More than $500 Billion, 3,882 american soldiers killed, 25,000 wounded, no one knows how many tens of thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of Iraqis killed. And all for one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. Not only can the Iraqi government not find a way to come together in political reconciliation, they’ll only sell you an "I ♥ Democracy" t-shirt with a $85 markup…and they ONLY come in "medium"!
Abu Ali is a 23-year-old Sunni with a soft middle and a common tale. Identifying himself by only a nickname, which means father of Ali, he said that he, his wife, his elderly mother and six relatives fled their home in eastern Baghdad last year after receiving death threats from Shiite militias. First they rushed to Diyala Province, and when that turned violent, they moved back to a safer area of Baghdad — broke and desperate.
A major breadwinner for his family, Abu Ali needed a job. And like many Iraqis, he saw only one employer hiring: the government. A neighbor who was a police officer suggested joining the force. Abu Ali asked how, noting that recruits outnumbered positions. The answer was simple: a $500 bribe.
Abu Ali borrowed the money a few months ago and found his way to a cellphone shop downtown, where, he said, a man in his late 20s welcomed him inside. The man identified himself as a police captain and seemed at ease with the transaction. His wealth sparkled all around.
“He had a silver Mercedes,” Abu Ali said. “He was wearing a thick gold chain and a gold watch.”
Abu Ali tried to bargain for a lower fee, but failed, handing over the cash and filling out official forms. In return, he said, he received a blue card stamped “Ministry of the Interior,” which declared him an accepted member of the police force. The man with the gold chain told him to watch for an announcement in the local paper that listed the names of newly accepted recruits, and to bring the card to his first day of training.
“How do I know I’ll really get the job?” Abu Ali said he asked. “He told me, ‘I’ve put in 70 or 80 people already. Don’t worry about it.’”
Five months later, Abu Ali’s name appeared in the newspaper. At the police academy in September, he said, he discovered that most of his class was from Sadr City and that everyone paid $400 to $800 to join.
“There’s not a single person among the 850 people in my class who joined for free,” he said.
His commanders, he added, also now collect the salaries of recruits who quit, a payout of more than $100,000 a month. “No one can stop it,” Abu Ali said. “Corruption runs from top to bottom.”
Holy Crap, it’s almost like they joined the Republican Party!
Thank goodness security has improved, that’ll make it better right?
Corruption and theft are not new to Iraq, and government officials have promised to address the problem. But as Iraqis and American officials assess the effects of this year’s American troop increase, there is a growing sense that, even as security has improved, Iraq has slipped to new depths of lawlessness.
Well that millisecond of hope won’t do. I better go read a Fred Hiatt editorial to buck up my sense of "magic & wonder".