Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conflicting Responsibility For Iraq

More than a week and in the news and I am reading more about more blame to put on Iraqi government and officials for failure in boosting the economy of the war-thrashed country. In addition, more concerns about the contracts US military already involved with in re-construction of Iraq since the end of 2003. Military contracts in Iraq cost taxpayers at least $85 billion since the 2003 invasion through last year, and the amount is estimated to hit $100 billion by the end of 2008, the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday. According to the Los Angeles Times website, scrutiny about costs of contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries has come to an increase. In addition, two senators, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John Cornyn have voiced their outrage and demanded that the U.S. should stop panting American taxpayer for reconstruction projects in Iraq and let the Iraqis pay with their earnings from oil sales. According to an Aug. 5 report put out by the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the investigating agency for Congress, American agencies have so far spent $23.2 billion on oil, electricity, security, and water projects since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In contrast, “The Iraqi government spent $3.9 billion on those needs in the past three years.” According to senator Levin.

The USA Today explained the situation in similar way but in different context; "(Iraq as) a nation that desperately needs electricity, water, housing and other infrastructure is sitting on money it won't or can't spend. Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers have funded the vast majority of Iraq's reconstruction. " The article continue to ask a valid question, illustrating at the same time the official answer delivered by the US government "With its infrastructure in tatters and Iraqis in desperate need of basics such as electricity, why isn't the Iraqi government spending much more of its oil wealth to rebuild the country? Iraqi and U.S. officials say that the Iraqis don't have the financial expertise yet to spend their money, that anti-corruption procedures make the process cumbersome, that the war made rebuilding perilous, etc. Perhaps. But these are weak excuses in view of how much the lack of progress in Iraqis' daily lives undercuts the U.S. effort there." The enitre article can be read here.

The above is just a fractions from the many sources I read in the past weeks about the increasing concern and in many cases anger in Capitol Hill and other US governmental locations about the costs of this war. The voices about the cost of the war, reconstruction efforts, security, all are not new to anyone following the news in Iraq, we have been hearing this for years, but we also got used to the known method of putting pressure on Iraqi officials, blaming them for incompetence in many ways, such as lack of determination to fight corruption, or lack of expertese to provide infrastructure services for citizens, as indicated above. Before I continue, I want to make something clear: I am not defending any Iraqi official, simply because I don't support any of them. I also don't want to put the blame soley on US government or on George W Bush (of course, for making the US as super power got stuck in a situation, like a paper jammed in the middle of a printing job - it won't be printed out, and cannot be pull out and cancel that print job. I am not doing that, I know that corruption can be best be set as an example in Iraq, I am also confident that everybody knows about some Iraqi government officials who bought villas in Iraq's neighboring countries (I don't know about European and other countries, maybe they did that too), so, it is not something that new, the golden opportunity is there since the moment Saddam was toppled in 2003 and until now.

Yet, why is it now that voices about costs and responsibility became louder, and the number of people calling for US to backoff from Iraq is increasing? why now? There are who would answer that voices were there, long time ago, many years ago, but they are now louder than before, in calling for this mad war and illegal occupation to end, and that it is time for the boys to come back home. Another explanation is the way things are now, compare it to that back in 2003; US troops infatuation with Iraqis has long been lost! The country used to be governed by one Saddam, now there are ten Saddams. The people had to deal with the little of services and goods during sanctions and war times, they managed to survive like any basic creature on earth, but now, more and more people are fleeing the country for economic reasons - not talking about political reasons in the first place. The country was on the edge of a civil war (still stands), but now we have the Kurds turning their weapons into the south and east because of Kirkuk... in short the country is falling apart, while both active power (US) and legeslative power (Iraqi government) want to get rid of their responsibility.. Wait a minute... does all that has to do with the fact that Iraqi officials are pressing demands on a scheduled withdraw from Iraq and that no security pact cannot be reached in the near future?

This is just a speculation, nothing more, nothing less. I don't blame those two senators for ranting on costs or any govermental organisation for showing displeasure with such a reality, but my question is valid, everything has been politicized for the sake of the interest of a certain group or government. This has been proven in the past and the game is far from being over.

Again, the situation in Iraq shows real incompetent in the way the government is dealing with the most basic services. It is August, and ask any Iraqi and he or she would first complain about how hell fire the weather can be best described, no airconditioning because of no electricity and no water, no that and no this...etc Yet, the buzz on costs like these of the two senators can give other indications to the stand of the US in Iraq, one of them is: we can't take it anymore, the responsibility in Iraq must be taken by Iraqis! New York Times described Iraq like…”a dark cloud,” “a deep hole,” “a descent into hell,” “an oil fire,” “embers in the night,” “a cancer patient,” “Vietnam,” “South Korea,” “a teenage pregnancy,” “a variable-rate mortgage.” There is more to that, but whether the reader is Iraqi or an American, it doesn't matter anymore... take your pick.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Central Railway Station in Baghdad

Central Railway Station - Baghdad 1959

Central Railway Station - Baghdad 2003

I have been a number of times to this station, I even mentioned that in on one of my trips when I traveled to the beautiful northern city of Mosul with friends from the neighborhood.

As someone put it "Every single man served in the Iraqi army knows this station".

Baghdad Central Railway station is one the distinguished symbols in Baghdad, one of many in lasting love, Iraq.

Books on Iraq

  • A True Story of Bravery and Betrayal in the Iraq War
  • My War
  • The Boys from Baghdad
  • The Last True Story I'll Ever Tel
  • In Foreign Fields
  • Making a Killing
  • Killing Time in Iraq
This is not by any means some free advert for Iraq war books. Most of these titles are of books about soldiers (and people) served by UK and US military during and after the 2003 war in Iraq: Some tells the story of a soldier got lost beheind enemy lines; or those who were face to face with the enemy and like a lion in the middle of fire heroically escaped death or capture; or on a man who worked as as an assassin, or hired killer, or as officially known a "contractors" who protect convoys routes out of Baghdad...etc Some of these books according to their writers are based on true stories, others, did not openly admit it, but the tale goes beyond reality, nothing but fiction that uses true events in Iraq .

In past decade, god only knows how many times I read about stories like these - some of them were about how Saddam's methods on cracking with a first of fire and metal on the heads of poor Iraqi people. On every trip I used to take to the UK and the US, I used to spend some big amount of time searching for books about Iraq and read them with anticipation. Sadly, though, it was 9 out of 10 cases where I realized that such books were just another show like these we used to watch on TV and video tapes when I was a kid.

Since the end of 2003 war and until this very moment, Iraq became the source for political and financial gains. This time and with such books Iraq became the source for the imagination, fantasy, in addition to the story telling aspect for many writers, not to forget what fame and status a strong story from inside Iraq would provide for those who tell it.