U.S. Iraq reconstruction wasted over $8 billion

Failures in accountability marred reconstruction of the country the U.S. invaded and poured billions into

Published March 6, 2013 4:25PM (EST)

The ten-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion looms, carrying with it a legacy of unjustified occupation and botched reconstruction. As Spencer Ackerman at Wired points out Wednesday, of the $60 billion the U.S. poured into reconstruction efforts,"$8 billion of that money wasted outright." These are not Ackerman's estimations -- these were the numbers given by Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), whose office released a "mammoth" report on Iraqi reconstruction programs "which cost the U.S. taxpayers, on average, $15 million every day from 2003 to 2012."

Bowen admits that the amount of "outright" waste probably far tops the $8 billion estimate. As Ackerman notes:

We couldn’t look at every project — that’s impossible — but our audits show a lack of accountability,” Bowen says. “We are not well structured to carry out stability and reconstruction operations.” That isn’t nearly the whole story of the Iraq War’s expense. Bowen is only looking at reconstruction money, not the cost of military operations in Iraq, which totaled over $800 billion.

In a stunning indictment of U.S. reconstruction, Bowen cited Iraq’s acting interior minister, who told him, “You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities, but you cannot point a finger at a single project that was built and completed by the United States.”

Quantifying the wasted billions in everyday terms (multibillions are hard to comprehend after all) the Atlantic Wire calculated that "of the more than $60 billion that went into rebuilding the country after the U.S. invasion, 13 percent was wasted. Over ten years, that's about $1,500 a minute. Or, to put it another way: an average family's annual federal tax payment every ten minutes."

Alongside botched infrastructure building, the SIGIR report notes that it has not been able to measure the impact of the grants it awarded for "democracy-building activities." Mission accomplished.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Iraq War Middle East Reconstruction Sigir War