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-- let me turn instead to Pieter van Buren who is author of a fascinating book.
Not -- the title I think says it all we meant well how I helped lose the battle for the hearts and minds.
Of the Iraqi People -- -- give Bjorn thank you very much for being here.
I'm just -- a dead give our view is a bit of -- and you led a what it was called a State Department provincial reconstruction team.
Correct that's right I was actually the person sent to Iraq to win the war after the fighting was over became incumbent -- -- -- To help spend American money and win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi People to win the war where the military.
Had left it off for us civilians to pick up -- burden so how did that look at.
It didn't work over well I'm afraid and not for the United States and not for the Iraqis and not for the world itself.
We know -- that over the course of ten years the United States spent fifteen million dollars a day on Iraqi reconstruction.
And failed to actually reconstruct very much let me let me just -- -- -- that fifteen million.
Absolutely most of that money was spent on feel good projects things that were designed to look good without impacting the lives of Iraqis significantly.
When we did spend money on large scale projects such as the pollution sewer system -- -- Laura Bush hospital.
We oftentimes created boondoggles that enrich contractors -- reached.
Iraqis who were on the take from us but failed to impact the lives of Iraqis and -- America's foreign policy goals.
Eight and in the chaos of of post invasion.
van Buren in the chaos of post Saddam Iraq and the fact that we were effectively dismantled the -- -- -- -- the Iraqi Army.
Was there any hope that any of this would all all of that money wouldn't have been.
Missed placed -- -- taken off by those who.
Stood to benefit from it.
I think in retrospect we could certainly have done better.
It's hard to imagine we could've done much worse.
But I don't think we could have actually achieve the goal -- to present set for -- -- safe stable Iraq that's an ally of the United States in the war -- terror.
I think the mistakes we made up front were so horrendous that we went over the top of the hill of the roller coaster too early on to ever recover from it.
So is so you're saying -- eight.
NATO led correct me if I'm wrong but I -- saying.
That we made so many mistakes in the AA immediate opt to mop -- all of the invasion.
That part of this they'll -- the reconstruction it was to college by that we were trying too hard to make Iraqis feel good.
I think it's very difficult to recover from those early mistakes particularly disbanding Iraq.
Civil society and releasing the degree of chaos that we did.
We talk about reconstruction.
Includes the prefix re there has to be something originally there to reconstruct from.
And by tearing apart Iraqi civil society we started not to reconstruct but started literally from -- -- But what what some of the projects that you believe -- particularly badly conceived.
If I said all of them it would be a simple simplistic an answer but my PRT for example spent money.
On women's baking classes we spent money creating Internet cafes and towns that did not have electricity.
We spent money bringing Arabic translations of American classic literature to schools that didn't have -- glass in the windows.
It was failure after failure after failure to significantly impact either the life of the Iraqis or more importantly.
The foreign policy goals of the United States we squandered every opportunity that I was connected with -- do you believe though mr.
-- that that a -- hot in terms of trying to win hearts and minds.
Was in the right place that that -- it is something that we should do in the wake all of that kind all of war.
I think our hearts were in the right place tonight total my book we meant well.
Not -- of sarcasm but out of seriousness I think on the ground level there were many people who were sincere.
Who did their best to make the best of a bad situation but when you zoom out a little bit and realize that we were operating.
Fifteen million dollars a day without much adult supervision the chances of it working out on a country wide scale -- -- a global scale.
Were close to zero what should we have done with that fifteen million dollars -- -- just it did this simple question of choosing.
Better projects or should we not have been carrying at this kind of hearts and minds campaign apps full.
-- aside the question of whether we should have spent that money here at home reconstructing and rebuilding the United States for the benefits of Americans.
If you insist on spending in Iraq perhaps we should have done is started with the most basic of infrastructure.
Water sewage electricity.
And focused on those things exclusively.
Until we were able to impact Iraqi lives after that maybe switch over to baking classes I've missed them here and you left Iraq I believe 2010 am -- right.
That's correct -- do you believe it was better in 2010 that it walls in 2003.
It was very difficult to see any positive change.
And in fact the fact that we had gone on for almost ten years without significantly impacting the lives of Iraqis.
Left an awful state of despair among many of the people that we interacted with if America could not help them after all that money in all those years what hope did they have.
Of helping themselves after we left.
So I'm afraid that it's very hard to be optimistic very hard to be positive.
About the impact of ten years and all that money when -- when you would then mr.
van Buren and -- room and seeing the futility of some of these projects -- thinking in your own mind at least that they were few top.
Did you raise that with the those are running these kind of operations absolutely I raised it is high in the embassy is I was able to do so and I was told by the deputy chief of mission the -- second in command.
To be quiet play a long look the other way go along to get along.
Please don't try to -- that spoke -- something that we're going to do to your year and get out of the desert get back to Washington.
There was no interest in reforming that was simply interest in carrying forward.
What's the what's the best -- the United States can run up for the future from all of us.
The best lesson that we can learn is that if we choose to get involved in these -- -- -- reconstruction projects we must focus.
On things that have a positive impact on the lives of the people that we are dealing with we have to turn it around and focus on them.
And not on us.
All right -- van -- an altar of -- but we meant well how I helped lose the battle for the hearts and minds.
All of the Iraqi People available at the iTunes bookstore Amazon.com and even -- bricks and mortar bookstore.
If you -- when I'm -- -- -- here and thank you very much for being with us thank you for having me.
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