James Glanz, PhD, Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times, and T. Christian Miller, investigative reporter for ProPublica, wrote in a Dec. 13, 2008 article titled "Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders" co-published by the New York Times and ProPublica about a report titled "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" (6.9 MB) from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:

"An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

Iraqi police at graduation ceremony
(accessed Dec. 16, 2008)
Source: US Army Photo/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards
In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department 'kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! "We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000."'

Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.


Central Baghdad, Jan. 20, 2008
Source: AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed
The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

By mid-2008, the history says, $117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in United States taxpayer money.

The history contains a catalog of revelations that show the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere prevailing in the reconstruction effort."

Dec. 13, 2008 James Glanz, PhD and T. Christian Miller

Full Text of Report: "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" (6.9 MB)


Links to Related Information

  1. Costs of the Iraq War

  2. To what extent has the money for Iraq's reconstruction been spent?