Not unlike the regime of Saddam Hussein and from the relative security
of the U.S.-protected Greenzone, today’s Iraqi government hands out cash
to visiting dignitaries. And just as before, the source of the funds and where
these monies are ultimately deposited remains a mystery, according to the article
from Iraq’s Azzaman newspaper.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Charged With Handing
Out Cash in Baghdad's Greenzone.
Their faces beamed as they left the Prime Minister’s office. But the
glee was over the cash gifts they received, and not for promises of determination
to bring prosperity and security to the country.
The Prime Minister has made a habit of receiving notables, among them tribal
chieftains from across the country. That is a positive sign because it helps
him, as the country’s top leader, get first hand information on conditions
But giving every one of his visitors a sum of money just for showing up for
an audience raises eyebrows. We have learned that upon leaving, every visitor
is handed an envelop containing at least $1,000.
This practice reminds us of the dark days of dictator Saddam Hussein, who used
to shower his visitors with money. But the former strongman used to pay in Iraqi
currency and not U.S. dollars.
Taking a Drive Outside the
Greenzone [From Dar Al-Hayat, Lebanon].
The Prime Minister, his government and entourage live inside the Greenzone,
the most fortified and relatively most secure place in Baghdad. Many Iraqis
think the zone is not even part of their country. All dealings there are in
U.S. dollars and the amenities and comforts provided are in stark contrast to
the sewage-inundated and car bomb-torn streets of Baghdad.
Government largesse, particularly that paid by the Prime Minister and other
senior officials, reminds us of the technique Saddam Hussein used to win hearts
and minds. Iraqis wonder whether the money being dispensed is direct from official
pockets or the Iraqi treasury. If the money comes from public funds then it’s
nothing but theft.
New Iraqi Dinars: Even Baghdad Doesn't Use Them
Some might say the gifts could be part of the Prime Minister’s private
fortune. If this is so, we have the right to ask where and how he got that money,
as scores of visitors see him almost every day. Under current regulations, the
Prime Minister and other public officials are obliged to declare their assets
to the public before assuming office.
Members of the former government never did so, and none of the incumbent officials
is known to have made such a declaration either.
Today the current government tells us that the former government embezzled
hundreds of millions of dollars, which was stashed away in Arab and foreign
banks by ministers and other senior officials.
We fear that the next government will say the same about those currently ruling