Iraq: February 29, 2004

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One reason the UN may be nervous about going back to Iraq is the growing number of documents and witnesses emerging detailing corruption in  the UN "Oil for Food" program. This program was started in 1997 to allow Iraq to sell enough oil, via the UN, to buy needed food, medicine and other necessities. But in mid-2000, Iraq began a kick-back scam that skimmed ten percent of  the money for Saddam Hussein and his cronies. Some 70 percent of the contracts between then and early 2003 ($32.6 billion worth) were subject to the skimming. Over two billion dollars was stolen. UN officials took bribes to look the other way, and suppliers from Russia, European, China and the Middle East paid the bribes to get the contracts. No American companies were involved. It is feared that as more foreign aid enters Iraq, such kickback schemes will again become the norm. Coalition administrators in Iraq have already had problems with Iraqis who are quick to offer a bribe to gain an edge. This culture of corruption sees everything for sale, including elections and government offices. Most Iraqis consider this quite normal, and accuse Western nations of  tolerating the same kind of corruption. What these Iraqis fail to understand is that at a certain level, corruption makes good government and economic growth impossible. Most Western nations keep corruption under control, most Middle Eastern nations do not. 

 

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