Note: Part 5 of a six part series. Return to Part I
THE HISTORY OF RECONSTRUCTION & WINNING THE PEACE
Most of the information I use in this section comes from the independent organization U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which is responsible for reconstruction and is the international development arm of the State Department.
The latest attacks on the President by his challenger Senator Kerry have claimed that the winning of the war was brilliant, but Bush failed to plan for winning the peace. I already discussed parts of winning the peace in prior parts of this article. However, at least part of this argument blames Bush for the supposed “slow” pace of reconstruction. This argument is nothing less than unreasonable.
Let me take a quick survey. Everyone who believes that Germany was completely rebuilt within 19 months of the end of World War II, raise your hands. From where I sit, behind my computer screen, I see no hands. And neither of mine are up.
Some of the doubters discuss problems with electricity, but take a quick look at NATO and Bill Clinton’s war – Kosovo. In his otherwise glowing five year assessment, U.S. Aid’s Kosovo Managing Director lamented that KEK (Kosovo’s electric company) is “frustrating everyone with its poor delivery of electricity the past few years.” This is after five years of reconstruction.
Some of the doubters discuss the high unemployment in Iraq, but again take a look at Kosovo after 5 years, “…the economy is still not producing enough jobs and steady incomes. Europe’s youngest population experiences massive unemployment…”
So, Germany was not rebuilt in 19 months nor was Kosovo. People have to be reasonable in their assessment of progress in Iraq.
In 19 short months, over 3 million children under five and 700,000 pregnant women have received vaccinations. Some 2,500 primary health care providers and 700 physicians have received skills training and 2,000 health educators, teachers, religious leaders and youth have been trained to mobilize communities on hygiene, diarrhea, breastfeeding, nutrition and immunization issues. More than 100 primary health care centers have been rehabilitated.
More than 2,400 schools have been rehabilitated, 8.7 million revised math and science textbooks for grades 1 through 12 have been printed, 33,000 teachers and education administrative workers have been trained, nearly all secondary and primary schools are now open along with the country’s 43 technical colleges and 22 universities.
A major wastewater treatment plant in Baghdad began operating in June of 2004. This is the first major plant in the country to operate in over 12 years. In July, August and September 2004 electricity was being generated above pre-war levels. The 833,000 pre-war telephone subscribers has now grown to 1.753 million. There are now 10 times as many Internet subscribers than before the invasion. Over 83% of vital irrigation canals requiring clearing have been cleared.
The food distribution system was activated within 30 days of the invasion avoiding a humanitarian disaster and now 480,000 metric tons of food is being delivered each month. Dredging at the port has been completed to allow access to all 21 berths and now up to 50 ships offload cargo at the port every month. The grainreceiving facility at the port was renovated and can now process 600 metric tons of grain an hour. Additionally, the Baghdad airport has been rehabilitated and now there are 45 commercial (non-military) flights arriving and departing daily.
Additionally, some 200 independent newspapers and magazines have emerged. Election rules are being created and an election public information campaign has begun. More than 70 political parties have been formed. There is an Iraqi governing council, a president and a prime minister running the country. A staggering 745 local governing councils, including 16 governorate councils, 90 district councils, 194 city or sub-district councils, and 445 neighborhood councils, have been established. Iraq touts a fully functioning judiciary. In an August 2004 poll, 88% of Iraqis stated that they planned to vote in the upcoming elections and three-quarters believe the outcome will reflect the will of the Iraqi people.
New Iraqi currency, the new Dinar, was introduced and is stabilizing, which is more than can be said of most Central and South American countries. The Iraq Stock Exchange is up and running and 3.6 billion Iraqi dinars ($2.4 million USD) in shares were traded in the first day. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to local councils for projects they deem important for their communities.
You know, if we were just interested in completing reconstruction quickly to score political points here in the U.S., we could have just done it all ourselves. But, the true goal is to educate, train and finance Iraqis, local governments and national Ministries to do it themselves. And they’re being trained to do it right, not the way they were trained to do it for 30 years under the corrupt Saddam Hussein regime. The Ministries have all been rehabilitated and are actively running the infrastructure of Iraq.
For example, USAID and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been working with Ministry of Electricity (ME) plant managers to identify components of plants for rehabilitation and providing technical and management assistance to ME (Iraqi) maintenance forces for the rehabilitation. If the Bush administration was just concerned with doing it quickly and not concerned with long-term success, we could have sent scores of Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors into Iraq to perform all of the repairs.
More often than not, the easiest and fastest route is not the correct route. Instead of repairing and upgrading all of the electrical infrastructure ourselves, we started by refurbishing and restaffing the Ministry of Electricity. We then allowed the ministry to hire Iraqis to work in the electrical plants and substations around the country. Then we helped train the new employees to properly identify problems in the electrical systems themselves and taught them how to requisition the parts from the Ministry of Electricity. Once the parts were received, the Corps helped the employees make the necessary repairs.
This isn’t reconstructing Iraq, this is teaching Iraqis how to succeed! Remember the old adage… “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
And the Iraqis are, for the most part, being extraordinarily patient but some are understandably a little frustrated. For example, some families pick up donated food items everyday. But these Iraqis don’t know that the port has been dredged to allow for shipments. They don’t realize that the grainreceiving facilities have been renovated to allow for greater capacity. They don’t realize that additional humanitarian aid is coming through the rehabilitated Baghdad International Airport. And, frankly, they don’t care how it gets to them.
Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Because many Americans are suffering from the same tunnel vision with regard to Iraqi reconstruction. Americans don’t see any Iraqis starving, no malnourished children, but they don’t see the dredging, the refurnishing, the renovating, the incoming freighters and cargo planes. And many Americans don’t see the massive amount of planning that went into that very small slice of reconstruction. It really is a pity.