Thursday, September 28, 2006

More disaster in Iraq

By Heraclitus

I assume by now no one thinks it can't get any worse in Iraq, but there are still some things that are simply shocking, like this story from The Washington Post.

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

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Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.

The report serves as the latest indictment of Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant that was awarded about $1 billion for a variety of reconstruction projects across Iraq. After chronicling previous Parsons failures to properly build health clinics, prisons and hospitals, Bowen ["Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress"] said he now plans to conduct an audit of every Parsons project.

There's obviously a great deal to be said about this, but I think John Cole has already canvassed the major points:

This story highlights what is so frustrating about having to live with this decision- the construction of a viable Iraqi police force, not based on sectarian rivalries and long-festering hatreds and with a motivation that goes beyond settling Hussein-era scores is one of the most important things that needs to be done in the reconstruction. I know that, you know that, and the administration knows it. You would think we would approach the situation with a degree of seriousness and with a fully committed desire to succeed. You would think, at the very least, the Police Acadamy would have a solid PHYSICAL foundation.

But, like everything else with this administration, we blew it. We did things piecemeal, didn’t provide the oversight, and things are deemed to be going ok just so long as they are not damaging the domestic political considerations and just so long as they don’t interfere with the mantra to ‘stay the course.’ Throw in a few chants about the media being biased, and we will get through this ‘rough patch.’ Really- everything is going peachy in Iraq- we just aren’t hearing enough media stories about our valorous troops.

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