With signs of progress in provincial elections comes a reminder of years of US blundering in a report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction on $50 billion spent there.
Titled "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," it points to waste and failures caused by "blinkered and disjointed" pre-war planning of projects pursued amid chaos.
"Why was an extensive rebuilding plan carried out in a gravely unstable security environment?" asks Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general.
Another question to add to a long list of Bush Administration incompetence now headed by regulatory failures of the US financial system, the aftermath of Katrina and other bumblings large and small.
The report on Iraq echoes the common theme to be found in the mismanagement of everything for eight years: nobody in charge.
"The overuse of cost-plus contracts, high contractor overhead expenses, excessive contractor award fees, and unacceptable program and project delays all contributed to a significant waste of taxpayers' dollars," the report says.
As Iraq starts to fade in the rear-view political mirror, its lessons about competence and transparency should be taken to heart in Washington as Congress and the White House embark on the biggest reconstruction of all--the American economy..