U.S. Occupation of Iraq Brutal and Corrupt
President George Bush keeps trying to sell the occupation of Iraq as a noble humanitarian effort, implemented effectively, worth its cost in U.S. and Iraqi lives and the enormous wealth it swallows up. But the truth is that the occupation is brutal, corrupt and a horrible waste of human and material resources. It is almost certain to end up with a defeat for the most destructive military machine humanity has known. A new vicious side to the U.S. occupation these last few months has been the Pentagon’s air war against the Iraqi population. Little is seen or reported of this war. For one thing, the Pentagon doesn't invite even “embedded” reporters to join the flights. For another, the brass provides only minimal information to the media.What the Pentagon does provide is this: Up until last August, there were about 25 air strikes per month. By November it had risen to 120. By January it was 150.The air strikes on the far western corner of Iraq during Operation Steel Curtain hit the town of Husaybah hard. One week into this assault, Dr. Zahid Mohammed Rawi from that region said that medical workers recorded the deaths of 97 civilians along with 38 guerrilla fighters. (Washington Post, Dec. 24) This gives an idea of what increased air strikes will bring. Many U.S. military analysts and even alleged war opponents like Rep. John Murtha are advocating pulling out U.S. ground troops and increasing the air war. This may not enable U.S. imperialism to conquer Iraq, but is certain to kill lots of Iraqis.
A cesspool of corruption The Bush administration had planned to work the Iraqi oil wells effectively enough to pay the expenses of the occupation. It hasn’t been able to go beyond the pre-war level of production. But it doesn’t mean that no one is making money from the occupation. Robert Stein, a contractor with a 1998 conviction for fraud, nevertheless worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the body headed by Paul Bremer who ran Iraq for about a year after the U.S.-led invasion. On Feb. 2, Stein pled guilty to counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, unlawful possession of machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In his role as government official, Stein “admitted to stealing over $2 million in cash and taking enormous bribes from the businessman, Philip Bloom, in 2003 and 2004 in return for accepting rigged bids on construction contracts that Bloom was guaranteed to win,” according to the Feb. 2 New York Times. An Associated Press story Jan. 30 made it clear that the corruption went far beyond the connivance between Stein and Bloom. A U.S. government audit showed that the CPA wasted tens of millions of dollars. Lots of the money just disappeared from the books. Some was stolen.The U.S. had seized cash from the Iraqi government or got it from Iraqi oil revenues. The officials in the south-central region of Iraq—an area where the resistance has not been particularly strong—kept large amounts of cash, millions of dollars, in their foot lockers. According to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “tens of millions of dollars in cash had gone in and out of the South-Central Region vault without any tracking of who deposited and withdrew the money, and why it was taken out.”Other items in the reports stated that: Of $23 million earmarked for civilian and military project and contracting officers to pay contractors, only a quarter ever reached the contractors and the CPA paid one contractor $14,000 for the same job four times.The audit reports on the other regions of Iraq have not been published yet. There is no reason to expect that these will show any less theft and overall corruption by the U.S. occupation force.
Infrastructure near collapse There are many reasons the Iraqi infrastructure is in such poor shape. Twelve years of bombing and sanctions prevented real maintenance and repair under the Saddam Hussein regime. But it’s also obvious that U.S. rule not only has brought no improvement and the infrastructure has further deteriorated.For the first time in winter there have been severe water shortages in Baghdad’s suburbs. Iraqis have running water only a few hours daily. Another item in short supply is cement, with 13 state-owned plants running at 25 percent capacity. The U.S. economic advisers suggest that the cement plants be privatized.Any attempt to repair the oil infrastructure is hampered by the resistance, and now by a new kind of “corruption.” According to an article in The New York Times Feb. 5, “a sitting member of the Iraqi National Assembly has been indicted in the theft of millions of dollars meant for protecting a critical oil pipeline against attacks and is suspected of funneling some of that money to the insurgency.”