Essawi’s story is one of dozens I heard in Iraq and neighboring countries about corrupt members of Maliki’s government, ranging from a circle around the Prime Minister to the lowest functionary. Most of the allegations are unproved, but they are persistent; Iraqi and U.S. officials, both current and former, tell tales of extortion, bribery, kickbacks, and theft. Many involve the siphoning of Iraq’s oil revenues, which last year exceeded ninety billion dollars. Others describe the corrupt use of Iraqi banks to tap the black market in dollars. In the past few years, several government contracts have turned out to be entirely fake. In 2011, the government cancelled a $1.2-billion contract to build ten power plants, and announced that the Canadian company hired to do the work existed only on paper. “The corruption is Olympian,” the former senior C.I.A. official told me.
This massive piece is confusing, frustrating, eye-opening—all of the gerunds, basically. Iraq is a mess. And from what it sounds like here, the current administration is partially to blame. As a supporter of the President, I feel like it’s important to make mention of that.