Wednesday, July 14, 2010

probably a robbery

Here's an interesting follow-up on the recent raid on the Iraqi central bank, from Joel Wing. You may recall that the attack, a classic NOIA multi-layered assault using suicide bombers, snipers, and infantry, successfully took over the building and held off the Iraqi army for some time before disengaging, and that although a large quantity of documents and computers were destroyed, no money was taken.

I read that as being an insurgent effort to project incorruptibility, in the style both Tomas Masaryk and Mao advised their followers to adopt, in the context of an operation designed to wreck the bank as an institution. Wing's follow-up suggests that there may have been other motives at work - the fire began in the office of the Inspector-General, and the files destroyed include the records of an inquiry into a huge fake-cheque fraud ($711 million - a reminder that frauds in Iraq grow to enormous size). Further, there was a previous unexplained fire in the bank's archives in 2008 which destroyed evidence in a corruption case.

Wing's sources speculate that employees at the bank might have taken the opportunity of the raid to start the fire, that the attackers were involved in the original fraud, or that those behind the fraud hired the attackers to destroy the evidence.

Fascinatingly, almost a year ago, The Guardian reported that similar motives might have played a role in the kidnapping of British IT consultant Peter Moore and the murder of his bodyguards. Moore was working on a new accounting system for the Finance Ministry, that would track all the Iraqi government's income and expenditure in detail, when he was kidnapped from the Ministry's data centre by a platoon-sized force of gunmen posing as Ministry of the Interior forces. It is rarely obvious in Iraq whether the fake policemen are fake policemen, or real policemen posing as fakes, but several different kinds of insurgents had the capability to manoeuvre forces that size in central Baghdad at the time.

Among other things, this is a reminder that the recent history of Iraq cannot be written without paying serious attention to its aspect as the biggest robbery in human history, a fat city for every crook in the Middle East and far beyond.

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