Fewer than 25,000 Iraqis are working on projects in the U.S. reconstruction effort, tempering expectations that more than $18 billion in American spending would jump-start Iraq’s economy and trigger a surge in goodwill toward the United States.
U.S. officials blame bureaucratic delays in contracting and the recent increase in violence for the low employment numbers, which represent less than 1 percent of Iraq’s work force of more than 7 million. The Bush administration is aiming to more than double the number of Iraqi workers to 50,000 in less than two months ? when Washington expects to hand over limited authority to a caretaker Iraqi government.
Iraqis are thinking twice about working for the Americans because of the latest violence, which has targeted not only U.S. troops but also Iraqis working with them. Violence earlier this spring “had an impact on the numbers of workers showing up,” said Navy Capt. Bruce Cole, spokesman for the Pentagon’s Iraq Program Management Office. “Some were probably afraid to be seen working with us on those projects. Our numbers are starting to come back up, though.”
Conversely, military commanders have cited frustration over the continuing lack of jobs as one reason for the spike in violence, which left at least 136 Americans dead in April alone.
Okay. Iraqis are frustrated by the lack of jobs, so they vent–by killing the people who want to put them to work.
I get an image of a scene from The Life of Brian, where the Jewish rebels “rescue” the guys being crucified by throwing themselves on their swords. It seems, oh, counter-productive somehow.