Better Off Under Saddam

From Holden:

By almost every metric available, the reconstruction of Iraq is a miserable failure.

Virtually every measure of the performance of Iraq’s oil, electricity, water and sewerage sectors has fallen below preinvasion values even though $16 billion of American taxpayer money has already been disbursed in the Iraq reconstruction program, several government witnesses said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Of seven measures of public services performance presented at the committee hearing by the inspector general’s office, only one was above preinvasion values.

Those that had slumped below those values were electrical generation capacity, hours of power available in a day in Baghdad, oil and heating oil production and the numbers of Iraqis with drinkable water and sewage service.

Only the hours of power available to Iraqis outside Baghdad had increased over prewar values.

In addition, two of the witnesses said they believed that an earlier estimate by the World Bank that $56 billion would be needed for rebuilding over the next several years was too low.

At the same time, as Iraq’s oil exports plummet and the country remains saddled with tens of billions of dollars of debt, it is unclear where that money will come from, said one of the witnesses, Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office.


“What’s happened is that an incessant, an insidious insurgency has repeatedly attacked the key infrastructure targets, reducing outputs,” [Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction] said. He added that some of the performance numbers had fluctuated above prewar values in the past, only to fall again under the pressure of insurgent attacks and other factors.

The insurgency is to blame, is it? Would that be the insurgency that the Bush Assministration did not anticipate?

JIM LEHRER: Stuart Vaughn, the inspector general I was just talking about, said, again on our program, that the reason reconstruction is going so poorly or hasn’t gone any better — let’s put a different kind of phraseology there — is confronting an insurgent — we’re having to confront an insurgency we didn’t anticipate. Is that correct?

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I think that’s fair. I don’t think anybody thought —

JIM LEHRER: Why didn’t we anticipate it?

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Well, you can’t anticipate everything. You know, we did anticipate a lot of things that didn’t happen. We anticipated the possibility of a civil war between Sunni and Shia. That hasn’t happened. We anticipated that Saddam would do to his oil fields what he did to the Kuwaiti oil fields 15 years ago, and try to destroy them and set them on fire. We saw them putting explosives out on the wells before the military operation began. That didn’t happen.

So there are a number of things that you plan for that didn’t happen, but still it’s warfare, there are always surprises, and I think it would be fair to say the insurgency has been stronger than anybody anticipated.