February 7, 2008

Iraqi Civics and Car Bombs

Bill Ardolino has published the first installment in a four part series at the Long War Journal about Iraqi politics based on dozens of interviews with major players. In an email, he writes, "This first installment is like an 8th grade civics lesson about the Iraqi executive branch, albeit some of the players have car bombs."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 7, 2008 5:03 PM
Comments

What have been your personal experiences with corruption - giving or being asked for bribes, etc.?

What about other corruption stories, especially from Iraqis? But also as compared to your Kurdish & other experiences.

I thought the failure to institute an internet-based open tender system under Bremer was a big long term mistake, but lately I've heard almost nothing about more open, public tenders.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 6:23 AM

Tom,

I've heard lots of complaints about corruption from Iraqi Kurds (about the Kurdish Regional Government as well as Baghdad), but little from Arabs. I think that's mostly because the Arabs have bigger things to worry about, not because the Kurds are more corrupt.

No one has ever expected me to bribe them in the Middle East except a Turkish police officer who pulled me over for speeding on the highway.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 10:04 AM

Oh, I forgot, I was sort of mugged by the tourist police at the pyramids in Egypt. Egypt is an awful place, truly.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 10:05 AM

Do the people in the ME behave in the same manner as we in the US do about corruption? We know it happens, but when someone is caught we get our "undies" all tied in a knot that it happens. We scream for new laws, then expect the corruption to continue.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 12:10 PM

Do the people in the ME behave in the same manner as we in the US do about corruption? We know it happens, but when someone is caught we get our “undies” all tied in a knot that it happens. We scream for new laws, then expect the corruption to continue.

I can answer this regarding Iraq based on my own embed experiences. Corruption is common and culturally accepted, to some degree, and is tied to the concept of "wasta," which roughly equates to pull, mojo or influence in American terms.

But corruption can get so outrageous that it has consequences, as I've detailed in this story from my first embed:

http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/002932.php

http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/002938.php

But to no small extent many Iraqis in positions of power think skimming is an entitlement, and anticorruption efforts are disorganized and prone to intimidation. Corruption may even be the country's most significant problem.

Posted by: Bill from INDC Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 1:25 PM

Kevin: Do the people in the ME behave in the same manner as we in the US do about corruption?

Generally, no. It's more common and less stigmatized there. It is not really illegal, as there is no rule of law. As often as not, people complain because they aren't in on it themselves. No one complains about that in America.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 1:26 PM

Also, what Bill said. (We posted at the same time.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 1:27 PM

Alright, a 2 for 1 day.:) Thanks to both of you. I thought so, just wasn't positive.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at February 8, 2008 1:34 PM

Some terms for the concepts, via an email from an intel guy I know over there:

wasta: gaining face or influence

baksheesh: paying someone to perform their official duties on an individual basis, which we would refer to as corruption but they consider akin to tips or perks

rashwa: paying a superior money in return for hiring or promotions

Posted by: Bill from INDC Author Profile Page at February 9, 2008 10:15 AM
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