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Iraq

By the Numbers

Power is restored, but there's not enough to go around. 1,000 schools are refurbished, but they don't have new textbooks. The police force is established, but only at about half the officers needed. The United States' successes and failures in Iraq can be measured ...

By SARA FRITZ
Published October 9, 2003

[AP photo]
Workers replace transformers at the al-Doura power plant in Baghdad. The United States had expected production of 6,000 megawatts of electricity in Iraq by now; instead, Iraq is running on 4,000 megawatts.
Click here to view the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq's status of goals.

WASHINGTON - Earlier this year, American officials in Iraq contracted with two United Nations agencies to provide 72-million new textbooks for Iraqi schoolchildren to replace the old books crammed with photos and praise of Saddam Hussein.

But when Iraq's schools reopened last week, there were few, if any, revised textbooks in the classrooms.

U.S. officials said that most of the new books, which are being printed primarily on local presses, may not get to Iraqi children until sometime in November. And some books may even be delayed until next April.

In the breach, references to Hussein were crossed out by hand and decals pasted over his pictures.

Such are the day-to-day frustrations of U.S. officials trying to bring democracy to Iraq. While the United States has made considerable progress restoring the Iraqi infrastructure since U.S. forces invaded earlier this year, many of the government's plans for the country have not been achieved as quickly as expected.

Indeed, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction is not the only disappointment that U.S. personnel have encountered.

Power has been restored, but the government will not meet demand for electricity in Iraq until next year. About 44,000 police officers now patrol Iraqi streets, but 80,000 are needed and the current force is so disheveled that one visiting dignitary called it "a joke."

Airports in Baghdad and Basra have been refurbished, but commercial air traffic has not resumed because the incoming planes would likely be shot down by Iraqi insurgents.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to reconstruction in Iraq is the inability of U.S. troops to establish law and order. Although the school year began as planned, officials said, some Iraqi parents were reluctant to send their children to the newly U.S.-refurbished schools for fear of kidnapping.

For his part, Iraq's U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer acknowledges some of his early goals for reconstruction were not achieved as soon as promised and, as a result, he revises his plan daily.

In Washington, meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Bremer to complete his work in Iraq as fast as possible. Many members of Congress argue that U.S. plans for Iraq are either too ambitious or too expensive.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Bremer's plan "looks like it was put together by the president of the Optimist's Club rather than someone who understands the world."

And Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., says his staff was told by a member of the Iraqi governing council that foreign contractors had charged about $25-million to provide new doors, paint, windows and furniture for 20 police stations in Basra, a job that local workers could have done for $5-million.

Yet Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, said he learned during a recent trip to Baghdad that U.S. and Iraqi officials had accomplished much more than the news media have reported. He said he was pleased to learn that all hospitals are open, that town councils are meeting in most regions, that clean drinking water is available to all Iraqis and electricity is being distributed better than it was before the war.

"It is a huge undertaking," Crenshaw said, "but there have been some real successes. I was impressed with what was going on in terms of the plans that were in place."

Back to school

Last July, U.S. officials set two goals for primary and secondary education to be achieved by now: rehabilitate 1,000 schools and distribute the revised textbooks. While the books are not ready on time, schools were improved.

About 1,000 of the country's 13,500 school buildings have been refurbished so far, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. officials say the schoolbook revision project was carried out by a committee of Iraqi teachers. The committee went through more than 500 different books, deleting such statements as "learn the instruction of the Leader and all science shall be yours."

The new Iraqi education ministry also has pledged to increase salaries for teachers. In the past, teachers were paid the equivalent of $5.33 to $13.33 a month; the new scale calls for monthly wages of $66.66 to $333.33.

Security forces

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi police were seldom seen patroling the streets. Walter Slocombe, the Pentagon official now in charge of improving security in Iraq, says the police "typically sat in stations and the people came to them."

Bremer says that while Iraq will need 80,000 police to maintain law and order, only about 44,000 officers have been organized into a new national police force - including about 35,000 who served under the Hussein regime.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who witnessed a drill by the new Iraqi police force during a recent visit to Baghdad, says the current recruits desperately need more training. "They reminded me of the Keystone Kops; they're a joke!" he said.

Bremer is pleased that his organization has already hired about 1,000 of the 1,500 people they will need for police training, all of them recruited in Europe. He said the United States plans to train 25,000 new police officers per year. Training will begin in a few weeks.

Likewise, U.S. officials have begun to build a new Iraqi army. Only 750 soldiers have been trained so far, but Slocombe says about 40,000 soldiers will be trained over the next year, mostly as motorized light infantry units. Many of the new soldiers fought for the old regime, but U.S. officials have rejected any volunteer who was listed as an officer in Hussein's army.

Airports and infrastructure

The most controversial elements of the Iraqi reconstruction - airports, infrastructure and oil fields - are being handled by Bechtel and Halliburton, companies that Waxman says got the contracts because they have "close ties to the White House."

Vice President Dick Cheney is the former chairman of Halliburton, and both former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger have been directors of Bechtel.

A Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, received a $1.2-billion no-bid contract for extinguishing oil field fires and $1-billion for logistical support to U.S. troops. USAID awarded Bechtel $680-million to restore airports, buildings, emergency communications, power, railroads, bridges, water, sanitation and the seaport of Umm Qasr.

Bechtel executives note their contract, unlike Halliburton's, was the result of a competitive bid. "Through endless repetition, rather than facts," the company said in a statement, "Bechtel has gained an undeserved reputation as a secretive company that succeeds through power friends in high places."

At Halliburton, CEO David J. Lesar told Business Week: "Despite some of the media scrutiny you've seen, within the organization we are very, very proud of what we do to support the military and, I think, save the U.S. taxpayer some money."

The United States had expected Bechtel to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity in Iraq by now; instead, Iraq is running on 4,000 megawatts.

At airports in Baghdad and Basra, Bechtel installed power generators, rehabilitated terminals and installed new pavement and signs. Last July, the coalition predicted Iraqi airports would be open to commercial operations by early October.

Military planes now land regularly in Baghdad, bringing hundreds of people on official business. But U.S. officials say they have no idea when it will be safe enough to open Iraq's two main airports for as many as two-dozen international air carriers that are seeking permission to fly into Iraq.

Criminal justice

By early October, U.S. officials also thought they would have reopened all of Iraq's courthouses. Yet while most are open, Joe Stork, a criminal justice expert for Human Rights Watch, said there are currently some religious courts in the country performing the duties of civil courts.

"It's pretty haphazard," says Stork.

A reporter for the Austin American-Statesman in Texas put it more bluntly in a story from Baghdad, dated Sept. 28: "Iraq's criminal justice system is a morass of lost files, frustrated judges and a backlog of more than 4,000 prisoners awaiting trials."

A newly created central criminal court in Baghdad has heard at least one case so far. In it, three defendants were convicted of illegally carrying 34 crates of rocket-propelled grenades in a truck painted to look like a Red Cross vehicle. Two more defendants, both from Ukraine, were scheduled to stand trial this week for allegedly trying to smuggle oil out of the country.

"Given the state of the Iraqi judiciary," Human Rights Watch said in a statement, "it is essential that that judiciary be reformed to be an independent, impartial and fair institution so that, eventually, national courts can prosecute crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Several Iraqi prisons have already been renovated to create more humane conditions according to Slocombe, and prosecutors are actively pursuing court cases against the prisoners held in those jails. But Stork argues that prisoners are kept in detention too long - sometimes for months - and most are unable to meet with their lawyers until moments before their case is heard in the courts.

Although the penal code was revised on an emergency basis to conform with international human rights standards, U.S. officials say entirely new laws will not be written until a constitution is adopted and a government elected. Officials don't expect to reach those milestones until well into next year.

When that is done, Slocombe said, Iraq "will be the first country in the region with a genuinely independent judiciary."

What's a luxury?

The basic question that divides the administration and its critics in Congress regarding reconstruction is whether the United States is providing Iraqis with more than they need.

Among Democrats, there has been plenty of grumbling that the administration's request for $20-billion in reconstruction funds calls for spending $6,000 apiece on radios and telephones, and $33,000 each for pickup trucks.

A member of Congress recently asked Secretary of State Colin Powell why the administration had allocated $9-million to establish ZIP codes in Iraq, he seemed frustrated by the question.

"When you talk about ZIP codes, ZIP codes was part of a larger program to put in place telephone systems to allow the country to connect to itself again electronically and to be able to communicate from one part of the country to another," Powell replied. "This is not a luxury. This is an essential part of reconstruction a society that has been devastated for the past 30 years."


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