Global Policy Forum

Reconstruction of Iraq



Picture Credit: Foreign Policy

Reconstruction has made scant progress in war-torn Iraq since the March 2003 US invasion. Continuing US military operations against the Iraqi resistance have destroyed urban centers such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Najaf and are likely to cause still more damage. The resistance, in turn, has sabotaged Iraq's oil installations. Though US reconstruction efforts have partly rebuilt Iraq's electricity system, Iraq's broad economy has virtually collapsed and many factories and warehouses have been sacked and gutted. In the absence of security, neither Iraqis nor foreigners are interested in investing, while the no-bid Pentagon reconstruction contracts have achieved remarkably little.

Faced with resistance threats, many foreign contracting firms have left and international development NGOs have withdrawn from Iraq as well. Little foreign aid has arrived, as skeptical donor governments keep their distance. The United States, keen to improve its tarnished image, cannot spend its own reconstruction funds fast enough to make real progress. This section covers these and many other aspects of reconstruction, including Iraq's debt burden and negotiations for debt cancellation, as well as US insistence on a radically deregulated and liberalized Iraqi economy, ready for the eventual investments of the multinational oil giants.

GPF Perspectives

See GPF Report on Iraq: Corruption, Fraud and Gross Malfeasance (June 2007)

Under the control or influence of US authorities, public funds in Iraq have been drained by massive corruption and stolen oil, leaving the country unable to provide basic services and incapable of rebuilding. Billions of dollars have disappeared. To avoid accountability, the US and UK undercut the UN-mandated International Advisory and Monitoring Board. Iraq has suffered from stolen cash, padded contracts, cronyism, bribes and kickbacks, waste and incompetence, as well as shoddy and inadequate contract performance. Major contractors, mostly politically-connected US firms, have made billions in profits.


2009 |2008 | 2007 | Archived Articles


Iraq's "Teflon Don"- The New Fallujah Up Close and Still in Ruins(February 12, 2009)

Four years after the US military assault in Fallujah, the city remains in ruins. This article describes the dynamics behind the business of reconstruction in Iraq. The US bought off former resistance fighters and members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party in order to gain political and financial leverage. As these fighters saw their power eroding locally, they were keen on collaborating with the occupiers. The US therefore backed private militias and put millions of dollars in their pockets instead of using the money for reconstruction. (TomDispatch)


Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders (December 14, 2008)

A federal report says the American-led US$100 billion reconstruction of Iraq was a failure due to the Pentagon's hostility to rebuilding a foreign country and its inability to understand Iraqi society. The report claims the US reconstruction effort did not do much more than restore much of what the US occupation destroyed. (New York Times)

Five Years On, Fallujah in Tatters (April 14, 2008)

US policy produces tensions in Fallujah by "causing power struggles between tribal chiefs and US-funded Awakening groups." Fallujah continues to suffer after US military attacks in November 2004, as curfews and the lack of medical facilities plague the city. Many citizens of Fallujah see the lack of reconstruction in the area as punishment for their opposition to occupation. (Inter Press Service)


Cholera Crisis Hits Baghdad (December 2, 2007)

Numerous Iraqis have died from an outbreak of cholera in Baghdad. Reports indicate that up to 100 people have died from the disease and witnesses fear that with the rainy season approaching and the lack of water and sewerage infrastructure that there could be an epidemic. UNICEF suggests only one in three Iraqi children have access to safe water- with streets and waterways polluted with raw sewerage and garbage. The waterborne disease is preventable through treatment with chlorine and improved hygiene. (Observer)

Iraqis' Quality of Life Marked By Slow Gains, Many Setbacks (November 30, 2007)

According to an unpublished US military poll on the quality of life in Iraq, Iraqis are unsatisfied with the provision of basic services, particularly water, gas, electricity and sanitation systems. The poll suggests that overall the conditions are worsening with some areas of Iraq receiving only 11 hours of electricity per day. While commentators suggest that it is difficult to gain accurate data on improvements in security, some witnesses argue that "it was definitely so much better for us before the war…we were never suffering the way we are now." The Pentagon is set to release a progress report to Congress in early December 2007, but this poll suggests that life in Iraq is far from "normal." (Washington Post)

Iraqi Police Academy Remains Largely Unusable (November 6, 2007)

A US contractor, Parsons Corporation, testified before Congress that it would reconstruct the dilapidated Baghdad police academy. A year later in 2007 the academy still represents the failure of the Bush administration’s US$45 billion reconstruction program. Witnesses say the plumbing does not work, there are deep cracks in the walls and ceilings are stained with sewerage. Inspectors blame the contractor for using poor quality concrete and pipes and the case has been referred to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to investigate possible fraud. Commentators criticize the reconstruction as it shows "wasteful spending and incompetent oversight." (New York Times)

Iraq Dam ‘At Risk of Collapse' (October 30, 2007)

Mismanagement and alleged fraud relating to a US$27 million reconstruction project of Iraq's largest dam has resulted in no progress in repairing the structure. A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction finds that "fundamental flaws" including seepage and erosion render the Mosul dam "the most dangerous dam in the world." Some commentators predict more than 500,000 people are at risk, as the collapse of the dam may cause a flood wave 20 meters deep in Mosul and flooding along the Tigris River to Baghdad. (BBC)

We Tried to Rebuild Iraq Based on Info in the 1994 Lonely Planet Guide Book (October 28, 2007)

A former US ambassador claims that when she was sent to Iraq to coordinate efforts to reconstruct the country she was provided with no information on how to undertake the task. Barbara Bodine was one of 170 US officials sent to Iraq after the invasion in 2003. She says that the officials consulted a 1994 Lonely Planet tourist guide on Iraq in order to gain "essential information on the economy, the Government and important buildings and embassies." This reveals the lack of commitment and planning by the US to rebuild the country. (Sunday Mirror)

Iraq's Hired Hands Under Fire as the Pot of Gold Starts to Run Low (September 22, 2007)

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 saw an unprecedented hiring of private security contractors into positions once dominated by the military. According to the Guardian the boom for private security firms is coming to an end due to incidents with US firm, Blackwater, the "aggressive end of the market," and the tightening of US funding into Iraqi reconstruction projects. The annual global value of contracts with private military companies is estimated at £44.5billion. Commentators believe that while US funding will not match previous amounts, there are still profits in Iraq for security companies. Aegis, a British firm secured a two year US$475 million contract for "reconstruction security support services" – the largest single deal in Iraq.

Iraqi Insurgents Taking Cut of US Rebuilding Money (August 27, 2007)

McClatchy Newspapers reveals that insurgents have extorted a large amount of US reconstruction funds through bribes and kickbacks to allow the safe passage of supplies through the roads they control. In order to cover such "insurgent taxes," Iraqi contractors inflate their price "up to four times" higher than what the actual reconstruction costs. As a result, reconstruction projects have been delayed and left unfinished. While the US government insists it puts measures in place to ensure the accountability of its reconstruction projects in Iraq, Fawzi Hariri, a member of the Iraqi cabinet, says the US rarely consults its Iraqi contractors to investigate how much money is spent on the reconstruction project, and where the money is going.

Those Who Blow Whistle on Contractor Fraud in Iraq Face Penalties (August 24, 2007)

The reconstruction of Iraq has been plagued with fraud, inflated contract costs, corruption and the disappearance of US$8.8 billion in Congressional funds. Despite the lack of accountability, many military officers, contractors and employees who have attempted to disclose cases of corruption have been fired or demoted. One senior adviser to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition says there are no happy outcomes for those who have blown the whistle. (Santa Barbara News Press)

Bechtel Meets Goals on Fewer Than Half of Its Iraq Rebuilding Projects, Study Finds (July 26, 2007)

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq created profitable opportunities for US corporations. The US government awarded billions of dollars to contractors working in Iraq, yet most of the country's infrastructure remains dilapidated – largely due to corporate misspending, corruption and a lack of oversight. According to an audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, only ten of the 24 job orders procured by US construction giant Bechtel "met their original objectives." (New York Times)

US Authority Accused of Ignoring Allies in Iraq (June 16 2007)

British Director of Operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and veteran of reconstructions in Bosnia and Kosovo, Andrew Bearpark, accuses the UK of "being complicit in Iraq's current position as a failed state" and qualifies "the absence of proper planning in Iraq as criminal negligence." He describes the CPA as a "US government department," deploring the fact that the US consistently rejected British attempts to become joint occupying power under the Geneva Convention. Bearpark calls for an official inquiry into the failure of postwar planning and an early British troop drawdown. (Guardian)

Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq, US Study Says (May 12, 2007)

According to a draft report released by the US Government Accountability Office and energy analysts, between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq's oil are unaccounted for. The loss of Iraqi oil could be explained by sabotage of pipelines, theft by smugglers, and corrupt US officials. The US government has spent roughly US$ 9 billion in rebuilding the electricity and oil sectors with no success to date. While Washington has been unable to fix the oil meters, Iraq continues to lose billions of dollars a year in revenue. (New York Times)

Iraq Loses $8 Billion Through Corruption (April 4, 2007)

The US and Iraqi government have spent improperly billions of dollars of reconstruction and corruption is widespread across the country. The leader of the Iraqi Public Integrity Commission said that the Iraqi government wasted US$8 billion since 2003 and that he started receiving death threats after opening an investigation over the Oil Ministry Employees. Further, an audit released by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction revealed that the U$300 billion US war and reconstruction effort was plagued with waste and corruption. As an example of mismanagement, the auditors cite 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size swimming pool in a residential camp for police training. (Associated Press)

Iraq: Follow the Money (April 2007)

The US Department of State and USAID boast about the progress of reconstruction in Iraq, but this article presents another view. It points out that US agencies have misallocated money, allowed shabby construction and in some cases completely failed to exercise contract oversight. When private and UN auditors accused US agencies of corruption, Washington blamed failures in reconstruction on the lack of security. (Le Monde diplomatique)

Fixing Iraq (March 26, 2007)

The reconstruction of Iraq has seen scant progress to date and the country's electricity, water, sewage and health system infrastructure has worsened since 2003. Although the US government has spent roughly U$ 38 billion in aid in Iraq, most of the money was allocated to the reform of the Iraqi Army and Police instead of civilian reconstruction. Further, Washington did not plan the rebuilding of Iraq, wasting most of the money on misplaced priorities and sending understaffed and under-qualified reconstruction teams to the country. According to a former USAID official, the Iraqis were not consulted in this process and the reconstruction projects do no truly reflect their needs. (Foreign Policy In Focus)

Why You Should Care About the World Bank and Iraq (March 13, 2007)

This Bank Information Centre article reveals that, in order to push for a resumption of its activities in Iraq, the World Bank tried to suppress the news that one of its employees was shot in the country. However, the World Bank is going against its own conditions for engagement which outline that the organization cannot operate in countries with ongoing conflicts and where staff cannot travel safely. The enormous attention given by the World Bank to Iraq in comparison to other countries suggests the president of the organization, Paul Wolfowitz, is using its role to promote US geopolitical interests.

US Asks Us to Pick Up Litter While City Is in Ruins, Says Mayor of Baghdad (March 4, 2007)

This Telegraph article points out that US reconstruction of Iraq has had no success to date. Although Washington has spent US$22 billion on reconstruction in the country, Baghdad still has only two hours of electricity a day and 24 hour electricity supply is only expected for 2013. The mayor of Baghdad, Sabir al-Isawi, criticized the US for not properly planning the reconstruction projects, for hiring inefficient workers and for establishing priorities that do not reflect the residents' needs. According to al-Isawi, the Iraqis should be "deciding on projects that make a difference to their own future."

How Much Embassy Is Too Much? (March 2, 2007)

This Washington Post article points out that the US is building a huge embassy complex in Baghdad and that the US mission in Iraq is one of the largest foreign missions the US State Department has ever operated, with a staff of 1,000 employees. Some former State Department officials claim the mega-embassy is hindering reconstruction efforts. This huge complex is counterproductive as it has become a key target for violence. Further, many Iraqis see it as an arrogant enterprise, which aims to show US "superiority."

Iraq Rebuilding Short on Qualified Civilians (February 24, 2007)

Although US President George W. Bush announced that he would double the number of civilian teams in Iraq, this plan has been facing several challenges. The reconstruction teams sent to the country by the US government are usually understaffed and under-qualified, lacking reconstruction experience. Further, several US officers have been refusing to work in Iraq and positions are left unfilled. Most of the reconstruction projects also lack the necessary funds and reconstruction in Iraq has made scant progress since the US invasion in 2003. (Washington Post)

Wolfowitz Takes Actions to Gear Up World Bank for Iraq (February 16, 2007)

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is trying to expand Bank-funded projects in Iraq and to use the organization's resources to achieve US military goals in the country. Most of the Bank's Board Members oppose this idea, which they say constitutes a waste of donor resources and a distortion of the Bank's mission. According to the founding articles of the World Bank Agreement, the organization cannot operate in countries with ongoing conflict. Further, the organization's staff is prohibited from traveling to Iraq for security reasons and this would make monitoring of the project very difficult in a highly corrupt environment. (Government Accountability Project)

US Money Is 'Squandered' in Iraq (January 31, 2007)

The US and Iraqi government have spent improperly millions of dollars of reconstruction. Auditors cite an unused Olympic-size swimming-pool as one example of mismanagement. The US has continued to disburse funds while barely writing invoices or keeping back-up documentation. Meanwhile, the infrastructure security remains vulnerable and the money once spent by the US government on electricity, water and sewage is now directed to areas such as security and "democracy." Although the US has spent billions of dollars on the judiciary, prisons and police, the Iraqi law enforcement system remains the biggest challenge, with no success to date. (BBC)

Why the US Is Not Leaving Iraq: The Booming Business of War Profiteers (January 12, 2007)

This Global Research article argues that the US is not withdrawing from Iraq because of the unwillingness of the war profiteers to give up "further fortunes and spoils of war." The lucrative business of deconstruction and reconstruction has sent over 100,000 service contractors and sub-contractors to Iraq, a number approaching the size of the US military contingent in the country. Reports show that despite billions of dollars being spent, key pieces of Iraq's infrastructure either remain damaged or have been so poorly repaired that they do not function. Further, this piece shows that several contractors have connections with the White House and they have acquired not only the power to benefit from war, but also to promote war.

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