How’s that “rebuilding of Iraq” going?

July 13, 2006 | By | Reply More

Would you like to know how things are going in Iraq?  Check out the White House National Strategy for Victory in Iraq issued November 30, 2005.
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Here’s the backdrop to this report.  Smack in the middle of this report (under “OUR STRATEGY TRACKS AND MEASURES PROGRESS”) you can see that all-important connection between the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. occupation of Iraq:

“The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation’s security, this will not happen on my watch.”

— President George W. Bush
June 28, 2005

[emphasis added].  There’s only one problem with this guiding assumption, of course.  It’s totally untrue.  For example, the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported . . . that Osama bin Laden met with a top Iraqi official in 1994 but found “no credible evidence” of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida in attacks against the United States.

But back to the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.”  In the section called “Victory Will Take Time,” you can find this White House claim:

Our strategy is working: Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam’s tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation.

The National Strategy also notes that “victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain. No war has ever been won on a timetable.”  Then again,

We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

How does one measure progress?  How about by reference to oil production?  For instance, the White House admits the following (again, this report was published November 2005):

Oil production increased from an average of 1.58 million barrels per day in 2003, to an average of 2.25 million barrels per day in 2004. Iraq presently is producing on average 2.1 million barrels per day, a slight decrease due to terrorist attacks on infrastructure, dilapidated and insufficient infrastructure, and poor maintenance practices. We are helping the Iraqis address each challenge so the country can have a dependable income stream.

Interestingly, prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was producing 3.5 million barrels of oil per day. Oil production is therefore not impressive. Disheartening, in that the American people were promised that this entire Iraq endeavor would be paid for by using sales proceeds of Iraqi oil.

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

[Source: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]

“If you [Source: worry about just] the cost, the money, Iraq is a very different situation from Afghanistan…Iraq has oil. They have financial resources.”

[Source: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Fortune Magazine, Fall 2002].  These and other quote regarding early Bush Administration projections for the cost of an Iraq war can be found here

Nonetheless, this November 2005 the Executive Summary of the November 2005 report assures the American people that progress is being made, even in the short term:

Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.

What should one make of this November 2005 report?  You might think that things are going so well that many of those government contractors and soldiers would have brought their spouses and children over to Iraq with them while they work to achieve final victory in Iraq.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case, does it?

Here’s another way to evaluate the claims of the White House.  You can compare the Nov 2005 Report to the newly released (July 2006) non-partisan report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office.  The GAO, “commonly called the investigative arm of Congress or the congressional watchdog, is independent and nonpartisan. It studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.” 

What does this new July 2006 GAO report say?  The report is refreshingly staightforward, yet depressing in its conclusions.  You can read it here.   Note, especially, the “Results in Brief”:

First, the original plan assumed a permissive security environment, which never materialized. An active and increasingly lethal insurgency undermined the development of effective Iraqi governmental institutions and delayed plans for an early transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqis. Second, the United States assumed that its U.S.-funded reconstruction activities would help restore Iraq’s essential services—oil production, electricity generation, and water treatment—to prewar levels. However, U.S. efforts to achieve this goal have been hindered by security, management, and maintenance challenges that undermine efforts to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. For example, a March 2006 poll of Iraqi citizens indicated that a majority thought Iraq was heading in the wrong direction, and growing numbers of people believe that the security situation, the provision of electricity, and corruption have worsened. Third, the strategy assumes that the Iraqi government and international community will help finance Iraq’s development needs. However, Iraq has limited resources to contribute to its own reconstruction, and while the international community has offered some assistance, Iraq’s estimated reconstruction needs vastly exceed what has been offered to date. As a result, it is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given these significant changes in the underlying assumptions. 

Here’s the bottom line on Iraq in July 2006:  it depends on whether one is evidence-based or not.   According to the White House, things are going well.  That’s what “steady progress” means to me, anyway.  If you’re one of those anal-retentive people who require evidence, though, Iraq is out of control and dangerous, with no sense that things are about to improve.

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Category: Iraq, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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