Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Americans Can Do Anything'

"For my own generation, the defining image of America was the landing on the moon... I'll always remember thinking that day: Americans can do anything..."* (Julia Gillard)

"'My heart goes out to the Iraqis', said Warrant Officer John Jewell, acknowledging the challenges ahead. 'The innocent always pay the bill'." (First-light convoy departs Iraq, AP/ The Australian, 19/12/11)

"The conflict, which quickly descended into chaos, corruption, terrorism and sectarian slaughter, has claimed the lives of almost 4,500 American troops and cost $US1 trillion. Yet there is little tangible indication in Iraq that the Americans were ever here. Whereas signs of the British colonial-era occupation in the first half of the previous century are still evident in bridges, schools and monuments to the war dead, signs of the US presence, which peaked at more than 170,000 troops, are almost negligible. There is precious little to show for a venture that was supposed to create a new Middle East and establish a US strategic ally in the oil-rich region. Many of the schools renovated in the heyday of the 'hearts & minds' campaign after the invasion are peeling and neglected, victims of shoddy workmanship and corruption. Even sections of the highway between Baghdad and Nasariyeh, the southern city where the US's final logistics crews are packing up and leaving, remain unpaved because the foreign contractors building it fled amid a surge in kidnappings in 2004." (Iraq now on its own & ill-prepared to face challenges, James Hider, The Times/The Australian, 16/12/11)

"'I wish I could put my head on a pillow and sleep comfortably', [Sheikh Mustafa Kamal] said. 'Is it better than before? Of course it isn't. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with anyone, you just had to be careful not to go near his chair'." (Caught between fear & hope, Martin Chulov, Guardian/SMH, 17/12/11)

"The UN Development Program marked the exit of the last US troops by releasing data from a survey of 28,000 Iraqi homes that was conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning in the first quarter of this year. It found that public services provided homes with an average of just 7.6 hours a day of electricity, only 30% of homes are connected to sewerage, just 38% of households rate availability of drinking water as 'good' or 'very good'; and 1 in 8 Iraqis who dealt with a civil servant over the past year was obliged to pay a bribe. Despite Iraq's oil wealth, the country has failed to attract foreign investment in infrastructure or other industries, with foreigners deterred by the lack of clear laws and security problems which mean that more people are still killed, wounded or kidnapped each year in 'post-war' Iraq than in Afghanistan." (Economic boom bypasses man on the street, Peter Wilson, The Australian, 19/12/11)

[* See my 11/3/11 post Mistress of Reinvention.]

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