The untold story of Iraq reconstruction

The untold story of Iraq reconstruction

 What should be driven home in “lessons learned” concerning the Iraq Campaign is that first and foremost, the enemy must be utterly defeated before starting any massive humanitarian projects.  Yet, in spite of the skewed views of some of our leadership in this regard, the story of Iraq reconstruction is nothing short of remarkable taking place as it does in the face of increasing insurgent attacks and a non-existent Iraqi private contracting sector.
The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough chronicles the heroic efforts of military, civilian, and private contractors in completing over 4,000 projects since the 2003 invasion.  The Army is the executive agent for Iraqi reconstruction, and the effort is led by Dean G. Popps, who is the principal assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology.  According to Popps:

“Most Americans don’t understand something equivalent to the Marshall Plan has been accomplished in Iraq.”

Under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers, electric grids, health care centers, schools, water and sewage treatment facilities, and police stations have been refurbished or built from scratch. This huge program has been extremely successful, while receiving largely negative press coverage with an emphasis on corruption and mismanagement.  But the latest assessment from Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, notes that the vast majority of projects have “proceeded as required.”
Popps reveals a critical factor not frequently discussed in the media.  US intelligence knew Saddam had not adequately maintained Iraq’s infrastructure, but it turned out that they wildly underestimated the decrepit state of Saddam’s Iraq.  The Corps of Engineers were stunned to find out that,

• The three regional sewage treatments plants in greater Baghdad did not work; raw waste poured into the Tigris River and downstream through villages.
• Sadr City, the impoverished Shi’ite slum repressed by the ruling Sunni Ba’ath Party, lacked any sewage system.  [“Some slam the Americans because there is sewage in Sadr City,” said an incredulous Mr. Popps. “Please.”]
• Few towns had a central supply of clean water.
• The electrical grid suffered under 1950s technology and disrepair. Saddam Hussein starved the rest of the country of power to give the capital of 6 million about 20 hours a day.
• The country lacked any primary health care facilities; .. new hospitals had not been built in 20 years.

Some of the accomplishments so far:

• Six new primary care facilities, with 66 more under construction; 11 hospitals renovated
• More than 800 schools fixed up; more than 300 police stations and facilities and 248 border control forts.
• Added 407,000 cubic meters per day of water treatment; a new sewage-treatment system for Basra; work on Baghdad’s three plants continues.
• Oil production exceeds the 2002 level of 2 million barrels a day by 500,000. [emphasis mine]
• The Ministry of Electricity now sends power to Baghdad for four to eight hours a day, and 10 to 12 for the rest of the country.
• Iraqis are now free to buy consumer items such as generators, which provide some homes with power around-the-clock.

Keep in mind that all of this was accomplished with great sacrifice including loss of life by Iraqis and all components of our forces including uniformed military, civil servants, and yes, even those much-maligned contractors.
On this Thanksgiving, we owe all of them and Secretary Popps our deepest gratitude for what ultimately will best serve our national security; a free and prosperous Iraq.
Douglas Hanson   11 22 06

Page Printed from: at November 23, 2006 – 01:12:08 PM EST

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