David Corn has gotten hold of a secret report — still in draft form — outlining the concerns that the US military and foreign service have about a “norm of corruption” in the current Iraqi government.
One wonders how holier-than-thou Americans can be here given the rampant corruption we have allowed in no-bid contracting in Iraq and even around the billions in recovery funding for the Katrina tragedy.
As Congress prepares to receive reports on Iraq from General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and readies for a debate on George W. Bush’s latest funding request of $50 billion for the Iraq war, the performance of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has become a central and contentious issue.
But according to the working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Maliki government has failed in one significant area: corruption. Maliki’s government is “not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anticorruption laws,” the report says, and, perhaps worse, the report notes that Maliki’s office has impeded investigations of fraud and crime within the government.
The draft — over 70 pages long — was obtained by The Nation, and it reviews the work (or attempted work) of the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), an independent Iraqi institution, and other anticorruption agencies within the Iraqi government. Labeled “SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED/Not for distribution to personnel outside of the US Embassy in Baghdad,” the study details a situation in which there is little, if any, prosecution of government theft and sleaze.
Moreover, it concludes that corruption is “the norm in many ministries.”
A couple of quick thoughts.
First, in an environment in which there is a second economy of influence or money, the cause is usually that there is no trust in the first economy. Rules and contracts are not enforceable in Iraq, and self-dealing becomes highly rational and important for survival when everyone else is doing it — and when there is a sense that the whole enterprise may collapse at any moment. That is certainly true of Iraq.
So, corruption occurs — and in some circumstances, rational self-dealing can be useful because it helps to influence and sway the behavior of major stakeholders in Iraq’s political system. We can hem and haw about the morality of corrupt government officials, but the more efficacious tactic would be to bribe them ourselves if we care about what they do.
But that requires us to be able to set clear objectives of what we are trying to do, apply resources to the effort, and see it through. America does not seem to have that ability — and seems to insist on operating with the delusion that we are dealing with good guys who actually care about the Iraqi nation.
We are not. Those in Iraq, at the helm now, are self-dealers on the whole — who care about power among their clan and sectarian identity.
And we are only realizing now that they are corrupt? I had thought we were bribing them all along but just weren’t very good at it. We need to get out.
— Steve Clemons