Monday 7 December 2009

Giving away Iraq

The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq continues. The Washington Post ran an article today ("Millions worth of gear left in Iraq") on the effort to move or dispose US equipment during the withdrawal of forces: part of it is being donated to Iraqi forces. The cap is apparently $ 30 million per facility, with 280 facilities affected.

Besides the discussions over whether this equipment could be used in Afghanistan or some other theatre, it’s interesting to reflect that the $ 30 million presumably relates to depreciated US dollars. Assuming an air conditioning unit, for instance, has spend 3 years in-country (or 3 years from the date of sale to the US military), it’s already lost 60% of its value, assuming a 5-year depreciation term. So the $ 30 million in depreciated terms could be as high as $ 150 million in new purchases.

Assuming a mid-range of $ 75 million per facility for newly-purchased equipment, and multiplying by 280 facilities, then the US taxpayer is looking at a give-away of $ 21 billion. It probably won’t be that high: let’s assume it’s only half this estimate. That’s still $ 10.5 billion.

And, in one of the final, humiliating codas of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, as soon as US soldiers leave, the facilities are looted. The Post article writes:

Some U.S. military officials worry that much of the equipment left behind could be looted. A U.S. officer whose unit turned over a Joint Security Station in Baghdad to the Iraqi army this summer said Iraqi soldiers looted the facility within hours of their official departure.

"When we returned to the outpost the next morning, most of the beds had already been taken, wood walls and framing had been pulled and several air-conditioning units had been removed from the walls, leaving gaping holes," said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the event reflects negatively on the Iraqis.

Weeks later, the Caterpillar generator the Americans left behind was barely working, the officer said.

It’s interesting to note that in the United States, over 65% of all US federal government revenue derives from personal income taxes. Which means that this give-away is financed by—who else?--the US taxpayer. A frightful waste of money. Except, of course, for the lobbyists, contractors and perhaps even government officials who all earned their commissions from the process.

As with the phantom weapons of mass destruction, here goes the phantom reconstruction of Iraq. I wonder what will happen in Afghanistan when the US withdraws?

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