Here’s a plan. Invade a country. Destroy the infrastructure. Refuse to compensate. Remain an occupier. Computer anybody?
The shipment of laptop computers that arrived in Iraq’s main seaport in February was a small but important part of the American military’s mission here to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq’s reality.
The computers — 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million — were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of the American taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone.
Corruption is so rampant here — and American reconstruction efforts so replete with their own mismanagement — that the fate of the computers could have ended as an anecdote in a familiar, if disturbing trend. Iraq, after all, ranks above only Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.