This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

A friend from Washington astute enough to think he recognized my fingerprints on the media campaign had warned earlier that I’d better have another job lined up soon. Now he sent a note of congratulations, praising me for filling an inside straight. Another, connecting force protection with our success at providing new jobs, observed that every day we’ve been delayed meant another day of combat for American soldiers. The hope is that anti-American fanatics will have a harder time finding support among Iraqis once we put tens of thousands of unemployed people back to work rebuilding infrastructure. It’s commendable for the United States to help rebuild Iraq. But shielding our soldiers from attack is a moral obligation, particularly for all who swear an oath to defend the Constitution.

It’s easy to say that the reconstruction program once teetered on the verge of extinction, but this overstates the case. The money Congress appropriated would be spent by someone, however inefficiently. Nash understood from the beginning that his approach, while conventional in the civilian world, is relatively unknown and untested in the public sector where the bureaucrats reign. He should not have been surprised to find himself caught in a clash between wartime’s frenetic demands and less flexible peacetime rules where time doesn’t seem to matter as much. But if this story has a hero, it’s Nash. I hope he will prove correct, but it’s too early to tell until the program is complete and the money all spent.

The upshot is that we will announce the contract awards in early March instead of early February, as initially expected. Small projects may get under way almost immediately; others more complicated and costly will take longer. But several things are certain: the construction program authorized by the $18.6 billion supplemental legislation in mid-November will soon begin, and Nash will run it. All things considered, not bad.

 

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Charles Krohn is the author of The Lost Battalion: Casualties in the Battle of Hué, and the recipient of the Silver Star and several Bronze Stars.