The real threat to Iraq: Endless corruption

“These car bombs didn’t come from the sky!” said Judge Abdul Sattar al-Beiriqdar, spokesman for the Higher Judicial Council. “They must have been driven in streets until they reached their target. If there were no corruption, the attackers wouldn’t risk passing through these checkpoints.”

But the corruption runs much deeper, endangering the fragile sense of security in Iraq as America draws down its forces, with security services that seem aimed as much at enriching themselves as protecting average Iraqis, according to dozens of interviews with police officers and officials as well as the report by the Interior Ministry…

Money is skimmed off of salaries. Contracts are manipulated and fudged to wring personal profit. Ghost police officers are listed on payrolls so commanders can take the salaries, and other police officers are told they are fired even as commanders continue to take their pay. Criminals and insurgents are freed with a well-placed bribe, criminal records are expunged for payment, detainees are abused by guards in order to extort money from relatives.

Beyond the outright financial corruption, there is also political corruption, in which the parties vying for power here look to secure the loyalty of large chunks of the security apparatus, according to Iraqi and Western officials.