The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

DEVELOPMENT IN IRAQ
Part I

by HAL LEHRMAN

NOT LONG AGO the tomb of an obscure Moslem holy man, overlooked in the road-planners' charts, turned up across the path of wreckers and steamrollers cutting a modern boulevard through Baghdad. The awesome taboos of sainted ground paralysed further advance; it appeared the thoroughfare might have to make a detour. Then one morning the city awoke to find the sepulchre gone and the area around it transformed into a delightful park to grace the new street. Before so clear and benevolent a miracle, not even the most pious could cry desecration.

Baghdad's Mayor of the moment was the responsible magician. Covered by darkness, after secret preparations, a small army of workmen with machines and all essentials including trees and grassy turf had moved in under his intrepid command and accomplished the feat in a single, incredible, new-style Arabian night.

Such phenomenal energy rarely stirs in sun-cooked Iraq (or anywhere else, for that matter). Yet Iraq itself today is making a prodigious national effort, no less remarkable in the Arab world.

Seventy per cent of the state's revenues from oil have been flowing unswervingly into the account of a Development Board established in 1950 to build up the country. The Board has begun digging dirt for a score of massive projects, and has actually completed a few already. It has installed Western experts in key positions, has given some of them a full vote in policy-making, and has never gone counter to their major recommendations.

This is precisely the sort of 'boot-strap' self-help the United Nations and the United States have long been urging if the Arab world is ever to lift itself up out of medieval backwardness and mass destitution. President Eisenhower's special cache of $200 million for

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