Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mission NOT Accomplished: The top reconstruction project in Iraq is a $277 million failure

"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." --George Bush, 01 May 2003, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln

More evidence that "Mission Accomplished" was then and remains today pure, unadulterated bullshit:
Iraq's Nassriya Water Treatment Plant, the country's largest reconstruction project, is a failure so far because it isn't delivering sufficient water to enough people, a new audit says.

Inspectors in December and again in February found the U.S.-funded plant 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Baghdad was operating at only 20 percent capacity, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a report released today.

``Potable water is only reaching a fraction of the Iraqi people for which it was designed and intended,'' Inspector General Stuart Bowen said. Two of the intended five cities, Ad Diwayah and Suq Al Shoyokh, weren't receiving water, he wrote.
IG for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, placed blame for the failure of the $277 million water treatment facility on the Iraqi government which took over the facility for operations in June 2007. Bowen said that the failings of the Maliki government to effectively oversee the management and operation of the facility "provides a detailed look at the challenges confronting the transfer of significant reconstruction projects for Iraqi operation as the U.S. role in reconstruction ends."

Bowen's audit found that there is no one reason that the facility is failing, instead they are myriad and complex, defying easy answers and quick fixes.

The facility was designed to operate around the clock and pump 240,000 cubic meters of potable water per day. Thing about water treatment facilities, tho, is that they require a whole hell of a lot of electricity to operate, and the national power grid is rickety and inadequate to reliably provide the power necessary to operate the plant. Another problem is a leaky and compromised water distribution system that can't withstand high water pressures. The water system is further compromised by illegal taps into the lines.

Then there is the most difficult problem to overcome - "unqualified and Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works staff unwilling to consistently attend the contractor-provided training" Bowen wrote. He also reported that "At the time of our visits, the plant was operating only one eight-hour shift a day, serving only 60 percent of the intended cities."

The facility was constructed with funds from the $20.9 billion Iraq reconstruction pool set up by the U.S government in the wake of the invasion, and Bowen took an investors-eye view of the plant, writing "The preservation of U.S. investment remains a key concern because the ultimate success of the reconstruction program depends on Iraq's capability to manage and sustain U.S.-funded projects."

And then there is the finger pointing and blame shifting.

But at the end of the day, it boils down to the fact that the Iraqi government is going to have to take over the running of their own country and the maintenance of their own facilities.

Yes, I am fully cognizant that the country was functioning before the U.S. invaded - but we can't unring that bell. If we could, Galileo knows, I would be the first in line to have a go at it. But I am not one to waste time on what-ifs, speculations and ephemera.

We need timetables and benchmarks and they need to have teeth. It is painfully obvious that the Iraqi hand will have to be forced and until it is, nothing is going to change.

And by the way - why the hell do the same people who decry dependence at home and demand an overhaul to social programs lest someone get a "free ride" in the form of food stamps or a small stipend for raising ones grandchildren insist upon fostering a much more heinous form of dependency by the government in Iraq? A single mom who is struggling to keep her nose above water, having long since given up on the notion of ever getting her head above water is fair game for dates certain - but the sovereign government of Iraq gets a pass?

Koyanisquatsi, indeed.

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