Monday, November 16, 2009

St. Petersburg Times: Peter Galbraith 'Self-Dealing' Harms US War Effort

From an editorial headlined "Corruption Erodes Trust":
Then there is the apparent self-dealing of Peter Galbraith, a former American ambassador and the son of legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith. He appears to have secured rights to a share of the oil wealth of Kurdistan in the northern region of Iraq. The conflict of interest arises because he had been an adviser to the Kurdish government on the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, which partly addressed how the oil wealth of the region would be divided.

According to the New York Times, Galbraith helped the Kurds gain control over the region's internal affairs, including new oil discoveries, after Galbraith had already obtained rights to at least one of Kurdistan's oil fields. Galbraith's interest could be worth a hundred million dollars or more.

Galbraith claims no wrongdoing and argues he was a private citizen acting as an unpaid adviser. But those details don't matter to Iraqi officials in Baghdad, who see an American absconding with the country's oil wealth through manipulative self-dealing.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of American forces in Iraq, told the BBC recently, "The endemic corruption within the Iraqi system — not only the security forces, but the system — is still probably the biggest problem facing Iraq." President Barack Obama has publicly called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to rid his country of corruption. Those vital messages are undermined by the unethical behavior of Americans. Even as Blackwater officials and Galbraith acted in their own self-interests, they are staining the nation's image among Iraqis and Afghans.