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The $10 Million...Clinic?

Despite its history of abject failure in the planning and administration of any program, the U.S. government apparently wanted a second chance. What better opportunity than Iraq? Here was a nation which the government could invade, demolish and rebuild in its own utopian image starting from the ground up.

Sure there would be challenges such as ignorance of the landscape, language, culture, religions and ethnic mosaic, no knowledge of how commerce was conducted, and — go figure — a nation of people who would violently resist our little social experiment.

Have no fear! Washington would pour billions of bullets and dollars into this little program to compensate for all of its shortcomings. The Administration would destroy everything then take credit for restoring it all. Nothing was immune from our benevolence. We would empty entire cities, attempt to change the national flag, form new political parties, outlaw others, print and supply our own textbooks, confiscate private property, close down opposition media, fund our own media, imprison opposition figures, bribe others and kill others. Cost would be no object — or would it be?

Last week it was reported that a plan to build 142 medical clinics at a cost of $200 million dollars had fallen short. Short, as in gaining 7 yards on a pass in football when you needed to gain 50 yards.

Of a projected 142 clinics, a mere 20 are reported to have been completed (washingtonpost.com 4-3-06). At a total cost of $200 million, that means each clinic cost $10 million to complete. There is no description of what these $10 million wonders consist of. You can be certain they are not major medical facilities or hospitals. They may consist of nothing more than a neighborhood emergency clinic. After all, their original projected cost was less than $1.5 million apiece. Actually the original projected cost was $700,000.00 per clinic when you consider that the 142-clinic objective was scaled back from an original goal of 300. In other words, a 100% expenditure of the budget resulted in a completion rate of only 7%.

In one of the greatest understatements of the year, the World Health Organization’s spokesperson in Cairo is quoted as saying, "That’s not good. That’s shocking." I would agree, especially since U.S. bombs and sanctions destroyed most of the primary health care system in the first place.

Medical clinics are not unique. According to the washingtonpost.com article, "[t]he American reconstruction effort would be able to finish only 300 of 425 promised electricity projects and 49 of 136 water and sanitation projects." To coin the W.H.O., u2018That’s not good.’

If nothing else, the Iraqis are becoming excellent students in American government. Unfortunately, the lessons may be painful, even fatal. So, pass the bandages and the iodine. Hey, Mr. Bush, this clinic is really nice!

April 11, 2006