Rebuilding Iraq: another failure

13 December 2006 |permalink | email article

Listening to the few options he has to avert what a large majority of Americans now believe is a fiasco in Iraq, W. has fumed at the notion that he is “outsourcing” his role as commander-in-chief.

Yesterday he said “I’m not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision,” adding U.S. involvement in Iraq “amounts to much more than a military operation.” One of the components he cited there was economic progress – a stunning infrastructure failure.

So far there has been an expenditure of about $22 billion in American taxpayer dollars on Iraq reconstruction, with the expectation that an increased Iraqi capital budget and oil revenues could finally begin paying for the rebuilding.

It is a fresh example of the strategic assumption after Saddam Hussein was toppled that Iraq would quickly return to normal, ignoring violent sectarian divisions, and years after naïve Bush administration predictions the country could afford the program on its own.

But the New York Times reported Monday that while its oil revenues are in the billions, Iraq is failing to spend most of the funds set aside to rebuild damaged roads, schools and power stations and to repair refineries and pipelines.

Some of the weakest spending taking place is at the Oil Ministry, which relied on damaged pipelines and pumping stations to move the oil which provides most if Iraq’s revenues.

Among reasons for the problems and a failure to get projects started, the Times found, was a strange new one: “bureaucrats are so fearful and confused by anticorruption measures put in place by the American and Iraqi governments they are afraid to sign off on contracts.”

Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who as commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq works extensively with the Interior and Defense ministries, said “I think the government of Iraq has got a challenge writ large,” adding the 27 ministries will not execute their 2006 budgets.”

Despite assurances by both American and Iraqi officials that steps are being taken to correct the situation, even as U.S. financial support dwindles, oil revenue funding is a another metaphor for a dysfunctional country in addition to obvious military and political concerns.

The economic problem only confirms skepticism about the myth that as the Iraqis troops stand up Americans can stand down.

A dissembling W.’s delay in revealing his new strategy to help the troops “complete their mission” suggests he will keep them in Iraq long enough to let his successor unravel the mess.

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