Sunday, December 14, 2008

What? The adventure in Iraq (you remember Iraq?) led by our heroic & steadfast War & Peace President hasn't been an unbroken triumph?


Didn't he tell us he didn't believe in nation-building?
Well, he sure proved it!

"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 United States 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 on basic services and industrial production 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 convulsive looting that followed.

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

"The history contains a catalog of revelations that show the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere prevailing in the reconstruction effort."

-- from "Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders"
by James Glanz and T. Christian Miller, in yesterday's NYT

by Ken

We should probably take note of this draft history of the U.S. attempt to rebuild Iraq currently circulating in Baghdad on Washington, reported on in yesterday's NYT by "James Glanz report[ing] from Baghdad, and T. Christian Miller, of the nonprofit investigative Web site ProPublica, report[ing] from Washington."

One reason I'm curious is that, at least until our one-and-only president was dragged back onto the job by the impending collapse of the U.S. auto industry, all of his energies (such as they are) seemed to have been diverted to the herculean task of burnishing his "legacy" -- or, to put it less politely, inventing a fictional legacy to replace the all-too-apparent real one.

Most notably, in the burnished history of the Bush regime, that adventure in Iraq, led by our steadfast War & Peace President, has been a triumph! We set out to bring democracy to the Middle East, and by gosh, we succeeded beyond expectation! Hooray!

Apparently the still-unpublished new official history paints a different picture, and even names names. The NYT account, datelined Baghdad, begins:
An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-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 ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts 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.

That the Pentagon simply made up numbers to soften the political blow -- in such matters as the readiness of Iraqi security to take over policing and fighting -- is vouchsafed by no less than former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Iraq ground-troop commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and even the viceregal Blob of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, the man who more or less ran Iraq until the Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

"Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," as the report is titled, "was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a Republican lawyer who regularly travels to Iraq and has a staff of engineers and auditors based here." It is "based on approximately 500 new interviews, as well as more than 600 audits, inspections and investigations on which Mr. Bowen's office has reported over the years."

The report makes clear that the roots of the bungling run deep, starting with the total failure of the Defense Dept. (which of course totally freezed out the State Dept., which was planning for a post-invasion Iraq) to plan in any meaningful way for any kind of rebuilding effort:
On the eve of the invasion, as it began to dawn on a few officials that the price for rebuilding Iraq would be vastly greater than they had been told, the degree of miscalculation was illustrated in an encounter between Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, and Jay Garner, a retired lieutenant general who had hastily been named the chief of what would be a short-lived civilian authority called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

"What do you think that'll cost?" Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

"I think it's going to cost billions of dollars," Mr. Garner said.

"My friend," Mr. Rumsfeld replied, "if you think we're going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken."

In a way he never anticipated, Mr. Rumsfeld turned out to be correct: before that year was out, the United States had appropriated more than $20 billion for the reconstruction, which would indeed involve projects across the entire country.

Mr. Garner, of course, was summarily replaced by the abovementioned viceregal clown Paul Bremer. Apparently, along with failing to consider every other aspect of the aftermath of the invasion, Secretary Rumsfeldand his DoD geniuses never took into account the devastation produced by the invasion and its aftermath.

Tables in the history show that measures of things like the national production of electricity and oil, public access to potable water, mobile and landline telephone service and the presence of Iraqi security forces all plummeted by at least 70 percent, and in some cases all the way to zero, in the weeks after the invasion.

Subsequent tables in the history give a fast-forward view of what happened as the avalanche of money tumbled into Iraq over the next five years.

By the time a sovereign Iraqi government took over from the Americans in June 2004, none of those services -- with a single exception, mobile phones -- had returned to prewar levels.

Glanz and Miller end their account by looking at the way Stuart Bowen ends his:
At the end of his narrative, Mr. Bowen chooses a line from "Great Expectations" by Dickens as the epitaph of the American-led attempt to rebuild Iraq: "We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us."

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At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Righton KenI.

Bush2 campaigned AGAINST nation building
Promising to regulate "carbon bonoxide"
(his werds).

the ...
first official broken campaign promise.


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