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Riverbend and Rebuilding

From a blog by "Riverbend," a female Iraqi with a good command of English, comes this commentary on rebuilding Iraq:

One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who'll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn't too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward -- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let's pretend he hasnt been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let's pretend he didn't work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let's pretend he's wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated -- let's pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let's just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around -- brace yourselves -- $50,000,000 !! ...

[I]nstead of bringing in thousands of foreign companies that are going to want billions of dollars, why aren't the Iraqi engineers, electricians and laborers being taken advantage of? Thousands of people who have no work would love to be able to rebuild Iraq… no one is being given a chance.

The reconstruction of Iraq is held above our heads like a promise and a threat. People roll their eyes at reconstruction because they know (Iraqis are wily) that these dubious reconstruction projects are going to plunge the country into a national debt only comparable to that of America. A few already rich contractors are going to get richer, Iraqi workers are going to be given a pittance and the unemployed Iraqi public can stand on the sidelines and look at the glamorous buildings being built by foreign companies.

Found on boing boing.


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You might want to fact check before spreading rumor and innuedo that is not true.

The $50,000,000 for the ND bridge contract does not ring true, nor does the line that Iraqi's are not being allowed to participate in the rebuilding.

I suspect her bridge figure is off by about $49,500,000 from What? the actual bid came in as.

Also it's about a 50/50 chance that an Iraqi subcontractor will get the job.

Bechtel intends to subcontract roughly 90 percent of its infrastructure project work. As of August 17, Bechtel had awarded 75 subcontracts, and 41 of those have gone to Iraqi companies. A regularly updated list of awarded subcontracts is available at https://supplier.bechtel.com/bni/usaid/PortalSubcList.xls.

I can't find any evidence to support either your position or Riverbend's. The spreadsheet you referred to is a list of subcontractors with no reference to the New Diyala Bridge. There's an evaluation of the bridge's condition here, but it says nothing about estimated repair costs or who would do the work.

A simple Google search of "new diyala bridge" turns up many reference's to Riverbend's post, but none of them (including me) do any fact-checking on it. A comment to this article refers to a post by Salam Pax claiming that Riverbend is indeed who she says she is.

Clearly more research is needed on this. However, pending solid facts, I'm going to give Riverbend the benefit of the doubt, if for no other reason than she's an excellent writer with a style that at least seems authentic.

The $50,000,000 for the New Diyala Bridge contract of Riverbend's looks more and more like a shabby lie.

Yeah, like the shabby lies about Halliburton inflating prices, like the shabby lies about Bush and his croonies lying...wait a minute, these are actually truths, oh well.

The $50,000,000 for the New Diyala Bridge contract of Riverbend's is still a lie.

Two things. First of all in response to Frank B's comment--never believe something just because it is well written. I would like to believe this story too, but it is imperative to verify things.

Secondly, it would not suprise me at all to find out that it is true. Remember our government is the organization that pays $19,000 for a hammer and $50,000 for an aircraft coffe pot.

There is no doubt in my mind that the government is being fleeced by contractors in Iraq. This is their modus operandi.

Also, Bechtel if you recall is the company that was the prime contractor for the Big Dig construction project here in Boston. It was originally budgeted for $1 billion dollars but in the capable hands of Bechtel it was completed for only $15 Billion dollars!

If anyone comes up with comprehensive verification of this story let's hear it.

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