09 July 2005

Are We Running A Racket in Iraq? (CS)

In the book Nothing But Freedom Eric Foner examines the conditions and situations following Emancipation in several different societies that supported slavery. In many cases, the former slaves were actually introduced into a system where they were worse off than they had been in bondage. Foner points out that the freedmen were truly given "Nothing but feedom" and thus wound up locked into systems essentially identical (or worse) than slavery, like sharecropping. He also points out that political power was crucial for moving towards escaping this system. What was also important, I think, is that this political system was in place and ready to go before emancipation happened in the United States and also that the former slaves essentially at least had the potential of access to an infrastructure that could improve the quality of life. The American Reconstruction in the South following the Civil War certainly had its failings, but it also had crucial new features important to helping the freedmen establish themselves.

Now we face a certainly different, but equally important Reconstruction in Iraq. We must ask ourselves now when we look at Iraq, having brought them Freedom and Democracy, what have we really given them? Have we succeeded thus far in rebuilding the infrastructure they so despereately need? Have we really gotten rid of Saddam's regime when we hire back his goons and torturers?

As a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of rebuilding Iraq go down, the plan was proposed to use mostly Iraqi money to rebuild and restore desperately needed amenities and to get their economy up and running. What I always fear (and what I have begun to hear) are reports of people lining their pockets with this money at the expense of these important projects and at the expense of the people that have had to suffer so much already. And now we do indeed have reports by two seperate audit groups which have found gross inadequacies and discrepencies in the book keeping (or lack there of) of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and its former director, Paul Bremer. These audit reports have received mention recently in The Guardian and the London Review of Books and i would implore you read the article. The claims are quite appalling, the numbers astounding, the lack of monitering, accountability, and good business practices simply baffling.
Both the US and Iraq have put up large sums of money to go towards the improvement of conditions in Iraq. I have heard of both successes and failures. With the continuous insurgency, it must be difficult to provide consistant amenities like electricity and water. To set up a system that was in disrepair before the war ravaged many major cities is quite an ambitious endeavour. The difficulty in such a task only makes these audit reports of billions of missing dollars all the more disheartening.
Even with the typical administration excuses and encouragements, how do we explain that two seperate audit groups have filed seperate reports testifying to these problems? If you are questioning the intentions of the audit groups themselves, you should note that one was appointed by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (but still requiring US approval) and the other was the CPA's internal auditors (CPAIG, now the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction or Sigir for short). How is there any explanation that over $8 billion is entirely unaccounted for? How does one explain that "19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5m, was found on a plane in Lebanon that had been sent there by the new Iraqi interior minister" not to mention ""non-deposit of proceeds of export sales of petroleum products into the appropriate accounts in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1483."
The House Government Reform Committee Minority Office has at least begun to examine these reports. As always, you are not helpless. You can contact the Senate or The House, you can find your representatives' contact at congress.org or at this directory. Ask them if they are supporting Rep. Waxman's reports and investigation into this matter.
We joke a lot about our government, representatives and superiors in general being crooks. With evidence that they may very well be so, can we sit idly by and let it happen? Can we let the claims of our disingenuous "good intentions" become substantiated because of the greed of a few? Demand accountability, demand action, now.


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