But Iraq's economy is weaker than at any point since the US invasion. Some estimate joblessness at 60 percent (the CIA shows a 30 percent rate for 2005), and prices for foodstuffs and basic goods have doubled - and in some cases tripled - since 2003.
Earlier this month, Iraq's planning minister, Ali Baban, said the rise in the consumer price index (CPI) - the basket of goods and services used to measure inflation - increased by nearly 70 percent in July compared with 12 months earlier. In July 2005, the CPI rose by 30 percent.
While the daily death toll frightens Iraqis - it topped 100 in the past two days alone - the country's economic grind is eroding the standards of living of millions of Iraqis and leading to mounting frustration in a country where the average monthly wage is less than $200.
Hunger is a problem. The higher the prices go the more people won't be able to feed their kids or themselves.
The violence in Iraq is cutting into the demand for labor and cutting output.
Usually when wages are flat and unemployment high, prices are stable, because consumption also stays flat. In developed economies like the US, inflation walks hand-in-hand with economic growth and job creation. But in Iraq, violence is driving the price increases, destroying jobs and testing a social net that was already weak before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Economic despair, in turn, generates new recruits for the sectarian militias most responsible for the economic decline.
Corruption is another major problem. An audit sponsored by the United Nations last week found hundreds of millions of dollars of Iraq's oil revenue had been wrongly tallied last year or had gone missing altogether. Business is being done, but it isn't often very productive in nature. "There is a lot of activity in terms of trade and finance but there is not much activity in terms of production and that is not very healthy," said the central bank's Shabibi.
The financial corruption is probably filling a lot of Swiss bank accounts.
The Los Angeles Times reports that some Bush Administration officials have begun to think that Iraq would be better off under a strongman dictator. Um, you know, like Saddam Hussein.
Should a second government fail, it would not only raise questions about Maliki's effectiveness but might indicate that anyone would have difficulty leading Iraq. Few in the U.S. government so far have suggested anything as drastic as another change in the leadership, although some, frustrated by the lack of progress, have voiced a private view in recent weeks that Iraq might be better off under a traditional Middle Eastern strongman.
"But that's not the policy," said the second senior U.S. official, discussing the idea of changing governments again. "The policy is to prevent that from happening by making this government succeed."
Putting a Sunni dictator in charge would also yield strategic bonus points for neoconservatives who want to make Iran less of a potential future threat to Israel. An Iraq run by Sunni Arabs would make the Iranians think more about their own neighborhood and less about more distant countries that the Mullahs despise. The neocons really messed up by making Shias powerful in Iraq.
It is no wonder some Bush Administration officials are thinking about a dictator for Iraq. Democracy is not working - at least one in ways that people with Western values would want it to work. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki can not crack down on the Shia death squads because democratically elected Shia political parties in his coalition support the death squads.
Despite their growing desire for action, U.S. officials say they recognize the difficulty Maliki faces in trying to lead a fractious government with only the narrowest base of public support. For example, though a top goal of both the Bush administration and the Maliki government is suppressing sectarian violence, it is difficult for the prime minister to try to bring pressure on groups associated with Sadr.
"People here recognize that it's a political reality that he depends on the votes of groups which, while not all dirty, have some ties to Shia death squads," the second senior official said. "He's a decent man, a serious person, but there are realities."
I wonder whether George W. Bush knows that democratically elected Shia political parties are supporting Shia death squads that are killing not just insurgents but just people who have Sunni-sounding names. A recent Bush speech on Iraq and terrorism is full of the same myths and delusions that characterised Bush Administration rhetoric on Iraq and terrorism a few years ago. Is he sincere when he makes ridiculous speeches or is he just trying to cover up the ways that the Iraq invasion was a mistake?
BAGHDAD, Sept. 16 — Shiite militiamen and criminals entrenched throughout Iraq’s police and internal security forces are blocking recent efforts by some Iraqi leaders and the American military to root them out, a step critical to winning the trust of skeptical Sunni Arabs and quelling the sectarian conflict, Iraqi and Western officials say. The new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, who oversees the police, lacks the political support to purge many of the worst offenders, including senior managers who tolerated or encouraged the infiltration of Shiite militias into the police under the previous government, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials who work with the ministry and the police.
This is democracy at work in Iraq.
The ministry recently discovered that more than 1,200 policemen and other employees had been convicted years ago of murder, rape and other violent crimes, said a Western diplomat who has close contact with the ministry. Some were even on death row. Few have been fired.
Shiite interior minister Jawad al-Bolani has to weigh reform against the risk of getting himself killed.
Mr. Bolani, a Shiite engineer appointed last May, sincerely wants to purge the ministry of Shiite partisans brought in by his predecessor, the officials interviewed said. But his independence from powerful Shiite political leaders — the very quality that earned him the job — also means Mr. Bolani has limited power to remove politically connected subordinates and enact changes.
“He’s got to be careful about what he does, just to stay alive,” the Western diplomat said.
His democratically elected colleagues will put out a hit on him if he goes too far and makes substantial reforms.
"We believe that freedom is a gift from an almighty God, beyond any power on earth to take away," Bush said. "And we also know, by history and by logic, that promoting democracy is the surest way to build security."
Democracy in Mexico has built Nuevo Laredo into a shooting gallery between drug gangs, corrupt police, and corrupt soldiers (with considerable overlap between the soldiers and the drug gangs). Democracy in Iraq has fueled ethnic hatred. See my post from over two and a half years ago: Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq. As for why too many liberals and neoconservatives (which I view as a type of liberal) can not see the implications of Iraq for their own beliefs see my comments on another site about how the desire to see liberalism as a universal aspiration of all humans blinds many intellectuals from admitting the obvious lessons that Iraq drives home.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 September 16 11:07 PM Mideast Iraq Economics|