NYT: Virtually every measure of the performance of Iraq's oil, electricity, water and sewerage sectors has fallen below preinvasion values even though $16 billion of American taxpayer money has already been disbursed in the Iraq reconstruction program, several government witnesses said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday.
Of seven measures of public services performance presented at the committee hearing by the inspector general's office, only one was above preinvasion values.
Those that had slumped below those values were electrical generation capacity, hours of power available in a day in Baghdad, oil and heating oil production and the numbers of Iraqis with drinkable water and sewage service.
Only the hours of power available to Iraqis outside Baghdad had increased over prewar values.
In addition, two of the witnesses said they believed that an earlier estimate by the World Bank that $56 billion would be needed for rebuilding over the next several years was too low.
How can America succeed in its nation-building experiment in Iraq if, three years after the invasion, basic infrastructure is worse than it was under Saddam? I don't see any possible way at all.
And be assured, this plays right into the hands of terrorists. They could hardly draw up a better scenario: a chronic lack of basic services increases frustration levels within a populace, which enflames pre-existing ethno-religious divisions, which makes it easier for terrorists to sow chaos and violence. These are the conditions in which extremism-- not representative democracy-- flourish.
But wait, the article's not finished:
"What's happened is that an incessant, an insidious insurgency has repeatedly attacked the key infrastructure targets, reducing outputs," [Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen] said.
This downsizing of expectations was striking given that $30 billion American taxpayer money has already been dedicated to the task, according to an analysis by Mr. Joseph Christoff of the [Government Accountability] office. Of that money, $23 billion has already been obligated to specific rebuilding contracts, and $16 billion of that amount has been disbursed, Mr. Christoff said.
Mr. Bowen's office has pointed out that another $40 billion in Iraqi oil money and seized assets of Saddam Hussein's regime was also made available for reconstruction and other tasks at one time or another. Last week, Robert J. Stein Jr., one of four former United States government officials in Iraq who have been arrested in a bribery and kickback scheme involving that money, pleaded guilty to federal charges.
According to the AP "Robert Stein was comptroller and funding officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority's South Central Region. Court records show he was convicted in 1996 for defrauding a financial institution. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release."
You know, we really need to keep a close eye on those Louisianans spending their Katrina windfall. Otherwise waste might occur.
Mr. Christoff also brought another new figure to the hearing: he said that on a recent trip to Baghdad, the American forces there had told him that they would need another $3.9 billion to continue training and equipping Iraqi forces, in part so that they can better protect the infrastructure.
If the $3.9 billion that the American forces believe they need is actually appropriated, it would bring the total amount spent simply on training and equipping the Iraqi Army and the police to about $15 billion.
$30 billion in U.S. taxpayer money for reconstruction plus $40 billion in Iraq oil money plus $15 billion for police training equals $85 billion... plus current estimates say that's still more than $56 billion short of what's needed.
I would like to remind the Bush administration that $141 billion is a lot of money.
A "heckuva" lot.