Friday, August 24, 2012

Corruption and bombings

Sunday's New York Times featured James Risen and Duraid Adnan's "U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions" on the front page, an article about the White House's knowledge that Iraq is helping Iran "skirt economic sanctions" and how  Barack was "not eager for a public showdown with Nouri."  Today the editorial board for the Detroit Free Press weighs in on the issues -- and notes the Times' article --  observing:

On the bright side, some American taxpayers may be relieved to learn that Iraq's sanction-busting activities signal nothing more than the vitality of public corruption; sound strategic arguments support Iraq's continuing official hostility toward Iran.
But the practical impact of that corruption is essentially the same. The likelihood that at least some of the billions the U.S. and its allies have supplied to Iraq is being used to systematically undermine allied strategic objectives in the Middle East is enough to sour any U.S. taxpayer on continued support for the Malaki government.

It's an interesting editorial.  But corruption is not new to Nouri al-Maliki's government.  I'd love for the editorial board to be correct and US support -- tax payer or government -- to sour.  But I've attended this dance before and, when the music stops, everyone just goes home.

"Corruption in Iraq today is rampant," Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi (former member of the Iraqi commission on public integrity) in his opening statement.  He went on to explain that while he was in Iraq investigating corruption "my staff and their relatives have been kidnapped" and worse.  He gave an example of how one of his staffers lost their eighty-year-old father who was kidnapped and his corpse discovered after a power drill had been used on him "to drill" holes.  Flashing a photo of another victim of violence at the committee, al-Radhi declared of it, "Justice loses and corruption wins!"

That's from the March 11, 2008 snapshot.  al-Rahdi was testifying before the US Senate Appropriations Committee.  We covered the hearing, I still remember the Democrats on the Committee being outraged.  They were in charge of the Committee, they're still in charge of the Committee and now there's a Democrat in the White House but did anything change?

Nope.  In 2010, Iraqis voted and Nouri's State of Law came in second.  But the White House disregarded the vote, ignored the will of the Iraqi people, trashed the Iraqi Constitution and backed Nouri.  They even came up with the Erbil Agreement which was nothing but attempted bribery of the political blocs to get Nouri a second term.  (Attempted bribery?  For it to be bribery, you have to get the payment in your hands.  Nouri used the contract to grab a second term and then refused to honor any of the promises made to the other political blocs.)

The Sept. 23, 2008 snapshot reported on the September 22nd Democratic Policy Committee hearing.  Excerpt.

Senator Byron Dorgan: In March, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing at my request, in which we heard from a very courageous Iraqi judge who headed Iraq's Commission of Public Integrity. This agency was established by the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion of Iraq, and charged with rooting out corruption in the new government. Judge al-Radhi estimated that corruption in Iraq's government had resulted in the loss of $18 billion in government funds, and most of those funds had been US tax payer dollars. Judge Radhi said that instead of supporting his efforts to fight corruption, the top levels of the Iraqi government had ultimately suppressed his investigations. [. . . ] Judge Radhi also testified that since the establishment of the Commission of Public Integrity, more than 31 employees have been assassinated as well as at least an additional 12 family members. One would have expected that our own government would have been doing everything it could to support Judge Radhi's anti-corruption efforts. But in hearing of this committee back in May, we heard from two State Dept officials who said that our own government was not interested in ensuring accountability of U.S. funds in Iraq or in rooting out corruption. In fact, one of the officials, retired judge Arthur Brenna, said that some of the stolen funds were steered to the Iraqi insurgency. Yet the administration was generally indifferent to the problem. This indifference has had deadly consequences. We will hear from witnesses today -- one of whom was Judge Radhi's chief investigator in Iraq -- about how stolen US funds have gone to al Qaeda in Iraq. Our earlier hearing with Judge Brennan showed us that the State Dept turns a blind eye when it comes to corruption. Today's hearing will show us what the State Dept turned a blind eye to -- and what the consequences have been.

$18 billion lost in corruption, "most of those funds had been US tax payer dollars." There was no lasting outcry from al-Rahdi's testimony.  November 2008, James Glanz and Riyadh Mohammed's "Premier Of Iraq Is Quietly Firing Fraud Monitors" was published by the New York Times:

Mr. Maliki's stance on oversight was most vividly illustrated by his long-running feud with Judge Rathi al-Rathi, the former head of the Commission on Public Integrity, an oversight agency created by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
After Mr. Rathi's corruption investigations repeatedly embarrassed the Maliki government, the prime minister's office supported corruption charges against Mr. Rathi himself. Mr. Rathi's backers considered the charges to be trumped-up.

And that didn't result in a huge outcry.  Wish it had.  Nouri replaced al-Rahdi with Rahim al-Ogaili and even this hand-picked replacement ended up stepping down (September 9, 2011). No lasting outcry or effect from that either.  The White House under Bush or under Barack doesn't really appear to give a damn how much tax payer money is wasted in Iraq or whose pockets it ends up in.  All they really care is making up justifications to keep propping up Nouri al-Maliki whose thievery is the least of his problems -- he's repeatedly been caught running secret torture cells.  That should have done it.  Why in the world would you replace Saddam Hussein with Little Saddam?  Let alone stroke and water him thereby encouraging him to grow into Even Bigger Saddam?

I hope the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press is correct.  I would love to be wrong on this.  But, again, I've attended this dance before.

Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering where it had to go
With heaven full of astronauts
And the Lord on death row
While the millions of his lost and lonely ones
CalI out and clamour to be found
Caught in their struggle for higher positions
And their search for love that sticks around

 -- "The Same Situation," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark

Today Moqtada al-Sadr's Baghdad office was targeted with a bombing which, Baghdad Operations Command tells Alsumaria, resulted in the deaths of 2 people with "several" more left injured.  There are conflicting reports with two bombs placed uner the speaker's podium for Friday prayers or with the attack being done via mortar..  All Iraq News reports 3 dead and eleven injured with two bombs -- one near a booth by the podium.  In addition, a Baquba roadside bombing has left two police officers injuredAll Iraq News notes 4 corpses discovered dumped in Mosul (all had gunshots to the head).  Turkey and the PKK continue to add up 'wins.'  Alsumaria notes that the PKK announced today that they have killed 22 Turkish soldiers (from August 22nd to the present) and that they have injured twelve others while kidnapping the former president of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Reuters reports Turkey announced 16 PKK were killed by Turkish forces.  (See the earlier "Turkey and the PKK" from this morning.  Again, we've attended this dance before.)

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