AP: U.S. wasted billions in rebuilding Iraq
By Kim Gamel for the AP:
KHAN BANI SAAD, Iraq - A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children's hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets.
As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds has been wasted on these projects - more than 10 percent of the $53.7 billion the US has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.
That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And it does not take into account security costs, which have run almost 17 percent for some projects.
There are success stories. Hundreds of police stations, border forts and government buildings have been built, Iraqi security forces have improved after years of training, and a deepwater port at the southern oil hub of Umm Qasr has been restored.
Define "success". Is it truly a "success story" if the U.S. builds police stations, border forts, and government buildings in Iraq at U.S. expense, for the ungrateful Iraqi people? Is it a "success" to train and arm the Iraqi army and police who are currently in a state of near-war with each other, and who, as soon as we extract our troops, will begin terrorizing and torturing "The Iraqi People"? Or rather, Sunni police and soldiers will terrorize and torture Shi'a, and vice versa. And it will all be the fault of the Evil Empire, the U.S., for having trained and armed them.
But even completed projects for the most part fell far short of original goals, according to an Associated Press review of hundreds of audits and investigations and visits to several sites. And the verdict is still out on whether the program reached its goal of generating Iraqi good will toward the United States instead of the insurgents.
Actually, the jury came back years ago with their verdict, as is made clear later in this article, which we continue to steadfastly ignore.
Col. Jon Christensen, who took over as head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq this summer, said it has completed more than 4,800 projects and is rushing to finish 233 more. Some 595 projects have been terminated, mostly for security reasons.
Christensen acknowledged that mistakes have been made. But he said steps have been taken to fix them, and the success of the program will depend ultimately on the Iraqis who have complained that they were not consulted on projects to start with.
When the "success" of our strategy depends on the Iraqi people, we are doomed to failure. We should have never gotten ourselves in this position, and we should do everything in our power to get out of this situation as soon as possible.
Another problem was coordination with the Iraqis, who have been left with health facilities that would cost at least as much as the Americans spent to complete. One clinic was handed over to local authorities without a staircase, said Shaymaa Mohammed Amin, the head of the Diyala provincial reconstruction and development committee.
"We were almost forced to take them," she said during an interview at the heavily fortified local government building in the provincial capital of Baqouba. "Generally speaking, they were below our expectations. Huge funds were wasted and they would not have been wasted if plans had been clear from the beginning."
As an example, she cited a date honey factory that was started despite a more pressing need for schools and vital infrastructure. She said some schools were left without paint or chalkboards, and needed renovations.
"We ended up paying twice," she said.
No, the Iraqis ended up paying nothing. It was U.S. taxpayers' money that was wasted twice. First, by sending it to a people who hate us and who hate each other, to try to improve the horrific lives they have built for themselves, and secondly, by giving that money to Iraqi contractors who built hospitals without staircases, and generally did substandard work while siphoning off funds for their personal use via corruption, mismanagement, and outright theft.
The Americans committed to rebuilding the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah after it was destroyed in major offensives in 2004. The U.S. awarded an initial contract for a new waste water treatment system to FluorAMEC of Greenville, S.C. - just three months after four American private security contractors were savagely attacked. The charred and mutilated remains of two of them were strung from a bridge in the city.
An audit concluded that it was unrealistic for the U.S. "to believe FluorAMEC could even begin construction, let alone complete the project, while fierce fighting occurred daily."
That sounds like a good summary of the entire Iraqi intervention.
In an acknowledgment that they weren't getting exactly what they hoped for, Iraqi officials insisted the label "state of the art" be removed from a memorandum of understanding giving them the facility. It was described as a "modern pediatric hospital."
The hospital's director, Kadhim Fahad, said construction has been completed and the electricity issue resolved. "The opening will take place soon, God [Allah] willing," he said.
Allah didn't provide their new "modern pediatric hospital", it was the United States of Naïve, Misguided Benevolence.
Residents are pleased with the outcome. One, Ghassan Kadhim, said: "It is the duty of the Americans to do such projects because they were the ones who inflicted harm on people."
We got rid of Saddam Hussein and the Baathists, stopped the Shi'ite militias such as Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army from killing Sunnis, stopped the Sunni militias such as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia from killing Shi'a, and gave the Iraqi people the opportunity to create a democratic government of their own choosing. For that, we owe them.
There is a Chinese proverb, "He who saves a man's life is forever responsible for it." The moral being, I suppose, to be careful who you help; it may be better for a bystander to simply walk away and let the person in trouble perish. That is not a Judaeo-Christian principle, it is not a Western principle. All belief systems are not equivalent, and this is not a proverb that we live by.
Whatever the wisdom of it, we helped the Iraqis. Our obligation to them ended at that point. We didn't "break it," and we don't need to "fix it". The Iraqis are responsible for their own decisions and for the society that they have built for themselves.
This entire article is listing a few individual projects that wasted a few paltry tens or hundreds of million dollars here and there, without questioning the entire TRILLION dollars we have spent during our occupation of Iraq. These few billion "wasted" dollars are insignificant compared to the waste of the entire Iraqi project. Eight years on, we are still not ready to question the reason we are there (to protect the Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Emirati royal families from Saddam's forces), and do the requisite cost-benefit analysis from our point of view. We're just nibbling around the edges, fretting over some empty prison or hospital, when the entire project was a fool's errand from the start.