I wouldn’t presume to know whether or not Iraqis protesting en mass were better off with Saddam Hussein dictating to them. Or if they are better off now with a transplanted democracy forced down their throats like some sort of political water-boarding. As an American it’s not my place to say what’s best for Iraqis. Never was. But if money indeed talks, a fortune of dinars and dollars tell us that Iraqi democracy is rife with thievery and corruption.
How very Washington of Baghdad.
So if you’re wondering why free Iraqis would now walk like an Egyptian, and protest like one too, I can give you more than forty trillion reasons. But to name only a few:
* Iraqi government officials say they cannot account for nearly 47 trillion Iraqi dinars (equal to about US $40 billion) missing from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), according to Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language news reports. The amount missing exceeds more than half of Iraq’s total 2010 budget ($72.4 billion). The money is collected primarily through Iraq’s state-owned oil sales. Approved by the UN Security Council in May 2003, the DFI is intended to aid in the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure and security, and to alleviate hardships (e.g., lack of affordable food, electricity, potable water, etc.) being endured today by everyday Iraqis.
* U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has never been forced to reveal his full salary despite a law in the Iraqi constitution that requires transparency in the pay of Iraq’s high government officials. Maliki’s pay is widely reported in Iraq to be equal to $30,000 per month, according to the Associated Press and Iraq-Business News, a figure that is more than a hundred times higher than the current average monthly income in Iraq. The Iraqi government lists unemployment at 23 percent of its adult population, says Muslim Peacemakers Team founder Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi-American resident of Najaf. However, he says, the unemployment rate as recorded by NGOs in Iraq is nearly triple what the government claims. Earlier this month, in response to the first simmering of public revolt, al-Maliki agreed to cut his unmentionable salary in half and to not seek a third term in 2014.
* The annual salary for each of Iraqi’s 325 members of Parliament exceeds $100,000 tax free with another $205,000 added for staff (primarily security), according to The New York Times and various Arabic news sources. A single four-year term brings relative wealth for Parliament members and a nice living for their family, friends and loyalists on staff. Additional Parliamentary perks include tax-exempt loans on cars and land, and a lifetime pension equal to eighty percent of the salary.
* The Berlin-based international watchdog Transparency International, an NGO that scrutinizes the accountability of the world’s governments, ranked Iraq’s last year at 175 out of 178 nations, just above the corrupted governments of Somalia, Myanmar and Afghanistan. The United States tied at 22nd with Belgium, two spots below the United Kingdom. In 2009, Iraq tied with Sudan for 176 out of 180 nations ranked.
If we as Westerners have to ask why Iraqis are protesting in freedom’s hallowed street we’ve not been paying attention to the consequences of Washington’s violently engineered democracy. As it now stands, billions of U.S. tax dollars and tens of thousands of lives (Iraqis, Americans and Europeans) have helped to replace a shameful, corrupt dictator with a shameful, corrupt democracy.