Monday, October 31, 2005

But We Haven't Got To The Walmarts Yet

OK, here's a riddle for you. How many hours of electricity do the residents of Baghdad get each day now that the Americans have been in charge for three years? Give up? Less than eight hours. "Saddam may have tortured us, but at least he could do it with the lights on," said one Iraqi.

"We could work on their electrical problem if we could just stop attacks in the green zone," said Major Francis Piccoli, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "I mean it's been three years so we've pretty much given up on controlling Baghdad, but you'd think the insurgents would let us have our own little zone."

Calm down Major. Turns out it doesn't matter because there isn't any more dough. As the money runs out on the $30 billion American financed reconstruction of Iraq the officials cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished.

Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general's office said 1,887 of 2,784 rebuilding projects that have been completed. "Now, to be fair, we're counting electrical substations that were built but never connected to the electrical grid. Building is building," he added.

The security costs have "proportionately reduced funds for other reconstruction projects," the report said, leading to countless initiatives being scaled down or canceled. Rick Barton, a senior adviser and co-director of the post-conflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington explained: "It dawned on us, after about 1800 American causalities that we weren't going to be welcomed as liberators and that sort of threw a monkey wrench into plan A."

"I think that the report confirms what we have been saying for some time - that we continue to make progress in rebuilding Iraq and the insurgents continue to make progress in blowing it up," said Lieutenant. Colonel Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

Regarding the shortcomings detailed by the report on the ability of United States forces to measure progress, Colonel Venable said, "There's a war going on, so we're not getting too far outside the green zone. If you want to go look at the progress on building a parking lot, be my guest."

Five electrical substations examined by the inspector general's office were built in southern Iraq at a cost of $28.8 million. "The completed substations were found to be well planned, well designed and well constructed," the report says. Unfortunately, the system for distributing power from the completed substations was largely nonexistent. "Picky Picky Picky," said a pentagon spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous.

The inspector general found that $7.3 million was mismanaged and $1.3 million entirely wasted through duplicate work and buying overpriced equipment in the construction of a police academy in the city of Babylon, south of Baghdad. "Yeah. Funny story there," said Colonel Venable. "Turns out, after we got the academy built, no cadets signed up. Must be something about the 4,208 death and injury claims from folks working on our projects. Place is a Laundromat now."

$1.8 million was paid in advance for work that was not performed during the rehabilitation of a library in the city of Karbala. "Oh, yeah," said Venable. "That was the Halliburton project."

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