For as much as I hear around the blogosphere that we should be hearing more good news coming out of Baghdad, stories like this seem to give a more holistic view of the situation.
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.
However, are we making progress? You bet.
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.
And the reasons things are going slower than normal?
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.
Basically, patience is needed. Rome wasn’t built in a day and so Baghdad is certainly going to take more time as well.