In a peppy article on October 23, 2003, the NYT, under the headline For Hussein's Ouster, Many Thanks, but Iraqis Are Expecting More, interviewed the man in the street in Baghdad and elsewhere, finding:
“Stability -- in the sense of an absence of attacks on Americans and Iraqis -- appears a long way off. But in dozens of recent interviews in Baghdad with ordinary Iraqis, it was clear that there is a reservoir of good will toward Americans in Iraq, or at least a weary expectation that they will, in the end, leave Iraq better than they found it.”
Mysteriously, those pre-war electricity levels seemed elusive:
''America is a great nation -- I think they can do anything,'' said Khanaan Abdul Majeed, 53, a welder in Baghdad. ''I think they can restore security and electricity and everything, but they are slow in their job.''
Mr. Majeed is also an example of another class of Iraqis generally supportive of the United States: those who benefit directly. He spoke outside his small metalwork shop, where he is building 130 beds for Americans here. He has hired six new welders and four painters. (Though an American-paid job cuts both ways: Iraqi policemen and government officials are regular targets.)” One hopes Mr. Majeed didn’t suffer for talking to the NYT. One hopes he is alive. But that is getting ahead of our timeline.
A year ago, during Ramadan, our American general in charge, General Sanchez, showing the high degree of intelligence with which Americans were stamping out the few terrorists fighting against the freedom loving people of Exxon, uh, Iraq, called the car bombings ''an operationally insignificant surge.' Is it any wonder he got along in the Rumsfeld Pentagon?
On Nov 30, 2003, the NYT did its usual “embedded with the selfless Americans restoring infrastructure story: Rebuilding Iraq Takes Courage, Cash and Improvisation.
“As the shadow of violence lengthens across the desert landscape of Iraq, reconstruction quietly continues. For some, the pace has been too slow. For others, success is more rightly measured in small moments -- as when, whether by skill or sacrifice, an irrigation system goes back online.
What is certain, though, is that when the United States begins spending the roughly $13 billion in new money earmarked earlier this month for the organs of Iraq's vitality -- water and sewage treatment, transportation, electricity and communications networks, oil production -- it will have to use the past six months as a vast how-to manual. It is a guidebook that, even today, remains decidedly ad-hoc and governed by the bald, decrepit and sometimes dangerous realities encountered on the ground.”
One wonders – the numbers get so confusing – whether this 13 billion is the same as the mythical 18 billion that is now earmarked for the same purpose, of which 1 to 2 billion has been disbursed. One also wonders – is that 13 billion coming, ultimately, from the freedom loving privatization of Iraqi oil?
The article quotes Tom Wheelock, the head of the US AIDS Iraqi reconstruction program. Here is the optimistic Mr. Wheelock, proclaiming mission nearly accomplished:
''There's a lot going on that's not manifest now,'' Mr. Wheelock said. ''We're on the cusp of impacts to people's quality of life.''
Then, on Dec. 13, 2003, the NYT visited a suburb of Baghdad, Ghazalia:
“Ghazalia is a neighborhood on edge.
Random violence and roadside bombs aimed at American patrols make the streets unsafe after dark. On the local council, Shiites and Sunnis squabble. Jobs are scarce, and prices are soaring. The electricity fails daily, and cooking gas, a necessity here, has grown scarce.
In ways large and small, life in this neighborhood of 150,000 people has worsened in the eight months since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein. Now the residents of Ghazalia, a suburban neighborhood that is in many ways a microcosm of the city, are nearly out of patience.”
In a report on General Sanchez on January 11th of this year, there is a startling little throwaway. We are embedded with the great general himself, flying over a country which, basically, loves us. He and our reporter look out the window and what do they see?
“On the helicopter's flank, workmen were stringing cables from utility towers, restoring electricity that collapsed during the April looting. ''That's the first time I've seen that; that's great,'' he said.”
Eight months after the looting that caused Rumsfeld some rare and well deserved moments of hilarity, they are getting the cables up again? What about Bremer’s ukase in June of 03?
Must be a momentary glitch. As we all know, at that time, after Saddam’s capture, it was certainly time that the truth be told about Iraq -- about all the GOOD we are doing in Iraq. And this was what the NYT came up with.
On March 1, 2004, NYT headlines more good news: “Iraq Oil Industry Reviving as Output Nears Prewar Levels”.
“Iraq's oil industry has undergone a remarkable turnaround and is now producing and exporting almost as much crude oil as it did before the war, according to officials with the American-led occupation and the Iraqi oil ministry.”
Oddly enough, however, with things going merrily along in April (although that temporary surge in car bombings back in October was proving a little more, hmm, lasting), GE and Bechtel shut down operations:
April 22, 2004:
“Spokesmen for the contractors declined to discuss their operations in Iraq, citing security concerns, but the shutdowns were confirmed by officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, the Coalition Provisional Authority and other companies working directly with G.E. and Siemens in Iraq.
''Between the G.E. lockdown and the inability to get materials moved up the major supply routes, about everything is being affected in one way or another,'' said Jim Hicks, a senior adviser for electricity at the provisional authority.
The suspensions and travel restrictions are delaying work on about two dozen power plants as occupying forces press to meet an expected surge in demand for electricity before the summer. Mr. Hicks said plants that had been expected to produce power by late April or early May might not be operating until June 1.”
Then, as summer heat hovers, our man James Glanz, the same reporter who, the year before, reported on the success of American engineers in restorin’ the infrastructure, files this report on June 9, 2004: