Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mess-o-potamia

Yes, I'm stealing a Daily Show joke. Sue me.

Riverbend, a native Iraqi blog points out the speed with which Saddam managed to rebuild Iraq after the Gulf War, given that many of the same sites are still in ruins years after the latest war.

In looking at the comparison, I was reminded of a slideshow I saw at the Drinking Liberally on Tuesday. A KU architecture class is likely to team up with Tulane and design and build a community center in New Orleans, so the professor went down to survey sites.

Set aside the pictures of entire houses sitting in the middle of streets, or the houses sitting smack on top of upside down pickups.

Many streets were bulldozed to clear rubble away, but many houses are still sitting with debris flowing out of collapsed walls. Crushed cars and fallen powerpoles sit on the streets. Many areas that were most directly hit by the breeched levees look worse than many of the pictures that were published before the waters receded.

The fact that rebuilding another country has taken a while is vaguely comprehensible if you take a cynical enough mindset, but the fact that no one has gotten around to cleaning up New Orleans just reinforces the TfK title of "No Man's Land."

The other thing I remembered is a tip I got from Momma TfK about a conference held last June to carve up the Iraqi oil market among foreign investors. Plus a transcript of a discussion about the privatization of the oil industry with newly founded Iraqi unions.

A two-day strike in 2003 demonstrated the power of the new unions (public sector unions were banned by Saddam's government), and demonstrated that they didn't want to see their jobs taken by imported labor, nor did they want to see the wealth of their nation taken away from them.

It's hard not to see the incompetence of the reconstruction as a strike at those workers organizing and standing strong for their own country.

As Michael O'Hanlon observes in questioning the decision to cut aid to Iraq for next year:

our generosity toward Iraq is not what's at issue. It is the safety and well-being of our own troops -- and our prospects for strategic success in this critical counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign. … the failings of the economy foster resentment, and thus support for the insurgency, among the Iraqi people.
I think that fixing the mess you made is a fairly basic ethical principle. It holds in Iraq, it holds in Afghanistan, and it holds in New Orleans.