Groundhog Day

by John Q on July 6, 2007

While looking back at whether Iraq was “all about oil“, I thought it might be a good idea to check on the US reconstruction program, and found the State Department report for April 2007. The lead items are electricity generating capacity and oil output, which used to be followed eagerly by those in the blogosphere arguing that the MSM were ignoring “Good News from Iraq”. As Tim Lambert and Jim Henley pointed out a couple of years ago, the same good news kept getting announced over and over again, but the prewar levels (average electricity output of 4300 MW, availability of 11 hours per day, oil output 2.5 million barrels per day (MBPD)) were never surpassed.

We don’t hear quite so much about good news from Iraq these days. The original good news blogger Arthur Chrenkoff shut up shop a while ago. Winds of Change picked up the baton, but seems to have given up. Google finds this site with three entries this year, none containing any actual good news, and this quasi-official site, apparently produced by the Defense Department, and mainly reproducing press releases. It’s not clear whether press releases containing bad news are excluded or whether no such releases are issued.

So, I’ll pick up the ball and summarise the news in the State Department’s report. At this stage, 99 per cent of the US money has been committed, and 87 per cent has been spent, so there’s no more where that came from. Adding “new”, “restored” and “maintained” generating capacity, we get a total of 4373MW, which, assuming 80 per cent uptime, would correspond to average output of around 3500MW. Oil shows a capacity of 2.7MBPD and output of 1.9MBPD. (Table is over the fold). Then there’s the usual schools and hospitals, but these days both schools and hospitals in Iraq are very dangerous places to attend.


Progress to March 30, 2007


ʉۢ 2,120 MW new and restored generating capacity

ʉۢ 2,253 MW generating capacity maintained

ʉۢ Improved electricity distribution to 372,000 homes

ʉۢ Nationwide Hours of Power: 11

ʉۢ Baghdad Hours of Power: 6


ʉۢ 2.68 million barrels per day (MBPD) crude oil production capacity

ʉۢ 1.92 MBPD actual crude oil production

ʉۢ LPG production capacity of 1,700 tons per day

ʉۢ 1,400 tons per day actual LPG production

Water & Sewer

ʉۢ 1.67 million cubic meters per day additional water treatment capacity

ʉۢ Benefiting an estimated 5.4 million Iraqis


ʉۢ 15 hospitals rehabilitation projects completed

ʉۢ 12 Primary Healthcare Centers completed

ʉۢ 123 Primary Healthcare Centers under contract.


ʉۢ 809 IRRF-funded schools providing classrooms for 323,000 students

Security & Justice

ʉۢ 3 training academy projects

ʉۢ 92 fire station projects

ʉۢ 255 border forts

Transportation & Communications

ʉۢ 36 village road projects

ʉۢ 95 railway station renovations

ʉۢ 14 aviation projects

ʉۢ 19 functioning berths at Port of Umm Qasr

 â€¢ “911” emergency dispatch system covering 12 million Iraqis in 15 cities

Of the $20.9 billion IRRF originally appropriated, 99 percent is obligated. As of March 31, $17.5 billion, or 87 percent, has been disbursed in payments for completed work.



P O'Neill 07.06.07 at 11:25 pm

Missing from the good news list — the pre-March 2003 levels of anything, and data on availability of refined petroleum, which of course what matters to the man in the Baghdad petrol station. They are still exporting crude and importing refined, the time-honoured practice of imploding oil-dependent economies everywhere.


roger 07.07.07 at 2:20 am

The American Prospect has a good article about the Iraqi oil unions and their position vis a vis the oil bill Maliki is pushing as it was pushed onto him by the americans here.


abb1 07.07.07 at 8:38 am

…assuming 80 per cent uptime…

BBC has this: Monitoring the surge and it has ‘economics’ part. They’re monitoring three families in Baghdad.

The life indicators have remained largely unchanged over the past three weeks. If anything, they report petrol being even more expensive than last week and they are getting less electricity from the grid – for two of the families less than an hour on average per day.

The third family, according to their chart, gets 4 hours of electricity per day.

I suppose it still can be 80% uptime with rolling blackouts, but I doubt it.


jet 07.07.07 at 3:44 pm

Given that the CIA’s 2002 NIE outlook mentioned that Saddam would in “high probability” have nukes by 2007, that oil output could be ramped up to 8+ MBPD, Saddam was a bad man who was making WMD parts and might give them to Al Queda, we might want to examine what the CIA said about Al Queda in post-invasion Iraq and what they said about sectarian violence. Oh, but that might make Bush and Congress look rational for going to war. That isn’t part of the “narrative”.

The buck should stop with Bush for screw ups on his watch, but why does he get to be the fall guy for a system so completely fucked up? It wasn’t all Bush’s fault. Replacing him won’t magically make the beaurocrats in charge start doing their job.

But we sit pointing fingers (although I like this post pointing out how Bush’s defenders try to make roses out of shit), which is probably what the power brokers want.


BillCinSD 07.07.07 at 4:54 pm

Jet, Bush appointed most of the beaurocrats [sic], so indirectly it is his fault. he put in young true believers to help enrich his financial backers rather than actually help the Iraqi people.


jet 07.07.07 at 6:19 pm

Bush was responsible for the 2002 CIA NIE and all the analyst and top brass who put that together? What about Congress and their vote to allow Bush to go in? Perhaps you can point me some where that breaks it down and shows how in a few years Bush was able to single handedly subvert thousands of .gov employees. Because I’d really like to believe the US .gov and the federal agencies were a well oiled machine that never makes mistakes except for that dastardly Bush.


John Protevi 07.07.07 at 7:17 pm

Jet, your act is old. The CIA was not the only source of info on Iraq’s “WMDs.” Are you seriously trying to tell us that Bush et al. exercised due diligence in sifting pre-war intelligence rather than cherrypicking, stovepiping, and groupthinking? Please stop. Your contributions in this vein are neither funny nor enlightening.


jet 07.07.07 at 11:29 pm

john protevi,
Okay, you’re right. It was all Bush’s fault.


John Protevi 07.08.07 at 3:42 am

Jet, I thought that when I called your bluff you’d fold like a cheap suit. I see that I was right.


Elliott Oti 07.08.07 at 9:19 am

The buck should stop with Bush for screw ups on his watch, but why does he get to be the fall guy for a system so completely fucked up?

Because the buck stops at his desk. If he doesn’t like that, he should have gotten into another line of work. He would not have declined accepting credit had the system functioned beautifully either. He doesn’t get to pick and choose: accepting praise when things go well, declining responsibility when things go badly.

Replacing him won’t magically make the beaurocrats in charge start doing their job.

Indeed. Heads should have rolled the first time round. A disaster of the magnitude of Iraq should have led to multiple resignations and mass sackings. They didn’t. The results of the Iraq debacle have been consequence-free for the same incompetent bureaucrats. This is “CEO” Bush’s fault as well.


engels 07.08.07 at 9:25 am

Shorter Jet: It’s not you Georgie, it’s the system!


Elliott Oti 07.08.07 at 9:30 am

Shorter Jet: It’s not you Georgie, it’s the system!

Well, Jet has a point. The rot is endemic: you do not get the sewage of the past six years from one single rotten apple.


engels 07.08.07 at 10:16 am

Elliott – You don’t say! And there was me thinking it was all just down to one individual!


Elliott Oti 07.08.07 at 11:48 am

Not saying you thought that, Engels, but Jet does have a legitimate point.


James Wimberley 07.08.07 at 12:15 pm

Some of the priorities indicated by the table are pretty weird. 95 railway stations? Does Iraq have that many? Against 36 village road projects, a drop in the ocean. The 911 emergency despatch system looks impressive – if you assume that Iraq didn’t have one before, which seems unlikely. Perhaps they just changed the code from some suspect Euro-socialist number like 110 or 999.


abb1 07.08.07 at 1:03 pm

I protest. The Founding Fathers, The Constitution, The Liberty. American system is the best, we are Number One.

Jet sounds like a terrorist sympathizer. If you don’t like it here, go live in Iran.


John Protevi 07.08.07 at 1:36 pm

Dudes, we’re playing Jet’s game (trollish attention-seeking and thread-derailing, if I have to spell it out) by engaging with his ludicrous straw men. Best to mock him quickly and get back to the topic of the post. Which is excellent and thought-provoking: after 4 years and — ahem — a good bit of money, the “good news” in Iraq is not so good. And yet we hardly hear anything any more from those who used to chant “good news, good news.” So thanks to John Quiggin for his analysis. For a follow-up on the oil angle, let me recommend David Bacon of The American Prospect: Iraqi Oil: Benchmark or Giveaway?.


jet 07.08.07 at 2:43 pm

All these misunderstandings could have been avoided if I would have included one word. I meant “…but why does he get to be the ONLY fall guy…” On the right side of the blogsphere we see calls for government reform, more sunshine on how DC does business and whom is beholden to whomever. On the left side of the blogsphere we see DC was a perfect wonderful Disneyland until the last 6 years when Bush and his army destroyed everything. But that view is so comical it would include Plame and Wilson being Bush cronies, instead of just part of the inept bureaucracy that enabled Bush in the first place. The problem isn’t Bush. The problem is the system of lobbyists and cronyism that allows someone like Bush into power.

But John Protevi is right. This was a post about the dieing throws of the Iraq-is-awesome spin-meisters. Which I’m particularly gleeful in seeing as I bought into their bullshit. Bastards.


John Protevi 07.08.07 at 3:32 pm

On the left side of the blogsphere we see DC was a perfect wonderful Disneyland until the last 6 years when Bush and his army destroyed everything.

Jet, you’re a smart guy, but these sort of straw men is why I said your act was old. Satiric exaggeration has to have a grain of truth in it for it to work. Are you really claiming the “left side of the blogosphere” doesn’t have a systematic critique of DC, but instead suffers from Bush Derangement Syndrome? Where have I heard that before?

In any event, I’m glad you recognize the good quality of the post.


Alex 07.08.07 at 5:14 pm

James Wimberley, I command you to go away and reflect on the fact that, during the prime railway-building years, Iraq was ruled by A) a Turkish Empire heavily influenced by Germany that built a railway from Istanbul to Baghdad with German money and expertise, and then B) Britain.

Abb1, hours of power is about demand as well as supply. If Baghdad=6 hours a day, 25 per cent of demand is being supplied. Even with 100 per cent uptime, if you can only get 25 per cent of demand to Baghdad, you’ve got to turn the lights off 75 per cent of the time or 75 per cent of the city.


abb1 07.08.07 at 6:24 pm

I understand. Still, it seems weird that 80% of their full generating capacity can provide (according to the BBC link) only about 5-7% of the demand (1-2 hours/day). So, I suspect they’re not running their generators at 80% of the full capacity.


Alex 07.08.07 at 7:15 pm

Part of the conundrum is that demand went way up because TVs and computers got cheap, ‘cos the CPA abolished sales tax and customs duties.


Bruce Baugh 07.09.07 at 4:41 am

Rather than wasiting time with Jet’s straw men about responsibility, it turns out to be possible to go look at actual examples of how better leaders prepare. Roger Brun’s Almost History is a fascinating collection of documents prepared for contingencies that didn’t arrive. It includes things like Eisenhower’s prepared statement of responsibility and resignation in case D-Day failed, and Nixon’s eulogy for the Apollo XI astronauts if they couldn’t come home. Circumstances and styles vary a lot, but there’s the shared basic sense that the people giving the orders should be prepared to take the blame. It makes the psychopathic cowardice fo the current administration even more vivid by contrast.


Bruce Baugh 07.09.07 at 4:47 am

Yeesh. Pardon typos. Sinus infection has me blinking a lot more than usual and missing some things.


Alex 07.09.07 at 10:03 am

BTW, I’m pretty sure the Umm Qasr port work was carried out back in 2003, much of it by the British Army’s 17 Port & Maritime Regiment, Royal Engineers, before Stevedoring Services of America Inc took over under a CPA contract. So it’s a tad poor if they’re still including it in the reports.

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