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Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

They meant well

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A long definition of "futility."

A long definition of “futility.”

One of the takeaways from Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well is that billions of dollars were willfully wasted in the chronically short-sighted “Reconstruction” of Iraq. Though for the most part Van Buren is unable to account for where much of that money goes, there are some hints. Here’s one of my favorites, echoing not only Joseph Heller’s Milo Minderbinder, but also a prior post (pp. 66–67):

The Engineer confirmed that the plant processed no sewage, though he and his twenty-eight workers remained on the payroll. He showed us the Korean Daewoo TV and Dell laptop a US Army unit had given him. He watched the TV all day but was not sure what to do with the laptop, so it was unplugged and dusty. He had left the filmy plastic in place on everything, even the TV screen. It made the devices look sad.

Although no redevelopment had been done, the Belgian and Japanese money was still sitting in an account somewhere. However, the Belgian and Japanese governments were not interested in visiting the sewage plant. The Belgians had no embassy in Iraq and seemed a little surprised the project was still on the table. The Japanese rarely left their tidy enclave in the Green Zone and certainly were not coming out to a sewage plant no one remembered promising to pay for in 2004. The Belgian and Japanese engineering companies, on the other hand, were still interested in making money, though neither cared to send any staff to Iraq and instead were soliciting bids from local Iraqis to do the work. The Engineer was confident they would do a good job, because most of the Iraqi companies bidding were fronts for Turkish construction firms, who would bring in Arabic-speaking engineers from Jordan. Proud of this Coalition of the Willing, the Engineer noted that few Iraqis would have an important role on the project. We Americans would help by being the eyes and ears on the ground for the Belgian and Japanese governments, at least until we closed down our ePRT in line with the military drawdown. Bids would arrive in a few months, followed by a three-week evaluation period. (Many of the companies bidding were fronts for the same company in Turkey and would file dummy bids against themselves. The Engineer would try to figure out which bids came from the same company and would then use that information to get the lowest price.) As per the 2004 agreement, the companies would leave behind all of the trucks and heavy construction equipment imported to do the work. The Engineer planned to sell these items to raise money for maintenance.

. . .

Overall, the book would make a good read for your next long commute. Especially enjoyable for those with a darker sense of humor.

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Written by M. James

July 26, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Turkey

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. The security of the country requires a strong domestic Egyptian-cotton speculating industry.

    Luc Issa

    August 3, 2013 at 6:43 am


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