I have a story in the September issue of The New Republic about how corruption helped create a failed state in Iraq and led directly to the rise of ISIS. Most of the media has lost interest in Iraq — even as it has collapsed as a direct result of the United State’s glorious “nation-building” exercise there and the neocon architects of the war are being rehabilitated by Hillary Clinton — so a lot of little things about the country go largely unreported.
For example, a report issued last March by the Iraqi parliament’s auditing committee said that the country’s defense ministry has spent $150 billion on weapons during the past decade but acquired only $20 billion worth of arms. Much of it was useless, 1970s-era matériel from former Soviet bloc states that was invoiced at up to four times its actual value.
And late last year, well-placed sources told me, the Pentagon delivered a shipment of new weapons to the Iraqi government, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, which were supposed to be sent to Sunni fighters in Anbar Province. Instead, corrupt officials in the Iraqi ministries of interior and defense sold the arms to ISIS.
As I also note in the story — and something that is almost totally overlooked in the media as well — the Obama administration bears much of the blame for the catastrophe in Iraq. The conventional wisdom is that it’s all the fault of big, bad George W. Bush and that poor Barack Obama has done the best he can to manage a war that he inherited.
But while Bush stupidly started the war, his tenure as commander-in-chief ended five years after the invasion. Obama has owned this debacle for the past eight. And the man most responsible for the corruption and sectarian violence that have shattered Iraq —former prime minister Nuri Al Maliki — served six of his eight years in office under Obama, whose administration did virtually nothing to curtail the worst abuses or thieving conducted on his watch.
I also report on how the chief investigator for the Commission of Integrity, Salam Adhoob, fled to the United States after receiving death threats and revealed gigantic fraud to congress. In one case, he discovered a shell company that was controlled by Nair Mohammed Ahmed Jummaily, the brother-in-law of Iraq’s defense minister, who grew rich by taking kickbacks from American companies that received Iraqi government contracts.
Among Jummaily’s clients, Adhoob said, was AM General, a company based in South Bend, Indiana, which allegedly funneled millions of dollars to Jummaily’s front company as part of a contract to deliver Humvees to the Iraqi army. According to Adhoob, AM General submitted invoices totaling $18.4 million to the Iraqi government for work that was not performed, and delivered fewer than 170 of the 520 Humvees called for in its contract.
Furthermore, Jummaily was “a well-known Al Qaeda supporter” who funneled some of the cash into Al Qaeda bank accounts in Amman. “I am convinced—beyond a shred of doubt—that American soldiers died because of this corruption,” Adhoob testified. “Iraq never received the armored vehicles it ordered from AM General. Al Qaeda had better weapons than the Iraqi army because of this corruption.”
Oh yeah, AM General, which denies the charges, remains a major U.S. government contractor. And guess who visited its facilities in April, when she was looking for support in the Indiana primary?
Yes, former secretary of state and Iraqi war advocate Hillary Clinton was there, according to this local account, and praised the company’s corporate leadership and called for an American “manufacturing renaissance” to rebuild the middle class. “I’m running for president, not to live in the White House again,” she said. “I’m running for president because I want our country to fulfill its promise to every single American.”
But it turns out that there are only so many suckers born every minute. Jim Web, an AM General employee, was quoted as saying, “We’ve heard it before and the jobs just keep bleeding.”
Iraq, too. Read the story here.