Rosa Wrong on Iraq Reconstruction

In the course of her recent Los Angeles Times column, Rosa Brooks wrote this about the levels of electricity and oil production in Iraq:

"Before the U.S. invasion, the . . . residents of Baghdad used 16 to 24 hours of electricity each day. Today, thanks to us, they thriftily make do with about six hours of electricity a day . . . Oil production is still well below prewar levels."

Alarms went off for me when I read Brooks' claims. They were largely at odds with what I had learned when I interviewed in Baghdad in November the directors of the electricity and oil sectors of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps of Engineers - the people responsible for overseeing the reconstruction of those elements, among others, of Iraq's infrastructure.

To confirm my recollection and obtain the latest data, I’ve contacted the office of Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, GRD's commanding general. Here's what I learned:

When it comes to electricity, Brooks 'conveniently' referred only to Baghdad, ignoring the rest of Iraq. Saddam monopolized power for the capital, leaving much of the rest of the country in darkness. Today, power is shared much more equitably across the country. While that means that while Baghdad does receive less, the rest of the country receives much more. Have a look at this chart, showing the average number of hours of electricity in Iraq's various regions. You'll note that every region outside of Baghdad receives at least 10 hours per day, with a number of regions, notably including the Sunni stronghold of Anbar province, enjoying 18 daily hours.

Said Gen. Walsh: “Currently, 75 percent of Iraq receives twice as much power now than they did before the war. Our goal is an equitable distribution across the country of ten-to-twelve hours of power daily.”

As to the allegation that "oil production is still well below prewar levels," Brooks is simply wrong. Prewar production averaged 2.4 million barrels per day. It currently averages 2.5 million barrels per day.

Those are the facts as best I understand them. If Ms. Brooks has better information, we'd like to see it. If not, a clarification and correction would be in order.

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at

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