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Context of 'September 17, 2003: Few Reconstruction Projects Said to Employ Iraqis'

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Jay Garner.Jay Garner. [Source: US Army]The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) is created by the Pentagon to direct the post-war administration of Iraq, and signed into existence by President Bush. Its head, retired Army General Jay Garner, ostensibly reports to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith (see Fall 2002), but Garner will later say that once he is in Iraq proper, General Tommy Franks of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) “will be my boss.” ORHA is later renamed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). David Kay, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and a former UN weapons inspector, had initially been selected to head the office, but he declined the invitation. Associates of Kay tell the New York Times that Kay felt the new agency seemed relatively uninterested in the task of promoting democracy. (Miller 2/23/2003; Perlez 4/2/2003; Roberts 2008, pp. 126, 134) Garner is considered an excellent selection, having led the relief effort for the Kurds of northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. But he faces an uphill battle, as ORHA’s functionality is plagued from the outset by a severe lack of time, uncertain funding, and incessant interdepartmental strife, particularly between the State and Defense Departments. Most ORHA workers will not have reported for duty by the time the invasion begins. And attempts to recruit experts from other agencies will be blocked by Feith and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who impose strict ideological and bureaucratic restrictions on Garner’s selections for his staff. (Roberts 2008, pp. 126, 134)

The Coalition Provisional Authority provides US Congress with a justification for a request of $20.3 billion for reconstruction projects in Iraq. The report—which leaves many questions unanswered—describes 115 projects. Less than 25 of them mention employing Iraqis or using Iraqi resources. (US Congress 9/30/2003, pp. 2, 4-5 pdf file)

Members of Congressman Henry A. Waxman’s staff interview two members of the Iraqi Governing Council. They state that Iraqi firms could be hired for reconstruction projects at one-tenth the amount being charged by US firms. Their claim is corroborated by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) own justification (see September 17, 2003) for the $20 billion reconstruction supplemental. The CPA states that when work is done by Iraqi companies the “cost of construction is 1/10th of US standard per sq. ft. in general construction.” (US Congress 9/30/2003, pp. 3-4 pdf file)

“Brick” of $400,000 in U.S. Currency (4,000 $100 bills)“Brick” of $400,000 in U.S. Currency (4,000 $100 bills) [Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York] (click image to enlarge)At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $1.5 billion in cash. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. (US Congress 2/6/2007 pdf file; Pelofsky 2/7/2007)

At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $1 billion in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. (US Congress 2/6/2007 pdf file)


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