The NY Times says that Iraq is the third most corrupt country in the word after the failed states of Somalia and Myanmar (Burma). The article gives plenty of examples at all levels, but is striking in the way it represents US forces as dismayed, but largely helpless, onlookers.
It’s time, obviously, to dive into the memory hole, and point out that the looting that started the downward spiral was a matter of deliberate Coalition policy. As this report in the London Times stated in April 2003
The British view is that the sight of local youths dismantling the offices and barracks of a regime they used to fear shows they have confidence that Saddam Hussain’s henchmen will not be returning to these towns in southern Iraq.
One senior British officer said: “We believe this sends a powerful message that the old guard is truly finished.”
This report focuses on the British but the US and Australian governments were at least as culpable
As well as encouraging and condoning looting (“freedom is messy”) the US pushed convicted fraudster Ahmed Chalabhi as its preferred nominee to succeed Saddam and, when that proved impossible, put him and his cronies in charge of the oil ministry. And of course, the reconstruction program has been riddled with made-in-the-US corruption as well as the Iraqi variety.
Getting in early and punching above its weight in this respect, the Australian government, through its export monopoly AWB (initially a government enterprise and later a quasi-private business stacked with political appointees) colluded with Saddam to rip off $300 million from the oil-for-food fund by selling overpriced wheat. The margin was divided between payoffs to Saddam through bogus transport fees and huge bonuses to AWB executives, with the remainder going as a premium to Australian wheatgrowers.
The good news in the NY Times report is that the civil war in Iraq, while still bloody has abated to the point that a report like this is worth paying attention to. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, things are getting worse. More on this later, but one general lesson is that war is unpredictable and should always be a last resort. All wars come to an end, but that doesn’t bring the dead back to life, or turn a tragedy into a triumph.