Report Reveals a Struggling Authority
The title is revealing. "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" is the recently published report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and, as the name suggests, it spares no expense in its piece-by-piece audit of the reconstruction efforts.
From an environmental perspective, the revelations detail a lack of transparency on the part of many of the contracts awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority in the immediate aftermath of the war. One such oversight left the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence- an agency traditionally tasked with environmental protection, pollution clean-up, and resources conservation on behalf of the military- with $42.3 million for non-military construction projects, such as the building of government buildings and pumping stations.
Learning from past "environmental disasters" left from Saddam's torching of 700 oil wells during the Gulf War, authorities did take proactive steps to stop such hazards from happening again. $7 billion was awarded to Kellogg, Brown, and Root to ensure that oil well fires would be quickly capped to minimize environmental damage. By all accounts, the operation was a success- even the report calls it "good news"- and quotes Gary Vogler, an oil advisor to the CPA, who calls it "fantastic planning." Nonetheless, vandals and looters quickly stripped most of the oil infrastructure of vital parts, adding to the ultimate repair costs.
The country's electrical grid has suffered a similar fate- by the time coalition forces reached many power plants they found that a combination of looting and poor management had made most of the plants hazardous, degraded, and stripped "of all almost environmental controls." By 2004, the report details that 66 repair and upgrade projects were ongoing within the country's electrical infrastructure.
The report is unsparing in its analysis and recommendation,and will likely be scrutinized and picked apart in the coming days by journalists and policy makers alike. Lessons of an environmental, public health, and ecologically safe nature will likely take longer to be gleaned, but they are numerous and they are there, waiting to grappled with.
-Equatorial Press Staff Report. Photo Courtesy of Toushiro.