Welcome to Potemkin Nation. Population: Them

Repairs are made to a school’s perimeter wall. Millions of dollars in Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Funds are being spent to repair and reconstruct schools throughout Iraq. Most of the work includes repairing and replacing roofs, windows, doors, tile floors, perimeter walls, bathrooms, plumbing, electrical and sanitation systems. The majority of the reconstruction work is being done by local Iraqi companies and workers. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

The above picture and caption comes from Defend America, “U.S. Department of Defense News About the War on Terrorism” website, but as this report in the New York Times points out, things fall apart:

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

Interesting phrasing there, “The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors” as if they are somehow two different entities. Who is tis mysterious “United States” and why are they lawyering up? Probably because of this:

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.


The new findings come after years of insistence by American officials in Baghdad that too much attention has been paid to the failures in Iraq and not enough to the successes.

Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps, told a news conference in Baghdad late last month that with so much coverage of violence in Iraq “what you don’t see are the successes in the reconstruction program, how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people.”

And those declared successes are heavily promoted by the United States government. A 2006 news release by the Army Corps, titled “Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital — not just bricks and mortar!” praises both the new water purification system and the incinerator. The incinerator, the release said, would “keep medical waste from entering into the solid waste and water systems.”

But when Mr. Bowen’s office presented the Army Corps with the finding that neither system was working at the struggling hospital and recommended a training program so that Iraqis could properly operate the equipment, General Walsh tersely disagreed with the recommendation in a letter appended to the report, which also noted that the building had suffered damage because workers used excess amounts of water to clean the floors.

The bureau within the United States Embassy in Baghdad that oversees reconstruction in Iraq was even more dismissive, disagreeing with all four of the inspector general’s recommendations, including those suggesting that the United States should lend advice on disposing of the waste and maintaining the floors.

“Recommendations such as how much water to use in cleaning floors or disposal of medical waste could be deemed as an intrusion on, or attempt to micromanage operations of an Iraqi entity that we have no controlling interest over,” wrote William Lynch, acting director of the embassy bureau, called the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

I suggest responding to all recommendations by busybody inspectors by blaming it on “entropy”. It always works for me when I have to explain why I haven’t fixed that shelf in the laundry room; physics being the first refuge of the lazy…

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....