President Bush is fond of saying that America will stay in Iraq and “finish the job”. Here’s an example:
“When America says we’ll do something,” the president declared, “we are going to do it — and finish the job.”
He also liked saying (until recently) that America will “stay the course” in Iraq. Obviously these statements only applied to the military presence in the country because staying the course and finishing the job is the last thing Bechtel intends to do. Bechtel is one of the giant American companies (along with Halliburton) with ties to the Bush administration given the job of reconstruction in Iraq. Far from finishing the job, they barely started it despite receiving 2.3 billion dollars in US tax payers money to do just that. Here is Dahr Jamail’s latest report:
BAGHDAD, Nov 9 (IPS) – The decision of the giant engineering company Bechtel to withdraw from Iraq has left many Iraqis feeling betrayed. In its departure they see the end of remaining hopes for the reconstruction of Iraq.
“It is much worse than in the time of Saddam Hussein,” Communist Party member Nayif Jassim told IPS. “Most Iraqis wish Saddam would be back in power now that they lived out the hardships of the occupation. The Americans did nothing but loot our oil and kill our people.”
On every level of infrastructure measurable, the situation in Iraq is worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That includes the 12 years of economic sanctions since the first Gulf War in 1991, a period that former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday described as “genocidal” for Iraqis.
The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even oil production has matched pre-invasion levels.
The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhoea and respiratory illness are causing 70 percent of all child deaths, and that “of the 180 health clinics the U.S. hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed — and none opened.”
A proposed 200 million dollar project to build 142 primary care centres ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance that the World Health Organisation described as “shocking.”
Iraqis are complaining louder now than under the sanctions. Lack of electricity has led to increasing demand for gasoline to run generators. And gasoline is among the most scarce commodities in this oil-rich country.
“We inherited an exhausted electricity system in generating stations and distributing nets, but we were able to supply 50 percent of consumer demand during heavy load periods, and more than that during ordinary days,” an engineer with the Ministry of Electricity told IPS.
“The situation now is much worse and it seems not to be improving despite the huge contracts signed with American companies. It is strange how billions of dollars spent on electricity brought no improvement whatsoever, but in fact worsened the situation.”
The engineer said “we in the ministry have not received any real equipment for our senior stations, and the small transformers for the distributing nets were of very low standard.”
Bechtel’s contract included reconstruction of water treatment systems, electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.
Read the whole article
This lamentable record has not stopped the Bush administration painting a completely different picture of progress in Iraq:
10 SIGNS OF BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE & BASIC SERVICES
- Electricity: Electricity is now more equitably distributed and more stable, instead of, as during Saddam Hussein’s rule, being supplied to Baghdad at the expense of the rest of the country. For the rest of 2003, $294 million is budgeted to improve electrical systems.
- Water Systems: Water supply in many areas is now at pre-conflict levels. Over 2000 repairs have been made to 143 water networks, and water quality sampling has restarted. There are plans to add 450 million liters of capacity to Baghdad’s system.
- Healthcare: Iraqi hospitals are up and running, and healthcare, previously available only for Ba’athist elite, is now available to all Iraqis. Drugs are being supplied to hospitals and clinics, and medical worker salaries are being paid regularly, ensuring employees attend work. Vaccinations are available across the country, and anti-malarial spraying will take place this autumn.
- Returning Refugees: Refugees began returning from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. UNHCR and the Coalition are working together to ensure that groups of refugees in Jordan and Iran can return to Iraq safely and comfortably in the near future.
- Revitalizing Oil Production and Distribution: Repairs and modernizations are being made to the antiquated and neglected oil production and distribution systems. Oil will provide the future wealth of the country but was severely misappropriated by the former regime.
- Police: There are 6,000 police on the streets of Baghdad and 34 out of 60 police stations are currently operational. Throughout Iraq, there are some 30,000 police patrolling the streets.
- Road Repairs: Emergency road repairs, underway throughout Iraq now, will employ even more Iraqis in the coming weeks.
- Airports: The Baghdad and Basra airports are ready to open, and the airport in Basra is expected to begin commercial operations in August. Several airlines are likely to start regular air service to Iraq.
- Major Bridges: $4.3 million has been provided to repair the Tikrit Bridge; $4.4 million to rebuild the Al Mat Bridge; and $3.2 million to rebuild the Khazir Bridge.
- Port at Umm Qasr: The port at Umm Qasr is open and functioning again, and customs and port authority agents are being trained.
So which picture of Iraqi reconstruction is the more accurate? Not having been to Iraq, I have no way of knowing for sure. But the rosy picture painted by the White House doesn’t exactly fit with what we see in the news every day. And as the American people have just shown, the Bush administration does have a slight credibility problem. Bush hit the nail on the head when he said, “Shows what I know“.