Friday, March 25, 2005

Iraqis learning quickly

Iraq's Anti-Corruption Head Gets Tough on Officials
By Omar Anwar, Baghdad (Reuters)

For a fledgling nation taking it's first steps, they seemed to have learned their lessons well under a brutal dictator, and by watching the rest of the free world.

Not only are they cracking down on illegal immigrants and foreign presence in their new country... something the US should seriously consider itself... they have an "anti-corruption" official, bound and determined to make sure the new elected ones and leaders are no longer able to take financial advantages of the situation.

"Next week, we will distribute a form for the declaration of assets to all senior officials in Iraq. They should declare everything," Radhi Hamza al-Radhi told Reuters in an interview.

"Governors, ministers and those above them should state their assets, shares and any expected inheritance.

"If anything is seen to have changed, we will ask where it came from and how. If it was legal then okay but if not we will send him to court to get his punishment," Radhi said, talking tough between sips of limeade in his Baghdad office.

He may be softly spoken, but Radhi is outspoken when it comes to laying out the challenges the country faces if it is to get on top of a burgeoning corruption crisis, with evidence of misuse of public funds and reconstruction dollars piling up.

The Iraqi newspapers, no longer controlled by Saddam and thugs, has been steadily reporting the scandals by a few greedy officials... and this does not sit well with the Iraqi citizens. They did not have this opportunity gifted to them by the US Coalition, only to have similar corruption spread amongst the new officals instead. The Iraqis truly wish to be in control of their fates... and that includes reining in those playing the political game for financial gain.

The Iraqis are learning fast. And hopefully they will learn the lesson the US still hasn't to date - the value of term limits for their legislators. Not allowing those elected to be so fully entrenched in special interests - lifetime collectors of a paycheck and pension, courtesy of the citizens - to remain in power term after term. It is here that the very heart of corruption thrives... thru longtime relationships and "seniority", running ramrod over junior, newly electees and passing the buck for their failures to administrative officials in power for only two terms max.

It's a pleasure to watch Iraq evolve. And startling to see exactly how perceptive they are to issues such as internal corruption and illegal immigration. History is no longer a boring subject, confined to high school text books. It is alive and vital - more stimulating than any movie Hollywood has produced. And it is happening daily before our very eyes.

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