Laith Hammoudi
McClatchy Newspapers
August 14, 2009

Editor’s note: Mission accomplished.
[efoods]BAGHDAD — Dark humor flips on when the lights go out in a city that still suffers from crippling power outages despite the billions of dollars that have been invested in its grid.

“Electricity is dead. Pray for its soul,” reads graffiti scrawled along a wall in central Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood.

“I miss electricity so much I want to feel an electric shock, just so I know we have it,” said Falah Hasan Ali, 23, a resident of Baghdad’s Sadr City district who sleeps on his roof to escape the nighttime heat.

Electricity long has been a benchmark for reconstruction success in Iraq. Even as American troops have withdrawn from Iraqi cities and there’s talk of a faster U.S. pullout from the country, however, electricity remains elusive for millions of Baghdad residents.

Data provided by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad show that electricity availability has increased about 20 percent compared with last August. Most Baghdad residents have power for less than eight hours a day, however, while summer temperatures regularly climb to 110 degrees.

This summer has come with its own setbacks. Seven power lines have been sabotaged, and sandstorms caused malfunctions in natural gas-burning generating plants. Power shortfalls also occurred when Kuwait held up fuel deliveries and Iranian power lines that feed Iraq went down.

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