The Gist: Veni Vidi Filchy
Iraqi “Reconstruction” by Bush Sopranos
Candide's Notebooks, Jan. 24, 2006
When Gengis Khan Khan’s grandson leveled Baghdad in 1258, in characteristically bloody Mongol fashion, the city was essentially ruined until the twentieth century. Only oil money, post-colonialism’s repressive efficiencies and Western-sponsored regimes, Saddam Hussein’s among them, helped revive the city that was once the center of the world. The American “reconstruction” of Iraq is turning into another Mongol experience for Iraq.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a sort of internal investigative arm of America’s pro-consular affairs in Iraq, is required by law to submit quarterly “progress” reports to Congress on reconstruction. The reports, like last October’s 21 pages of lingo and acronyms and “please to report” qualifiers, usually point to corruption and shambles only behind velvety euphemisms and the promise, always the promise, of improvements. That’s the public face of American know-how: Identify the problem, identify a solution, implement the solution, then advertise it to the public (and make sure the APPLAUSE sign is flashing).
Except that the non-public version of the Inspector General’s report of reconstruction to date paints only a picture of incompetence, corruption, turf battles, cluelessness, staffing shortfalls: It is Iraqi reconstruction by The Sopranos (HBO miniseries to follow, one assumes). Iraqi oil production is below what it was before the war. So is electricity production. It’s easy and convenient to blame the insurgency, which is doing its share of destruction. But as always in these wars of convenience and quick-grasp profiteering, the bandits, in the justified eyes of Iraqis, are insurgents as much as the occupiers and their subcontracted minions a-la-Halliburton (remember, 80 percent of Iraqis mistrusted the occupation in a poll taken before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.) What did we expect from the Bush junta? Preparedness and accountability are the twin evils they equate with “lawyering things to death” (Bush’s phrase) and what they sneeringly call “business regulation,” thus revealing what this whole little adventure in saving the world from democracy is to them: a business. Dirty, but not little.