Friday, September 7, 2007

In Exclusive Interview, Top Iraqi Graft-Buster Tells Me Maliki Government Is So Corrupt It Should Be Scraped

I was going to do a late review of some of the dumb things said at the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday evening, but I've been distracted by the scoop below--which was first posted in my "Capital Games" column at Please forgive me. (If you've read this story already, please scroll down to other recent postings.) Also please check out the latest edition of ”PinkerCorn” (as its devotees are calling it) on and the most recent "Corn & Miniter Show" at

With Congress and the White House engaging in yet another round of debate on the Iraq war, a former Iraqi judge who was--and who still may be--the chief anticorruption officer of the Iraqi government has a tough message for anyone concerned about Iraq: the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is so riddled with corruption it ought to be totally scrapped. Radhi al-Radhi, who since 2005 has headed the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), an independent Iraqi institution that tries to investigate and prosecute corrupt Iraqi officials, offers this damning indictment of the Iraqi government at a time when Maliki and his allies are mounting a fierce attack against him and attempting to replace Radhi with a Maliki loyalist who himself has been arrested on corruption charges.

Last week I posted an article disclosing that a team of officials at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad had drafted a secret report detailing rampant corruption and criminality throughout the Iraqi government. The embassy report notes that corruption is "the norm in many ministries" and that Maliki has consistently blocked the work of Radhi and the Commission on Public Integrity. Four days later, Maliki held a press conference in Baghdad and fiercely denounced Radhi. He accused Radhi of corruption--without offering any specifics. Maliki announced that Radhi would be prosecuted and that the Parliament was about to forcibly retire him. The prime minister also claimed that the CPI chief had fled the country. Three days after that, the Iraqi government named Moussa Faraj to replace Radhi.

While all this was happening, Radhi, who is depicted in the secret embassy report as a diligent and brave investigator, was in the United States, not fleeing but leading a delegation of CPI investigators attending a training session in Washington. I spoke with him yesterday about his own predicament and that of his nation. He laughs off Maliki's charges as a bogus and transparent attempt to end investigations probing Maliki's political allies, and he is quite blunt in his assessment of the Maliki government.

Radhi, a secular Shia, is a compact, 62-year-old man with a salt-and-pepper mustache and receding gray hair. It's easy to see the dent on his head where he was smashed by a rifle butt one of the two times he was imprisoned during the Saddam Hussein years. He rolls up a sleeve to show a long deep scar that he says he received during torture sessions and notes that his back is covered with similar marks.

The first point he wants to make--and he does so emphatically--is that he did not slip out of Iraq to escape prosecution, as Maliki has implied. Radhi explains that he came to the United States with ten CPI investigators who are being taught how to use a lie detector. (I've confirmed that such training is under way.) He takes out his passport. It contains an Iraqi stamp indicating he legally departed the country on August 22. "Maliki is making up stories to blame me for stuff," Radhi remarks. The prime minister's press conference, Radhi says, was a stunt designed to pressure Radhi not to return to Iraq: "They want to get rid of me because I have lots of important files that could be used to indict his ministers."

Radhi confirms that the secret embassy report's description of widespread corruption within the Maliki government is accurate: "This is what's going on. The government has failed in doing its job." He estimates that the various ministries, hampered by fraud and waste, are only meeting between 2 and 5 percent of their obligations. He says that $7 billion has been pocketed or wasted at the Ministry of Defense, that the same has happened to $4 billion at the Ministry of Electricity. "At other ministries," he adds, "it's half a billion dollars here, a quarter of a billion dollars there. You can imagine the whole number. It works like the Mafia."

Radhi's problem, he maintains, is that he wants to do something about all this--and that means trouble for the Shia-dominated government led by Maliki. "When I prosecuted Sunni ministers, they clapped for me," he remarks. "When I prosecuted Kurdish ministers, they clapped for me. But when I went after Shia ministers, they came after me and said I'm the corrupted one."

Maliki's campaign against Radhi is nothing new. Last year, Maliki sent Radhi a letter essentially accusing him of not accounting for hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the Commission on Public Integrity. According to the secret embassy report, an initial audit of the CPI uncovered management problems (not criminal conduct) and a subsequent audit was "glowing."

Sabah al-Saidi, a Shia leader who heads the Parliament's anticorruption committee and who has joined Maliki in the latest campaign against Radhi, has also been trying for a year to undermine the CPI by charging Radhi with graft. Radhi maintains that he earned Saidi's wrath because the CPI was investigating oil smuggling in Basra and its investigators believed this criminal activity was linked to Saidi's Fadillah party. Radhi's CPI pursued about 90 cases involving oil smuggling and corruption in Basra, and these cases were blocked from reaching court. The secret embassy report corroborates this point, noting that investigating corruption in Basra has been nearly impossible. The report describes an occasion when Radhi asked Maliki to support probes in Basra targeting the Fadillah party and Shia militias and Maliki "just went quiet." (According to a Radhi associate who asked not to be identified, oil smugglers in Basra routinely pay militias to safeguard oil pipelines and some of this protection money ends up with anti-American insurgents.)

Radhi says he has never had a case that directly involved Maliki. But he maintains that he has initiated several investigations of officials close to Maliki--including a minister of oil and a Maliki relative who used to head the Ministry of Transportation--and Maliki's office and other ministries shut down these cases, citing a law known as Article 136B. This provision in Iraq's criminal code--a provision that Maliki revived-- allows the prime minister or a minister to order a court to end a prosecution.

And earlier this year, Radhi notes, Maliki's office issued a secret order that forced the criminal courts to close all ongoing cases against past and present ministers and deputy ministers. (I have a copy of that memo.) About three dozen investigations were shuttered. With another secret memo, Radhi says, Maliki's office ended the prosecution of a key Maliki adviser on oil policy. And as we talk, Radhi pulls out yet one more secret memo, dated June 18, 2007, in which the prime minister instructed Radhi to dismiss one of the CPI's best investigators. Radhi refused. A month later, Maliki's office sent Radhi another memo reiterating this order. "I kept him," Radhi says.

Radhi notes that last year he had a "big case" involving one of Maliki's top national security aides. The official was given a large amount of money to fund a weapons buyback program in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by the militia of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. According to Radhi, the Maliki aide was suspected of having pocketed some of the money to buy a building for himself in London and of having passed weapons he had collected to militias. "When we looked into this," Radhi recalls, "the prime minister's office closed the case--using Rule 136. We had evidence in this case. And that's when they started to attack us."

Of Maliki, Radhi says, "he's not corrupt, but the group around him--all of them are corrupt. And he has to support them, because he's of their party."

Corruption within the Iraqi government, Radhi says, "is increasing day by day." The government's budget for 2007 (including funds left over from 2006) is $71 billion, he remarks, yet "you see no reconstruction, and we still don't have oil or electricity and no security from the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of the Interior, and they're each spending billions of dollars." Five million Iraqis have left the country, he says, yet the Ministry of Trade is still spending the same amount of funds for ration cards--apparently for people who no longer live in Iraq: "Where is the money going? No one knows." The Ministry of Health, he complains, has imported billions of dollars in medicine and medical equipment, "but we don't see medicine and equipment in hospitals. It's going to political parties or militias."

Radhi still considers himself chief of the Commission on Public Integrity. His forcible retirement, he says, is illegal--and so is the appointment of his successor. (In a letter sent to Maliki two days ago, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Sunni speaker of the Parliament, declared Radhi's removal "illegal and unconstitutional.") Regardless of the legality of Radhi's ouster, Moussa Faraj, who has been named Radhi's replacement, is an odd pick for the job. He was once a deputy at the CPI--having been installed at the commission by the ruling Shia Alliance Party. According to the secret U.S. embassy report on corruption, Faraj regularly prosecuted and delayed cases on "sectarian bases." Worse, the report notes that Faraj, a political ally of Sabah al-Saidi (the Parliament leader who has assailed Radhi), once "allowed a Shia Alliance member [charged in a multi-million-dollar corruption case] to escape custody." And after Faraj was dismissed from the CPI, the report says, he stole "literally a car load of case files." An arrest warrant was issued for him.

Several weeks ago, according to Radhi and his investigators, Faraj was arrested, placed in prison, and subsequently released on bail. "How can he be in jail and then be head of the integrity commission?" Radhi asks. Putting the CPI in Faraj's hands, Radhi says, will allow Maliki's office and Saidi to control its actions and prevent the commission from conducting investigations that inconvenience them and their political confederates. It will mean, he claims, the end of any meaningful anticorruption effort in Iraq.

Radhi says he hopes to return to Iraq and the CPI: "I want to go back and work because Iraq needs and deserves a clean government. You cannot rebuild Iraq without fighting corruption. We cannot stop the insurgency without blocking its source of funding, and corruption produces funds for the insurgents." But he has no clear strategy for undoing his forcible removal or for countering Maliki's moves against him. Radhi concedes he does not have a lot of options: "I don't have a political party or a gang supporting me."

This summer, there were two rocket attacks on his home. And the Iraqi government has informed him that his retirement benefits (80 percent of his salary) will be based on the pay of low-level government functionary (about $700 a month) not the income of a government minister (about $8000 a month), even though the CPI chief is considered the equivalent of a minister. For the time being, he may be stranded in the United States. And it's unclear how much the U.S. government will help him, if at all.

"The people now running Iraq are corrupted themselves," Radhi says. "The only solution left is a new government, with a secular government of technocrats, not a religious government politicized by certain groups. Iraqi society is a civil society. The people deserve a civil government." He hopes the Bush administration will pressure the Maliki government to follow the law "so no new dictatorship will be born." But is it realistic to expect any of this? A wholesale change in the Iraqi government? The Bush administration leaning on Maliki and forcing an end to systemic corruption? After all, the secret corruption report--which the Bush administration has not yet acknowledged--notes that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has done little to bolster anticorruption programs and that Defense Department officials have blocked investigations of certain Iraqi officials. "I know it's difficult," Radhi says with a deep and sad sigh. "I'm not a political guy."

Posted by David Corn at September 7, 2007 12:39 PM


David B. Benson said...

I have a different solution.


Gerald said...

I thought that we went into Iraq to spread American democracy and not more Iraqi corruption? Is this what our men and women are dying and being maimed for? More Iraqi corruption? Where is our outrage?

capt said...

"Go often to the house of thy friend; for weeds soon choke up the unused path."

~ Scandinavian Proverb

capt said...

Iran spinning centrifuges - and half-truths


The argument that Iran cannot be allowed to have any uranium enrichment assumes that a sufficient number of centrifuges by itself would allow Iran to have the capability to build nuclear weapons. News media have routinely repeated the statement that 3,000 centrifuges could enrich enough uranium to make a bomb, provided the machines run for the requisite periods.

But ElBaradei observed in an interview with The Financial Times on February 19 that even if Iran had 3,000 or more centrifuges operating, they could not go beyond 5% enrichment, which would be far below what would be required for weapons-grade uranium, as long they remain under an IAEA inspection regime.

In February 2006, ElBaradei suggested that Iran should be allowed a small-scale enrichment program on Iranian soil in exchange for guarantees of no full nuclear-fuel production that could be diverted for military purposes. Such an agreement would allow the international community to know with certainty rather than having to guess whether Iran is actually enriching uranium to weapons-grade level or not.

The United States has insisted that it will not negotiate with Iran on the nuclear issue until it has agreed to suspend enrichment completely, but Iran has said it will only enter talks without preconditions.


capt said...

In the end, nothing will change

A war without end waged by a government without conscience

As America waits for the long-anticipated but even longer predetermined report from Gen. David Patraeus on the situation in Iraq it becomes more and more obvious that little, if anything, will change in the war that just today cost seven more American soldiers their lives.

Patraeus will claim progress in a country torn apart by a civil war we started because those were his marching orders all along. President George W. Bush will agree to a small, but meaningless, troop cut that will gain enough Republican votes to keep Congress deadlocked and stymied and Democrats who swept into office on a platform of change will wring their hands, whine about how they need more of a majority and then claim that "gee, we tried."

More Americans will die in a war that never should have been launched, deeper political and philosophical divisions will divide this country even more but - in the end - nothing will really change.

Bush has made it clear he wants a "sustained American presence in Iraq" and, for the most part, Bush gets what he wants from a timid Congress. The failed Democratic leadership of Congress walked away from their campaign promises to bring change and compounded their felonies by caving in to Bush and expanding his powers to wiretap and spy on Americans at will.

Americans may not face any real change when the final choices come down in next year's election. The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, voted for the war and won't commit to any real plan to bring the troops home. Republican frontrunners all support the war and the newcomer to the race - former Senator and sometimes actor Fred Thompson - is as big a hawk as Bush.

Bush conned the Congress and the American people into giving him more time to prove his "surge" would work, knowing all along that even if it didn't work he could cook the books enough to claim it has. A carefully-planned propaganda campaign by the White House has caused a small, but significant, shift in public opinion towards the war fueled by just enough bogus, but plausible, claims that the surge is working.

This brings enough wavering Republicans back into the fold and gives Bush the votes to stall any Congressional effort to set a timetable for withdrawal or force an end to a failed war.

While giving the appearance of an administration on the ropes, the Bush White House has outfoxed Congress at just about every turn, backing the lackluster Democratic leadership into a political corner where any real attempt to end the war comes off looking like abandonment of our troops in the field.

Bush is the unabashed godfather of a political conspiracy to force an unneeded war on a gullible public but Democrats and Republicans in Congress remain his co-conspirators, complicit by giving the authority to wage a war based on lies and hidden agendas and then failing to stop him when those deceits became a matter of record.

So nothing will change. Soon, the American death toll in Iraq will top 4,000. Then 5,000. In the future, when the need comes to build a monument on Washington's mall to honor those who gave their lives in another failed war, the names on a wall dedicated to the Iraq debacle may outnumber the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


*****end of clip*****

If we take military action against Iran I think things will change - big time.


capt said...

Anybody else notice that the first headlines about the OBL tape read: "OBL Critisizes Democrats" now it has been scrubbed and converted into "Bin Laden tape criticizes Bush, policies"?

Just wonderin'


capt said...

Bin Laden criticizes Democrats over Iraq

Intelligence officials believe video to be authentic; no specific threat made

WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden criticizes Democrats for failing to stop the Iraq conflict in a video, obtained Friday by the U.S. government, NBC News and other news organizations, marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The al-Qaida leader says major corporations are to blame for the continuation of the conflict that the "vast majority" of Americans want stopped.

“You elected the Democratic Party for this purpose," he says according to a translated transcript of the tape. “On the contrary, they continue to agree to spending of tens of billions to continue the killings and the war there.”


*****end of clip*****

This is the one I read first.


capt said...

How many times will the astute American citizenry fall for this video tape thing.

The timing is not accidental and:

"Coincidence doesn't just happen" ~ Homer J Simpson


capt said...

Bin Laden Brandishes Jihadi Threat against US in Iraq

I don't know why so many press commentaries keep saying that the new videotape from Usama Bin Laden does not contain any threats.

It contains a clear threat: to escalate regional jihadi resistance against the US troops in Iraq.

Bin Laden, however, is not now and perhaps never has been a credible actor in Iraq. Most Iraqis are nationalists and would not want a Saudi telling them what to do. He made a big but perhaps unavoidable error in attacking the Shiites, and so denying his movement a nationalist platform. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a small cult of hyper-Sunni bigots and serial murderers. Instead of playing Abdul Nasser, who attracted the allegiance even of many Shiite Arabs in his day, Bin Laden long ago chose to play the role of a cultist, a David Koreish with better explosives.

A lot of jihadis consider Bin Laden a jinx, since he brought ruin on the Arab Afghans, who were killed, captured or had to go to ground. And, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are from all accounts increasingly acting to exclude the foreigners from their struggle against the Shiite government. The main antagonist of the US in Iraq has all along been elements in the local Sunni Arab population.

Bin Laden is stuck in the 1980s intellectually, when he was used by one superpower (the Reagan administration) against another (the Soviet Union). That bipolar world is gone, succeeded by a period of unipolarism. Jihadis with $10 bn. in aid from the US and Saudi Arabia and a national cause are one thing. Jihadis with no superpower patron, no united nation, and little or no money just become terrorists.

Bin Laden is like a venomous snake, always dangerous, and you never want to underestimate a cobra if it is in striking distance. But Iraq isn't the Afghanistan of the 1980s and 1990s, and if Bin Laden thinks it is, he is very out of touch.


*****end of clip*****

Seems a bit odd that OBL and Bush have shared and like-minded delusional mentality.


David B. Benson said...

capt --- Doesn't seem odd to me...

capt said...

A man can be a Christian or a patriot, but he can't legally be a Christian and a patriot--except in the usual way: one of the two with the mouth, the other with the heart. The spirit of Christianity proclaims the brotherhood of the race and the meaning of that strong word has not been left to guesswork, but made tremendously definite- the Christian must forgive his brother man all crimes he can imagine and commit, and all insults he can conceive and utter- forgive these injuries how many times?--seventy times seven--another way of saying there shall be no limit to this forgiveness. That is the spirit and the law of Christianity. Well--Patriotism has its laws. And it also is a perfectly definite one, there are not vaguenesses about it. It commands that the brother over the border shall be sharply watched and brought to book every time he does us a hurt or offends us with an insult. Word it as softly as you please, the spirit of patriotism is the spirit of the dog and wolf. The moment there is a misunderstanding about a boundary line or a hamper of fish or some other squalid matter, see patriotism rise, and hear him split the universe with is war-whoop. The spirit of patriotism being in its nature jealous and selfish, is just in man's line, it comes natural to him- he can live up to all its requirements to the letter; but the spirit of Christianity is not in its entirety possible to him.
The prayers concealed in what I have been saying is, not that patriotism should cease and not that the talk about universal brotherhood should cease, but that the incongruous firm be dissolved and each limb of it be required to transact business by itself, for the future.

- Mark Twain's Notebook

David B. Benson said...

My irony meter must need adjustment...

capt said...


"capt --- Doesn't seem odd to me..."

I was trying for irony.

There is nothing worse than a zealot - no matter which side (fake or not). Bush is a fake zealot. He thinks if enough people die it will validate his mistaken beliefs and justify his insincerity.

The ends have to justify the means so Bush knows if we are not victorious all of his worst fears and abject failures will be realized. So he will never bring the troops home. He will blame the failure of resolve on anybody but himself. He will answer any question about the failure with "I never failed" as that is true in his little pretend cowboy - Andover cheerleader bubble. He always wins in his bubble.


David B. Benson said...

Wierd. I read the comment about trying for irony. I responded to it.

But the posts are in the opposite order.

Maybe I was briefly living backwards in time?

capt said...


I had to correct a little spelling - I used the word "and" where I intended "any" so you're correct I posted - then deleted and re-posted with the correction.


capt said...

Hagel is calling it quits

WASHINGTON - Chuck Hagel will announce Monday that he is retiring from the U.S. Senate and will not run for president next year, people close to the Nebraska Republican said Friday.

Hagel plans to announce that "he will not run for re-election and that he does not intend to be a candidate for any office in 2008," said one person, who asked not to be named.

Hagel has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday at the Omaha Press Club.

According to one person interviewed, Hagel told Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Friday morning that he had decided to retire. Hagel's staff learned of his decision that afternoon.

The North Platte native earned national recognition as perhaps the most vocal, at times angry, GOP critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

His outspokenness on Iraq and other key issues, including Social Security and foreign policy, fueled national interest in Hagel as he flirted with a possible presidential bid.

His national profile reached its zenith in March, when he headed to Omaha to hold a press conference on his political future.

But amid wide speculation that he was leaning toward a White House run, Hagel announced that he would disclose his plans later in the year.

His pending retirement leaves another GOP Senate seat without an incumbent at a time when the Republican Party is struggling to stem potential losses and must defend more seats than Democrats.

In Nebraska, the news will trigger a scramble among possible successors.


*****end of clip*****

The original evote guy is out? I bet something comes out about old Chuck.


capt said...

Charles Timothy "Chuck" Hagel


Business career

After leaving government employment, Hagel co-founded Vanguard Cellular, a mobile phone manufacturer that made him a millionaire several times over. While working with Vanguard, he served as president and chief executive officer of the United Service Organizations and the Private Sector Council, as deputy director and chief operating officer of the 1990 G7 Summit, and on the board of directors or advisory committee of the American Red Cross, the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, Bread for the World, and the Ripon Society. He also served as Chairman of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Although he was pressured by some to run for Governor of Virginia, where he had lived for 20 years, in 1992 Hagel moved back to Nebraska to become president of the McCarthy Group, an investment banking firm. He also served as CEO of American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), a voting machine manufacturer, which changed its name to Election Systems & Software (ES&S) in 1997.



capt said...

"If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines"

Published on Friday, January 31, 2003 by

by Thom Hartmann

Maybe Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel honestly won two US Senate elections. Maybe it's true that the citizens of Georgia simply decided that incumbent Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a wildly popular war veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was, as his successful Republican challenger suggested in his campaign ads, too unpatriotic to remain in the Senate. Maybe George W. Bush, Alabama's new Republican governor Bob Riley, and a small but congressionally decisive handful of other long-shot Republican candidates really did win those states where conventional wisdom and straw polls showed them losing in the last few election cycles.

Perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now sometimes used to verify how clean elections are in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past six years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.


capt said...

New Thread