Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 | 2:06 a.m.
It was seen by Bush administration officials as a breakthrough when Iraqi lawmakers in February passed a law permitting the release of tens of thousands of people who were jailed during Iraq’s worst years of sectarian violence.
The amnesty law was regarded in Washington as necessary if the various ethnic, religious and political factions within Iraq’s government and population were ever to achieve some measure of reconciliation.
A story posted by Reuters on the day the law passed suggested diplomats and military leaders assigned to Iraq were a little more cautious.
The news service reported that a joint statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Multi-National Forces in Iraq stated, “There is still much important work ahead for the people of Iraq ... There is also still more to learn about how this legislation will be implemented.”
Ten months later we have learned quite a bit. Although the legislation was primarily intended for people who had been detained — often without being charged — during mass roundups by security forces, it has been extended to provide amnesty for Iraqis suspected of stealing money from the United States and coalition countries.
Stuart Bowen, who has served as special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction since 2004, told USA Today last week that Iraq’s Commission on Integrity has used the amnesty law to close 690 corruption cases.
Corruption in Iraq is overwhelming and includes the theft of weapons, money, vehicles and supplies flowing into Iraq from the United States and other countries not only for reconstruction, but also for equipping Iraqi security forces.
USA Today talked to a University of Minnesota professor, Abbas Medhi, who served recently as an adviser to the Iraq government. A “disaster” of corruption affects Iraq, he said, adding, “The decision to forgive this many people for corruption ... is unacceptable.”
It is not only unacceptable. It is an outrage that the Iraqi government would ever forgive anyone whose corruption bleeds money from the countries whose troops are tragically bleeding for Iraq’s future.