CBS: Iraqi government corruption funds insurgents who kill Americans

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday April 14, 2008

The government of Iraq is facing many challenges to its ability to run the country, both internal and external. According to a new report by 60 Minutes, "one of the biggest problems is corruption, which is robust even by Middle Eastern standards."

"Bribery and outright theft are flourishing in virtually every Iraqi ministry," notes CBS's Steve Kroft, "and some of those ill-gotten gains are being used to kill American troops."

State Department official James Mattil told CBS that the corruption is "across-the-board." Much of the stolen money finds its way to Iraqi insurgents or militias, while "in other cases, it is the militias and insurgents themselves who control some of the ministries who are involved in the corruption."

"It's known and tolerated by the prime minister and other officials within the government," emphasized Mattil, who observed the corruption first-hand while assigned as an advisor to Iraq's former Commissioner of Public Integrity, Judge Radhi al-Radhi.

Judge Radhi himself told CBS during an interview in 2006 that more than half a billion dollars had been stolen from the Iraqi defense ministry. Following that interview, he attempted to widen his investigation to other ministries, but was met with death threats and the murder of thirty-one members of his staff. In July 2007 a missile was fired at his house. He and his family finally left Iraq last September and are now living in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

Shortly before Radhi left Iraq, his commission was coming under increasing pressure from Prime Minister Maliki, who issued a memo saying they could not bring charges against anyone in the president's office or current or former ministers without his permission.

"It basically put a stop to any anti-corruption activities within the Iraqi government," Mattil told CBS, "and it came directly from the prime minister's office."

Mattil shared this memo with his colleagues at the State Department but received no response. A draft report on the corruption was leaked to the press last summer, but the State Department responded only by making the report classified.

After Radhi sought asylum in the United States, he was called to testify before the House Oversight Committee. Chairman Henry Waxman then asked Secretary of State Rice to comment on Rhadi's allegations.

"Mr. Chairman, I will have to get back to you," Rice replied. "I don't know precisely what you are referring to."

"Six months later," CBS concludes, "Waxman's staff was still waiting for an answer."

CBS News has more here.

This video is from CBS's 60 Minutes, broadcast April 13, 2008.

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