Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Latest Crackdown in Iraq

by PATRICK COCKBURN

The Iraqi government is seeking to silence critics who accuse it of rampant corruption by removing officials who try to prosecute racketeers and intimidating politicians and journalists who support them.

This month alone it has forced the head of its anti-corruption watchdog to resign. And a prominent Iraqi journalist, who had been threatened for leading anti-government protests, was shot dead in his home in Baghdad.

There is growing anger that the ruling elite is stealing or embezzling much of the country’s $2bn (£1.3bn) a week in oil revenues, depleting funding for electricity, water, health care, housing, education and even rubbish collection. Transparency International says that last year Iraq was the fourth most corrupt country in the world, out of 178 countries surveyed.

The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his government have apparently decided to deal with the accusations by hitting back at their accusers. They are trying to remove the parliamentary immunity of an independent MP, Sabah al-Saadi, formerly head of the parliamentary committee on integrity, so that they can arrest him for making allegations against Maliki.

So few officials in Iraq are prosecuted or lose their jobs for corruption that it is difficult to prove how widespread it is, though most Iraqis assume that no job or contract is awarded without a bribe. A report this week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, called Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government, relates how the Electricity Minister was forced to resign “accused of having signed multibillion-dollar contracts with a Canadian shell company [one with a physical address but no assets or operations] and a German company that had declared bankruptcy.”

Earlier this year,  Saadi embarrassed the government by revealing that the general in charge of its rapid reaction team had been arrested in a sting for accepting a $50,000 bribe.

The ICG report says that Maliki’s government has fought long and hard to prevent official theft being curbed by blocking efforts to strengthen state institutions in charge of investigations and prosecution. An Iraqi inspector general is cited as saying that the anti-corruption framework is “like an aspirin to Iraq’s cancer”.

Judge Rahim al-Ugaili, the head of the Integrity Commission, one of the principal oversight bodies, was forced to resign his post on September 9. He said he had had to give up his job because the government was not supporting his anti-corruption work and was interfering politically in his work.

A senior US embassy official testified before Congress that the Prime Minister’s office had issued “secret orders” to the Integrity Commission, prohibiting it from referring cases to the courts involving “former or current high-ranking Iraqi government officials, including the Prime Minister… The secret order is, literally, a licence to steal.”

Critics of the government say they have all been threatened with violence. On the day  Ugaili was forced out of his job, a popular radio journalist, Hadi al-Mahdi, was shot twice in the head in his flat in the normally safe Karrada district of Baghdad. His killing happened just before he was due to lead a pro-democracy demonstration against corruption and authoritarianism.

Mahdi had run an outspoken radio show called To Whoever Listens, which was highly critical of the government. Two months ago, he was forced to take it off the air because of fears for his safety. He had told Amnesty International this year that he and three other journalists had been arrested at a protest rally and taken to a military headquarters, where they were beaten, given electric shocks and threatened with rape. Several hours before he was shot  Mahdi posted a note on Facebook saying he felt he was in danger. “I have lived the last two days in a state of terror,” he wrote.

The reason for Ugaili’s resignation shows that corruption in Iraq has reached saturation level. The ICG report, citing government sources, says that in 2011 the Integrity Commission and the Board of Supreme Audit had identified hundreds of shell companies abroad linked to senior government officials in the Defense Ministry and Prime Minister’s office. These were winning contracts in Iraq, many of which were never implemented despite being paid for. When  Ugaili sought to get the courts to prosecute, the government blocked him and he resigned.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Richard W. Behan
Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]