The US engineering company Bechtel is leading the corporate withdrawal from Iraq. Despite much of the country’s infrastructure still being in ruins, US government funding for reconstruction is coming to an end.
After ordering the invasion that saw Iraq’s infrastructure destroyed, George Bush announced that he wanted the country’s infrastructure to be the “very best in the Middle East”.
Bechtel was one of the largest companies employed to rebuild Iraq. It received $2.3 billion from the US government to deliver power, water and sewage plants across Iraq.
How much of that money was simply pocketed has not been disclosed by the company. And now after three years, 52 dead and 49 wounded employees, Bechtel has announced it is leaving Iraq.
The rebuilding campaign was supposed to win the hearts of sceptical Iraqis by giving them clean water, dependable power, telephones that worked and modern sanitation.
But the job is far from done. According to a recent report by the US funded Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, of 142 health clinics due for construction, only six have been built so far.
Water access also remains limited. Only around eight million Iraqis - one quarter of the population - have access to drinkable water, compared to nearly 13 million before the war.
Of the 136 water and sanitation projects originally planned, just 49 are expected to be completed.
And a recent report by the New York Times claims that “black oil”, a by-product of oil refineries, is polluting the Tigris river and contaminating water supplies in northern Iraq.
But the US regime is keen to deflect the blame. According to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, US government auditors have blamed the problem on “the attitudes of Iraqi workers, who in the past rarely did maintenance unless something broke”.
Despite the problems and the fact that there is no plan to withdraw troops, US reconstruction is ending.
The $18 billion that the US Congress approved three years ago was supposed to be spent or committed to specific projects by the end of September.
Two of the US government agencies that have overseen the work are scheduled to close shop early next year.
“We’ve stopped the reconstruction,” said Frederick Barton, co-director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank. He said, “We’re wrapping up, and stepping back. It’s a tragedy.”