Sunday, July 19, 2009

WWB: Corruption

WHAT WAR BRINGS: corruption

Where war and occupation goes, corruption follows, like night follows day. This is not to say everyone involved with the wars and occupations are corrupt. I suspect those that engage in corruption are in the minority…… it’s just that they have a situation where they can REALLY get away with the corruption, because corruption can REALLY flourish under these conditions.

And those who are corrupt come from all national, racial, gender, and ideological groups. If fact, anyone can easily join in the corruption, and are quite likely to get away with it, although not all of them do.

“Iraq is deemed the third most corrupt country in the world after Burma and Somalia, out of 180 countries, according to the corruption index compiled by Transparency International.”

So, let’s start with an Iraqi paper asking “Who is not corrupt in Iraq?” this past May.

It is not wise and fair to single out the Ministry of Trade as an example of how corruptive Iraqi m ministries and government have become.

…….. The newly built interests that have emerged since the U.S. invasion and the division of the country and government along sectarian, ethnic and factional lines stall any serious effort to fight corruption.

They point out that the long delay in looking for corruption (due to the security situation) has allowed corruption to ‘spread like an infectious disease” in Iraq. This article points out that the bad-apple excuse will not cut it, since it is not just low-ranking officials who engage in corruption. They call for an independent judicial investigation of all institutions that are suspected of corruption. In short, they call for the rule of law (much as we have done here in the US in response to our corruption and torture claims).

The NPR show ‘All Things Considered’ discussed the endemic corruption in Iraq this past May. They mention the Ministry of Trade, but also mention other forms of corruption now common in Iraq.

At every level of society, from the lowest to the highest, bribes and baksheesh are how things get done. While the big numbers at the top get the headlines, like this week's scheduled vote of no-confidence in the Iraqi Trade Minister who is accused of stealing millions, the everyday corruption that ordinary Iraqis must go through is constant. From ID papers and license plates and the traffic police, to doctors in the hospital, just to get basic service, if you want to visit a relative in jail, Iraqis have to pay extra money for just about everything.

The Independent (UK) told more of the story of corruption in the Ministry of Trade. They said the political crisis really came to the attention of the press when a video of officials drinking alcohol and partying with prostitutes came out. It was passed around Baghdad on cell phones and the chairman of the “Commission for Public Integrity” said the Trade Minister was unethical.

Iraq faces the mother of all corruption scandals

Iraq plans to arrest 1,000 officials for corruption after a scandal which has forced the resignation of the Trade Minister and is threatening the food supply of millions of Iraqis. Corruption at the Trade Ministry is an important issue in Iraq because the ministry is in charge of the food rationing system on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend. Officials at the ministry, which spends billions of dollars buying rice, sugar, flour and other items, are notorious among Iraqis for importing food that is unfit for human consumption, for which they charge the state the full international price.

The scandal first erupted in April when police, entering the Trade Ministry in Baghdad to arrest 10 senior officials accused of corruption and embezzlement, were greeted with gunfire by the ministry's own guards. The shoot-out allowed several officials, including two brothers of the Trade Minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, time to escape out the back gate.

The two brothers were later caught, but this dramatic episode does show some of the lengths that people will go to in order to facilitate corruption. The article goes on to state that the Commission for Public Integrity has issued hundreds of arrest warrants, including warrants for 51 officials. They claim there are hundreds more warrants that are not yet issued.

The Independent (UK) article goes on to state:

Iraqis will be sceptical about the anti-corruption campaign until they see senior officials convicted and punished. It is not only the Trade Ministry which is corrupt but the entire government system. Officials have often purchased their jobs, which they see as a way of making money through bribery or payment for awarding jobs and contracts. The last anti-corruption boss in Iraq was forced to flee the country.

And supply of tainted goods is not confined to the Trade Ministry. Refugees living in Sadr City, the great Shia slum with a population of two million in east Baghdad, were expecting food and clothing from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration but when the shipment arrived, the refugees were enraged to discover that it consisted of scratchy thin grey woollen blankets smelling of mould which were useless in the torrid heat of the Iraqi summer. There were also an assortment of children's shoes and 25 boxes of canned tuna. Locals suspect that officials had pocketed most of the money intended to help them.

Over here in the US, a defense contractor pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and corruption. She had placed false bids to supply bulletproof vests to the Iraqi army (thereby greatly inflating her profit margin), and admitted to paying a bribe of at least $60,000 to influence the bidding process. This took place back in 2004 and 2005.

Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty To Fraud

Diana Bakir Demilta pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The plea was filed in December 2007, but unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington as part of an ongoing investigation by multiple federal agencies. Demilta is cooperating with the investigation in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. She is a U.S. citizen and president of Global-Link Distribution LLC, a defense contracting company.

Small potatoes in the overall scheme of corruption in occupied Iraq. As we all know, Halliburton and KBR was leading the way for corruption – and shoddy, dangerous workmanship. And it adds up to a lot of money:

Reporting for, Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book "Halliburton's Army," writes, "In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA [Defense Contract Audit Agency] director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general. The 'vast majority' of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43 percent of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq."
The more profit that can be wrung from war making means the higher the likelihood that those who are benefiting will advocate for more war. As Jeremy Scahill said (about using foreign nationals as mercenaries in the wars and occupations): “You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars.” In other words, as long as someone can make money off of war, we will keep getting wars. I guess there are too many people in the world with no morals.

There have also been inquiries into corruption by members of the US military.

Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on US officers

Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.

And then there is the corruption in Afghanistan, which is in a whole league of it’s own, even though it is not rated as corrupt as Iraq. A report from NPR called “Corruption Undermines Afghan Self-Governance” says this:

In Afghanistan, corruption is a daily plague. It comes in many forms: a piece of land for a warlord with connections to the national government, a bribe to a customs agent to look the other way as a shipment of heroin passes through.

Corruption takes other forms, too, such as kidnappings, ransom demands and bodies left out in the hills — all with the help of Afghan officials.

The NPR story goes on to describe a ‘shura’ which is a meeting with Afghan officials and a Green Beret team. A local man had been kidnapped by group of criminals that includes the subgovernor of Heart province. The Afghan official who should be helping to stop this is part of the problem. Even worse, this group will murder their victims if the ransom money is not paid. (This type of situation was common in Iraq for years, although for the most part the identity of the kidnappers was not known. Oftentimes, the victim would be murdered even after the ransom is paid.)

Another story out of Afghanistan also shows the extraordinary level of corruption. This is a story about Crooked Afghan Police:

Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them.
When the US Marines showed up at a local police station in the town of Aynak, they had gunshots fired at them. Once the Marines were inside, they found some of the police smoking pot. (I thought that smoking pot made you more mellow, but not in this case. The police were acting threatening. I guess it did make them stupid, since threatening 150 Marines is none too bright.)

This report goes on to say that the local police will pad their salaries by demanding bribes at checkpoints, stealing, and turning a blind eye to the poppy fields. The Marines responded by replacing the police force and sending the old police force for more training in another part of Iraq.

In another part of Helmand province, the British forces also ran into corrupt police. This story I find gruesome indeed.

Afghans turn to Taliban in fear of own police

As British troops moved into the village newly freed from Taliban control, they heard one message from the anxious locals: for God's sake do not bring back the Afghan police.

Yes, the local police force was so corrupt and so brutal, that the locals welcomed the Taliban. An elder in the village had this to say:

He pointed to two compounds of neighbors where pre-teen children had been abducted by police to be used for the local practice of "bachabazi," or sex with pre-pubescent boys.

"If the boys were out in the fields, the police would come and rape them," he said. "You can go to any police base and you will see these boys. They hold them until they are finished with them and then let the child go."

….."The people here trust the Taliban," he said. "If the police come back and behave the same way, we will support the Taliban to drive them out."

I guess it is not that big of step to go from kidnapping to rape, with the occasional murder thrown in. Another local elder said this:

"We were happy (after the Taliban arrived). The Taliban never bothered us," he said.

So, in wars and occupations, you have corruption by the locals, corruptions by foreign nationals, and corruption by the invading and occupying troops. It’s like a huge pot of corruption soup. It is disgusting beyond mere words.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: corruption.

1 comment:

dancewater said...


A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~ German Proverb