Two of the implicit findings of the NYT investigation of Iraq reconstruction bear highlighting. First, while admirable amounts have been repatriated to the US and important political contributors, fully half of the funds have been wasted building things that will remain in Iraq to benefit no-one of importance, or just paid to Iraqis who will only spend it on food and rent in their own country. In a word, the success of the program has been limited.
Second, on the other hand, there remains a great deal yet to steal, and the increasing talk of withdrawal is putting US policy at risk of being profoundly careless. There should be no talk of cutting and running until the vein has been properly mined out. Ambrose Bierce understood this principle in another context:
A Hasty Settlement
“Your Honour,” said an Attorney, rising, “what is the present status of this case – as far as it has gone?”
“I have given a judgement for the residuary legatee under the will,” said the Court, “put the costs upon the contestants, decided all questions relating to fees and other charges; and, in short, the estate in litigation has been settled, with all controversies, disputes, misunderstandings, and differences of opinion thereunto appertaining.”
“Ah, yes, I see,” said the Attorney, thoughtfully, “we are making progress – we are getting on famously.”
“Progress?” echoed the Judge – “progress? Why, sir, the matter is concluded!”
“Exactly, exactly; it had to be concluded in order to give relevancy to the motion that I am about to make. Your Honour, I move that the judgement of the Court be set aside and the case reopened.”
“Upon what ground, sir?” the Judge asked in surprise.
“Upon the ground,” said the Attorney, “that after paying all fees and expenses of litigation and all charges against the estate there will still be something left.”
“There may have been an error,” said His Honour, thoughtfully – “the Court may have underestimated the value of the estate. The motion is taken under advisement.”