An audit was published by the Pentagon's Inspector General into the $21bn of US funds spent on reconstruction projects in Iraq. The three networks each chose a separate angle.

NBC used its time-honored Fleecing of America title to concentrate on a single example of botched reconstruction. Lisa Myers told us how US-based Parsons had built the $62m Baghdad Police Academy with "incomplete and substandard designs" and "shoddy construction." The Iraqi government "recently refused to take over the complex, calling the work disgusting." She showed us crooked walls, cracking concrete, faulty wiring and leaky sewage systems: "Human waste rained through light fixtures and ceilings." Parsons claimed things went wrong only after it had been relieved of the project.

CBS assigned the reconstruction report to David Martin at the Pentagon. He ticked off three main problems: inadequate electricity supply despite $4bn spent on the grid, a $16bn shortfall in oil revenues, missing Pentagon quality control in construction projects. His anchor Katie Couric wondered whether Congress would resist authorizing another $1bn to go along with the troop build-up. Responded Martin: "Without reconstruction, there is no point in sending the troops."

ABC sent Jonathan Karl (subscription required) to Baghdad for A Closer Look. He made the general point that the reconstruction was flawed because it relied too much on imported materials from foreign contractors rather than local industry that would hire local labor. Karl suggested there are now attempts to revive Iraqi industry, taking us on a tour of a bus assembly line. Every time the factory boss "puts somebody to work he is taking a potential terrorist off the street." Karl called it "good news" but he could not tell us where the factory is located, he apologized, because he did not want to tip off saboteurs.

But the idea that guerrillas would be unaware of the location of an operating bus plant seems incredible.


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