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It has been five years since Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defence secretary, offered his infamous assurance that Iraq would be able to finance its own reconstruction “relatively soon.” Now, finally, part of that prediction has come true. Iraq is awash in oil money. But it is still not spending it on reconstruction.

Federal analysts reported Tuesday that the oil market has produced a bonanza for Iraq, which has the third-largest reserves in the world. In truth, Iraqis have had little incentive to spend their own money given the willingness of the US Congress to keep writing blank checks for President Bush’s disastrous adventure there. By contrast, between 2005 and 2007, when all that oil revenue was piling up, only $3.9 billion of Iraq’s budget went to reconstruction. That raises serious questions about the wisdom of making those capital investments if they are not going to be properly tended.

In its ill-considered dismissal of everybody who had any connection to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, American overseers depleted the ranks of Iraqi bureaucrats who had the skills and experience to run the country. Iraq now lacks the trained professionals to prepare and execute budgets and to solicit, award and oversee capital projects. The US must redouble its efforts to help Iraq build this capacity. — The New York Times