Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rumsfeld on eve of Iraq war: ‘If you think we’re going to spend’ $1 billion in Iraq, ‘you’re sadly mistaken.’

A scathing new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction calls the reconstruction effort “a $100 billion failure,” according to the New York Times, which obtained an advanced copy. It documents how the Pentagon “simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up” failures. It also reveals how officials were “operating by the seat of their pants,” documenting one exchange between Jay Garner, then-head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on the potential cost of the reconstruction:

The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

“What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.

“My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

“The bitterest message” of the report, the Times notes, is that, for all the billions spent on Iraq reconstruction, “the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.”

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