Editorial: Iraq’s Lessons, 10 Years Later
|March 16, 2013||Filled under Iraq Daily News|
A square meter of concrete should cost 4,000 Iraqi dinar. The United States paid 16,000.”
Everyone talks about the rising cost of education. Well, nothing compares to the cost of America’s education from the Iraq War. Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the lessons of this expensive nation-destroying, nation-building exercise keep piling up. But is Washington heeding the lessons?
It’s an important question as the U.S. winds down its engagement in Afghanistan and weighs involvement elsewhere in the region.
The U.S. withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, but it remains a nation in serious turmoil. Despite more than $60 billion in taxpayer expenditures for aid and reconstruction projects and 4,326 U.S. service members’ deaths, America didn’t come close to finishing the job.
The Bush administration’s belief that dictator Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, though later debunked, led this newspaper to support the invasion. The shining beacon of democratic, nonsectarian governance that the Bush administration envisioned has not materialized.
Carnage continues among Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites and ethnic Kurds. The Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to fulfill its obligation of providing balanced political representation and security to all citizens.
Iraq is hardly the pro-Western ally we had hoped it would become, and its increasingly close relationship with Shiite Iran accentuates America’s declining influence there.
From Iraqis’ perspective, it’s easy to see why an enduring U.S. alliance never jelled. They were repelled by the way American contractors barged in after the invasion. Consultation with Iraqis about their needs and priorities was minimal before big projects for roads, sewage-treatment plants and power stations were launched — and never completed.
Far too much responsibility was assigned to corrupt and inefficient local contractors who didn’t deliver. More than $25 billion was spent to train Iraqi police and troops, with lackluster results.
An audit released this month by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, outlined more than $8 billion lost to fraud and waste. Examples range from $40 million spent to build a 3,600-bed prison, which today sits unfinished and unusable, to $80 spent for a plumbing elbow joint that retails for $1.41.
Wasteful practices also are surfacing in Afghanistan, which recently surpassed Iraq as the most costly stabilization and reconstruction effort in U.S. history. Building a highway is great, but if it crumbles quickly, it’s seen as yet another reason to resent the Americans.
The lessons are many. The American penchant for big and bold gestures might work for bringing dictatorships down quickly, but for the longer term, slow, cautious and simple should be the motto. Plan for the end of the war, not just the beginning.
No longer can we assume a problem is fixed once the bad guy is removed. With Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, we know the problem has only just begun.
AUDIT REPORT FINDINGS
“With all the money the U.S. has spent, you can go into any city in Iraq and you cannot find one building or project [built by the U.S. government]. You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities, but you cannot point a finger at a single project that was built and completed by the United States.”
Iraq’s acting Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi
“The U.S. personnel knew what to do and viewed all Iraqi ideas as useless. But the U.S. approach was wasteful, using design-build contracts to accomplish simple projects. A square meter of concrete should cost 4,000 Iraqi dinar. The United States paid 16,000.”
Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi
Related Iraqi Dinar Articles-