Firebombed street in Fallujah. Okay, so I guess we owe them a sewage plant. But does it have to work?
With all the dung the former Maverick and his sidekick were tossing around the country in the last few weeks, you might have missed the latest poop on Iraq, the forgotten stepchild of this b'zillion dollar election.
The Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal office led by Stewart W. Bowen (who has consistently released damning reports on the lost billions and failed projects in Iraq that go virtually unnoticed by most Americans), reported that a sewage treatment plant being constructed in Fallujah, with American dollars and know-how, is three times over budget, three years behind schedule, and may never be used. Read on, it just gets better.
Even if the $100 million wastewater plant were to overcome its many deficiencies, like no reliable electricity to run the required pumps and purification tanks, it will treat only one-third of Fallujah's households, not the entire city as originally was planned. Still, that's 9,300 homes at a cost of roughly $10,000 each in American taxpayer dollars.
Americans are losing their own homes to foreclosure in record numbers, yet we're giving $10,000 dollars to 9,300 homeowners in Fallujah so they can flush their toilets. I know, we're giving AIG execs spa dates and funny money to banks, and I know that we flattened Fallujah so we owe them, but still, it stinks. If redistributing the wealth to help Americans is socialism, what's redistributing the wealth to help Iraqis? Surge-ism?
Anyway, what's surging in Fallujah is sewage, because there's another problem with the hook-ups. None of the 9,300 homes is connected to the main sewer lines because no money was budgeted for it. The Iraqi government, unwilling to foot the bill, despite a $93 billion surplus, has told homeowners to dig their own connections - a creative but potentially lethal solution. A16-year-old Iraqi boy was overcome by fumes and died after his family sent him down to work on their pipeline.
Who's responsible for this boondoggle? Bowen's report criticizes the Bush administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority for pushing to start the project in 2004, when Fallujah was the epicenter of the most deadly violence in Iraq. The Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after WW2, was a spectacular American success, but we did that after the fighting had ended, not while our soldiers were still dodging bullets and bombs.
The report also tags the Iraqi government, which took over the project in 2006 and managed to make it worse by dividing it up among 45 local contractors, many of them with no experience in building wastewater plants, resulting in chaos that included ethnic in-fighting and unpaid contractors locking the manholes to their part of the pipelines until paid. They're still locked.
What Bowen's report doesn’t mention is that Fluor Corp, the company that won the contract, had the sort of cozy bidness/gubmint connections that spread through Washington like dendrites during the Bush-Cheney years.
According to the LA Times, Suzanne H. Woolsey, wife of former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, joined the board of Fluor in January 2004. Just months later, Fluor was awarded $1.6 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects, including the Fallujah sewage plant.
Woolsey's husband, as luck -- or something -- would have it, was also a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq -- a private advocacy group set up in 2002 at the instigation of the White House to build public support for the war. Can we just send all these people to prison?
The report on Fallujah’s sewer to nowhere reads like a litany of every misstep in Iraq – rash and ill-timed decisions, little or no oversight, chronic ineptitude, staggering waste, cronyism, greed, and a reckless disregard for life – all the earmarks of the Bush administration.
Well, this time Americans rose up and said “thanks, but no thanks” to those earmarks. They voted the way they did for many reasons, but surely one was to end Bush’s inexcusable bloody romp into Iraq, and to bring American soldiers home to help rebuild our own tattered nation.