"However much they built one day the earth swallowed up the next, in such a way that they had no idea where their work had vanished to." --Geoffery of Monmouth History of the Kings of BritainThe New York Times today has a perhaps unintentionally humorous article about the neverending disaster attending the attempted rebuilding of Iraqi oil pipelines.
And Dick Cheney's company keeps raking in the contracts, and his heart keeps on beating too. It doesn't take a Merlin to figure out what's wrong with these foundations.
When Robert Sanders was sent by the Army to inspect the construction work an American company was doing on the banks of the Tigris River, 130 miles north of Baghdad, he expected to see workers drilling holes beneath the riverbed to restore a crucial set of large oil pipelines, which had been bombed during the invasion of Iraq. What he found instead that day in July 2004 looked like some gargantuan heart-bypass operation gone nightmarishly bad. A crew had bulldozed a 300-foot-long trench along a giant drill bit in their desperate attempt to yank it loose from the riverbed. A supervisor later told him that the project's crews knew that drilling the holes was not possible, but that they had been instructed by the company in charge of the project to continue anyway.
A few weeks later, after the project had burned up all of the $75.7 million allocated to it, the work came to a halt.The project, called the Fatah pipeline crossing, had been a critical element of a $2.4 billion no-bid reconstruction contract that a Halliburton subsidiary had won from the Army in 2003. The spot where about 15 pipelines crossed the Tigris had been the main link between Iraq's rich northern oil fields and the export terminals and refineries that could generate much-needed gasoline, heating fuel and revenue for Iraqis.
For all those reasons, the project's demise would seriously damage the American-led effort to restore Iraq's oil system and enable the country to pay for its own reconstruction. Exactly what portion of Iraq's lost oil revenue can be attributed to one failed project, no matter how critical, is impossible to calculate. But the pipeline at Al Fatah has a wider significance as a metaphor for the entire $45 billion rebuilding effort in Iraq. Although the failures of that effort are routinely attributed to insurgent attacks, an examination of this project shows that troubled decision-making and execution have played equally important roles.
The Fatah project went ahead despite warnings from experts that it could not succeed because the underground terrain was shattered and unstable.
It continued chewing up astonishing amounts of cash when the predicted problems bogged the work down, with a contract that allowed crews to charge as much as $100,000 a day as they waited on standby.
The company in charge engaged in what some American officials saw as a self-serving attempt to limit communications with the government until all the money was gone...