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US Backtracks on Iraq Reconstruction: Report

IslamOnline.net

CAIRO, January 2, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) ľ The Bush administration has apparently backtracked on its promises to rebuild Iraq, and does not intend to seek any funds for the gruesome job in the budget request going before Congress in February, a leading US daily reported on Monday, January 2.

"When the last of the $18.4 billion is spent, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people," The Washington Post quoted administration officials as making clear.

The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion US rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by fighting the Iraqi resistance, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein, said the mass-circulation daily.

It further quoted Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the Iraq reconstruction mission, as telling reporters in Baghdad recently that "the US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq".

"Worse Builders"

The Post quoted Zaid Saleem 26, who works at a market in Baghdad, as saying the Americans "are the best in destroying things but they are the worst in rebuilding."

Mustafa Sidqi Murthada, owner of a men's clothing store in Baghdad, echoed similar sentiments.

"It is easy for the Americans to say, 'We are doing reconstruction in Iraq,' and we hear that. But to make us believe it, they should show us where this reconstruction is," he told the American daily.

"Maybe they are doing this reconstruction for them in the Green Zone. But this is not for the Iraqis."

The Green Zone is Baghdad's most fortified compound and hosts the headquarters of the US-led occupation forces, the US-backed Iraqi government as well as the American and British embassies.

Over 8 billion dollars of money that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding war-scattered Iraq under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) disappeared by the time Paul Bremer left his post as head of the authority.

Calling it the 'extraordinary scandal of Iraq's missing billionsĺ, Britain's The Guardian said in July 2004, that Bremer maintained one slush fund of nearly $600m in cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces.

Prewar Levels

The Post report drew a bleak picture of the infrastructure in the war-torn country, showing most basic services to be way below the levels before US tanks rolled into Baghdad on April 9, 2003.

In two of the most crucial areas, electricity and oil production, output remains at or below prewar levels despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of American dollars and countless man-hours, the paper said.

Oil production stands at roughly 2 billion barrels a day, compared with 2.6 billion before US troops entered Iraq in March 2003, according to US government statistics.

The national electrical grid has an average daily output of 4,000 megawatts, about 400 megawatts less than its prewar level.

"Iraqis nationwide receive on average less than 12 hours of power a day," said the daily.

For residents of Baghdad, it was six hours a day last month, according to a US count, though many residents say that figure is high.

This is a sharp contradiction to statements by senior US officials, including President George W. Bush himself.

"In a lot of places, the infrastructure is as good as it was at prewar levels, which is satisfactory, but it's not the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region," Bush said in August 2003.

Since the reconstruction effort began in 2003, midcourse changes by US officials have shifted at least $2.5 billion from the rebuilding of Iraq's decrepit electrical, education, water, sewage, sanitation and oil networks to build new security forces and to construct a nationwide system of security prisons and detention centers, according to The Post.

The investigation and trial of Saddam also ate a big chunk of money allocated originally for the reconstruction of Iraq, it added.

A US congressional report issued last October said the everyday live of the Iraqi people has not improved much under the US-led invasion-turned-occupation of the oil-rich Arab country.

"It is unclear how US efforts are helping the Iraqi people obtain clean water, reliable electricity or competent health care," said the report presented by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to Congress.

A report by the Washington Post last August also revealed the Bush administration scaling down its "unrealistic" goals regarding what can be achieved in Iraq.


:: Article nr. 19177 sent on 03-jan-2006 01:20 ECT

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Link: www.islam-online.net/English/News/2006-01/02/article04.shtml



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