Highlights

 
Quotable
Every man thinks god is on his side.
Jean Anouilh
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
October 22, 2005

Two Years Later, U.S. Still Can't Keep the Lights On


by Jim Lobe

The reconstruction of Iraq is failing rapidly despite repeated claims of progress by the George W. Bush administration, according to a number of U.S. officials and reports released here this week.

Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman issued a report that found reconstruction efforts in the occupied Arab country have consistently fallen short of the objectives set by the administration two years ago.

This view was echoed by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, in a congressional hearing Thursday.

Bowen, whose office issued several reports and audits in the past about Iraq, said that the security situation is sapping money and energy out of the reconstruction effort and that much less money than originally envisioned will be spent on Iraqi projects.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog agency, about 30 billion dollars was authorized through August 2005 to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and train and equip its security forces. But Bowen said Washington will have to be more realistic about what can actually be spent of that amount.

"We are going to provide something less than that," Bowen said pointing to a significant gap between the original plans and what is being achieved on the ground in Iraq.

The GAO itself says that only 13 billion dollars of the 30 billion dollars were actually disbursed so far.

"The existence of this gap may subject the U.S. to criticism for not fulfilling what was perceived as a promised number of projects," Bowen said.

The Waxman report assesses reconstruction work in three key sectors of the Iraqi economy – oil, electricity and water. It found that the administration's actual results on the ground are far less than what is publicized.

"Oil production remains below pre-war levels, electricity production is unreliable and well below the goal of 6,000 megawatts of peak electricity output, and a third of Iraqis still lack access to potable water," says the report. "Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent, but there is little to show for the expenditures in Iraq."

When the Bush administration asked Congress to appropriate over 20 billion dollars for reconstruction efforts in 2003, it promised to use the money to provide clean drinking water to 90 percent of Iraqis, boost power production significantly above pre-war levels, and restore oil production to pre-war levels.

But oversight agencies like the GAO and Inspectors General (IGs) have published more than 80 reports on Iraq reconstruction and other aspects of U.S. support for post-war Iraq, many of them critical.

This week, the GAO said that even in the case of completed projects, the Washington-backed Iraqi government has been unable to sustain rebuilt infrastructure due to shortages of power, trained staff and supplies.

As of July, water and sanitation projects worth 52 million dollars either were not operating or were operating at low capacity due to these problems, GAO said.

Rep. Christopher Shays, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security in the U.S. House of Representatives, said that Congress is witnessing a rise in the cost of projects even though many of them have not been completed.

"Electric and water projects are being scaled back, while estimates of the costs to complete the same projects continue to escalate," Shays said.

The difficult security situation in Iraq and the rising Iraqi resistance have been cited as the main reasons for the slow progress in the reconstruction efforts. Billions of dollars have been diverted away from rebuilding projects in order to pay private security contractors and to train and equip Iraqi forces more rapidly.

Initial estimates of security costs have nearly tripled from less than 10 percent of total project expenses to almost 30 percent.

A number of U.S. legislators who previously backed the war are now criticizing the slow pace of progress in Iraq and have questioned whether it is fueling further discontent among Iraqis and providing more recruits to the Iraqi resistance.

The GAO says that initial estimates of Iraq's needs assumed that reconstruction would take place in a peacetime environment, and therefore did not include additional security costs.

Some of the official reports say that U.S. goals are not being achieved due to poor planning, lack of accurate costs estimates and operational constraints on top of the extra costs imposed by the lack of security.

Waxman also criticized what he called the administration's "flawed contracting approach."

He said that instead of encouraging competition, the administration awarded large no-bid contracts to favored companies like Halliburton. Then it handed over major oversight responsibilities to private contractors with potential conflicts of interest.

Joseph Christoff of the GAO faulted the initial assessments of the state of Iraq's infrastructure, saying it was more severely degraded than originally estimated, and that widespread looting and sabotage compounded the problem.

But it appears that many U.S. politicians are finally taking note of the slow progress in the reconstruction effort and the political price-tag it may carry both at home and in Iraq.

"That cycle of rosy estimates and stunted outcomes exacts high political costs as well," Shays said. "Limited visible progress in improving basic services frustrates Iraqis, who wonder why a liberating coalition that conquered their nation in less than two months can't keep the lights lit after two years."


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback
    9/4/2008

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions
    8/28/2008

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana
    8/24/2008

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful
    8/9/2008

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East
    8/5/2008

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare
    8/1/2008

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack
    7/31/2008

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration
    7/26/2008

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition
    7/23/2008

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki
    7/22/2008

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com