Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"It's the government of nothing."

One of my pet peeves is the idea that there is a "government" in Iraq, because there were elections, and because the US has officially recognized it. Takes a bit more than that to make a government, of course, and the New York Times makes that point in telling us what Ambassador Crocker didn't tell Congress yesterday:

Power has essentially shifted in a number of directions, geographically and socially. Some provinces have become dominions unto themselves; other provinces are impoverished, unable to get Baghdad to deliver resources that the provinces can not procure themselves.

In Diyala Province recently, American troops had to travel to Baghdad on their own to demand food for the area’s starving families after the government did not deliver it. Officials in Baghdad “tell you everything you want to hear,” said John M. Jones, head of the provincial reconstruction team in Baquba. “Putting into action is another thing.”

Those provinces that are doing well do so in part by keeping electricity from the national grid and making exclusive deals with neighboring countries. Mr. Crocker interpreted the nascent interest in particular by Sunni majority provinces in having more control over their affairs as “a budding debate about federalism among Iraq’s leaders.”

But Iraq, the central government is an object of scorn and ridicule. Mr. Crocker mentioned only glancingly the government’s failure to deliver needed services, focusing primarily on Baghdad’s lack of electricity.

However, electricity is a problem in many parts of Diyala, Diwaniya and other areas. Health services have steadily declined because many doctors, along with a broad swath of the educated middle class, have fled the country. “It’s the government of nothing,” said Adel al-Subeihawi, a tribal leader on Sadr City ’s eastern edge. “No oil. No water. No electricity.”

Crippled by corruption and inefficiency, departments in many ministries are all but private fiefs. While there are dedicated government workers and administrators, they face the longest of odds in trying to deliver services. In some areas, militias control the distribution of gas for cooking as well as ice for refrigeration.

The loss of faith in the government has driven Iraqis to militias, tribes and nongovernment organizations like Mr. Sadr’s.

“Always, when the government becomes weak, that means the tribes and militias become strong,” Mr. Subeihawi said. “The Americans and the government are in one valley. The militias are in another valley entirely. They don’t see each other.”
You can't see, of course, what you don't want to see. Or, as George Will said today:

After more than four years of war, two questions persist: Is there an Iraq? Are there Iraqis?

No comments:

Post a Comment