Some American officials estimate that as much as a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and grants ends up unaccounted for or stolen, with a portion going to Shiite or Sunni militias. In addition, Iraq’s top anticorruption official estimated this fall — before resigning and fleeing the country after 31 of his agency’s employees were killed over a three-year period — that $18 billion in Iraqi government money had been lost to various stealing schemes since 2004.
The collective filching undermines Iraq’s ability to provide essential services, a key to sustaining recent security gains, according to American military commanders. It also sows a corrosive distrust of democracy and hinders reconciliation as entrenched groups in the Shiite-led government resist reforms that would cut into reliable cash flows.
In interviews across Baghdad, though, Iraqis said the widespread thieving affected them at least as powerfully on an emotional and moral level. The Koran is very clear on stealing: “God does not love the corrupters,” one verse says. And for average Iraqis, those ashamed of the looting that took place immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the current era of anything-goes is particularly crushing because almost no one can avoid its taint.
Update: When it rains, it pours:
Baghdad is facing a ‘catastrophe’ with cases of cholera rising sharply in the past three weeks to more than 100, strengthening fears that poor sanitation and the imminent rainy season could create an epidemic.
The disease – spread by bacteria in contaminated water, which can result in rapid dehydration and death – threatens to blunt growing optimism in the Iraqi capital after a recent downturn in violence. Two boys in an orphanage have died and six other children were diagnosed with the disease, according to the Iraqi government. ‘We have a catastrophe in Baghdad,’ an official said.
JJ is curious:
Wasn’t Halliburton paid billions a few years ago to rebuild the destroyed water system in Iraq so that Iraqis could at least have the most basic of needs, clean water?
Hey, don’t be a Negative Nellie, JJ. From all accounts it sounds like infrastructure reconstruction is still going swimmingly. Halliburton (and its subsidiaries) worked damn hard to do the job right, as per usual.