There are often finely drawn, and skirted, lines between development and conflict resolution. Too often those lines are inevitably blurred, crossed, and controversially exploited when conflict factors are present. The good thing about lines is that they appear differently depending on the distance at which they are viewed.
In this blog, I hope to offer you a magnified view of the real lines, if not the front lines, of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
In 2003, the world watched as the US and Coalition Forces invade Iraq to remove Dictator Saddam Hussein. The following hours after March 19, 2003, and to the seconds passing as you read this, there has been criticism, speculation, and condemnation from the insurgency to the unofficial end of the Iraq War in 2010. The Gods of Media will propagandize the entire ordeal and forfeit many perceived truths about this particular time in the world. So without ado, please, let us begin with the what. But first, allow me to reboot your thinking palate.
Take a deep breath, and image on a map the Middle East. Now imagine scrolling inwards to the Gulf Sea. A few more clicks in and you can see Iraq. If you’re a history buff you may even remember in grade school the mysterious ancient land of Mesopotamia. That’s right the Fertile Crescent. Biblically, the most fruitful and beautiful place on earth. Hey!!! Wait!!! Don’t google that yet….stay with me. Scroll in a little more to the southern region just southeast of Baghdad.
The little red location icon indicates the capitol of the Dhi Qar province, An-Nasiriyah. There is no accurate population recording but some think that perhaps there are approximately 500,000 Shia residents who are indigenous to this region. One of the cities in An-Nasariyah, the Ancient City of Ur, where the biblical patriarch himself, Abraham, resided. It’s true, I was inside his house…
Which leads me to the next topic in which you will hopefully be engaged in as you read along over the next few weeks. Yes, that’s right I was there. I am one of your sources. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about development and reconstruction. You could say this blog will be a tale of billion dollar efforts to rebuild one of history’s most ancient civilizations. Ahem, yeah…no easy way to get that done. However, the efforts were there.
In 2006 the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) project was implemented. This project was unique in the sense that the efforts transitioned from large international firm involvement to start and ended and with local Iraqi firms as ministries. You will recall that a major problematic contributing factor to unsuccessful development, historically, was involvement from actors too distant. So this was the real time implementation of ‘lessons learned’.
The IRRF was the parent effort which produced many families of efforts towards reconstruction. The immediate offspring of the IRRF, who I have deemed as sisters, are the 4 major priorities of the fund.
- Boosting the capacity of local and national-level governments
- Sustainment of infrastructure rebuilt through the IRRF
- Completion of mostly smaller essential service projects
- Private sector development.
In the next few weeks I will offer some insights to how these priorities played out in real time.
Hand Me The Wrench…Take Cover!
Rebuilding is proven extremely difficult when the adversary keeps hiding your tools. Conflict plays a very important role in development in the form of rebuilding.
No spoilers on this topic now, so you will just have to tune in next week.
The Wrong Approach
Often we have discussed the challenges of humanitarian aid, conflict resolutions, and how they play into development. Many ethical questions are asked. Why are we involved? Should we be involved? Do they want our assistance?
These questions never stopped being asked and the answer change within seconds depending on the ever changing situation in conflict ridden locations. However, the one question that always stuck with me after my deployment was ‘Who?
Most of us barely knew anything about the Iraqi people. Even some of the higher ranking officials didn’t know. So I deduced that the experts knew best. Wrong. Even the SIRGI (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) himself, questioned the approach because not enough effort was done toward understanding who we were/are helping. Basically, all that work and money was invested in the reconstruction of a nation of people who had no idea how to maintain the after-reconstruction state. I know, harsh, but true.
This is the blog piece when I play Devil’s Advocate. You have been warned. But keep an open mind.
This blog is a first and second person account of how development, in the name of reconstruction, plays out during times of conflict. However, I would behoove you to draw your own conclusion!
This topic is very dear to me. I was a witness to something incredibly significant and wish to share that with you all. There are some elements of humor and sarcasm in this blog for the effect of keeping a heavy topic light even if it should not be. Often, the stories we hear lack couth and respect. So I wish to offer you a story which will open your eyes to another time, place, and culture. Some of the names and placed are fiction for security and identity of key actors.
The Associated Press circa 2013. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/much-of-60b-from-us-to-rebuild-iraq-wasted-special-auditors-final-report-to-congress-shows/.
Reconstruction Security Support Services Iraq (RSSS-I). http://www.aegisworld.com/who-we-are/.
Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Oversight of Aegis’s Performance on Security Services Contracts in Iraq with the Department of Defense. SIGIR-09-010, January 14, 2009.
Rebuilding Iraq: U.S. Achievements Through the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/60857.htm. United States Department Of State Washington, Dc . Released By The Bureau Of Near Eastern Affairs And The Bureau Of Public Affairs, February 2006. Department Of State Publication 11317
Tallil Airbase, Sector Operations Center, Intecept Operations Center. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/tallil.htm.