It's Raining Money in Baghdad!
From the Associated Press:
It is a politician's dream: Handing out cold, hard cash to people on the street as they plead for help. Iraq's prime minister has been doing just that in recent weeks, doling out Iraqi dinars as an aide trails behind, keeping a tally.It's not hard to see what's going on here. Iraq has an important round of provincial elections scheduled for October 1, and the current governing coalition will almost certainly lose badly to the Sadrists in key provinces like Basra and Baghdad. Recent government assaults on the Sadrists in those provinces were repulsed, and Prime Minister Maliki wound up scrambling to negotiate a face-saving truce. Now he's walking the streets of Baghdad with sacks of money, handing out cash in amounts that more than double Iraq's per capita GDP.
The handouts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a handful of other top officials are authorized — as long as each goes no higher than about $8,000, and the same people don't get them twice. Aides say they are meant merely to ease the pain a bit, and are motivated by a belief that better conditions will lead to more security.
The cash handouts are just one small — if eye-catching — part of a major investment push this summer by Iraq's government. The aim is to rebuild basic services and jumpstart Iraq's damaged economy by quickly distributing as much of the country's glut of oil revenue as possible.
Imagine George W. Bush authorizing military occupations of New York and California and handing out $100,000 bundles of cash to selected individuals during the run-up to the 2006 elections.
But neither Maliki's new carrot nor his old stick seem to be pushing the Iraqis in the direction he wants them to go. So his coalition is trying a different approach: refuse to pass a new election law, thus delaying provincial elections until at least 2009. Realistically, the law has to be in place by the end of this month in order to have elections on time. Whether or not the law will pass by then likely depends on how successful Maliki is with his latest vote-buying scheme.
If this were happening in any other country, the American press would rightly denounce Iraq as nothing more than a sham democracy. But that would mean having the courage to point out to Emperor Bush the fact that he isn't wearing any clothes, and that's a lot more courage than we can expect from our craven media.
(hat tip to Czaiye Camacho, cross posted at appletree)