Fred Hiatt v. The Washington Post

The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Sunday June 20, 2004 (Page A1, no less:)

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.

The Washington Post’s Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, Sunday June 20, 2004:

This is the irony of Bremer’s legacy. A ruthlessly methodical executive, he set numerical goals for himself more than a year ago and mostly met them: electricity restored… [Emphasis added]

Met his goals Fred? Sadly, No, No, No and No!

(Hiatt quote via G.A. Cerny.)


Comments: 9


Great Post! 😀


Bremer said last October that Iraq’s electricity generation was at 4,518 megawatts.

So if the Post article is accurate, Iraq’s electricity output has actually declined significantly over the past eight months.

But the schools… they’re open … I think.



One thing I’m curious about: how much of this rebuilding Iraq is fixing stuff we “broke”?
How much is due to Hussein, how much to the
sanctions? (yeah, I know it’s all due to that bad, bad man, Hussein.)

Does anybody have info on this? Cuz it might have
been cheaper to lure Saddam (bad, bad man) out of Iraq w/a free trip or something.


Another question is how much further our money would have gone if we’d paid Iraqis to do the work rather than importing high-priced American contractors. After all, the Iraqis did manage to build power plants and such before we arrived. They weren’t exactly living in mud huts.

Hiring Iraqis would also have had the advantage of reducing the number of unemployed Iraqis running around with the time and motivation to work against the US.


If you go to the CPA web site, they have a quite detailed set of reports on the power generation numbers for Iraq since the occupation began, and those numbers do, in fact, show that the power numbers have dropped since last winter.

In part, this was intentional: They began deliberately taking portions of the power grid offline during the spring for maintanence and upgrades before the summer heat wave spiked demand. Unfortunately, they have made much less progress in bringing those presumably new and improved portions of the grid back on line since then — and, needless to say, the summer heat is now here already.

And yes, if they had hired Iraqis to repair the facilities, the job would have been finished long ago, for a lot less money than they’ve already spent; similarly, if they had allowed the French and Russians to take part, they would have already been inexpensively finished, given that the plants were originally built by the French (mostly) and the Russians (partially), and only the French and Russians have the spare parts necessary to fix the existing generators and infrastructure.

You can find out all kinds of interesting stuff from the CPA web site. In addition to the power numbers, you can find out that fewer people have telephone service than before the war, for instance. It’s an invaluable resource for winning arguments with any remaining apologists and true believers who are actually amenable to listening to facts and reason — and since the facts here are coming from the CPA, it’s pretty hard for them to be written off as creations of the SCLM.


One of the ironies about unilateralism is that the electric grid in Iraq has French, Russian, Chinese and possibly German parts that our electrical engineers don’t understand. Now if we had had a multilateral force and had allowed more nations, including the French, Germans and Russians, to participate in rebuilding, we might have the engineers who understood the equipment. Instead, we’re going to import very expensive replacements for many parts of the grid. Not smart.

I’m reminded of Paul O’Neil who figured out that he could improve the water system for an African nation for about $2 million. This was before being told that water system experts from the US gave an estimate in the billions. The African nation couldn’t afford to spend billions so it gave up. O’ Neil pointed out that for $2 million the water supply of the nation would be vastly improved over current conditions but it was obviously short of the expensive system with all the bells and whistles. But the $2 million was affordable now and lives could be saved immediately because the quality of the water would be vastly improved. O’Neil is a Republican but this is not a partisan issue. The Bush Administration has too many people who can’t seem to adjust their thinking to local conditions. Or could it be the case that companies like Halliburton are more interested in profit than they are in the job at hand?



your Another question comment is seriously flawed–it makes sense, and as such would be completely contradictory to nearly every action we’ve taken in iraq since we got there.


One thing I’m curious about: how much of this rebuilding Iraq is fixing stuff we “broke”?

A lot of it.

The electricity system was bombed during the Gulf War and then declined further under sanctions. As mentioned above, many power stations use French, German or Soviet equipment, and Bechtel has reportedly been very slow in procuring spare parts. Several media reports have commented on how the Americans want to rebuild things from scratch whereas the Iraqis have learned (under sanctions) to patch them up and keep them working. A Siemens team recently left Iraq because of the rise in kidnappings of foreign workers.

Much the same goes, I think, for the water and sewage infrastructure. And, of course, for the oil infrastructure (although our friends at Halliburton rebuilt part of it during the 1990s, during Cheney’s chairmanship — the work was channelled through European subsidiaries to avoid US trade sanctions).

The telephone network was bombed during the Gulf War and, declined further under sanctions, and was bombed again during the Iraq War because it was the only military “command, control and communications” system Saddam had left. Most telephone lines in Baghdad were dead for at least six months afterwards. A lot of telephone exchanges used Alcatel equipment, IIRC, and again US reluctance to deal with the French may have slowed down reconstruction.

Schools, hospitals, police stations, libraries, universities, government offices, etc., were looted immediately after Saddam’s regime collapsed, and there were not enough soldiers to maintain law and order. Members of the secret police and intelligence services took the opportunity to destroy compromising documents, while thousands of other government documents were gathered up by Chalabi’s INC, which can use them to blackmail individuals named as receiving bribes from Saddam.

The US has managed reconstruction through mega-contracts with politically-connected corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel. The CPA has been obsessed with repainting every school (rather than more substantial repairs), resulting in superficial and shoddy work. Long chains of contractors, sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors have eaten away at budgets as each company has taken its cut — so, for instance, air-conditioning in every room becomes one ceiling fan in every room. Companies that profitted from building Saddam’s palaces are boycotted, leading to small contractors handling large projects for which they lack experience.


Russian generating gear, huh? I recall seeing ( Frontline, I think) something like 90 Russian electrical specialists leaving after having 4 of their number killed. The Iraqis left behind seemed at a loss to continue repairing the generating facility they were working on.


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