01/03/2011 12:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Demise Of Iraqi Water Park Illustrates Limitations, Abuse Of U.S. Funding Program

But in many cases, such as that of the Jadriyah Lake park, the investments under the plan, known as the Commander's Emergency Response Program, have created no more than a temporary illusion of progress. They have also shown a lack of U.S. foresight and highlighted the shortcomings of an Iraqi government the Americans were trying to boost.

U.S. military officials say the program has been an invaluable tool to turn enemies into friends and to marginalize extremist groups and counter the root causes of instability. But U.S. lawmakers and government auditors have criticized the way the program has been run. They say commanders have used it to build large and often-unsuitable projects of dubious value. Critics say smaller initiatives funded by the program have received little oversight, making it difficult to gauge their effectiveness. Often, Iraqi officials provided little, if any, input in the ventures, damaging their long-term viability.