February 1, 2006

He Said/They Said

Hatched by Dafydd

All the news on Iraqi reconstruction is grim.

Note that I didn't say "Iraqi reconstruction was grim"... I said all the news was grim, that is, the news from the antique media....

Associated Press:

Insurgents Thwarting Iraq Reconstruction
by Jim Krane
Feb 1, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Guerrilla attacks in Iraq have forced the cancellation of more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects, in part because American intelligence failed to predict the brutal insurgency, a U.S. government audit said.

American goals to fix Iraq's infrastructure will never be reached, mainly because insurgents have chased away contractors and forced the diversion of repair funds into security, according to an audit of the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Program released last week.

The New York Times:

Because of unforeseen security costs, haphazard planning and shifting priorities, the American-financed reconstruction program in Iraq will not complete scores of projects that were promised to help rebuild the country, a federal oversight agency reported yesterday.

Washington Post:

As much as 60 percent of all projects aimed at improving Iraq's water supply, including work on sewer systems and drinking water supplies, will remain unfinished because more than $2.1 billion originally allocated to that purpose was shifted away, according to the report.

Projects related to drinking water that were expected to benefit about 8 million people will now benefit about 2.75 million, the report said. And only two of 10 planned sewerage projects will be completed, though they will serve an additional 4.5 million people.

More than 125 of a planned 425 electricity projects will also be left unfinished, a total that reflects a steep reduction, announced previously by U.S. officials, in the goal for increasing Iraq's generating capacity.

Wow, that must have been some humdinger of an indictment of the wretched, corrupt, feckless, and incompetent Bush administration, right? Well take a look at what the actual report from Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, actually said:

The SIGIR October 2005 Quarterly Report initially examined the “reconstruction gap”— the difference between what was originally planned for reconstruction in the various sectors and what will actually be delivered. This is not an alarm bell but merely an observation of a current reality: changing conditions in Iraq, including deteriorating security conditions and evolving political and economic priorities required IRRF [Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund] reprogramming that altered sector funding levels and projected outcomes....

These shortfalls are substantially attributable to the autumn 2004 IRRF reprogramming, which reduced the allocations to the Water sector from $4.3 billion to $2.1 billion (down 51.2%). The Electricity sector dropped from $5.560 billion to $4.309 billion (down 22.5%). Allocations to certain other sectors concomitantly increased: the Private Sector Development sector grew by 420%, and the Justice, Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Civil Society sector rose by 70%.

In other words, we had some initial plans at the time of the invasion, March 2003; those plans were solidified in November that year; but as the face of the terrorist campaign in Iraq became clearer, we corrected course, "reprogramming" plans from major projects involving the water and electricity supplies to more basic infrastructure: first and foremost, the development of a private sector in Iraq (which never existed under Saddam Hussein or the Fascist Baath Party), basic justice, and the development of an Iraqi army that -- contrary to the extraordinary claim today by Nanci Pelosi on Anderson Cooper 360 -- was not set up to brutalize the Iraqi people.

Why are these priorities more basic? Because when they are satisfied, Iraq will be able to quell the terrorism itself (as we're now starting to see, particularly in the Anbar province and in Baghdad), thus will be able to pay for its own reconstruction... but if they are not satisfied, then nothing can be done. Period.

Part of the problem with Iraqi reconstruction efforts is the endemic corruption of the Middle East:

SIGIR remains committed to intensifying U.S. efforts to promote an effective anticorruption system within the Iraqi government and commends the U.S. Mission’s efforts thus far to support anticorruption institutions in Iraq. In the October 2005 Quarterly Report, SIGIR urged the Ambassador to hold an anticorruption summit, which he did in November 2005. The summit resulted in a proposal for a joint U.S.-Iraqi Anticorruption Working Group and initial agreement on the need for more training for officials from the Board of Supreme Audit, the Commission on Public Integrity, and the Inspectors General of the Iraqi ministries. The Embassy Anticorruption Working Group previously identified several major priorities, including:

promoting market reforms and reducing subsidies
helping to reinforce the weak law enforcement structure
• creating a public education campaign on the corruption issue

Note that two of the three anti-corruption "major priorities" are exactly what the administration shifted its own priorities to implement: market reforms (a private sector) and beefing up the Iraqi law-enforcement, which requires training not only police but army units as well.

That is to say, as the facts on the ground have changed, we've shifted our priorities to meet the new challenges. Far from being an indictment of the administration, all that this report actually does is clarify how much progress has been made and is likely to be made in the future, identify the continuing challenges, and set priorities and more refined goals for the administration to meet.

It isn't an attack at all; it's nothing more than a normal interim report.

Some of the news stories more or less acknowledge this -- buried deeper in the article, after first tainting the reader's impression with unsupported implications of corruption and incompetence:

"The United States' reconstruction efforts have shown tangible results in improving the Iraqi infrastructure," Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. wrote in the report, some of which he previewed in testimony to Congress last year but much of which was presented for the first time Thursday. "However, the significant funding change means that many of the originally planned projects will not be completed."

Projects related to drinking water that were expected to benefit about 8 million people will now benefit about 2.75 million, the report said. And only two of 10 planned sewerage projects will be completed, though they will serve an additional 4.5 million people. (Washington Post)

Only 49 of the 136 projects that were originally pledged to improve Iraq's water and sanitation will be finished, with about 300 of an initial 425 projects to provide electricity, the report says ["only!"]....

The report, by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, adds that the overall rebuilding plan was also devised without a clear understanding of the decrepit state of Iraq's infrastructure after decades of war, United Nations-imposed penalties and sheer neglect....

The biggest change in priorities in the rebuilding program came when John D. Negroponte, then the American ambassador to Iraq, shifted $3.46 billion from the reconstruction fund to support projects involving the training of Iraqi security forces, building democratic institutions and developing the private sector in fall 2004. But the report notes that month after month, new shifts took place, amounting to $2.12 billion in additional spending changes through October 2005. (New York Times)

The Times sees an inconstant administration constantly changing course; I see an administration that is flexible and can correct the course when the facts on the ground change. Which do we prefer -- rigid adherence to plans drawn up before the reconstruction had really begun? Or flexibility and the willingness to adapt to the reality that we found in Iraq?

Naturally, if the report had found instead that Bush had done the former, the same newspapers would be excoriating him for not being flexible and adaptable, just as the same Democrats who attacked Bush for his "unilateral" approach to Iraq now attack him for "outsourcing" our response to Iran by bringing in Great Britain, Germany, and France.

I believe the entire Democratic Party has only one principle in common: whatever George W. Bush does, it's wrong!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 1, 2006, at the time of 9:48 PM

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