Reconstruction woes

In less flippant Iraq news, Juan Cole has the rightly angry take on new reports of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on a failed attempt to rebuild Iraq’s water, sewage, and electrical systems.

Oddly, the Los Angeles Times piece Cole quotes seems to go out of its way to blame Iraqi incompetence for being unable to run the electrical and water treatment plants that were built by the private U.S. contractors. But that’s ludicrous on its face. Iraqis had little trouble, it seems, running these sorts of plants before the U.S. invasion in 2003—under a regime, mind you, crippled by sanctions and suffering a “brain drain” from the fleeing educated class. So why are they having so much trouble now? Cole thinks it’s because the plants were build “in the American way,” rather than using Iraqi techniques and parts. Maybe. The Iraqis in the Times piece, meanwhile, complain that “the Americans excluded them from the early stages of the projects and have not provided adequate funds for upkeep.” Either way, read the Times piece—it’s a fascinating glimpse at how chaotic and shamefully inept the entire reconstruction process has really been.