WASHINGTON: Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether US efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.
In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the US has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.
The reconstruction effort “grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated,” Bowen said in a preview of his last audit of US funds spent in Iraq, to be released on Wednesday.
“Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended.”
In interviews with Bowen, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said the US funding “could have brought great change in Iraq” but fell short too often. “There was misspending of money,” said Maliki.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi, the country’s top Sunni Muslim official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts “had unfavorable outcomes in general.”
“You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it,” Kurdish government official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, told auditors. “It was just not strategic thinking.”
Republican Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate committee that oversees US funding, said the Bush administration should have agreed to give the reconstruction money to Iraq as a loan in 2003 instead as an outright gift.
“It’s been an extraordinarily disappointing effort and, largely, a failed programme,” Collins said in an interview on Tuesday.
“I believe, had the money been structured as a loan in the first place, that we would have seen a far more responsible approach to how the money was used, and lower levels of corruption in far fewer ways.”
In numerous interviews with Iraqi and US officials, and though multiple examples of thwarted or defrauded projects, Bowen’s report laid bare a trail of waste, including: -In Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, a crossroads for militias, insurgents and Kurdish squatters, the US began building a 3,600-bed prison in 2004 but abandoned the project after three years to flee a surge in violence.
In too many cases, Bowen concluded, US officials did not consult with Iraqis closely or deeply enough to determine what reconstruction projects were really needed or, in some cases, wanted.