Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Good That We Do Ain't Doing So Well - Iraq Reconstruction Projects Going Down the Tubes

A common complaint of Iraq war supporters is that the MSM "doesn't tell the success stories" of projects built and progress made. Setting aside for a moment the story of those projects which never made it off the ground thanks to rampant corruption, contractor incompetence, and diversion of funds to other "purposes", what has happened to the projects which did get built?

According to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), nothing good.

The New York Times reports that a sampling of eight Iraq reconstruction projects shows that

in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

According to the SIGIR
At the [Baghdad] airport ... inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

inspections found numerous instances of power generators that no longer operated; sewage systems that had clogged and overflowed, damaging sections of buildings; electrical systems that had been jury-rigged or stripped of components; floors that had buckled; concrete that had crumbled; and expensive equipment that was simply not in use ... most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq’s parlous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect ... that kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts ...

Only recently has the SIGIR been allowed to come into its own as a source of rigorous audits and on-the-ground accountability for U.S. funds expended in Iraq. In early November 2006 Senator Duncan Hunter slipped language into an appropriations bill seeking to cut off the SIGIR's funding as of October 2007. Fortunately, this was reversed when the new Congress took over in January 2007, but how characteristic of the Administration to seek to squelch criticism by shooting the messenger.


Mad Hatter said...

I might believe this post, if actual soldiers weren't saying otherwise. The media is trying to make money, so they cater to what they think people want to hear.

Anonymous said...

US President Tim Kalemkarian, US Senate Tim Kalemkarian, US House Tim Kalemkarian: best major candidate.

Catzmaw said...

Mad Hatter, are you a grownup? Just asking, because that's the kind of simple-minded thing a kid would say. I've talked to plenty of people who've been there. In fact, my job puts me in constant contact with military people, contractors, State Dept. employees, and numerous others who've been there. Plus, there are family members and others I've met through them who've been there. The vast majority of people I'm talking to will tell you that we do nice projects, but a lot of the ones who've been and returned a year later have discovered their efforts destroyed or minimized, or find themselves trying to make the same progress they made the first time around.

And the thing is, this report came not from the media, which simply relayed information given to it, but from the government's own special investigative office for Iraq Reconstruction. It's nothing to do with the media. And the other fact is that the media has hardly mentioned it, even thought it's a major story which calls into question one of the most cherished tenets of the neocons, which is that we are improving the lives of the Iraqi people with all our projects.