Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:47 pm (KSA) 16:47 pm (GMT)

Covering up corruption in Iraq

Adel Safty

As if the calamities that befell Iraq courtesy of the Bush Administration were not enough, we now learn that the Bush administration is trying to cover up one of its many failures: its own assessment of the extent of corruption in Iraq, described by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

In an official report, a copy of which was obtained by US Public Radio's Corey Flintoff in Baghdad, US State Department investigators in Iraq said that the extent of corruption in the Iraqi government was such that the Iraqi government was not even capable of the most rudimentary enforcement of anti-corruption laws. The report was marked "sensitive but unclassified".

The American investigators also reported that Iraqi ministries refused to cooperate with the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity whose officers were routinely denied access to government offices.

American National Public Radio said that their reporter was told by an employee of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior that "senior ministry officials are making money off contracts to buy equipment". He also said that "rank and file police officers have to pay bribes to be promoted".

Iraqi Judge Radhi Hamza Al Radhi, the former commissioner of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity who requested asylum in the US, reportedly told a US Congressional panel on Iraqi corruption that his investigators had uncovered "rampant" corruption in Iraqi ministries that may have cost the country close to $18 billion.

"We have learned the hard way that the corrupt will stop at nothing," Radhi said. "They are so corrupt that they will attack their accusers and their families with guns and meat hooks, as well as countercharges of corruption." (Washington Post, October 5, 2007).

Hundreds of construction projects and repairs to Iraq's electricity system and oil pipelines have been plagued by corruption. US government reconstruction audit show that of the $30 billion authorised by Congress to rebuild Iraq, at least $8 billion has disappeared.

Officials who had the courage to report abuses have been vilified, demoted, and some suffered a worse fate. Navy veteran Donald Vance who dared to report illegal arms sales, was thrown in jail by the American military in Iraq and "subjected to harsh interrogation methods".

Investigation

An investigation by the Associated Press of similar cases has concluded that "there are no noble outcomes for those who have blown the whistle". (Associated Press, August 25, 2007)

Moreover the Bush Administration has refused to join in any of the dozen or so legal actions filed in US courts since 2004 alleging abuse in Iraqi reconstruction contracts said to be in the tens of millions.

"It taints these cases," said attorney Alan Grayson, "If the government won't sign on, then it can't be a very good case - that's the effect it has on judges." (Associated Press, August 25, 2007)

When a Congressional committee requested a copy of the State Department report on Iraqi corruption, the US State Department refused to cooperate and decided instead to make the report classified. This was a strange decision given that the report had already been leaked and that the full report had been posted online on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

In effect, the US State Department wanted to keep an official report, already widely circulated, inaccessible to American law makers, in an effort to hide failures and to avoid accountability.

Henry Waxman, Chair of the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee, was angered by the refusal of the State Department to cooperate. He wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "Obviously, the State Department's position on this matter is ludicrous".

"If there is widespread corruption within the Al Maliki government," Waxman stated, "this is information that both Congress and the public are entitled to know." He warned that the US Secretary of State is facing a confrontation with Congress because "these efforts to silence debate are an absolute embarrassment." (Washington Post, October 5, 2007)

Four Democratic lawmakers warned Rice that "endemic corruption" in Iraq was fuelling the insurgency, and accused her department of covering it up. (Agence France Press, October 13, 2007)

Twelve former US army captains who served in Iraq wrote in the Washington Post about the inevitability of military failure in Iraq and stated that, among other reasons, "the inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption... And, indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of US tax dollars by Iraqi officials and military officers... Yet holding people accountable has proved difficult." (October 16, 2007)

On October 16, the US House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority passed a resolution rebuking the State Department for "withholding information relating to corruption in Iraq".

The corruption scandal and the cover-up, the torture scandal and the subsequent secret torture memos, the lies and deception about the war, and the flagrant disregard of innocent Iraqi lives add to the lengthy list of failures in Iraq.

Model

Instead of a model of democratic governance for the region, the Bush administration created in Iraq an environment ripe with failures of governance; instead of rule of law and transparency, it unleashed chaos and corruption.

Instead of civil society, it engendered civil war. How much more discredit and failures can the Bush administration endure and still expect to be credible?



* Published in the UAE's GULF NEWS on November 19, 2007. Prof Adel Safty is author of 'From Camp David to the Gulf'. His latest book, 'Leadership and Democracy', is published in New York.

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