Posts Tagged ‘Iraq reconstruction’

Counting the costs of the Iraq war

March 21, 2013

Bush administration spokesmen said the invasion of Iraq was going to be a cakewalk, and the cost would be paid out of Iraq oil revenues.  Ten years later, we know the true costs.



Click to enlarge.

For details, click on The Iraq War Ledger by the Center for American Progress.

Also click on Invading Iraq: What We Were Told at the Time by James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly.


“The largest theft of funds in national history”

June 14, 2011

The Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. Defense Department officials still can’t account for $6.6 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds – some of it distributed in shrink-wrapped pallets of $100 bills.  Some or all of it may have been stolen, the Pentagon says.

It wasn’t American money.   The $6.6 billion came out of Iraq oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations oil-for-food program, and not from the $61 billion appropriated by Congress for Iraq reconstruction.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills.  They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins.  But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error.  Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”


The excuse for the haste was the urgency of getting reconstruction started.   The excuse might have some merit if reconstruction had actually taken place.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, deserves credit for his perseverance in investigating this scandal.  But I think it is safe to predict that no individual is going to be held accountable, and nobody’s career will suffer.


Government misplaces $8.7 billion in Iraq

August 5, 2010

A U.S. Defense Department audit released about 10 days ago indicated that $8.7 billion dollars in Iraq reconstruction funds – 96 percent of the  $9.1 billion total – is unaccounted for.  This probably accounts for the fact that so little actual reconstruction has taken place.

Whatever the government’s priorities in the Bush-Cheney years, it sure wasn’t nation-building in Iraq.

I am shocked by the figure, but I am more shocked that so few people in Washington seem to care.  I would have thought that Congress would be demanding an investigation to find out who pocketed the money.  I would have been wrong.

Click on Defense Department can’t account for 96 percent of money administered in Iraq reconstruction fund for details.

Click on The failed reconstruction of Iraq for my earlier post on the same subject.

The failed reconstruction of Iraq

July 21, 2010

Shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a Iraqi woman in her 20s using the name Riverbend started a web log called Baghdad Burning.  She described the life of an educated, middle-class family in Baghdad – a perspective on Iraq you didn’t get from the American press.

Here is her 2003 comment on the reconstruction effort: –

One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen. As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials quite cheap in Iraq, labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination. A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

via Baghdad Burning.

How has that worked out?  Here is the report this month from the New York Times.

FALLUJA, Iraq — After two devastating battles between American forces and Sunni insurgents in 2004, this city needed almost everything — new roads, clean water, electricity and health care included.

The American reconstruction authorities decided, however, that the first big rebuilding project to win hearts and minds would be a citywide sewage treatment system.

Now, after more than six years of work, $104 million spent, and without having connected a single house, American reconstruction officials have decided to leave the system unfinished, though they portray it as a success. It is just one element in a strategy to complete or abandon rebuilding projects before American troops leave in large numbers over the next year.

The push to complete reconstruction work as quickly as possible has been met with scorn by Iraqi officials, who say some of the projects are being finished with such haste that engineering standards have deteriorated to the point where workers are in danger and some of the work is at risk of collapse.

The Falluja sewage system, in particular, mirrors the extensive problems that have marked much of the American rebuilding effort: a grand plan to provide a modern facility that diverged from Iraq’s most pressing needs, and was further troubled by millions of wasted dollars, poor planning, construction flaws, ongoing violence and little attention to sustainability.

via The New York Times