Costly military plans for Iraqi civilians fall apart

Jadriyah Lake in better days

In the spring of 2008, Gen. David H. Petraeus decided he had spent enough time gazing from his helicopter at an empty and desolate lake on the banks of the Tigris River. He ordered the lake refilled and turned into a water park for all of Baghdad to enjoy.

The military doctrine behind the project holds that cash can be as effective as bullets. Under Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time, that principle gained unprecedented emphasis, and it has become a cornerstone of the war effort in Afghanistan, now under Petraeus’s command.

But today the Baghdad park is nearly waterless, more than two years after a U.S. military inauguration ceremony that included a marching band and water-scooter rides. Much of the compound is in ruins, swing sets have become piles of twisted steel, and the personal watercraft’s engines have been gutted for spare parts…

In many cases, such as that of the Jadriyah Lake park, the investments under the plan, known as the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, have created no more than a temporary illusion of progress. They have also shown a lack of U.S. foresight and highlighted the shortcomings of an Iraqi government the Americans were trying to boost…

We did run a danger of looking like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned,” Lt. Col. Dennis Yates said in a recent interview…

Bread and Circuses was the first thought I had about the project. Our military hasn’t advanced any further beyond Nero than has Congress over the Roman Senate.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who from 2007 to 2010 held each of the top two military jobs in Iraq, declined to be interviewed for this article. He has called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program one of the key factors that allowed U.S. commanders to improve security in Baghdad…

“Our efforts were often derailed by the military losing millions of dollars in CERP funding in the name of ‘If we don’t spend it, we will lose the money to the Afghanistan effort,’ ” wrote Blake Stone, an adjunct professor at the United States Naval War College.

RTFA. Several pages – brightened essentially by the ease of lifting money from the US military with no accountability. Brigands accustomed to stealing from ordinary civilian institutions in the Middle East must have felt like Iraq became the Promised Land when they saw Americans bringing in money by the pallet-load to distribute to schemes with little or no chance of bearing fruit.

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