“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Bollettino -- this is the last of three posts. Sorry, campers. I couldn't resist a long series today. To make sense of this, go back to the first post and read upward, I guess.

“An enormous power plant south of Baghdad was shut down last weekend by coordinated attacks on fuel and transmission lines, American and Iraqi government officials said Tuesday. The sabotage raised new fears that insurgents were beginning to make targets of major sectors of the infrastructure as part of an overall plan to destabilize the interim Iraqi government.
At full production, the plant is capable of supplying nearly 20 percent of the entire electrical output of Iraq. But after the war, the plant's output plunged to nearly zero, and it is still generating only a fraction of its maximum output, said Raad al-Haris, deputy minister for electricity.
An official with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is scheduled to hand over sovereignty to a new Iraqi government on June 30, confirmed that an oil pipeline south of Baghdad was struck in the last week. A second senior official in the Electricity Ministry said that the weekend attack was the latest in a series in the same area, and that repairs on the lines had repeatedly been followed by new strikes. This official said the pipeline also delivered crude oil to at least one major refinery, whose operations had also been affected.”
These reports could be due to the fact that the Iraqis hadn’t got their own puppet to lead them, of course. As transition neared, there was a bit of unbuttoning. Some of the CPA promises had, perhaps, in a manner of speaking, that is, not that any mistakes whatsoever were ever made, gone a bit South. James Glanz, in a ruminative article about the outstanding success of our occupation, June 30, 2004, which was guided solely by the principles of democracy that show, once again, what a force for good America is in the world., releases some interesting little stats:
“More than a year into an aid effort that American officials likened to the Marshall Plan, occupation authorities acknowledge that fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way. Only three months after L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator who departed Monday, pledged that 50,000 Iraqis would find jobs at construction sites before the formal transfer of sovereignty, fewer than 20,000 local workers are employed.”
Forget that, though. Everything changed when the Iraqis took over their own governing, or as the Times put it on July 4, “Iraqis Watch With Wary Pride As Little Changes, and a Lot.”

With wary pride, Iraqis then got to watch a lot of things: American forces destroying Najaf, for instance. In fact, things got a little shaky, so Colin Powell went to buck up the morale of the puppet.. uh, free and autonomous government of Iraq, on July 31. The story about that visit contains a rather startling paragraph:

“His one tangible promise was to speed up the flow of the $18 billion in American reconstruction aid, less than $500 million of which has been released so far, so that Iraqis could see the realization of long-promised improvements in water, electricity and other areas.”

Promises, promises. But on September 21, under the headline “Iraqis Warn That U.S. Plan to Divert Billions to Security Could Cut Off Crucial Services,” we learn that Powell was not totally on track with today’s thinking. Why spend that money on electricity for Iraqis when there are other priorities? So the plan changes, but not because of any mistake ever made by any official in the Bush administration. Let’s be clear about this. It is all because of thirty five years of devastation unleashed by Saddam’s tyranny (a phrase that has to be included in every report filed by Glanz, it appears, under some strange stylebook rule), and of course the Clinton administration.
“In the original view, restoring Iraq's physical infrastructure assumed an importance equaled only by the American-led military action in creating a stable democratic country and winning the sympathies of ordinary citizens. Propounded again and again by L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian administrator here until an Iraqi government took over on June 28, that approach assumed that once the conduits for electricity, water, sewage, oil and information were in place, an efflorescence of industrial and national institutions would follow.
But with little actually being built and the deteriorating security situation making it doubtful that anything dramatic would happen if it were, a much more conventional set of nation-building priorities were put in place with the arrival last June of John D. Negroponte, the United States ambassador to Iraq. Those priorities are security, economic development and democracy building.”
All of which leads us up to this Saturday story in the Times.

Under the headline
“In Iraq Chaos, Uphill Struggle to Bring Power” James Glanz, bringing his perpetual optimism to the task, again is embedded with a heroic group of Americans. We did like this paragraph:
“More than any other sector of the infrastructure, it is the electrical grid that fills officials with hope. True, virtually every project is behind schedule, and few goals have been met. Indeed, officials involved with reconstruction expend great effort revising the overly optimistic projections made by the American occupation authorities in previous months. But there are, finally, more megawatts on the grid than before the invasion, and with a number of big projects under way behind the scenes, officials say it is just the start.”
That goal that was just over the horizon in June, 2003 is now really, really approaching. Really.

LI, for one, felt warmer just reading the article.

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