Last week, the New York Times published one of its finest pieces of reporting this year. Written by Robert F. Worth, it's an autopsy of post-Saddam Iraq, where the autocracy of the Baathist regime has given way to a kleptocracy in which "literally everything is for sale." Worth depicts an Iraq that's essentially a giant graft scheme, with elites cashing out while everyone else scrounges for scraps. Construction projects meant to create new community spaces or just fix up the local mosque sit half-finished, their funding either stolen or bottled up in disputes. Thuggish militias threaten violence to land lucrative contracts and establish monopolies.
All of this is made possible, naturally, by Uncle Sam. Every month, the Federal Reserve of New York, where the Iraqi government has an account, ships hefty sums of dollars to Baghdad. This cash is then ostensibly auctioned off to Iraqi banks, which are supposed to then lend it out.