Friday, September 23, 2005

Tip of an iceberg

PV Vivekanand

IT IS no secret that some of the people who wield influential positions in post-war Iraq are not exactly known for keeping their paws to themselves when it comes to money, particularly when it belongs to someone else. Reports that up to $1 billion were siphoned away from funds earmarked to equip the Iraqi security forces do not come as a surprise. Surely, it is only the tip of an iceberg. If one cares to dig deeper, then there would be much more worse scandals waiting to be uncovered.
That might indeed be the case, but the US could not escape from its responsibility and share of blame for the mess-up in Iraq. The ill-planned and misguided military action has led to untold suffering for the people of Iraq, one of the richest oil countries in the region. They live in a perpetual state of terror and deprived of a decent level of amenities in life. They were promised the sky at one point, and today they have gone deep into an abysss of uncertainty and fear. And now they are told that money that should have been spent on improving their security has gone missing, thus sparking further frustration and despair over themselves and the fate of their country.
A close review of American administration of funds allocated for Iraq, whether coming from American taxpayers or from the sales of Iraqi oil, since the invasion of that country in March 2003 shows a we-could-not-care-less approach. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent in Iraq, and the bulk of the money going to certain favoured destinations. There has always been a grossly inflated version of spending in Iraq on the American side, and this has definitely contributed to a confidence in Baghdad that anyone could get away with anything.
Had the Bush administration took the early signs of mismanagement and corruption seriously enough to launch a thorough and transparent investigation, pinpointed the blame and took to task those responsible, then it would have been the best message that Washington does take things seriously and has the best of interests of Iraq and its people at heart.
It did not happen, and even audited reports of Iraq accounts that brought out gross irregularities and violations were shelved aside. The people named in the audit reports were not even questioned, as far as the international community knows today.
What better example could the US set for those in a position to dip their hands into the Iraqi honeypot?