Bush’s Bungling Boobies

Two things to note: (1) finally, one representative of the MSM (NY Times) calls this debacle what it is, namely the occupation of Iraq, and (2) the article is another fine example of the complete bungling of any semblance of reconstruction.

Iraqi Factories, Aging and Shut, Now Give Hope
Published: January 18, 2007

RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 16 — Inside a huge shuttered factory on the gritty western fringes of this outlaw desert town, thousands of ornate porcelain sinks, toilets and other fixtures sit in row after row next to the automated ovens and assembly lines that once churned out the products but lie silent under a thin film of yellow desert dust.

However, neither the fancy ceramics nor the machines appear to be damaged, a miracle that no one can quite explain in one of the most dangerous cities of a country that looters have ravaged since 2003.

Whatever the explanation, some American and Iraqi officials believe that surviving factories like this one — once considered inefficient, government-subsidized behemoths — could present a last chance of sorts for dealing with two problems that have remained stubbornly unsolved since the invasion: Iraq’s reconstruction and its insurgency.

The factories, state-owned enterprises under Saddam Hussein’s government, would appear to be the unlikeliest of saviors — things like a bus factory in an ethnically riven area south of Baghdad, a tomato paste factory in the Kurdish north, and a second plant in Ramadi that makes floor tiles with silk-screened floral patterns. The factories went dark after the invasion for a variety of reasons, including an insistence by the initial American occupation authority that once they closed, vibrant free markets would spring into existence to fill the void.

But neither those markets nor the expected commercial and social benefits of the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction program have materialized. So a few officials and local leaders are returning to the shuttered plants in hopes of finding a cheaper way to help the economy and perhaps create jobs to attract young men who might otherwise join the insurgency.

The dusty old plants are more evocative of guys with lunch pails than the big thinkers who once believed that expensive American reconstruction projects would remake the face of Iraq. “Any opportunity to re-employ more people and give the government a chance to get income from these factories is important,” said Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, an Anbar tribal leader, as he toured the porcelain and tile factories in his flowing black-and-gold robes. “Especially in this time when Anbar is experiencing terrorism.”

The sheik added, in reference to the idle Iraqis who put the unemployment rate at anywhere from an estimated 30 percent to 60 percent, “They are normal human beings — they would rather work than make violence.”

In Ramadi on Tuesday, Sheik Sattar and several Iraqi officials, including the Anbar governor and the manager of the ceramics plant, met with Paul A. Brinkley, a senior Pentagon official who, following up on a tip from the American military command, has taken it upon himself to push the revival of state-owned enterprises that he thinks can be restarted with modest financing.

Read it here.

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