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Bush Administration Accused of Ignoring Corruption in Iraq


Two former U.S. State Department officials say the Bush administration has done little to fight corruption in Iraq. In testimony to a congressional panel Monday, they said administration policy has allowed corruption to fester - an accusation the State Department vehemently denies. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Arthur Brennan briefly served as director of the State Department's Office of Accountability and Transparency in Baghdad last year.

In testimony before a Democratic Policy Committee hearing, which no Republicans attended, Brennan accused the Bush administration of thwarting the efforts of his office to probe and fight corruption in Iraq. He said the administration did not aggressively pursue corruption out of concern that that could undermine its relationship with the Iraqi government.

"The Department of State's actual policy not only contradicted the anti-corruption mission, but indirectly contributed to and has allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government," he said.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told VOA it is not true that the department condones corruption in Iraq.

In an exchange with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Brennan said U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has avoided addressing the problem.

MCASKILL: "It is your testimony today that Ambassador Crocker knows the level of corruption in the Iraqi government and has failed to be honest with the American people about it?"

BRENNAN: "If he does not know than he is negligent. If he does know, then he is intentionally misleading Congress and the American public."

Brennan said corruption has cost Iraq and U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, and warned that some of the money could be funding insurgents.

James Mattil, who served as chief of staff in the Office of Accountability and Transparency from October 2006 to October 2007, agreed that the Bush administration had not done enough to press the Iraqi government to fight corruption. "It seems reasonable to conclude that the reasons are either gross incompetence, willful negligence or political intent on the part of the Bush administration and more specifically, the State Department," he said.

Mattil said the Office of Accountability and Transparency was dismantled last December.

Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the committee, says he plans to send a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seeking a response to Monday's testimony.

State Department's Casey, who spoke to VOA on the phone, said Brennan and Mattil are entitled to their opinions, but it is not true that Washington has ignored the issue of corruption in Iraq. He said the United States takes the issue very seriously, and has worked with the Iraqis for a very long time to combat it.

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