Little Green Footballs

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Welcome to Baghdad

Despite $2 billion spent, residents say Baghdad is crumbling. Is this winning hearts and minds? Is this progress?

Talib Abu Younes put his lips to a glass of tap water recently and watched worms swimming in the bottom.

Electricity flickers on and off for two hours in Muthana Naim's south Baghdad home then shuts off for four in boiling July heat that shoots above 120 degrees.

Fadhel Hussein boils buckets of sewage-contaminated water from the Tigris River to wash the family's clothes.

The capital is crumbling around angry Baghdadis. Narrow concrete sewage pipes decay underground and water pipes leak out more than half the drinking water before it ever reaches a home, according to the U.S. military.

Over 18 months, American officials spent almost $2 billion to revive the capital ravaged by war and neglect, according to Army Gen. William G. Webster, who heads the 30,000 U.S. and foreign troops and 15,000 Iraqi soldiers known collectively as Task Force Baghdad. But the money goes for long-term projects that yield few visible results and for security to protect the construction sites from sabotage.

As a result, Iraqis have seen scant evidence of improvement in their homes, streets or neighborhoods. They blame American and Iraqi government corruption.

"We thank God that the air we breathe is not in the hands of the government. Otherwise they would have cut it off for a few hours each day," said Nadeem Haki, 39, an electric-goods shop owner in the upscale Karrada district in the east of the capital.

Of the major completed projects in Baghdad, more than $38 million went to sewage projects, $375,000 to a water main and $101.2 million to electricity generation and transmission.

Others are in the works. More than $792 million is being invested in water, sewage and electricity projects across the capital, according to U.S. military documents.

The progress is slow and the rewards incremental. Parts of the city - such as the impoverished Shiite Muslim neighborhood Sadr City, once flooded with green rivers of sewage - now have functioning sewer systems.

"The things that go below the ground and provide enough electricity are incredibly expensive, especially when you have to pay for security for that local job site," Webster said.

As renovations are made, insurgent attacks often undermine the work, leaving the city's residents frustrated that there are days they can't flush their toilets. Over three weeks, three main water lines were attacked, leaving swaths of the city without water for days.

Power generation in the city has increased by about 232 megawatts but the demand has doubled, so the greater supply hasn't resulted in many more hours of service. Three more electricity projects are expected to be complete by the end of the year, including the Dora Power Plant, a $101.5 million project that will supply 428 more megawatts to Iraqi homes, according to U.S. military documents.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars also have been spent to repair and install feeder lines to make sure all parts of the city receive electricity.

A public campaign began in June to build confidence in the Ministry of Electricity. On billboards, TV commercials and radio announcements reminiscent of American-produced public service announcements, messages read:

"Electricity is a blessing, help us protect it,"

"The demand for electricity is growing faster than we can supply it,"

"We ask for your support and understanding."

But understanding wanes when the smell of sewage fills every other block, drinking water is often contaminated and Iraqis resort to sleeping on their roofs to take a break from the sauna-like heat inside their homes, waking up covered in dust.

Electricity production is up to 16 hours a day in Iraqi homes according to U.S. military documents, but most Iraqis say they get eight hours of power a day on average, sometimes as many as 12. In poor areas such as New Baghdad, in the east of the capital, people go days without power, they said.

With about $2 billion already invested, Baghdad should be sparkling, said its mayor, Alaa Mahmoud al Timimi. He hasn't been consulted on American projects, besides signatures for completed developments, and has threatened to resign if he doesn't get a larger budget to solve his city's problems. The $85 million he was allocated can't keep up with the city of 6.5 million, he said.

He's already playing catch-up. Over 12 years the city was allocated about $3 per person per year, he said.

"Baghdad is an ignored city," said Timimi, who's a civil engineer. "The people, they blame me. I need money to rebuild the capacity of water (supply) and ... (for) sewage, garbage collection, power."

Electricity lines are tangled above the streets like strands of spaghetti, supply machinery dates to 1958 and fuse boxes have been ripped from the walls in electricity stations.

"It's too slow. If I had $2 billion I would have done three to five times more," Timimi said. "The Americans told me this is our money and we will spend it towards our plans. They do it their way."

But rebuilding Baghdad can't be done in a day or even two years, apparently. Oil refineries, electricity plants and water plants weren't maintained under Saddam Hussein, and unforeseen expenses often hinder projects.

Sometimes the simple installation of an air conditioner at a school reveals that not enough electricity is being generated to make it work, said Lt. Col. William Duddleston, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad's Government Support Team.

"People in Baghdad don't understand, because many of them had 24 hours of electricity while people in Basra had five," he said, referring to Iraq's southern port city. Electric power is now distributed more evenly around the country, so Baghdad has suffered.

The capital was ruled with both favoritism and neglect under the past regime, Webster said recently: Those in Saddam's good graces had round-the-clock electricity while others had none.

Lt. Col. Vincent Quarles, the commander of the 4-3 Brigade Troops Battalion, oversees neighborhood reconstruction projects in about one-quarter of Baghdad. He looks at sites in the Karrada district. Some are almost done: Pipes have been renovated, holding tanks for purified water sealed and small water-purification pumps installed.

But it's sometimes a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process. At one sewage plant in east Baghdad, they'd almost finished renovations when a decaying pipe collapsed and the ground caved in. Now the work will begin again.

"It's hard to see all the progress that's been made, but things are getting better," Quarles said.

Knight Ridder special correspondent Mohammed al Awsy contributed to this report.

Welcome to what used to be Baghdad.


Pablo said...

If only we could get the Imperialist Occupiers to stop blowing things up and build something!

Oh, wait. That is what the Coalition is doing. It's jihadis blowing everything up.

It's hopeless. We should just leave now and let al-Qaeda have the place, because they can never, never, never be stopped. Ever. No matter how many of them we kill, twice as many will appear from thin air, Inshallah.

This is no better than it was under Saddam.

Johnny Mainstream said...

In the retarded-ass post "UK Islamophobia Watch" (, in which Chuckles theorizes that, because the Guardian is writing about discrimination against Muslims, they automatically don't give a crap about the bombing victims, the user "Dianna" posts:

Heck, lately, I give dirty looks to men walking with women swathed in ridiculous islamic garb, especially when the man is dressed western style. I suspect them of bad stuff. Can't help it.

In other words, Charles is poo-pooing the same discrimination against innocent Muslims that is admittedly being perpetrated by his own ilk. God, what a bunch of assholes.

Check out the rest of the thread if you really wanna see how pathetic and idiotic these shitbags are: user "Canuckistan" made a self-evident and innocuous comment about why there is car-bombing in Iraq. Immediately after, they start with the "moral equivalence" and "dhimmi" and "I'm going to kill you" type of idiocy.

And Pablo, you fucking Bushite tool, stop pretending you cared what Iraq was like when Saddam was in power. If you really want to improve the situation there, volunteer. The army could always use another human shield.

MJ said...

This is no better than it was under Saddam.

But surely it's supposed to be? Especially through the right wing blogsphere rose tinted spectacles. The reason for the invasion was to depose Saddam, disable his WMD's (cough) and liberate the Iraqi people so that they could live in freedom, peace and democracy. Pablo, when Bush announced that it was 'mission accomplished' was he was lying?

Pablo said...

What happened to the potty mouth Jesus General post?

bd, Bush didn't say "Mission Accomplished" the banner on the Lincoln did. But, as has been pointed out ad infinitum, Bush speech was about the completeion of major combat operations, or if you prefer, victory over the Iraqi armed forces.

I know you hate to recognize this, because we were supposed to be bogged down, and our bellies were supposed to be roasting in hell while we threw ourselves to our deaths at the gates of Baghdad...but...

We cut through them like a knife through hot butter. We took out and took over from saddam's regime in one of the fastest and most bloodless campaigns ever conducted.

Bush was congratulating our military for that victory, and he was damned right to do it.

I now return you to ignoring clear, objective facts.

Electronic Occupation said...

You expect facts on the Electronic Intifada?

Pablo said...

What are the chances of LGF Watch reporting on this or even this?

And how about this? Charles is probably gonna have eleventy seven posts on that 'cuz he's just like Lee Atwater, only not dead, right Winston?


Electronic Occupation said...

What are the chances of Electronic Jihad-LGF Watch reporting the destruction of Iraq under Saddam? Or reporting on the 3/4 of Iraq where conditions are much better now than before?

Iron Fist's Cat said...

OT: more interesting background on "pajamas media"... :

John Hawkins: The advertising deal you're going to be offering -- you say it doesn't compete with blogads, so what type of ads will Pajamas media be running?

Marc Danziger: Well, yes, we will be competing -- we're both trying to get you to run our ads. So on one hand, we will be having a friendly competition for blogger attention. Bloggers can run both, but at some point you start looking like a NASCAR car.

[IFC: Note, this directly contradicts Johnson's lie that they would not be competing].

We're looking at a different group of advertisers - more mainstream and corporate, which we think will pay higher ad rates and do more sustained advertising. [Later, Marc realized that the mainstream/corporate types wouldn't go near LGF with a ten foot pole].
John Hawkins: Now, I've heard some talk about some pretty good rates for ads. Why do you think you'll be able to get exceptional rates?

Marc Danziger: Two basic reasons: because those are the mainstream rates that major ad buys get, and we're going to set things up so that we can do ad buys as major blocks. (Also), because we have some cool ad targeting ideas which will allow us to do a better job - than almost anyone else - in targeting ads without tracking individuals.

John Hawkins: Want to give any general idea of what sort of rates you think you can get or is it too early?

Marc Danziger: Too early, but we've been talking to major ad-serving companies and international advertising agencies and haven't been laughed out of the room.

John Hawkins: I understand. You've also mentioned investors. Let's say you were able to pull in some real money. What would that allow you to do that you're not currently doing?

Marc Danziger: Well, we're proceeding on the assumption that one of the investors or investor groups we're talking to will step to the table with real money so our plans don't change much.

John Hawkins: Last question: When does Pajamas Media go live?

Marc Danziger: Depends. We have ad contracts ready to sign. The limiting issues right now are two: we need to get the various investor groups to sign off on the actual contracts we will be sending out for blogs to sign and we need to get insured. We're being underwritten, but we're different enough from the traditional ad networks that it's a bit of a pain. So the soonest date would be a week from Monday (we'd go out with contracts and code to insert ads) and start running ads within days after that. Worst case is about ten days later barring some disastrous news.

So.. that was nearly two months ago. Since then Marc has dropped out. The most likely reason being that the prospective "majors" and "investors" looked at LGF (and probably looked here as well", saw the comments of the "lizardoids" and said "no fucking way".

Smart people.

So, in the end, if Pajamas Media ever gets going, it will just be an attempt to rip-off Blogads business from the guy who started it and got revenue for Charles and Roger, biting the hand that got them going.

Pablo said...

And you care about this because....?

Oh, that's right. You're obsessed and insane!


Iron Fist's Cat said...

I just think it's funny that the "lizardoid minions" have doomed their master's big shot at making some money. And that all the hooplah about Pajamas Media has ended in an embarrasing whimper.


(PS. It's interesting that the minions sense the flop of PJ Media and don't want to upset Charles by asking about it).

Iron Fist's Cat said...

Crazy Pot meet Kookie Kettle...

Charles Johnson hardly lets an hour go without knocking Islam. Whether fishing for obscure rants by a looney Muslim, mocking their clothes or sarcastically referring to the "religion of peace", he never misses a chance. So when a lizardoid posted this link:

Detailing the bizarre antics of Jewish extremeists it really comes as no suprise that not one minion replied. After all, religious crazies are only really crazy if they're Muslim. Right?

No wonder Pajamas Media is stillborn.

Pablo said...