Thursday, September 25, 2003

Baghdad Burning

Yesterday I had a bad day - I have the flu, there's a ton of stuff going on at work, and I screwed something up that my colleague had to come in and fix. Today, I'm still sick - much sicker even, we lost our semi-final game last night (a tight 4-2 loss that would have been different if the umpire hadn't made a huge mistake), work is still crazy, but alas, this morning I stumbled upon this site via Doc Searls, and have since told myself to get a little perspective...

The first entry of Baghdad Burning reads:

The Beginning...
So this is the beginning for me, I guess. I never thought I'd start my own weblog... All I could think, every time I wanted to start one was "but who will read it?" I guess I've got nothing to lose... but I'm warning you- expect a lot of complaining and ranting. I looked for a 'rantlog' but this is the best Google came up with.

A little bit about myself: I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway.

In the last two months, she's demonstrated more common sense than most of the people in power and articulated what's fundamentally wrong with American occupation of Iraq - not that we're there or that we want to take harmful people out of power, but rather, we're constantly underestimating the vitality and capabilities of the Iraqi people, and under the guise of recouping some of the money it took to go to war in the first place, poor business decisions are being made. In so many cases, we're doing things ass-backward. Today's entry is a good example.

As for employing the locals… things are becoming a little bit clearer. Major reconstruction contracts are being given to the huge companies, like Bechtel and Halliburton, for millions of dollars. These companies, in turn, employ the Iraqis in the following way: they first ask for bids on specific projects. The Iraqi company with the lowest bid is selected to do the work. The Iraqi company gets *exactly* what it bid from the huge conglomerate, which is usually only a fraction of the original contract price. Hence, projects that should cost $1,000,000 end up costing $50,000,000.

Now, call me naïve, or daft, or whatever you want, but wouldn’t it be a. more economical and b. more profitable to the Iraqis to hand the work over directly to experienced Iraqi companies? Why not work directly with one of the 87 companies and factories that once worked under the ‘Iraqi Military Council’ and made everything from missiles to electrical components? Why not work directly with one of the 158 factories and companies under the former Ministry of Industry and Minerals that produced everything from candy to steel girders? Why not work with the bridge, housing and building companies under the Ministry of Housing that have been heading the reconstruction efforts ever since 1991?

I imagine that most Americans aren't too concerned with living wage or joblessness in Iraq, particularly as we struggle with the remnants of our own economic recession, but unless we want to be back in Iraq in ten years, it's about time we start living up to all the lip service and do what's in the best interest of the Iraqi people - a decision that works out best for everyone, including us, in the long run.


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