During a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing that asked, “Is Reconstruction in Iraq Failing,” committee chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) discussed several of the problems related to the reconstruction of Iraq. In the fall of 2003 Lantos said that he and Rep. David Obey proposed that half of the reconstruction money being to Iraqis as loans and the other half as grants. “But the Administration and the Republican-led Congress stonewalled the loan plan – which, incidentally, would have preserved some of the reconstruction monies for the U.S. taxpayers who have been paying through the nose every day. There is no accountability. The Iraqis who secure these contracts can essentially take the money and run,” Lantos said.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, has reported numerous times that the U.S. government and the American taxpayers are being ripped off by the lack of accountability in the current reconstruction program. Rep. Lantos cited the following numbers from Bowen’s latest quarterly report. “Iraq loses perhaps $5 billion a year to the waste created by corruption. Only eight primary health centers have been opened, nowhere near the original goal of 150.The country has the capacity to produce just 2 1/2 million barrels of oil per day. Our original goal and promise four years ago was over 3 million. Water projects have made drinkable water available to only 5 1/2 million of the 8 1/2 million people who had been expected to receive it.”

However, Bowen testified that he doesn’t think that the Iraq reconstruction is failing. “This hearing poses the question, “Is Reconstruction Failing?” The short answer is “no”.  Much has been accomplished in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of countless facilities throughout Iraq, and in assisting Iraqis at all levels to take charge, whether in neighborhood or provincial councils or in the national ministries in Baghdad.  Permit me to pay tribute to the dedicated Americans, Iraqis, and other Coalition partners who have strived in incomparably dangerous conditions to advance Iraq’s economic and political recovery,” Bowen said. Bowen also said that the biggest challenge to rebuilding Iraq remains an unstable security situation.

The fatal flaws in the administration’s reconstruction plan are still present today. First, they are spending less than 10% of all spending in Iraq on reconstruction. Second, the plan is too dependant on Western contractors at the expense of not providing jobs to Iraqis who are suffering from 25%-40% unemployment. Third, there is no project accountability in Iraq, so projects are often not completed, poorly constructed, or never attempted. It is difficult to win the hearts and minds of a population when those people still don’t have electricity or clean water over four years after the U.S. invasion.

One of the best ways to quell the insurgency might be to provide services and jobs to the people of Iraq. This should be the role of the Iraqi government, but they are neither capable nor competent enough to undertake such a large task. Corruption is running rampant. According to the General Accounting Office, 100,000-300,000 barrels of oil a day have gone unaccounted for in Iraq, but a new reconstruction plan can be designed, if the security situation is ever improved. The bottom line is the security situation, and we have to come to the realization that, using the current strategy, the United States will not be able to secure or rebuild Iraq any year soon.

Transcript of Lantos remarks

Stuart Bowen draft testimony

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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