), been noted many times. It’d be nice if honesty was th esame thing as telling the truth. However, it’s entirely possible to tell the truth in a dishonest fashion.

Thanks for the link.

Link to video of a news conference with Andrew Natsios of the USAID. He answered a lot of tough questions from the international press, and mentioned how the UN’s resources are so much smaller that using only them would be a huge step back.

I don’t get the school building thing. Presumably the US is not having to put in place a school system but rather repair what was there. This confuses me;

If the schools were working before the acquisition (which they were as best I know), what happened in between to make them not operable ? also

If it’s just damaged walls and roofs and paint, Iraqi’s can do that, and probably are (they want their kids in school more than anyone, and have the time and craft to do the repairs).

A new power grid needs money, schools I don’t quite get . . . .

Actually, that’s one of the things Natsios goes into. Things were much worse in prewar Iraq than outsiders thought; they never recovered from the Iran War, let alone Gulf I. Saddam also used to withhold aid to areas unfriendly to him (20% of the population wasn’t even getting the UN food aid, said Natsios) so everything fell into disrepair. Kids were dying of third-world diseases because the immunization program had broken down (even though the kids of Baathists always got their shots. The US has already immunized several hundred thousand kids). He also said that almost all the schools were looted even down to the water pipes, so that’s where the money’s needed.

I’m not saying that you should believe everything he says (although I tend to, he’s a tough guy), but everyone in this thread should try to see or read about that press conference.

What the matter? We have three hundred thousand US eyeballs looking straight at the reconstruction of Iraq, including at least one who posts on Straight Dope and is directly involved in the reconstruction of Iraqi’s hospitals and schools.

What’s the matter? Why don’t you ask them instead of reading those who cry tragedy in order to entice subscribers to read their newspaper? You think them dumb?

But yes, if Halliburton or any other company is guilty of stealing from the American people and the poor Iraqi children by price gouging in a war zone reconstruction program, the officiers of that company should be tried by tribunal and then summarily shot.


Did you actually read the article in question, Milum? Because it seems to me that Newsweek did have “eyeballs looking straight at the reconstruction of Iraq,” which is where they got their firsthand accounts from. Or did you mean to say that firsthand accounts are good only when they paint the same rosy bullstuff picture the White House does?

Hey, folks, does it have to be one or the other? Glorious triumph or shuddering disaster? I don’t get it.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how the recent attacks will impact reconstruction? The assasination of the deputy mayor of Baghdad, the multiple suicide attacks and the rocket attack on the Al-Rashid hotel. It’s qualitatively different from the other attacks of the last few weeks. I would imagine that it will have a terrible effect on potential foreign investors and relief agencies. But what will the reaction of the Iraqis be? Will the civilian deaths reduce support for the guerillas? Or will the attacks scare them from working too closely with the US authorities? Will they blame the Americans for the lack of security? Maybe all of the three.

This article has some information about the reactions of Iraqis to the attacks :

Thanks Mehitabel.

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Money talks.