As Handover Nears, U.S. Mistakes Loom Large
Harsh Realities Replaced High Ideals After Many Missed Opportunities
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page A01
First of three articles
In many ways, the occupation appears to have transformed the occupier more than the occupied. Iraqis continue to endure blackouts, lengthy gas lines, rampant unemployment and the uncertain political future that began when U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad. But American officials who once roamed the country to share their sense of mission with Iraqis now face such mortal danger that they are largely confined to compounds surrounded by concrete walls topped with razor wire. Iraqis who want to meet them must show two forms of identification and be searched three times.
The Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. entity that has administered Iraq, cites many successes of its tenure. Nearly 2,500 schools have been repaired, 3 million children have been immunized, $5 million in loans have been distributed to small businesses and 8 million textbooks have been printed, according to the CPA. New banknotes have replaced currency with ousted president Saddam Hussein's picture. Local councils have been formed in every city and province. An interim national government promises to hold general elections next January.
But in many key quantifiable areas, the occupation has fallen far short of its goals.
The Iraqi army is one-third the size U.S. officials promised it would be by now. Seventy percent of police officers have not received training. When violence flared across the country this spring, many soldiers and policemen refused to perform their duties because U.S. forces failed to equip them, designate competent leaders and win trust among the ranks.
About 15,000 Iraqis have been hired to work on projects funded by $18.6 billion in U.S. aid, despite promises to use the money to employ at least 250,000 Iraqis by this month. At of the beginning of June, 80 percent of the aid package, approved by Congress last fall, remained unspent.
Electricity generation remains stuck at around 4,000 megawatts, resulting in less than nine hours of power a day to most Baghdad homes, despite pledges from U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to increase production to 6,000 megawatts by June 1.
Iraq's emerging political system is also at odds with original U.S. goals. American officials scuttled plans to remain as the occupying power until Iraqis wrote a permanent constitution and held democratic elections. Instead, Bremer will leave the Iraqis with a temporary constitution, something he repeatedly promised not to do, and an interim government headed by a president who was not the Bush administration's preferred choice.
Iraq = Diminishing expectations and increasing failure. Rat bastids.
Update 08:00: Matt Yglesias has his own take on this subject here.