Reconstruction In Iraq
By Thomas Riggins
08 May, 2007
away inside the the International Section of Thursday’s New York
Times (5-3-07, page 14) is a small piece by Ian Austen in Ottawa (“Iraq
Reconstruction Is Doomed, Ex-Chief of Global Fund Says.”)
This little piece shows very
clearly how the Bush Administration is its own worse enemy ( we already
know it is the enemy of the American and Iraqi people.)
What we find, big surprise,
is, that while Bush makes his own “reality,” actual reality
has been undercutting any chance for his having a “victory”
The most revealing part of
this little piece is the quotes from a gentleman named Michael Bell
who was the chairman of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility
for Iraq. Mr. Bell, a Canadian ended his two year stint in March.
This fund is very important.
After the US destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure, the population (most
of whom now say they were better off under Saddam), were thrown upon
hard times: no electricity, deteriorating living standards, etc. To
keep the support of the people, and thus make an insurgency less likely
or, at least, smaller and with less popular support, it was necessary
to rapidly extend reconstruction aid to the population.
In order to do this you had
to know what you were doing and have some idea about what the Iraqi
people really wanted and needed. But the Bushites failed on both counts.
They simply did what they wanted to do and assumed because that is what
they wanted it would come about and the people would be happy and love
Instead our actions fueled
the insurgency and destroyed any possibility that we could do meaningful
reconstruction in Iraq. What did we do? I will just quote Mr. Bell,
who tried his best to use the Fund on behalf of the Iraqi people. If
Mr. Bush had just let him do his job he might not be neck deep in the
Big Muddy right now.
Mr. Bell said, “is difficult enough in a relatively pacific environment.
In this environment it is almost impossible, if not impossible. Over
all, the picture is dire, dire.” He had read a recent report saying
that seven big reconstruction “successes” touted by the
Bush administration as evidence of its progress were, in fact, defunct.
This is really symbolic of Bush’s policy as a whole including
General Westmoreland’s, excuse me, I mean General Petraeus's [or
is it Gen. Betray US?] big “surge.”
The failure of reconstruction
was helped along, according to Mr. Bell, by both the US and UK because,
instead of actually laying the foundations for sustainable reconstruction
(training people for maintenance, for example) they insisted on expensive
flashy propaganda coups, preferring instant gratification and currying
domestic support for their war policies, but leaving the Iraqi people
out of consideration except for trying to make them think they were
getting real improvements.
Bell said, “was to improve the conditions of life for Iraqis through
infrastructure so Iraqis would conclude that they were better off and
prospering from the new situation. In retrospect, it was too much, to
soon.” Since these “projects” did not make the people
“better off” or “prosper”, the population became
Bush also helped undermine
his own propaganda by having as “an overriding objective”
turning the infrastructure over to private, rather than public, ownership--
something the Iraqis were not too keen about. No doubt because the contractors
were mostly foreign and taking reconstruction money out of Iraq without
really providing anything for the Iraqis.
And, growing instability
reversed the flow of Iraqi professionals and skilled workers who had
returned to help in reconstruction. With no security and ill planned
projects, they soon left.
The UK is getting out of
Iraq as soon as it can. It declared “victory” (or atleast
self-management by the Iraqi forces allied with the US and UK) in Basra
where British forces are being withdrawn.
“The city,” Bell
remarked, “is controlled by gangs. It is self-managing in a very
primitive way. It is self-managing if you call a protracted series of
microwars in the city normal.” As Basra goes so, the US will find,
And don’t blame the
pro-US government for the current mess, Bell says. It's not a case of
wanting or not wanting to deliver the goods on reconstruction. The “reality
is that nobody can deliver the goods.” This, by the way, I think,
is Bush's big problem.
The Iraqi government is dysfunctional
and will fall apart the minute the US leaves. But staying only makes
matters worse. Staying in a situation that is getting worse runs the
risk of having the government fall apart all around you a la Vietnam.
What to do? Hope and pray you can hold on until January 2009 and turn
the mess over to the next president. Then whatever happens will be his
or her fault. What about all the people that will killed in the meantime.
Particularly upsetting is
US behavior. Much of the aid has been wasted and many projects have
failed because US officials want to control everything [even though
they are ignorant of the language and the feelings of the people.]
The Americans “go in
and tell their guys how to do things. It's a microcosm of what the Bush
administration has tried to do with the intervention. But you can’t
But Bush still thinks he
can impose his “mindset” on Iraq and the world. It is a
narrow, fundamentalist, ignorant mindset. It is not the mindset of the
majority of the American people. The Congress has the opportunity to
send it packing. It should do so.
is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at
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