Here are four must-read stories that reflect what the world is saying about the U.S. today.
U.S. wasted $60 billion on reconstruction in Iraq
A troubling report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reveals that the U.S. — through arrogance and shoddy oversight — wasted 60 billion taxpayer dollars on reconstruction in Iraq.
The report concludes that time and time again, American officials ignored Iraqi officials, and in some cases common sense, to march ahead on frivolous and disorganized reconstruction projects. The result: ten years since the U.S. occupation began, Iraq’s infrastructure is no better off for billions spent.
As Deutsche Welle reports, constructions sites remain abandoned and millions are unaccounted for due to corrupt American contractors skimming cash from Congressionally-approved grants:
Iraqi officials commenting on the latest report’s findings confirmed that US personnel neglected to work effectively with Iraqi counterparts, sometimes overriding the interests of the local population with their own ideas of what Iraq needed.
In interviews with Inspector General Bowen, Iraqi politicians described an arrogance by US officials that undermined cooperation.
“Not only was there no coordination between the Department of State, the Pentagon and the CPA [coalition provisional authority], they were fighting each other,” Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish regional government’s president, Massoud Barzani, said.
Hussein continued, “if you know nothing about the culture you’re trying to control, the result is chaos.”
Meanwhile, back home, how do you think this report will affect the American public’s opinion of our politicians’ financial competence?
Fool me once…
Israel has delayed approving the construction of a military academy in annexed east Jerusalem until after a visit by President Barack Obama, according to a report in Lebanon’s Daily Star. Three years ago, during a trip to the region by Vice President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel would build 1,600 settler homes in disputed territory, stirring up tensions between the two nations. The U.S. called the timing of Netanyahu’s decision at the time “insulting.”
Israel’s Interior Ministry will decide the fate of the academy after Obama leaves on March 22. Hagit Ofran, who works for an Israeli peace group, told the newspaper that building the academy on east Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, in her words a “sensitive and disputed” area, might be seen as a provocation, an action that “only undermines the idea of two states for two peoples.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 — though its ownership is not recognized internationally — but Palestinians hope the area will serve as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.
U.S. and Russia lose polar bear battle to Inuit
In Thailand this week, global leaders are meeting to discuss the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, an international treaty aimed at reducing extinctions by provide economic disincentives to buying and selling endangered plants and animals.
The U.S. had hopes of upgrading the polar bear’s status, making it a species whose trades is banned rather than regulated. As the BBC reports, the plan did not receive the two-thirds vote it needed to pass.
Canada’s Inuit population considers the vote a victory:
There are about 25,000 polar bears left in the world with an estimated 16,000 living in the Canadian Arctic. Canada is the only country that permits the export of polar bear parts.
Each year around 600 polar bears are killed there, mainly by native hunters. According to Inuit representatives, the pelts from around 300 bears are sold for rugs. Other parts including fangs and paws are also exported.
The Inuit say they get an average of $4,850 per pelt. They argue that this is a critical economic resource for a people that do not have much else.
Despite growing discord in U.S.-Russia relations, Russia had been working with the U.S. to upgrade the polar bear’s status.
A giant among men
And last but not least, a story to make you smile: the former NBA star Yao Ming is having trouble fitting in as a politician back in China — literally. The gigantic Yao (at 7’6 the NBA’s fourth tallest player ever) had to have a special chair designed for him so he could comfortably attend China’s important annual political conferences, the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Yao had to push his oversized chair, which was built without armrests to accommodate his massive frame, back from his desk in order to sit comfortably, and also caused amusement by ducking to pass through a metal detector. On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, one user wrote: “The man who sits behind Yao can sleep during the meeting without worrying about being seen by journalists!”