Subpoenas Needed for Bechtel et al.

So how long is it going to take for the Dems-in-Power not only to start extricating the country from Irak, but also to begin looking into the massive ripoffs going on there — and bringing those who allowed, I mean set up, these blatantly official criminal activities, to justice? Worth, just to jog our memories, to reprint here Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatch from the (economic) front in Irak:

Bechtel Departure Removes More Illusions

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

*BAGHDAD, Nov 9 (IPS) – The decision of the giant engineering company
Bechtel to withdraw from Iraq has left many Iraqis feeling betrayed. In
its departure they see the end of remaining hopes for the reconstruction
of Iraq.*

“It is much worse than in the time of Saddam Hussein,” Communist Party
member Nayif Jassim told IPS. “Most Iraqis wish Saddam would be back in
power now that they lived out the hardships of the occupation. The
Americans did nothing but loot our oil and kill our people.”

Bechtel, whose board members have close ties to the Bush administration,
announced last week that it was done with trying to operate in the
war-torn country. The company has received 2.3 billion dollars of Iraqi
reconstruction funds and U.S. taxpayer money, but is leaving without
completing most of the tasks it set out to.

On every level of infrastructure measurable, the situation in Iraq is
worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That includes the 12
years of economic sanctions since the first Gulf War in 1991, a period
that former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday
described as “genocidal” for Iraqis.

The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day.
There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to
safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even
oil production has matched pre-invasion levels.

The security situation is hellish, with a recent study published in the
prestigious British medical journal Lancet estimating 655,000 excess
deaths in Iraq as a result of the invasion and occupation.

The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as
diarrhoea and respiratory illness are causing 70 percent of all child
deaths, and that “of the 180 health clinics the U.S. hoped to build by
the end of 2005, only four have been completed — and none opened.”

A proposed 200 million dollar project to build 142 primary care centres
ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance that the
World Health Organisation described as “shocking.”

Iraqis are complaining louder now than under the sanctions. Lack of
electricity has led to increasing demand for gasoline to run generators.
And gasoline is among the most scarce commodities in this oil-rich country.

“We inherited an exhausted electricity system in generating stations and
distributing nets, but we were able to supply 50 percent of consumer
demand during heavy load periods, and more than that during ordinary
days,” an engineer with the Ministry of Electricity told IPS.

“The situation now is much worse and it seems not to be improving
despite the huge contracts signed with American companies. It is strange
how billions of dollars spent on electricity brought no improvement
whatsoever, but in fact worsened the situation.”

The engineer said “we in the ministry have not received any real
equipment for our senior stations, and the small transformers for the
distributing nets were of very low standard.”

Bechtel’s contract included reconstruction of water treatment systems,
electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.

Two former Iraqi ministers of electricity were charged with corruption
by the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up under the occupation. One of
them, Ayham al-Samarraii, was sentenced to jail but was taken away by
his U.S. security guards. He insisted that it was not he who looted the
ministry’s money.

Managers at water departments all over Iraq say that the only repairs
they managed were through UN offices and humanitarian aid organisations.
The ministry provided them with very little chlorine for water
treatment. New projects were no more than simple maintenance moves that
did little to halt collapsing infrastructure.

Bechtel was among the first companies, along with Halliburton, where
U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney once worked, to have received fixed-fee
contracts drawn to guarantee profit.

Ahmed al-Ani who works with a major Iraqi construction contracting
company says the model Bechtel adopted was certain to fail.

“They charged huge sums of money for the contracts they signed, then
they sold them to smaller companies who resold them again to small
inexperienced Iraqi contractors,” Ani told IPS. “These inexperienced
contractors then had to execute the works badly because of the very low
prices they get, and the lack of experience.”

Some Iraqi political analysts, rather optimistically, look at Bechtel’s
departure from a different angle.

“I see the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq,” Maki al-Nazzal
told IPS. “It started with Bechtel and Haliburton’s propaganda, and
might end with their escape from the field. They came with Bremer and
introduced themselves as heroes and saviours who would bring prosperity
to Iraq, but all they did was market U.S. propaganda.”

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on a visit to Iraq last
June: “You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered.
You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of
the Iraqi people.”

By his standards, the position in Iraq is now much worse.

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger’s Photography Media . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

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