“A free-fraud zone”

“If urgent steps are not taken, Iraq will not become the shining beacon of democracy envisioned by the Bush administration, it will become the biggest corruption scandal in history.” Transparency International said that a year ago. Why does it take a complaint by a former Bush official to bring that prediction to the attention of the mainstream news media?

I’m delighted that Andrew Natsios has joined the rats eagerly swimming away from the foundering Bush Administration. But why should it have taken Natsios’s complaints about the Coalition Provisional Authority to bring mass-media attention to the massive corruption that has paralyzed the reconstruction of Iraq?

Last year, Transparency International, a respectable business-oriented anti-corruption organization, summed up the problem in stark terms:

If urgent steps are not taken, Iraq will not become the shining beacon of democracy envisioned by the Bush administration, it will become the biggest corruption scandal in history.

(Emphasis added.)

And yet a Google search for [“transparency international” iraq corruption scandal] yields stories (before yesterday) only from the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times, and al-Jazeera. No major U.S. media outlet thought the warning worth mentioning. [Not so: see correction below.]

Add “biggest corruption scandal in history, according to Transparency International,” and “free-fraud zone” to your list of stock phrases to use this year and in 2008.

Correction: A reader whose search skills exceed mine uses Factiva and finds contemperaneous stories on the report in Newsweek and USA Today. A story also ran on AP.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com