Former Foreign Service Officer at the US State Department, Peter Van Buren, has written a book about the disastrous Iraq invasion, of which he was a part. It’s an (almost) comical account of the gross ineptitude of the occupation and the massive amount of money wasted. Tax-payer money:
Very few people outside the agricultural world know that if the rooster in a flock dies the hens will continue to produce fertile eggs for up to four weeks because “sperm nests,” located in the ovary ducts of hens, collect and store sperm as a survival mechanism to ensure fertile eggs even after the male is gone. I had to know this as part of my role in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Like learning that Baghdad produced 8,000 tons of trash every day, who could have imagined when we invaded Iraq that such information would be important to the Global War on Terror? If I were to meet George W., I would tell him this by way of suggesting that he did not know what he was getting the country into.
I would also invite the former president along to visit a chicken-processing plant built with your tax dollars and overseen by my ePRT (embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team). We really bought into the chicken idea and spent like drunken sailors on shore leave to prove it. In this case, the price was $2.58 million for the facility.
The first indication this was all chicken shit was the smell as we arrived at the plant with a group of Embassy friends on a field trip. The odor that greeted us when we walked into what should have been the chicken-killing fields of Iraq was fresh paint. There was no evidence of chicken killing as we walked past a line of refrigerated coolers.
When we opened one fridge door, expecting to see chickens chilling, we found instead old buckets of paint. Our guide quickly noted that the plant had purchased 25 chickens that morning specifically to kill for us and to feature in a video on the glories of the new plant. This was good news, a 100% jump in productivity from previous days, when the plant killed no chickens at all.
How many PRT staff members does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One to hire a contractor who fails to complete the job and two to write the press release in the dark.
We measured the impact of our projects by their effect on us, not by their effect on the Iraqis. Output was the word missing from the vocabulary of developing Iraq. Everything was measured only by what we put in — dollars spent, hours committed, people engaged, press releases written.