Monday, December 15, 2008

US Iraq 'Reconstruction' Nearly A Total Failure

Iraqi Army bulldozers roared into this squatters' camp in
Baghdad on Nov. 13, uprooting some 675 families.
A federal report is highly critical of the US-led reconstruction
effort in Iraq. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD - An unpublished, 513-page federal history of the US-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence, and gaps in knowledge about Iraqi society and infrastructure.

"Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among technical reviewers, policy analysts, and senior officials.

It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag - particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army - the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, 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.' "

Powell's assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the US government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the looting that followed.

By mid-2008, the history says, $117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in US taxpayer money.

The history shows the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere in the reconstruction effort.

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