Don't worry, we're in charge now
Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003
Much has been written about how Iraqis complicated the task of rebuilding their country by looting it after Saddam Hussein's regime fell. In the case of the international airport outside Baghdad, however, the theft and vandalism were conducted largely by victorious American troops, according to U.S. officials, Iraqi Airways staff members and other airport workers. The troops, they say, stole duty-free items, needlessly shot up the airport and trashed five serviceable Boeing airplanes. "I don't want to detract from all the great work that's going into getting the airport running again," says Lieut. John Welsh, the Army civil-affairs officer charged with bringing the airport back into operation. "But you've got to ask, If this could have been avoided, did we shoot ourselves in the foot here?" …
U.S. estimates of the cost of the damage and theft begin at a few million dollars and go as high as $100 million. Airport workers say even now air conditioners and other equipment are regularly stolen. "Soldiers do this stuff all the time, everywhere. It's warfare," says a U.S. military official. "But the conflict was over when this was done. These are just bored soldiers." Says Welsh: "If we're here to rebuild the country, then anything we break we have to fix. We need to train these guys to go from shoot-it-up to securing infrastructure. Otherwise we're just making more work for ourselves. And we have to pay for it."
Well, Candidate Dubya did warn us he did not believe in nation building. Sounds like the first step to restoring order in Iraq may begin with our own troops. These guys have commanding officers, right?