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Catfish and Cod
Friday, August 29, 2003
Iraq in the twenty-first century -- the danger in the occupation budget.
(Link path: Baghdad Burning)

Behold, as the Iraqi blogosphere expands!

Salam Pax, Where is Raed?
G., Gee in Baghdad
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning

Read these blogs! Only by finding out what both sides really think can we hope to find out what's really going on in the occupation; only by finding out what's going on in the trenches, in the streets, in people's minds.

Case in point: Riverbend's latest post on the management of 'reconstruction'. Riverbend is proud of her countrymen and women, as she has every right to be. She points out that there are plenty of out-of-work Iraqi construction companies that could take contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq. They are highly skilled, highly motivated, and would have no trouble interfacing with either local labor (they speak Iraqi Arabic) or with American officials (they speak English, Engineerese, and Bureaucratese). Yet, instead, we are bringing in Halliburton to do the job. Riverbend's insulted that we're using foreign labor and frightened that Iraq will be stuck with the bill (as a way of placing Iraq in thrall to the World Bank and the IMF).

I'm more concerned about our budget. Riverbend may or may not be aware of this, but the U.S. Government is in a horrendous budget deficit. Maybe our government can manage to stick ridiculous bills on the Iraqis, but unless and until they do, we have to pay for it. And we can't afford wasteful spending when we're already drowning in red ink. Halliburton may be profit-taking; dubious means have been used to secure these funds. Or perhaps they're just inefficient; American financial experts say Halliburton really does blow through all that cash. But whether the extra spending is honest or corrupt, it's still an outrage to the American taxpayer. If the numbers Riverbend is quoting are at all accurate, we surely would do better hiring Iraqi companies than American ones. Even the necessary background checks would cost less (over the long run) than hiring Halliburton.

Critics in America are already saying that we can't run the occupation "on the cheap" and that the Bush Administration is spending too little on the occupation. Could that be because the Administration is unwilling to do more with less?