Infrastructure issues, sabotage frustrate Iraqis and Americans
Stars and Stripes June 27, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s electricity crisis won’t be getting better any time soon, the top U.S. civil administrator said Wednesday.
Millions of Iraqis across the country have experienced long periods without power since the United States and Britain started the campaign to overthrow the Saddam Hussein-led government.
In the last week, Baghdad residents have been frequently left with only a few hours of power each day — especially painful during the middle of summer, when temperatures are constantly topping 110 degrees.
Saboteurs and the former regime are to blame for Iraq’s electrical woes, said Paul Bremer, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremer told a group of Iraqi journalists that he knows the situation is a serious one.
“I can understand the people’s impatience,” he said. “Ask my staff, they would tell you I’m rather impatient myself.”
Bremer blamed attacks on the power grid and neglect by Saddam for three decades for the current crisis. He cited attacks on the main power line between Bayji and Baghdad for part of the problem, describing those responsible as “almost certainly” rogue elements that either still support Saddam, oppose the coalition presence — or both.
“They’re waging their campaign not against the coalition … but the Iraqi people,” he said. “They are trying to make life worse for the Iraqi people.”
Bremer said coalition military forces have increased their presence at vital power sites and are starting to train Iraqi security guards to help monitor them.
But part of the problem, Bremer said, is that there’s simply not enough infrastructure in place to meet the needs of the people.
Coalition offices and the military have also been impacted by the outages, though they can often rely on generators as backups. That’s also the case for many residents and businesses, though some merchants claim they need more power to run their businesses than their generators can provide. Such generators require fuel, and people currently have to stand in long lines to purchase that.
Bremer, who did not field questions from international media at the news conference, said the coalition is doing what it can to make temporary fixes and is seeking other solutions.
But a long-term solution will take “hundreds of millions of dollars and many, many months, if not years.”