Sorry Mr. Bush: Iraq worse off, says GAO. Do they hate America, too?
What electricity problem? Isn't Iraq better off without Saddam?
Iraq is worse off than before the war began, GAO reports
By Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - In a few key areas - electricity, the judicial system and overall security - the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released Tuesday.
The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. Among its findings:
-In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.
-Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with another $10 billion about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.
-The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.
-The new Iraqi civil defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.
-The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.
The report was released on the same day that the CPA's inspector general issued three reports that highlighted serious management difficulties at the CPA. The reports found that the CPA wasted millions of dollars at a Hilton resort hotel in Kuwait because it didn't have guidelines for who could stay there, lost track of how many employees it had in Iraq and didn't track reconstruction projects funded by international donors to ensure they didn't duplicate U.S. projects.
Both the GAO report and the CPA report said that the CPA was seriously understaffed for the gargantuan task of rebuilding Iraq. The GAO report suggested the agency needed three times more employees than what it had. The CPA report said the agency believed it had 1,196 employees, when it was authorized to have 2,117. But the inspector general said CPA's records were so disorganized that it couldn't verify its actual number of employees.
GAO Comptroller General David Walker blamed insurgent attacks for many of the problems in Iraq. "The unstable security environment has served to slow down our rebuilding and reconstruction efforts and it's going to be of critical importance to provide more stable security," Walker told Knight Ridder Newspapers in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"There are a number of significant questions that need to be asked and answered dealing with the transition (to self-sovereignty)," Walker said. "A lot has been accomplished and a lot remains to be done."
The GAO report is the first government assessment of conditions in Iraq at the end of the U.S. occupation. It outlined what it called "key challenges that will affect the political transition" in 10 specific areas.
The GAO gave a draft of the report to several different government agencies, but only the CPA offered a major comment: It said the report "was not sufficiently critical of the judicial reconstruction effort."
"The picture it paints of the facts on the ground is one that neither the CPA nor the Bush administration should be all that proud of," said Peter W. Singer, a national security scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution. "It finds a lot of problems and raises a lot of questions."
One of the biggest problems, Singer said, is that while money has been pledged and allocated, not much has been spent. The GAO report shows that very little of the promised international funds - most of which are in loans - has been spent or can't be tracked. The CPA's inspector general found the same thing.
"When we ask why are things not going the way we hoped for," Singer said, "the answer in part of this is that we haven't actually spent what we have in pocket."
He said the figures on electricity "make me want to cry."
But they're free, right? Free to sit in the dark, free to be raped, shot, and robbed from gangs and free to be shot by American soldiers and their Iraqi auxilliaries. Freedom's just another word for no public services, a CIA puppet proto-dictator, and an American ambassador who had no problems with the rape and murder of nuns. Where do I get my ticket to Baghdad. It sounds like paradise to me.
posted by Steve @ 3:35:00 PM