"Corruption never has been compulsory."
~ Anthony Eden.
~ Anthony Eden.
The BBC has discovered something that some of us--like Hîwa and I--have complained about for some time: corruption in South Kurdistan and how difficult it is for the ordinary Kurd to get by.
As I said, from the BBC:
Flying into the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Irbil and its glitteringly new international airport, it is difficult to believe you are entering Iraq.
[ . . . ]
Irbil looks like a boom town. Cranes and new multi-storey buildings litter the skyline.
There are shopping malls, luxurious gated communities, conference centres and grandiose headquarters for the factions who once fought Saddam and now rule Kurdistan - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
[ . . . ]
Meanwhile, ordinary Kurds are struggling to get by. People described rampant inflation, high unemployment and erratic water and electricity supplies.
In Sulaimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan's second city, people said they got running water for four hours every three days and electricity for three-to-four hours a day.
Contaminated water supplies have led to cholera outbreaks.
"Too many times, we have asked the government to help us,"said one woman who had lost her father-in-law and a baby to cholera said. "But it is in vain. They promise and do nothing."
She described the fear of living through an outbreak last September, knowing her water supply was contaminated, but not having the electricity to boil the water.
"When I think of the budget and the millions and see my situation," she said, "I feel like I am dead."
Kurdistan's budget is large - more than $6bn last year - the region's share of Iraq's oil revenues. But there is a growing gap between ordinary Kurds and the political elite.
"I see some of the officials who, 20 years ago, were with us in the mountains," said Ari Harsin, another former peshmerga, who is now the Irbil bureau editor of the independent Awene newspaper.
"They used to be purists, partisans. Now they are driving land cruisers with dark windows and a lot of body guards. They see how ordinary people are living. They have no shame."
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
There's also a podcast of the BBC's Crossing Continents radio program on which this story aired. It's got a 28-minute run time, and I recommend a listen. Young people from Helebçe who helped destroy the memorial in protest against the PUK are spoken to, as are people in government, Kurdish journalists, and contractors who are building exclusive, gated, residential areas for the elites. You can download the mp3 file here. The program was originally aired on 10 January.
If you had been planning to see the new flick with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, called Charlie Wilson's War, you'd better read something from Chalmers Johnson before you get propagandized yet again by Hollywood. From TomDispatch:
Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. (It has been banned in Afghanistan.) One of the severe side effects of imperialism in its advanced stages seems to be that it rots the brains of the imperialists. They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, beacons and guides for citizens of the "underdeveloped world."
[ . . . ]
When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, then ideological thinking kicks in. The horror story is suppressed, or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Thus, for example, Melissa Roddy, a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, a co-producer as well as the leading actor, "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing."
[ . . . ]
Today there is ample evidence that, when it comes to the freedom of women, education levels, governmental services, relations among different ethnic groups, and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, Kabul. But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, either the book or the film.
Read the rest, especially if you're going to see the movie. Actually, read the rest anyway, because Chalmers Johnson knows what he's talking about--and get his Blowback trilogy, if you can--and you might actually learn something about how the CIA works, how American policy works, how the media works, and how Hollywood works.