Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc.
Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we'll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who'll listen.
As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn't too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.
Let's pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let's pretend he hasn't been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let's pretend he didn't work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let's pretend he's wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let's pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let's just use our imagination.
A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!
Here's an excerpt from another entry dated August 24, 2003
Will Work for Food...Over 65% of the Iraqi population is unemployed. The reason for this is because Bremer made some horrible decisions. The first major decision he made was to dissolve the Iraqi army. That may make sense in Washington, but here, we were left speechless. Now there are over 400,000 trained, armed men with families that need to be fed. Where are they supposed to go? What are they supposed to do for a living? I don't know. They certainly don't know. They roam the streets looking for work, looking for an answer. You can see perplexity and anger in their stance, their walk, their whole demeanor. Their eyes shift from face to face, looking for a clue. Who is to answer for this mess? Who do you think?Bremer also dissolved the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Defense. No matter what the excuses, these ministries were full of ordinary people with ordinary jobs- accountants, janitors, secretaries, engineers, journalists, technicians, operator's -- these people are now jobless. Companies have been asked to "cut down" their staff. It no longer has anything to do with politics. The company my uncle works in as an engineer was asked by the CPA to get rid of 680 of the 1,500+ employees- engineers, designers, contractors, mechanics, technicians and the administration were all involved.
She then goes on to tell how she lost her own job at a computer firm.
She's talked about how when the water is on, the pressure is low and people are trying to fill pots and pans while they have the chance. She talksabout hard daily life is when the elctricity keeps going off. She talks about how frightened women are to go out alone.
She told a sad story of a neighbor who lives across the street from her who had been waiting for months to find out what had happened to her husband. At the start of the war he had tried to drive to another town to check on relatives, dissappeared, and was never heard from again. They finally found his burned out car along with several others and where he had been buried. The story mentioned that ordinary Iraqi citizens would find burned out cars with victims inside and would bury them by the road side. Sometimes they'd even place little information cards at the grave sites to assist family members who came looking for them later. Like "1985 White Toyota 1 adult Male, 1 Adult female two female children." Or they'd place the license plate of the cars they were found in at the gravesits as a way to help family members locate their bodies.
It's just so much more intense than the 30-second soundbites you see on the media. Whereas the media often presents the stories as numbers or statistics, hearing it from one person's point of view makes it much more personal.
I only found out about this blog in late August. I've been meaning to see how far back it goes and start at the very beginning and read the whole thing.
Thanks for mentioning it.