Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Quiet Sunday Morning

The title of this entry sounds like a normal American weekend, doesn't it? Except in the Middle East, the "weekend" is on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is like our Monday. Are you confused yet? It messes me up all the time. So here it is, on a Sunday morning, which is really supposed to be like Monday, and there's nuthin' goin' on. Nothin'. This is Christmas week and many people have gone home for an R&R. And most offices have moved from the old Palace to the new Embassy compound. So right now, it's pretty dead around here. When I rode the bus in to work, there were six people on three buses. A month ago, they'd have been packed.

Things change quickly around here.

Right now we've got two people from my office down in Basrah. We've been building a children's hospital down there for the past couple of years. It'll specialize in cancer cases. Think of it as the Iraqi version of St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. Construction is wrapping up and it'll start serving patients in six months or so. My office partners are at a conference to decide a number of issues to ensure the hospital is completed, staffed, equipped, and opened on schedule.

What's annoying to me is that, with Iraqi provincial elections coming up next month, we (the US) are not getting credit among the general population for efforts like this hospital. Nobody wants to be seen as being a friend of the US. We're spending $34M on the first children's hospital in the country, and it is physically dangerous for Americans to be seen in its vicinity. Meanwhile, Iranian influence in the same region is growing. The reason is that southern Iraq is predominately Shia, like Iran. Iran sends Shia pilgrims to holy sites in Iraq, while Iraqi markets (especially in the south) are becoming dominated by Iranian-supplied stuff. Despite thousands of years of historic strife between Iraq, Iran, and their predecessors, the Iranians have a pretty good PR effort going and are being seen as the good guys. We're being seen as the occupiers, therefore the bad guys.

So if the Iranians are the good guys, where are the hospitals that they're building? Where are the schools? How much effort did they put into rebuilding the Basrah Airport? What did they do to get the port of Umm Qasr reopened? How many electrical power plants did they build? What are they doing to help the Iraqis boost their oil exports? I think you know the answer.

We did a helluva lot to get the infrastructure of this country back (somewhat) on its feet again, even during the civil war. Now Iraq is sorta tottering along on its own two feet. Their ministries have been re-established ... they're often dysfunctional, but they're there. They have money coming in and some in the bank. So if they really wanted some of these things we're building for them, they could hire their own contractors. (Or they could lean on their "friends" the Iranians ... let's see how much support they provide.)

US funds for reconstruction in Iraq are rapidly coming to an end. I say, it's time. There's still a lot of money available in a number of different funding pots, but I'd rather see it spent on American roads, saving American jobs, than in a country that doesn't want our support anymore.

2 comments:

Shea said...

friend, it's prophesy, it's written in the book of Revelations, all you say is true,
anyways,
Merry Christmas

nyx said...

Sir;
I spent over two and a half years in Iraq. From the ports of Umm Qasr & Khor Az Zubayr to Baghdad & Abu Ghraib to Taji. I have seen millions being spent on just the movement, shipping, land transportation and warehousing aspect from the contract I was working on and can say with conviction that all these Ford 250's, 350's, 450's and other trucks, equipment (weapons and ammo) and other essential expensive equipment was all routed thru my sites mentioned above and handed over to the Iraqis.
My point is: You said it right; you are the only government official who has admitted that its the Americans who need the "reconstruction funds for development in America and not Iraq". No Government or USACE (Army Corps of Engg.)official will never admit that, but you did and I am proud that we have people like you who can cut the sycophancy and denial waves.
Lastly my two cents: Iraqi's are ungrateful people, (well, most of them are). They seemed to be entagled in their Shia'a school of thought and shaking hands with Iran who actually hasnt done squat.. oops am wrong here: they have done a lot when it came to fueling the sectarian divide and killing lots of my expat friends.