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Sunday, June 29, 2003


The hawks have been saying, for months, that reconstruction is on schedule. That it is moving forward. That things are getting better in Iraq.

What we need to test these propositions is some comparison. A nice one is with the reconstruction that happened after 1991.

In 1991, the Iraqi infrastructure was much more damaged than it was this last April. Yet, as has been pointed out by Iraqis, the electricity came on-line quicker under Saddam:

"After security, one of the most common complaints of postwar Baghdad residents has been unreliable electricity.

"Why is the electricity only on eight hours a day?" one resident asked last week. "In 1991, Saddam had the electricity on sooner than this, and all the power stations were bombed."

Another two enlightening grafs from the same article:

"In 1991, the damage was much greater because the damage was concentrated not only on the substations but the power stations," said Adnan Wadi Bashir, who worked as a power generation and transmission engineer for the government for 24 years. "Most of the attacks were on the transmission lines, and the repair of these is much easier. We restored part of the power in 1991 within six weeks of the ceasefire and we supplied the whole Iraqi system without any shortage in five months. The job now could have been finished within a month" of April 12.

Starting literally from scratch, engineers in 1991 managed to generate about 1000 MW of power six weeks after the war ended, Bashir said. Last week, nearly eight weeks after the American effort began, about 3450 MW were available countrywide, 1000 MW less than were available before the invasion."

Admittedly, tyrants are always reputed to make the trains run on time. But we suspect that the real difference is that in 1991, the Iraqis weren't being second guessed by a bunch of advisors largely shipped over from a foreign country and possessing, among them, skills in basic Arabic that a five year old Iraqi could easily overshadow. There's an incalculable advantage in having on-site people do on-site work. And if advice is necessary, the people giving the advice should have something at stake.

We've often gone on, and on, about letting Iraqis run Iraq. Here's a corollary to that position: if we have advisors in place in government agencies, or actual order givers, those people should be paid out of the same funds, and using the same scale, as their Iraqi colleagues.

This would be the simplest way to align the interests of the Americans with the interests of the Iraqis.

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