Friday, March 09, 2007

Pork comes to Sadr City

"We should have an amusement park," said Mr. Daraji, one of two elected mayors in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad where American and Iraqi troops have been peacefully clearing homes since Sunday. "We want to rehabilitate the area so that families can have fun."

The above is from Damien Cave's "Iraqis Seek Role in Rebuilding Their Nation" in this morning's New York Times and read that paragraph above again before we rejoin Daraji's nonsense already in progress:

In an interview at his office, Mr. Daraji said the amusement park was one of several projects that community leaders were pushing American officials to finance in negotiations about how to handle the Shiite Mahdi Army, a militia that has controlled the neighborhood for years.
A concentrated makeover of Sadr City, he said, would support the plan's goals in two important ways: by giving young Mahdi militants jobs as an alternative to lives of violence and by providing residents with proof of the government's ability to improve their daily lives.
Mr. Daraji's requests, however, also reflect a broader effort by Iraqi leaders to dart past "clear and hold" to the more lucrative phase of the new security plan known as "build."
Even as bombings and killings here continue, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has labeled the plan a success. His Shiite-led government has allotted $10 billion this year for reconstruction throughout the country, and, with billions more expected from the United States, Iraqi leaders at all levels are scrambling for a say in how the windfall might be spent.

With ten billion dollars to toss around, all of Iraq's provinces are going to have to compete for that limited money (and for a war torn nation, ten billions isn't a great deal of money). Hospitals are falling apart, most Iraqis who have reliable electricity get it from their own generators, potable water is still not a reality, large portions of the population (such as those from Falluja) live in 'tent cities' now due to the fact that their homes were bombed by the US. And some idiot wants to build an amusement park in what's supposedly the heart of violence in Baghdad?

Pork has come to Iraq and don't think it will be pretty. Don't think, if Sadr City gets the amusement park, it won't be noted and seen as al-Maliki yet again bending over backwards for that section while the rest of the country waits and waits for rebuilding.

Amusement park in Sadr City? What, the militias don't get enough 'joy' stoning women? We do realize that, right? That this is one of the areas that especially captures MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) report of the theocracy that the US is building?

Yes, rebuilding will give jobs -- putting radical Shi'ites in charge pretty much guarantees that none of those jobs will go to women -- but this is a bit like putting a stadium into a town whose streets need repair, which has a huge homeless problem and no working utilities.

But see if the pork doesn't go through. And if it does, see if the tensions aren't enflamed even further as Iraqis across the country see their still crumbling infrastructure, their still crumbling medical care facilities, living with all the problems brought up on by the sanctions and the illegal war and wondering why the hell Sadr City got an amusement park? You can be sure, this is Sadr City, it will not only exclude opportunities for women, it will do so for Sunnis and Iraqi minorities. At best, it will be a cute little place for thugs to gather, at worst it will be the new site for bombings, shootings and mass kidnappings -- a given for any place that people gather so why in the world build a costly, non-essential gathering place when so much of the country lies in ruins? But when you lack the basics (electricity, potable water), you damn well better believe, an amusement park will cause even more tensions and inner and intra hostilities in Iraq.

Note "Iraq: UNHCR Director's mission to region to underscore refugee protection needs" (UNHCR via Reuters):

With an estimated 2 million Iraqis now in nearby countries and another 1.9 million internally displaced, UNHCR is stepping up its work and its support for the uprooted as well as the host countries that have assumed such an enormous burden. Syria has an estimated 1 million Iraqis and Jordan an estimated 750,000. Lebanon has an estimated 40,000 Iraqis.
As our head of international protection, Okoth-Obbo's mission will be focused on the ongoing effort to ensure that Iraqis fleeing their homeland receive international protection; that the required systems are in place, including efficient registration procedures and the ability to identify the most vulnerable; and that there are programmes for the provision of assistance and solutions, including resettlement of the most vulnerable.

But what Iraq needs is for Sadr City to get a pork project while serious issues go unaddressed? Continue to go unaddressed? Bugsy is in Sadr City and don't be surprised if he gets his dream park funded while basic needs remain unaddressed.

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