24 August 2006

What those little things you 'don't know' about of Iraq don't tell you

Now, in my wanderings around the net I do run into the nasty and defeatist folks from the 'reality based community'... they just don't seem to like this reality and wish, as in the words of Adam Savage from Mythbusters, to substitute their own. The methodology is clear and simple: use factoids, fact snippets or bald assertions and purport them to coalesce into something else. Very simple to do, really, much simpler than contextual analysis of a situation, seeing what the causational factors are and then trying to fit those factors into the larger sweep of events. By picking and choosing amongst facts and figures, one can present a constellation of things that look to represent one thing... but turn out to be pin-holes on a piece of paper and the pinpoint holes offering constricted view of a broader set of events and happenings. Case in point is the article at Informationclearinghouse about the 7 Facts You Might Not Know about Iraq by Michael Schwartz. Needless to say the site itself is ideologically oriented, agenda driven and doing its best to report 'facts' in their own way.

As my Uncle Joe used to say: Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure.

So let me add a bit of depth to the reported facts and see what we find out.

1) The Iraqi Government Is Little More Than a Group of "Talking Heads"
Oh, my! This individual has obviously not watched C-SPAN and the hours devoted to pure bloviation by the US Congress to empty seats during off-hours. And how does this individual back this up? Well the first sentence gives a clear indication of what this individual would LIKE to see:
A minimally viable central government is built on at least three foundations: the coercive capacity to maintain order, an administrative apparatus that can deliver government services and directives to society, and the resources to manage these functions.
So, you cannot have distributed Government in a Nation, apparently. And the Central Government must have the coercive capacity to maintain order! That means that the entire US Constitution is out of order, here, as it places the sole Right to determine how order is made to The People. So the United States, by declaring laws, put standards and guidelines down as to how law enforcement should act and what they can and cannot do and holding them accountable for their ACTIONS is, in fact, endowing these folks to keep order and unruliness to a dull roar via the will of The People. Truly, I do not see jackbooted Government military agents striding up and down the streets of the cities of the United States, nor any other form of coercive behavior mandating that people should maintain order. We look at it differently in that the will of the People *sets* what is and is not orderly and ask enforcement officers who are constrained by those same rules to 'keep the peace'.

Well, not even done with the first SENTENCE and already I have problems on this individual's view of Government. At a guess I would say that this individual is wholly unsatisfied with the United States for not even offering that 'minimum of government'.

Now, for government services being offered. How very Socialist of this individual to want the Government to deliver things to the People! And Individuals are to be lumped in to the entire society, so that any failure for any one segment or any one small piece can serve as an indictment of the whole of Government. This outlook of the Government *delivering* services points to an outlook that is, again, wholly out of line with the Constitution and how a Government may run in a non-authoritarian way: by denigrating the ability of the People to work autonomously, the author expects Government to be the 'source' of the well-being of the People. May I point out that this is wholly in-line with Communist State workings and *not* something put forth by a Free People wishing to remain Free? Once the Government becomes the *granter* of goods and services, it also becomes the controller of same. That is antithetical to Western outlook on the Rights of Individuals.

Now the lovely wording of 'resources to manage these functions'! And those 'resources' come from? Taxation, tariffs and, in the Statist ideology that gives the first two items their voice, State ownership of the means of production. So, to restate the first sentence in its contextual meaning, minimally viable central government is: that which can enforce its dictates upon the people, that which controls the distribution of goods and services, and that which controls the economy of its Nation to its own ends.

And I haven't even gotten to the de-bunking part and I already have grounds to quibble with the analysis by its very basis of construction and outlook! You can tell that this will not be a fun exercise.
The Iraqi government has none of these attributes -- and no prospect of developing them. It has no coercive capacity.
Yes, it has no prospect of quickly developing into an authoritarian State because it has a Constitution, a division of Powers amongst its branches of Government and needs to come to a broad National Consensus of how to Govern well. Not RULE as dictators, autocrats and clerics would, but to Govern. And here we see this individuals first wish for the Iraqi Government: enforce its will UPON the People. Do that and you are headed upon the blood drenched pathway well marked out by previous Communist/Fascist and similar regimes. Amazing that this is seen as a NEGATIVE point, in this day and age.
The national army we hear so much about is actually trained and commanded by the Americans, while the police forces are largely controlled by local governments and have few, if any, viable links to the central government in Baghdad. (Only the Special Forces, whose death-squad activities in the capital have lately been in the news, have any formal relationship with the elected government; and they have more enduring ties to the U.S. military that created them and the Shia militias who staffed them.)
Now here we have: misreporting, misrepresentation and outright lies. Let us walk over to the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq site and take a gander at what is being done here. First the summary Press Archive, which gives a good over-view of some of the basic 'police blotter' reporting that the MNF-Iraq site has in greater detail. Here we see operations, large and small, being conducted by the security forces of Iraq, both military and police, to help rid their Nation of insurgents, terrorists, vigilantes and crime.

The training, as reported by MNF- Iraq is multinational in scope. And NATO has a part in it.

As for the outlying sectors having 'few, if any, viable links' to the Government in Baghdad, I will use my own review of this which is here, but a few salient bits extracted for convenience: The Iraqi Army now controls over half of their own Nation without help nor guidance from the US or MNF, although some logistics and heavy lifting is still provided as seen at this MNF briefing document. So, for those areas under direct Iraq control the poor Iraqi People now have a way to get in contact with its own government via its legitimate military.

But, here again, the author of the article misses the point that Iraq has local Governates or Provinces which provide local services to their People. Those governments are held directly accountable by their people. So even in times of stress and duress, there is local authority to look towards. If this author were *correct* we would see very little of this sort of reporting and NO People of Iraq 'dropping dimes' to turn in those trying to destabilize their Nation. An authoritarian central government would just install a network of 'informers' and manipulate things clandestinely, which, in itself, would be reported by Iraqis on the web. The author has heard of those, but most likely discounts them as 'stooges of the CIA' or some such. How unfortunate that such 'stooges' cannot carry out a party-line, have entirely and often radically different viewpoints on events, and, generally, are trying to come to terms with their own Nation so it can BE a Nation.

This is one of the few times that I have ever heard anyone, anywhere, say that National Police are *better* than local police at... well... policing locally. Personally, I prefer locally accountable police officials to ones that have 10 layers of bureaucracy to get to them rather than just a mere 3 or 4. Why having locally accountable police is seen as a *bad* thing, is beyond me. That said the National Police, seen via the MNF-Iraq site and the MNSTC-I site both demonstrate that National policing capabilities are coming on-line against finding and rooting out terrorists and insurgents and such like. They are pretty far down the list on those to receive training, equipment, proper police buildings and the such like, but they do put their lives on the line and risk getting killed... and that goes for the 'infiltrators' too! Because they cannot always get assigned to areas of operation that are 'friendly' to them or commit open acts of atrocity as they are found and held accountable by their chain of command. It is not a *strong* chain of command, but it is present. As Strategypage and others have pointed out: the main problem of Iraq in the FUTURE is corruption. That is a long-term problem, which needs be sorted out once the killing levels are down to something normal for a regime distrusted and hated by its neighbors in the Middle East.

Now to these lovely 'Special Forces Death Squads': the author is merely asserting and showing no documentary evidence that such individuals involved in killings are, indeed, government backed. In point of fact they are always linked back to Ba'athist redentists, sectarian militias and terrorists of the al Qaeda -Saudi Arabia/Sunni variety or of the Sadr/Shia/Iranian variety. For this a simple review of the MNF-Iraq press archives, identifying where arms and individuals were found, what their activities were and what their ideological outlook is does just fine.

The quick gloss: al Qaeda uses IEDs with some sniper rifles and other assorted munitions, the Sadr/Iranians use lots of guns, RPGs and are installing rockets. That is a quick sieve, needless to say, but helps put things into scope and perspective. What we CAN say, with the capture of Iraqi Army and Police uniforms and badging equipment previously in the riverine operations is that the terrorists and militias are set on putting out IMPERSONATORS that LOOK like legitimate Army and Police. Which is one of the reasons Sunni and Shia BOTH want MNF folks on patrol with them until a better way of differentiating impersonators from the real thing is found.

Basically, extreme assertions need extreme evidence, and is lacking. Again, hit the various military web sites for the MNF to find reviews of weapons and equipment caches.

There, First Point, First Paragraph ADDRESSED by contextual analysis.
Administratively, the Iraqi government has no existence outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone -- and little presence within it. Whatever local apparatus exists elsewhere in the country is led by local leaders, usually with little or no loyalty to the central government and not dependent on it for resources it doesn't, in any case, possess.
Now here, we just have a willful misrepresentation of support and no context beyond, basically, saying that Baghdad is bad, therefore the rest of the Nation is too. To address this I will look to the ever capable Gateway Pundit. First off this report Looking at the Security Situation in Iraq, which actually uses factual evidence from Backtalk to rebut the NYT. It is hard to see how large-scale religious festivals like those of the past week or so could go on UNMOLESTED in Iraq. I mean so many thousands if not tens of thousands of TARGETS to hit... far beyond any mere militia to protect no matter *where* the festival is held. And yet, the number of people killed and wounded by bombings, snipers, automatic weapons, RPG's, and the such like? Zero.
In Baghdad itself, this is clearly illustrated in the vast Shiite slum of Sadr city, controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and his elaborate network of political clerics. (Even U.S. occupation forces enter that enormous swath of the capital only in large brigades, braced for significant firefights.)
Gateway Pundit then goes onto look at the Security Situation in Baghdad, and shows how the combined militaries and police are cooperating to section and clear the city on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis and then leave valid and known security personnel to patrol the cleared areas. The start of this was covered back in JULY at the MNF-Iraq website, which gave the talks, briefings and such of how the methodology would work and how it would be performed and who was going to be doing the work... look for "Operation Together".

After that the event that is having Kurds glued to their televisions: the Trial of Saddam for a massacre in Kurdistan. The Central Criminal Court of Iraq has gotten its act together and is regularly working through the legal process of convicting tens of terrorists, illegal militias and such every week, while holding to the highest profile case around, that of Saddam's Trial, to International review. And they have gotten rid of the non-sense of having Saddam break the rules of courtroom decorum, disrespecting the court and using indimidation and threats against witnesses. The court we first saw a YEAR AGO has changed its composition via replacing the judge and getting someone in who keeps strict order in the court. By doing THIS the working of that court are now seen as legitimate by the People of Iraq, and gaining the trust of those People as an honest broker. The Kurds watch to see that the rest of Iraq CARES about them via this method and it is helping to knit the Nation together as a whole. So, how can Provinces be administered, peace kept by the Iraqi Army and a central criminal proceeding in Baghdad go on WITHOUT some form of National Government? And notice it is a National Government, not a Central Government. By wishing for an authoritarian Central Government, the author of the article is wishing for something that is not happening. By not addressing the needs of the Nation, that author does not see that those needs can be addressed by non-centralized control mechanisms.
In the major city of the Shia south, Basra, local clerics lead a government that alternately ignores and defies the central government on all policy issues from oil to women's rights; in Sunni cities like Tal Afar and Ramadi, where major battles with the Americans alternate with insurgent control, the government simply has no presence whatsoever. In Kurdistan in the north, the Kurdish leadership maintains full control of all local governments.
Now this little bit must be referring to the problems of Iranian infiltration into Iraq. I address this in my bit on the Second Iranian Foreign Legion - Mahdi Army. One of the former followers of Sadr reported this little tidbit to Newsmax:
"I used to fight for free," a former member of Sadr's forces tells Newsweek, "but today the Mahdi Army receives millions of dollars every month from Iran in exchange for carrying out the Iranian agenda."
So here we have not so much of 'lack of government' as foreign subversion of local government. And then this little bit from Threatswatch:
Meanwhile, Sadr's followers in parliament pressed his case and made the gravest threats so far against the government. As reported in Al-Hayat, parliamentary leader Falah Shinaishal led a sit-in protest in front of Maliki's office in Baghdad, demanding that he cancel his trip in protest over attacks on the Mahdi Army as well as U.S. support for Israeli military action in Lebanon. Sahib al-Amari, noted as a leader of the Sadrist faction, warned of direct conflict between "units of the Mahdi Army on the one hand and American and Iraqi forces on the other hand if the arrests and raids against the Mahdi Army by these forces do not halt." Amari specifically pointed to "the occupying forces, with the support of the 37th Battalion in the Iraqi Army burned down a house in Sadr City and arrested an entire family." Amari further stated that U.S. troops had attacked "the office of the martyr Sadr [likely a reference to Muqtada's father] in Mahmudiya killing 10 guards and letting loose 49 prisoners who had been captured by the Sadr faction police." The article quotes Amari as ending by "warning of a flood of fighting in the streets of Iraq between the Mahdi Army and the American troops along with the government troops who support them."
Which points to something wholly different going on, now, doesn't it? And my following commentary:
You see we are so nasty as to disregard the 'Sadr Police' because they are ILLEGAL and release individuals held ILLEGALLY by them. Why we are giving law and order a bad name... by enforcing law and order! Should just let vigilante justice roam throughout Sadr City, I guess.
In the Middle East when someone starts making bold and nasty threats, it is usually not that they are unwilling to try and carry them out... but it usually does point to the fact that they do not have the forces on the ground to establish their fact and must put it forth by bluster and coercion. Actually having to DO something is limited to when one has the resources to actually DO THEM, otherwise negotiations, threats, bullying and intimidation are put in their place. And when that doesn't work, the old authoritarian method of rounding them up, putting them in a jail out of sight and working them over does just fine. So that is the answer to Sadr: nasty, malicious, Iranian backed thug. Such a thing as putting an end to a thug that has foreign backing is difficult to do, but is being done. The question is not about *if* they are being backed by Iran, but is Iran willing to go to war over this?

As to how there is no representation for women's rights, minority rights and the such like, lets take a snippet from Babil, Iraq:
Seeking a unified province free from terrorism and factional violence, leaders of Iraqi groups in Babil came together Aug. 20 in al-Hillah to reconcile and denounce the attacks that have plagued the country.

Iraqi security forces leadership, representatives of the Iraqi national government, local government officials, civic leaders, tribal sheiks and religious leaders joined together at the Iraqi Police academy convention hall to map out a strategic plan to shape a peaceful future for Babil.


"We have Sunnis, Shia, women, children – that is a miracle in this day and age,” he said. “Everybody knows what needs to be done, but General Qais is the person who decided that it was time to quit talking and start acting.”

The idea sprung from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s 24-point national reconciliation initiative outlined to the Iraqi National Council of Representatives in June. Sectarian violence has plagued Iraq for much of the year, and leaders of Babil said they wanted to lead the rest of the nation in heeding Maliki’s words.


Speaking on behalf of a women’s rights group, Alkhafaji said sectarian violence is destroying the greatest part of Iraqi culture – the family.

When the man of the house dies, there is no one to provide for the family, no backbone present to steer the children to their future, said Alkhafaji. When a woman is killed, it crushes the family dynamic and children lose the comforting, tender side of the family.

“A woman without her man is like land without water,” she said. “And a man without his woman is like a ship without sail.”

Numerous Sunni and Shia tribal leaders spoke to the congregation and offered their hand to one another, promising to not let the trouble witnessed in Baghdad infiltrate their region.

“We are not Sunni or Shiite, Kurdish or Christians,” one sheik said. “We are Iraqis, and we intend to secure Iraq. The people who are fighting the old regime and each other are the same people that have lived together for over a thousand years and have drank from these two rivers.”


As the day wore on, Qais presented a draft reconciliation agreement for consideration.

The last paragraph read: “We have sworn this oath; we accept the promise of the Provincial Government to provide security for all citizens without regard to their sect, ethnicity or political party affiliation and to work toward inclusive, representative government unencumbered by bias and disenfranchisement.”

Qais then challenged the more than 500 in attendance to sign the oath, pledging to exert every effort to make Babil the place all of Iraq strives to be. A large reproduction of the document was placed by the door as the crowd exited.

Everyone signed it.

“Let Babil be the example for the freedom and the mixture that we have in Iraq,” said Col. Abbas, al-Hillah police chief.

Smiles and kind words were abundant as the participants headed home. More work is left to be done, but the initiative Qais introduced seemed to have struck a chord with a people fed up with violence and instability.
Now THAT is something that goes absolutely against what the author is trying to purport! A 'reconciliation plan' to 'unite the country' across ethnic, sectarian and even gender boundaries so that everyone is seen as equal. And being led by a General and a local Police chief, to boot!

Now, this video from MNF-Iraq does gloss over things somewhat, but that is how video presentations work. Patrols in Tal Afar and other areas are happening. In point of fact things are starting to transition from US Forces there to local Iraqi forces, as seen in this report covering Ramadi and Tal Afar. Which is indicative of the hard work as witness this report from two weeks previously, about cooperation between the US forces, Iraqi Army and local Police to start working together and shift the load to the local Army and Police and away from the US forces.

Now in the Kurdish regions we have the major problem of the PKK inciting cross-border problems and the local Kurds having problems tracking them down and keeping them out. Thus, both Iran and Turkey have staged military operations on the Iraqi border and even, in the case of Turkey, staged incursions into Iraq against the PKK. This 05 MAY 2006 talk with the General in charge goes over some of this. Who has an interesting article on the Kurds in SYRIA not, apparently, getting along well due to Syrian assassination of a cleric and repressive activities in general. So, I see things inside Iraq in the Kurdish regions as generally ok, but with some major cross-border disputes and ethnic problems which have existed since the Treaty of Lausanne.

Well, that took care of the First Point, Second Paragraph! Lovely, isn't it?
As for resources, with 85% of the country's revenues deriving from oil, all you really need to know is that oil-rich Iraq is also suffering from an "acute fuel shortage" (including soaring prices, all-night lines at gas stations, and a deal to get help from neighboring Syria which itself has minimal refining capacity).
Iraq has a huge problem... one that we are a bit familiar with in the US: Cars.

Not the lack of them at this point, although the Saddam regime rationed their purchases, skimmed off the top heavily and required oodles of paperwork to even get one.... gas was relatively cheap, but then there were very few cars on the road. Ever since the removal of the regime we have seen something new there: traffic jams. Iraqis are buying cars. Lots of cars. (Source: Institute for Transport and Development Policy, May 14, 2004.)
Under Saddam Hussein, automobiles carried an import tariff of close to 100%. Combined with little free capital, this led to very low levels of motorization, despite the low price of gasoline. In the 12 months since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, tariffs have not been enforced. This has lead to well over half a billion dollars worth of car purchases coming in from one port alone, according to people familiar with these shipments interviewed by ITDP.
So, a half-billion dollars in cars, say the average price of a used car is $15,000 and you get around 30,000 new cars on the road in just one year. But they aren't selling for $15,000... oh, no...
The mid-nineties models sell for about $3000 in Iraq. Receiving ports earn about $20-30 a car, and the shipper gets $100 a car. The vehicles come in on container ships with 2,000-3,000 cars, which are emptied within 48 hours, creating a convoy of cars and car trailers from the port to Iraq.
So, that is one-fifth the price so multiply the number of cars by FIVE and you get 150,000 new cars on the road in one year. And due to cross-border trade and other such things it turns out that this is an *underestimate*....
Since last April, over 250,000 cars are estimated as having gone into Iraq from Aqaba. Minivans are particularly popular.
Does Iraq have a gasoline problem? Why yes, yes it does. Does it stem from incompetence at the highest levels? Why no, no it doesn't... it stems from people having enough money to buy cars for themselves at a clip that no one predicted. In point of fact that 'last April' was April of 2003 and there was STILL fighting going on in the streets! Talk about 'pent up demand'!
The resulting motorization has already led to congestion in Baghdad’s streets, but the consequences of this rapid influx of cars are potentially far-reaching. As Iraq rebuilds, traffic jams will likely lead to pressure to spend scarce public resources on road building. Because these are older vehicles, and no emissions controls are in place, Iraq’s car fleet will be far more polluting than its western counterparts.

Motor vehicles are a poor investment, especially in a weak economy. Economic growth rates are lower in countries with higher levels of elite consumption (which includes non-essential car ownership), because it leaves less for investment and savings. Meanwhile, though profits are made all along the supply chain stretching from European used car dealers to the Iraqi end user, the Iraqi government is too much in disarray to capture any taxes and import duties. Iraq will be paying for this year of chaos for decades to come.
And the idea that people will *wait* for some State-sponsored transport, when they have had enough of THAT for 3 decades and twiddle their thumbs waiting for it is ludicrous. But, governments being governments, what did they do? Why, they put a restriction that only cars made after 2003 could be imported! Yes, only NEW CARS can be imported into Iraq now. And then, to address the fact that they were selling gasoline at less than the cost of production, the Iraqi Government had to *increase* gasoline prices... it is a State owned business so they may do as they like, but running it economically is a *good* idea. And what happens? Gas prices go UP, car sales go DOWN! Unless, you happen to know someone in Kurdistan... *they* can still get used cars to ship down south. At just a 30% markup! A steal compared to that $15,000 for a new car.

So, by December 2005 the Iraqi Government finally tried to set matters right, but since April of 2003 cars were selling at 250,000 a year clip if not faster. So, on the most conservative end you would see about 675,000 cars on the road over and above what was around during Saddam's time, and if people *really* got into a buying frenzy it could easily have been double that. And that is ONLY FROM AQABA!

Now Iraq also has a problem in that its entire petroleum infrastructure, like everything else, dates from the 1970's and any and all repairs stopped when Iraq went to war with Iran. This stuff hasn't been regularly serviced, upgraded and such for almost 30 years. And, due to the fact that there is *still* conflict of a sectarian/terrorist/insurgent flavor going on in those provinces, oil companies are unwilling to come into Iraq to add capacity to that infrastructure. That, as they say, is a problem. However, the Iraqi oil ministry is building and plans to build more refineries to address this problem and hopes to be a net gasoline exporter by 2010. The Kurds are, however, happy that a Norwegian company is drilling and finding oil in their area, which may help alleviate some of their cash flow and security problems.

In general Iraq is exporting a bit more oil, but with single month dips here and there, but overall the 2.0 Million barrels per day has risen slowly to 2.2 Mbd and indicates a steady increase and recovery of the oil industry for crude oil production. Getting hard data on the entire Iraqi oil industry is difficult, and confirmed figures only go up to 2003. And even a recent chronology of events ends in DEC 2005. These problems are being addressed not only by the Iraqi Government, but by Iraq Revenue Watch as seen by their latest report ( p. 7 ):
The situation is even more severe in the downstream sector. Iraq’s refining capacity meets less than half of its domestic needs. Only 400,000bbl/d were processed on average in 2005. Demand for fuels surged by 40% since 2003 due to the lifting of sanctions and the import of a large number of cars and household appliances; and interruptions to electricity supplies are forcing many middle class households to depend on wasteful kerb-side generators. Significant price subsidies encourage energy waste, black market activities and smuggling. Iraq imported anywhere between US$4bn and US6$bn of fuel in 2005 and the World Bank estimates that fuel and food subsidies together are nearly 50% of GDP.
Which basically points out the above analysis: consumption skyrocketed after 2003 and the old infrastructure, under attack and needing repairs, rebuilding and replacing was not and is not up to that task. And their conclusion on page 13:
The Iraqi professionals, civil servants and activists meeting in Beirut demonstrated as this report shows that it is possible to move away from zero-sum, divisive politics and achieve consensus on petroleum policies which would benefit all Iraqis. They did this by working within an open and inclusive framework and through their dedication to the public interest without a claim to power or regard to ethnic, sectarian and party political affiliation. Sustaining this model for generating policy ideas and proposals in the future; flushing out and elaborating some of the main recommendations and ideas outlined above; and promoting them with decision makers and the public at large are the best ways to follow up on an interesting and productive meeting.
This is after addressing ALL of the constitutional, legal, transparency and so on, issues for the entire Iraqi petroleum sector. Yes, quite an accomplishment. Until more refining capability can be BUILT, Iraq will need to import a good portion of refined fuel products, just no two-ways about it. But there are solid and firm plans in-place, commitment and expansion in the petroleum industry within Iraq. Plans need time, money and hard work to finish... complaining about the lack of the Soviet era infrastructure in Iraq now and not addressing the underlying problems is a pure and outright lie by omission.
The almost helpless Iraqi government has had little choice but to accept the dictates of American advisors and of the International Monetary Fund about exactly how what energy resources exist will be used. Paying off Saddam-era debt, reparations to Kuwait from the Gulf War of 1990, and the needs of the U.S.-controlled national army have had first claim. With what remains so meager that it cannot sustain a viable administrative apparatus in Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, there is barely enough to spare for the government leadership to line their own pockets.
So, these poor Iraqis, barely able to control half their country... well, more than half... and as for those energy resources one can backtrack from the actual production levels I provided and get to THOSE. Strangely, the US and IMF are not playing a huge role in determining who gets what, but the Iraqi Oil Ministry *is*, and deciding upon that FOR Iraqis. And if you want to see where the money gets spent, go over to Iraq Revenue Watch and see for yourself. Debt is a problem, but they are only paying off legitimate debt, not personal debt of Saddam. This is how a legitimate government operates: it acknowledges the debt its People owe to others, even when incurred by a dictator and pays them off. In full.

As for corruption, well Strategypage addressed that and it is an ongoing concern for Iraqis. One of the interesting side-effects of having close and operational quarters with MNF troops is that everyday and ordinary Iraqis get to experience how an impartial justice system works first-hand. Legitimate problems caused by those forces are brought up, everyone fairly heard and adjudicated upon the merits of the case and when the forces are at fault reparations are paid. The New Iraqi Army likes it so much that they are instituting a similar system inside their military because it WORKS. And the people watching this are now holding their Central Criminal Courts system to that same standard. This additional rundown by Strategypage includes these items of interest:
The corruption in the government is still a big problem. While there are billions of dollars in oil money and foreign aid coming in for reconstruction, Iraqis still see a lot of stealing. Then again, Iraqis are at least admitting that this is not the fault of the Americans. It's Iraqis stealing from Iraqis, and Iraqis have to solve this one.

The corruption has made politics more complicated than it has to be. Political differences are not as divisive as is the competition for key government jobs that give you the best opportunities to steal public money. The squabbling over which party gets what has prevented the new parliament from putting together a new government. It's inefficient, and embarrassing. And it's Iraqis doing it to Iraqis. This is very unpleasant for most Iraqis.

Religious zealots are often as bad as the gangsters, with their demands for "contributions," and physical violence against those who are not "Islamic enough." Iraqis know that they are descended from the people who first made beer and wine. Despite Islamic laws against alcohol, Iraqis like to enjoy a cold beer, or something stronger. But not if the Islamic lifestyle police are in the neighborhoods.

The corruption among so many Iraqi politicians, and maintenance of private armies, means that, while Saddam is gone, there are still Iraqis who would like to replace him as dictator. Democracy isn't something you just put on like a coat, and it works. You have to work at it, and while many Iraqis are, there are many more who would like to bring back the bad old days, just with a different cast of characters.
Yes, corruption and such by many of the players in Iraq is very worrying and it is endemic in the Middle East.

So thus concludes the rendition of First Point, Third Paragraph and the entire point in full.

What we see is a compendium of: misstatements of facts, omission of facts, facts out of context, and pure and outright lies. While making a point or two, here and there, the overall analysis of this first 'Thing you didn't know about Iraq' has proved to be an outright fabrication in full and complete.

Starting from an ideological viewpoint of government that is totalitarian in outlook and going through that outlook to then complain that the Iraqi government is not *acting* like a totalitarian government and saying this is a BAD THING is wholly and completely beyond me.

I will not bother to go beyond Point 1 as it has proven to be so full of holes that it makes swiss cheese look like a solid product. Perhaps this is the 'Emperor's New Analysis'... invisible to the naked eye, but really there if you believe in it.

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