War began last week. Reconstruction starts this week.
That, at least, is how it looks to government contract officers, who in the coming days plan to give American companies the first contracts to rebuild Iraq, a task that experts say could eventually cost $25 billion to $100 billion. It would be the largest postwar rebuilding since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II.
That comparison is being made at every opportunity by Bush administration officials, who emphasize American generosity and farsightedness. But the government’s decision to invite only American corporations to bid on these contracts has added to the profound international divisions that already surround the war.
The United States plans to retain control over the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, allowing the administration to decide how it will spend the money needed to repair the country. These contracts will be financed by the taxpayer, although senior administration officials have hinted broadly that Iraqi oil revenue will also be used to rebuild the country.
“We’re going to use the assets of the people of Iraq, especially their oil assets, to benefit their people,” said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Friday.