Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Corruption and the War on Terror
The disheartening story in the Washington Post today highlights one of the greatest vulnerabilities in fighting terrorism anywhere in the world-high tolerance for corruption and the disgust this fuels in the populations.

Having covered wars several continents, there has never been an armed conflict where those in rebellion did not have legitimate concerns, anger and frustration over the level of corruption and impunity for the corruption, in the regimes they were fighting.

The apparently rampant corruption in Iraq, mostly stealing U.S. taxpayer money, not only cheats us, but is one of the most helpful elements to all the different insurgencies operating in that country.

Nothing undermines the legitimacy of a government than widespread corruption and the tolerance of corruption by that government's backers. This was true in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the DRC, Angola, etc. etc. Corruption and impunity from that corruption are cancers that destroy one's allies and strengthens ones enemies.

For terrorist groups to operate against a state in a relatively limited space the group must have some legitimacy in the eyes of the people where they are operating. Nothing fuels the that sense of legitimacy more than knowing that the oil money/foreign aid money/diamond revenue is being siphoned off by a few to the detriment of the many, and the reality that no one is held accountable.

This goes to the heart of the difference between truly failed states and states that operate as criminal enterprises. In the former, little state power exists at all. In the latter, the state is actually quite efficient in extracting revenues, but operate as a profitable criminal enterprise rather than a government.

If the U.S. wants to make real progress in Iraq, as everyone knows, it will not be entirely on the military side. It must come, yes, through political reconciliation. But if that reconciliation is solely a means to redistribute ill-gotten gain, then the insurgencies will be stronger and the government will fall, no matter what the military strategy is.
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