News From Iraq: New Police Academy A Disaster genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Domino effect

The Washington Post reports that the 75 million dollar police academy in Baghdad is so badly flawed that it may be necessary to demolish and rebuild some portions of the facility. When reading such stories, I find myself questioning assessments that suggest that we have trained nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops.

Here's the problem. If we began our occupation of Iraq with less than 200,000 American soldiers and no Iraqi security forces and we now have nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops along with over 140,000 U.S. soldiers, why can't we seem to bring order to the country and why does the death toll continue to alarm? Perhaps this story about the police academy, coupled with other failures, provides the answer to my question.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 -- A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

Even in a $21 billion reconstruction effort that has been marred by cases of corruption and fraud, failures in training and housing Iraq's security forces are particularly significant because of their effect on what the U.S. military has called its primary mission here: to prepare Iraqi police and soldiers so that Americans can depart.

There is a theory in management whereby the cumulative effects of numerous mistakes and misjudgments are sufficient to bring down the entire company. Frequently, the management of such companies discounts each individual issue as minor compared to the overall functionality of the organization until such time as the collective failures destroy employee morale, alienate customers, and fully undermine the ability of those in positions of authority to halt the decline. Worse yet, middle managers often attempt to bring the severity of the issues to the attention of senior management only to be rebuffed as naysayer’s who refuse to embrace their rose colored assessments.

Apologists for the Iraq war often complain that the media fails to report the small successes that are being achieved. While there are no doubt a number of small accomplishments, one cannot overlook the numerous blunders that shape the mindset of the Iraqi population and lead to the negative numbers being reflected in U.S. polling.

An example might help make the point. Here in the United States, voter sentiment has been shown to be closely tied to the cost of gasoline...enough so that it has the ability to determine the prevailing voter sentiment regarding the overall economy. Clearly, gas prices are only a minor segment of the economy and yet the impact they actually have on the polling conducted about the state of the economy is likely greater than warranted.

Similarly, the failure to restore services to the Iraqi people has a larger impact than they might actually warrant. Add to that a predisposition to mistrust the motivations of the United States coupled with the cultural and religious differences and it isn't difficult to understand why a large majority of Iraqis prefer the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

As top U.S. military commanders declared 2006 "the year of the police," in an acknowledgment of their critical role in allowing for any withdrawal of American troops, officials highlighted the Baghdad Police College as one of their success stories.

"This facility has definitely been a top priority," Lt. Col. Joel Holtrop of the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division Project and Contracting Office said in a July news release. "It's a very exciting time as the cadets move into the new structures."

Complaints about the new facilities, however, began pouring in two weeks after the recruits arrived at the end of May, a Corps of Engineers official said.

Phillip A. Galeoto, director of the Baghdad Police College, wrote an Aug. 16 memo that catalogued at least 20 problems: shower and bathroom fixtures that leaked from the first day of occupancy, concrete and tile floors that heaved more than two inches off the ground, water rushing down hallways and stairwells because of improper slopes or drains in bathrooms, classroom buildings with foundation problems that caused structures to sink.

Galeoto noted that one entire building and five floors in others had to be shuttered for repairs, limiting the capacity of the college by up to 800 recruits. His memo, too, pointed out that the urine and feces flowed throughout the building and, sometimes, onto occupants of the barracks.

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis.

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general's office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Herman said that he doubted that was the case but that he plans to hire an architecture and engineering firm to examine the facility. He also plans to investigate concerns raised by the inspector general's office that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly respond to construction problems highlighted in quality-control reports.

Note the disconnect between those middle management types who are attempting to function in the flawed facility and those higher ups (senior management types) who are touting the academy as a sign of success. The disparity demonstrates the failed management style discussed above and further serves to support the contention that the Bush administration, under the guidance of Donald Rumsfeld, continues to ignore the realities being voiced by numerous former military officers and countless other war critics. It takes minimal analysis to posit that the lack of sufficient forces in the region also translates into a lack of supervision and oversight which then leads to these colossal failures.

Look, the reality is obvious...we have an administration that has miscalculated and mismanaged the Iraq war from the outset. There were no WMD's, we were not greeted as liberators, we didn't have a plan for securing the country once Hussein was toppled, we didn't have enough troops to achieve our objectives, we are in the midst of a civil war, and we are fomenting more extremism. Sadly, the only constant remains the unequivocal denial exhibited by our President and his assemblage of neocon associates.

Daniel DiRito | September 28, 2006 | 10:32 AM
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