Nooooooooooooooo! Iraq Asks US for Marshall Plan Reconstruction Funds

Iraq’s Foreign Minister this week asked the United States to develop a financial plan for the reconstruction of the country after ISIS, similar to a program developed for Western Europe after the Second World War.

In discussions with Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk, Ibrahim al-Jaafari stressed the need for “collective support from the international community to contribute to the reconstruction of infrastructure after the defeat of terrorism.” Jaafari suggested “the adoption of a project similar to the Marshall Plan which contributed to rebuilding Germany after the Second World War.”

Iraq will need billions of dollars to rebuild after ISIS. Large portions of major cities were destroyed in the war, infrastructure was neglected under ISIS, villages are riddled with mines and booby-traps. The deputy governor of Anbar estimated that his province would need $22 billion alone for reconstruction.

Um, never mind invoking the Marshall Plan. What needs to be cited here is that the United States already spent billions to reconstruct Iraq, from 2003-2010. I know. I was there. It was my job to help spend some of those billions. We accomplished less than nothing. In fact, our failure to reconstruct Iraq then lead in a direct line to the Iraq of now. I cannot believe I am writing this. Again.

See, in fact, I wrote a whole book about it: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, in 2011. I just sent a copy to Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk, and asked him to pass it on to the Iraqi Foreign Minister after he’s done reading it.

But in case Brett or the Minister don’t get around to reading a whole book, here’s a shorter version.

I spent a year in Iraq as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, leading two of the then-vaunted Provincial Reconstruction Teams. We were charged with nothing less than winning the war for America by rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, creating a functioning democracy and stable economy that would preclude terrorists like ISIS (well, it was al Qaeda then) from gaining a foothold, and thus ensuring Iraq would be an ally of the United States in the war on terror. This is the same mission statement that the Iraqi Foreign Minister would want tagged to his proposed reconstruction plan.

When my book came out in September 2011, most people I met with threw out skeptical comments: “Well, maybe it will work out like in Germany and Japan,” they said. When I met with staffers from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2012, they said, “We’d like to believe you, but everything that State tells us contradicts your thesis that the money spent was just a big waste.”

But now it’s official. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction concluded “$60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.”

Then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said “that $55 billion could have brought great change in Iraq,” but the positive effects of those funds were too often “lost.”

Then Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country’s top Sunni official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts did not “achieve the purpose for which it was launched. Rather, it had unfavorable outcomes in general.” Like ISIS.

There “was usually a Plan A but never a Plan B,” said Kurdish official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Shiite, Sunni, Kurd. Trust me, about the only thing everybody agrees on is the United States spent a bundle of money between 2003-2011 and got nothing for it but ISIS.

According to the Associated Press, the United States has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants on Iraq. That works out to about $15 million a day. Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the United States has spent at least $767 billion since the U.S.-led invasion began.

And guess who was one of the people in charge of the last Iraq reconstruction? Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk. Maybe this time around he’s smart enough to not get fooled again. In fact, I’ve recommended a book for him to read to help out.

McGurk Bonus: McGurk spent a good portion of the last 14 years working for the U.S. Government in Iraq, advising several ambassadors and leading the failed negotiations to secure permanent U.S. bases there. You’d kinda think having that on your resume – “I am partially responsible for everything that happened in Iraq for the last ten years, including America’s tail-between-its-legs retreat” – might make it hard to get another job running Iraq policy. Who goes out of their way to hire the coach that lost most of his games?

The other side of McGurk’s failed attempt at being ambassador to Iraq was his questionable personal life, which in turn raised issues of judgement, decorum, discretion, and class. It was his sexual misconduct that brought the real questions of competence and ability to light. For no apparent gain, but whatever, Iraq.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

15 thoughts on “Nooooooooooooooo! Iraq Asks US for Marshall Plan Reconstruction Funds”

  1. My contribution to your excellent critique: “Conservatives” and Republicans reject “central planning” and state control here in our own country. However, they all seem to embrace such initiatives if they are to be carried out in a nation 5,000 miles from our borders, in nations where a different language is spoken, a different religion is practiced and with factions of population that haven’t gotten along for eons. And where our own “nation-builders” seem to be detested by most. Logically, one who is against such ridiculous initiatives is being true to conservatism, right? And we are of course not being “threatened” by these people … Oh well, I just don’t understand.

    1. The “conservatives” you’re referring to just don’t want to waste US$ on domestic policies. They only care about foreign policy. Either they dream of a new global empire similar to Soviet dreams of globalism, or these “conservatives” serve certain foreign polities or the defence industry, etc.

      As for regular conservatives, they get tricked by the propaganda.

      Democrats also fall for the same propaganda. Democrats just want to war multilaterally. And Democrats want to be told the warring is necessary to “help” foreigners.

      Look at Hillary and Obama, or even at Bernie lately: They’re not peaceniks.

  2. They make more money with chaos. The money doesn’t go their way unless there’s chaos and destruction.

    Let me posit this: what would make more money. Getting funds to build FacilityX and building exactly what the customer wants and pay everyone what they’re owed, or half ass build Facility X (if that), pocket some money, let some of it “get loose” and somehow end up in the hands of “the enemy”, who then uses it to on munitions and manpower to destroy what there is of Facility X. Then ask for more money to go and build a better, more secure Facility X.

    You tell me…

      1. Indeed. And the US is incapable of helping. Trillions have been spent.

        Some of us suspect the US desires chaos in Iraq, does not desire true restoration.

        Iraqis are best on their own. “Helping” sounds great, but the US has been “helping” for years. Little to no improvement.

        The best course is to remove all troops and funding from the rest of the world, including Iraq.

    1. Iran is potentially quite wealthy as well. It would gladly rebuild the Shia areas. Kurds would love the option to build a Kurdistan.

      If we fully exited the region, something like that would happen.

    2. But the original owners don’t control the oil reserves. That transfer of deed and title was violently brought about by the U.S., British and other Koalition of the Killing members and given straight over to Halliburton and their affiliates. GW promised he wouldn’t raise taxes In His Tenure to pay the piper. A ‘white lie’ I suppose, because he had an 8 year tenure and the bonds floated to cover the cost of war and reconstruction didn’t mature until 10 years. At which time any bonds bought at 10% per annum were suddenly worth twice their face value and if one could afford letting the bonds mature further he is actually collecting compound interest. If you roll half the interest into more bonds, it’s not as fast as simply doubling every 10 years but in, say. 25 more years the interest will be about 10 times the principal.

      No, Georgie didn’t raise taxes Until After He Left office. Sweep it under the rug, don’t let the peasants know they’re being fleeced.

      Oh, and so many of the bonds were sold on the Shanghai market. That puts yet another shadow on the China-bashing.

  3. their best option would be to bankrupt the U.S. and Britain so it would take maybe 20 more years for Empire Building or “Regime building” crap can be attempted again. Did I mention I love the heck out of the Oxford World Almanac? They do quite a job, for one thing, their history of the U.S. isn’t going to jibe with the Official Crap you get in school here, and they do a right thumping job about snitching off their own masters.
    It’s one of those things, technically it’s property of the Episcopal church of England, which nominally belongs to the monarch who would be embarrassed, if she had any emotions equating to shame.

    U.S. history has to be prettied up, with the blood and bovine fecal matter wiped off, before serving it to the kids. The British might take a lesson from that. Meanwhile they just publish the hell out of what they did. Like, every time the commonwealth went broke it was due to wars of aggression mostly initiated by the British.

    The Iraqi economy would benefit tenfold what the U.S. ‘gives’ them for reconstruction (notice it’s not ‘reparations’) and ‘protection’. which is a sick joke for demented people. Tell the military and oil companies that any assets they claim which are actually in Iraq, are nationalized and the Washington and Wall Street thieves can just go to Hell. The NeoCons or however else they’re called initiated hostilities against Iraq (not just Saddam) years after they published a plan involving perpetual war in Iraq.

  4. What is that saying? “Don’t throw good money after bad”?
    Well, all you need is a single word to realize why it didn’t work for Iraq, but worked for Japan and Germany. The missing word is: “people”.

  5. The problem with a project like the Marshal-plan is that you first have to understand what the Marshal-plan was and what made it successful.
    The main reason that the Marshal-plan was so instrumental in rebuilding Europe’s economy, and what made it become the preferred fantasy for how to rebuild a broken economy, wasn’t the money…..

    The money in the Marshal-plan was really just a side-project, the main reason the Marshal-plan accomplished what it did, was because of the policies it set down.
    Or rather, the policies that it changed…..

    The Marshal-plan was so incredibly successful in rebuilding Europe because it replaced another plan, namely JCS 1067 also known as the Morgenthau-plan. And the Morgenthau-plans foremost goal was to destroy the german industry and economy so that Germany would never again be a threat to other nations. The heavy industry in Germany was to be destroyed, all that was to be left was an economy based on agriculture and light manufacturing industry of consumer goods (and not heavy industrial machinery, which has been a german speciality for pretty much the beginning of the industrial age).

    The Morgenthau-plan set limits on the amount of steel Germany was allowed to produce, it actively destroyed german factories, tore down manufacturing plants and sent the machinery to the Soviet Union as “repayment”, where it usually just ended up in some warehouse and then rusted into uselessness.
    The only thing it did, was to destroy german economy, and the idea of Germany becoming an agricultural economy was pure stupidity since Hitlers plans about “lebensraum” was to expand german agriculture and decrease population density, since Germany was incapable of producing enough food to feed their own population.

    German economy has always been very heavily dependant upon export and import. Exporting industrial goods and importing raw resources and food.

    And since Germany lies in the heart of Europe and it’s speciality is to export industrial goods, that means they are important for european economy.

    The Marshal-plan realized this, and changed the policy from destroying german economy and industry and instead acknowledged that a strong german economy was necessary for a strong european economy. One couldn’t have one without the other.
    So instead of destroying german industry, and in extension the european economy, the focused on rebuilding german industry and economy.

    And that lead to a recovery within the european economy.
    The money of the Marshal-plan wasn’t all that important really, other than as a way to control how the overall recovery of the economy would happen. Which things would be focused upon etc.

    Just throwing money at Iraq and think that will work, is as stupid as other projects who has the same approach.
    In order to to actually accomplish anything, you have to actually invest the money in something that has a chance to give a return of investment.
    Much of the Marshal-plan money was in the forms of loans, not just giving away money to be used for whatever the local rulers wanted. It was money that was supposed to be repaid but which was later changed, with writing off a lot of the debt, to help a continued build-up of european economy. Instead of repaying the investment, they could re-invest it.
    But for that to happen, you first have to have a return of investment on the original money spent…..

    What you really need is a good foundation for the economy to actually be viable. And then you can replace state grants by financial investment from the private sector.
    If private interests are unwilling to use their own money to fund economical projects, then that is usually a good sign that they are bad investments….

  6. The BENCHMARK REALITY is that ONE MILLION DOLLAR in development-aid to a typically poor (no oil) muslim country will end up costing the service-provider TWO MILLION in expenses in putting things in order after the first million have “stuffed up” big time. Hence it will never-never end.

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