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14 Mar, 2013

FREE Download: U.S. Report Reveals “Countless Details” of Rebuilding Iraq at US$15 mln a day

A final report on the rebuilding of Iraq following the March 2003 U.S./U.K.-led attack issued by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) has unveiled “countless details” about the mess that resulted, costing U.S. taxpayers an average of US$15 million a day. Released just before the 10th anniversary of the attack on 20 March 2003, the clinical, dispassionate and extremely honest analysis is actually designed as a score-card to ensure oversight over public funds. In reality, it has confirmed the importance of the Wikileaks whistleblowing effort, proved right all the critics of the Iraq war and invited further scrutiny of the most important question: Was it worth the cost and the price?

Scroll down to read the following stories:

Commentary: What Lessons Can Travel & Tourism Learn from Iraq?

Never forget: Comments by U.K. and U.S. leaders to “sell” the Iraq war

FREE Download: Global Survey Shows Perceptions Of U.S. Leadership Slipping Steadily

Entitled, “Learning From Iraq: A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction,” the report does, however, prove that some arms of the United States’ government still adhere to the democratic principles of introspection and self-examination designed to enhance accountability and prevent abuse of power. A culmination of the Special Inspector General’s mission overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction, the report serves as a follow-up to a previous review of the rebuilding effort which was entitled, “Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience.”

This report however, goes further. In the preface, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr. the Special Inspector General, writes that it “provides much more than a recapitulation of what the reconstruction program accomplished. It importantly captures the effects of the rebuilding program as derived from 44 interviews with the recipients (the Iraqi leadership), the executors (U.S. senior leaders), and the providers (congressional members). These interviews piece together an instructive picture of what was the largest stabilization and reconstruction operation ever undertaken by the United States (until recently overtaken by Afghanistan).”

He adds, “The body of this report reveals countless details about the use of more than $60 billion in taxpayer dollars to support programs and projects in Iraq. It articulates numerous lessons derived from SIGIR’s 220 audits and 170 inspections, and it lists the varying consequences meted out from the 82 convictions achieved through our investigations. It urges and substantiates necessary reforms that could improve stabilization and reconstruction operations, and it highlights the financial benefits accomplished by SIGIR’s work: more than $1.61 billion from audits and over $191 million from investigations.”

Worth reading in detail, the report will leave people bewildered. According to Mr. Bowen, the audits, inspections and investigations had two common objectives: 1) to deter the misuse of taxpayer dollars through the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse; and 2) to promote improved economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the Iraq reconstruction program. However, the report admits that the reconstruction program “provided a plethora of lessons about what happens when stabilization and reconstruction operations commence without sufficient systemic support in place.” That confirms the warnings sounded amidst the huge global controversy which preceded the attack and the delusionary nature of insistence by the U.S. and U.K. leaders that they were doing the right thing.

Coining the phrase “adhocracy,” the report says, “The program faced an array of daunting challenges, pushing up costs in blood and treasure and pushing out the timeline for departure (of U.S. troops). Those challenges included a deteriorating security situation, conflicting departmental approaches, poor unity of command, weak unity of effort, and a parade of ad hoc management entities that came and went with little accountability.

“Reconstruction managers and contracting authorities faced complicated decisions, unprecedented challenges, and limiting restrictions as they planned, executed, and oversaw multifarious efforts to create a free, sovereign, and democratic Iraq. A succession of diverse, largely improvised entities ultimately managed more than $60 billion in U.S. appropriations and billions more in Iraqi funds to execute more than 90,000 contracting actions.”

In one of its most revealing comments, the report says, “When Ret Lt-Gen Jay M. Garner (former head of a briefly created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance) subsequently told Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that the United States might need to spend “billions of dollars” to rebuild Iraq, the Secretary responded, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

The actual results are outlined in this report. Here are some excerpts:

(+) In 2003, prewar planners anticipated a rapid transfer of power to a new Iraqi government after Saddam’s removal, with a hoped-for minimal disruption in government services. This calculation proved off the mark. Postwar looting and the exodus of government bureaucrats from public service—both voluntary and involuntary—caused a complete collapse in governance capacities. The country’s broken system required a virtually complete reconstruction, literally and figuratively.

(+) During his initial visits to Iraq in 2004, the Inspector General heard conflicting stories about U.S.-funded stabilization and reconstruction projects. On the one hand, U.S. agencies and private construction companies commonly reported construction projects as success stories. But many Iraqis and some U.S. military and civilian personnel privately registered strong complaints about the program. They pointed to unwanted projects and to equipment that was either too sophisticated for the Iraqis to use or of very poor quality.

SIGIR auditors began to discover inadequately designed projects, which were poorly constructed and unsustainable. With billions of taxpayer dollars at stake, the Inspector General took action to expand SIGIR’s oversight capacity. In June 2005, he created the Inspections Directorate to assess and report on reconstruction work by visiting project sites.

(+) As of September 2012, the United States had obligated $67.7 million for U.S. anticorruption efforts in Iraq, just under half funded by the INCLE ($31.8 million) with the remainder coming from the IRRF ($36.0 million). Despite this support for the fight against corruption, apparently little changed between 2003 and 2012.  As depicted in Figure 5.18 (in the main report), Iraq has been consistently perceived as being among the most corrupt countries in the world.

(+) If USOCO had existed at the outset of the Iraq program, the United States might have avoided wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, the unity of effort that USOCO presumably could have applied would have ensured better effect from the massive outlays in Iraq. Ultimately, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the CPA, and the entire adhocracy became necessary because no established structure existed in 2003 to manage SROs. That void still largely exists.

(+) In Iraq, no U.S. government office possessed sufficient authority to lead the reconstruction program. The U.S. approach amounted to an adhocracy, which failed to coalesce into a coherent whole. Some lessons learned were applied along the way, but those were temporary fixes.

(+) The Iraq reconstruction program’s improvised nature, its constant personnel turnover, and its shifting management regimes forced U.S. strategy to change speed and course continually, wasting resources along the way and exposing taxpayer dollars to fraud and abuse. Management and funding gaps caused hundreds of projects to fall short of promised results, leaving a legacy of bitter dissatisfaction among many Iraqis.

(+) Iraq’s economy in 2012 was dominated by the oil sector. About 98% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings come directly from the sale of crude oil. Because the oil sector provides only 1% of the country’s jobs, unemployment—estimated to be well above the official rate of 15%–18%—is a significant problem.511

The precise impact of the $1.8 billion the United States spent to revive the non-oil sectors of Iraq’s economy is difficult to assess because there was little follow-up documentation available to measure its effectiveness. More than nine years after the start of the reconstruction program, Iraq is still far from having a vibrant, market-based private sector. A March 2011 IMF review of Iraq’s economy projected Iraq’s non-oil economy would produce just over 1.6% of the country’s exports in 2012.512 Fundamental structural impediments—vis-à-vis an entirely state-owned oil sector afflicted by corruption—make it unlikely that Iraq’s non-oil economy will see much near-term expansion.

(+) The CPA approved 38 specific projects under the program but an audit carried out by the USAID OIG near the end of the first year found the program had been slowed by security problems and a “unique” management structure. Among those dampened projects was an ambitious effort to introduce a sophisticated budget control system into the Ministry of Finance.

As the difficulties in carrying out reconstruction operations in Iraq became apparent, the United States implemented a variety of strategies to remedy weaknesses, but a permanent solution never emerged. The current fix, embodied by the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, has limited resources and a conflict-prevention focus. It probably will not bring about the kind of large-scale interagency integration for SROs required for future success.

(+) The largest individual healthcare construction project was the Basrah Children’s Hospital, which USAID awarded to Bechtel in 2004 for $50 million. The project would eventually cost $165 million. The hospital was envisioned as a 94-bed, “state-of-the-art” pediatric oncology hospital that would serve southern Iraq. During the planning stages, USAID and Project HOPE signed a memorandum of understanding, providing that the U.S government would be responsible for construction of the hospital, while Project HOPE would be responsible for installing advanced medical equipment and training medical staff.

Work moved slowly. Deteriorating security, bad site conditions, and poor contractor performance pushed up costs and pushed out the completion date. By 2008, the contractor had been terminated, and new funding poured in. Construction was completed in 2010, and the hospital opened for limited treatment in October of that year. But in late 2012, USACE still had several ongoing ESF-funded projects for equipment procurement, installation, and training.

(+) Insurgent attacks in 2006 spiked, particularly in western Iraq. While Sunni tribes supported the growth of al-Qaeda in Iraq—the chief catalyst of renewed violence—attacks began to hit local citizens, particularly in Anbar province. This caused some Sunni leaders to seek cooperation with Coalition forces in what came to be called the “Anbar Awakening.” DoD credited these leaders with helping to improve security in tribal areas.

To advance the Awakening, Multi-National Corps-Iraq began to award CERP contracts in June 2007 chiefly to employ Sunnis. The leaders agreed to keep their people off the battlefield in exchange for CERP-funded jobs providing security for buildings, checkpoints, and neighborhoods.

This effort, known as the “Sons of Iraq” program, entailed approximately 780 separate agreements calling for the stationing of almost 100,000 in 9 provinces across Iraq. The sheer number of agreements and personnel involved made this the largest CERP program in Iraq. SIGIR noted in its review of the SOI program that the contracting process, which spent $370 million in CERP funds, was far from transparent. Financial controls were weak, program managers could not tell whether SOI members received their U.S.-funded salaries, and Defense was unable to provide any evaluations of the program’s outcomes.

The report does make a few omissions. For example, it says, “After the invasion, USACE surveyed Iraq’s oil infrastructure, estimating that combat operations and the looting that followed caused $1.4 billion in damage: $457 million from military action and $943 million from post-war depredations. Moreover, years of neglect during the Saddam era had left major pieces of the infrastructure in need of urgent maintenance. Repairing the oil system to a level that could support the CPA’s production and export goals would require at least $1.7 billion.” However, it does not mention that one major reason for the degraded state of the infrastructure was the economic sanctions imposed for years by the U.S. through the U.N.

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Commentary: What Lessons Can Travel & Tourism Learn from Iraq?

The travel & tourism industry pays much attention to the Arab spring, but not to the consequences of the war in Iraq? Why? And is it about time for that to change?

The report mentioned above begins with a dedication: “For all those lost in Iraq.” It quotes a Bruce Cockburn couplet: “Each one lost is everyone’s loss you see, Each one lost is a vital part of you and me.” Moreover, the two reports issued by the U.S. Special Inspector General begin with the title, “Learning From Iraq” and “Hard Lessons from Iraq.” Assuming that the choice of words is intended to convey a message, it behooves anyone of conscience to try and pinpoint what lessons are to be learnt and what was really lost, especially in terms of the human tragedy.

As an official document demanded by the legally-mandated accountability process, the report has to adhere to the highest standards of fact-gathering. By connecting the dots, the SIGIR report puts the entire 10-year aftermath of the Iraq war into one proper whole, complete with historical context and timeline which in one instance cites Iraq’s oil production and goes back to the Oct 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the Arab oil embargo.

A deeper examination shows that the “countless details” revealed are in fact a confirmation of the revelations in the Wikileaks cables. The report also proves right the anti-war criticism of Michael Moore, Hans Blix, Scott Ritter and hundreds of other activists, diplomats and officials and also upholds the efforts of whistleblowers such Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. It helps explain why every effort had to be made to cover-up the screw-ups by creating this monster called “embedded journalists”.

Travel Impact Newswire has been the only travel trade publication to consistently seek accountability about the total cost and the price paid for the Iraq war. The travel & tourism industry has never bothered to question the consequences. Beyond just the decline in travel & tourism in 2003, the entire industry has paid a huge price for fighting the so-called “war on terror” – visa restrictions, racial profiling, higher security costs, and much more. In a blatant show of industry hypocrisy, forums such as the ITB Berlin will put the “Arab spring” and the “Arab rebellion” on the agenda, but not the “Iraq war and its consequences.” Climate change is having the same impact on travel & tourism as the geopolitics of regime change.

Going through the report, it will be difficult to find anything that will justify the Iraq adventure or its price-tag. Yes, things were bad under the Saddam regime. It was a ruthless dictatorship with no rule of law, media freedoms or human rights. But today 10 years later, the SIGIR report indicates that one set of problems have been replaced by another. For example, although the report highlights rampant corruption in Iraq before the attack, there is also plenty of corruption within the ranks of the U.S. contractors and military itself. Many of these security contractors are now enhancing their revenue streams supplying products and services to the travel & tourism sector.

If the report is designed to help the U.S. learn the lessons of this adventure, the biggest mistake it can now make is to not learn those lessons, and to repeat the same mistakes. Indeed, the most dangerous part of the report is that it does not specifically say the United States should never again get militarily involved in countries. Instead, it asserts that although there was a Plan A, there was no Plan B, and the next step should be to fix that. Moreover, the report’s terms of reference do not require it to answer the two most important questions: 1) Beyond simply the monetary costs, what were the huge social, environmental, cultural and most importantly, human, costs. And 2) who should be held responsible?

Today, the price is still being paid. U.S. military operations and drones are still active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Billions of dollars are still being consumed by defence and homeland security. If all that money, time and effort was poured constructively into building highways, road, bridges, and meeting the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by their 2015 deadline, would the world be a more stable, peaceful place? Would the travel & tourism industry benefit? If so, why don’t industry leaders have the guts to demand some answers? They are more than happy to rail at governments over minor issues like an Air Passenger Duty but not about more serious crises that have a much wider impact.

The SIGIR report will fuel debate about the role of the United States as the world’s policeman, judge, jury and executioner in a changing world order. The real war has only just started, the war for the truth about the war in Iraq. Eventually, the truth will emerge that the attack had nothing to do weapons of mass destruction, removing Saddam Hussein or spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East. It was designed to serve the interests of Israel, the powerful energy companies, and the military-industrial complex. Perhaps Bradley Manning and Julian Assange can be silenced temporarily but Satyamev Jayate (Sanskrit for “Truth Triumphs”). That’s when the Arab spring will be replaced by an American spring.

Never Forget: Comments by U.K. and U.S. leaders to “sell” the Iraq war

Former U.S. President George W Bush Jr., State of the Union address, Jan 29, 2003

The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hasn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.

Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.


George W Bush Jr’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute, February 28, 2003.

In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world — and we will not allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country — and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.


Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack straw statement to the UN Security Council on February 4, 2003

United and determined, we gave Iraq a final opportunity to rid itself of its weapons of mass terror, of gases which can poison thousands in one go; of bacilli and viruses like anthrax and smallpox which can disable and kill by the tens of thousands; of the means to make nuclear weapons which can kill by the million.

By resolution 1441 we strengthened inspections massively. The only missing ingredient was full Iraqi compliance – immediate, full and active cooperation.

But the truth is – and we all know this – without that full and active cooperation, inspections in a country as huge as Iraq, however strong the inspectors’ powers, could never be sure of finding all Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Sadly the inspectors’ reports last week and secretary Powell’s presentation today can leave us under no illusions about Saddam Hussein’s response. Saddam Hussein holds UNSCR 1441 in the same contempt as all previous resolutions in respect of Iraq.


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the BBC website, 4 april 2003

“The one thing that I want to make absolutely clear is that at the end of this, Iraq is not going to be run by Americans or by Britons, or by any other outside power.

“As soon as the process of transition is over, it’s going to be run by Iraqi people and a broad, representative government, not a small clique, an elite around someone like Saddam.”


Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington DC, March 30, 2003

And let there be no doubt about the outcome. We will drive Saddam and his regime from power. We will liberate Iraq. We will remove the shadow of Saddam’s terrible weapons from Israel and the Middle East, and we will keep them from the hands of terrorists who would threaten the entire civilized world.


Tony Blair answers questions from the public via the Independent, UK


Q. How can you reconcile a pre-emptive attack on Iraq with your Christian beliefs, especially in view of the pressure from church leaders around the world? – Helen O’Sullivan, 35, Hertfordshire

Blair: Of course, my beliefs and values are obviously hugely important to me. I would never go into a war if I thought it were morally wrong or if I thought it was not in the best interests of this country.

I have never claimed to have a monopoly of wisdom but, just as I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who oppose military action, I hope they will understand that I believe equally firmly that the international community can’t let Saddam’s defiance continue.

As I have said, I hope, even now, that military conflict can be avoided. We have gone out of our way to give Saddam another chance to disarm peacefully though this means he would stay in power. It is up to him whether he takes this chance.

Sending our forces into action is the hardest decision any prime minister ever makes. I’ve done it twice in major conflicts, and, there was opposition and understandable concern on both occasions.

The first time was when our forces intervened in Kosovo to halt the barbaric ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Albanians, who were Muslims, at the hands of Milosevic, another brutal dictator. The international community had tried hard by peaceful means to control the orgy of killing and expulsions that he had unleashed on the Balkans but failed.

Our military action was not without mistakes. Innocent people died. I deeply regret that. But the ethnic cleansing was halted. Milosevic was kicked out by the Serbs and is now on trial for war crimes. The Balkans now has the chance for a better future. I don’t think anyone could fairly say we were wrong to intervene.

And in Afghanistan, we have given people the chance to build a better future. They have a long, long way to go. But the Taliban, one of the most repressive regimes seen in modern times, has been removed. The al-Qa’ida training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed, their network disrupted, their leaders killed, captured or on the run. Girls are going back to school. Life is still very hard but I don’t think one could say their chance of a peaceful and prosperous future is not better now than before we intervened.

Both these conflicts were controversial. Both led to innocent people being killed. But, I can say that, despite the difficulties and what went wrong, we did the right thing. And I would never commit British forces to any action unless I was confident we were acting for the right reasons and that, at the end of it, the world would be a safer and better place.


Read a brief Wikipedia history of the opposition to the war


FREE Download: Global Survey Shows Perceptions Of U.S. Leadership Slipping Steadily

The image of U.S. leadership worldwide was weaker at the end of President Obama’s fourth year in office than at any point during his first administration — having never regained the momentum lost in 2010, according to the U.S.-Global Leadership Track, claimed to be the largest global public opinion study of views about U.S. leadership.

Said a report issued on March 12, “This shift suggests that Obama and new Secretary of State John Kerry may not find global audiences as receptive to advancing the U.S. agenda as they have in the past. In fact, they may even find audiences increasingly critical — even in key partner countries. Europe led the declines between 2011 and 2012 — with losses in approval largely outnumbering any gains.”

The U.S.-Global Leadership Track included 130 countries and areas in 2012, slightly fewer than the 136 surveyed in 2011 but still representative of 98% of the world’s adult population. Median approval of U.S. leadership across these 130 countries stood at 41%, down from 46% in 2011. Looking at approval in 120 countries surveyed in both 2011 and 2012, the median still declined from 45% to 41%.

On a positive note, the report says these approval ratings for the most part are still above those at the end of the last Bush administration.

The U.S.-Global Leadership Project is a joint effort between the Meridian International Center and Gallup to provide a comprehensive assessment of how world residents view U.S. leadership. The project combines Gallup’s unique global opinion data from more than 150 countries with Meridian’s leadership-focused context to create a powerful and useful barometer.

The U.S.-Global Leadership Project gives public- and private-sector leaders a better understanding of what is driving global views of U.S. leadership, creates a context for collaboration on how to improve those views, and enhances U.S. public and private global engagement efforts.

This year’s report is the fourth in an annual series and includes U.S. leadership approval data from 130 countries that Gallup surveyed during the last year of President Barack Obama’s first administration.

Gallup has been asking residents worldwide to rate the leadership of the U.S. since 2005, providing a comparison of how perceptions of U.S. leadership change over time and from administration to administration.

According to the report, this year’s results show U.S. leadership faces increasing challenges as it attempts to build engagement worldwide, and in many places, this job may be even tougher than it has been in the past. U.S. leadership thus far has been unable to recoup the favor it lost among audiences in key countries in 2011 and has continued to lose support in many places.

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2011 in 136 countries and 2012 in 130 countries. Measures based on aggregates of multiple surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012 are noted in the report. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 percentage points to ±4.8 percentage points.

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