US Money Not Funding Iraqi Corruption, Rice Says

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - American tax dollars are neither paying for corruption in the Iraqi government nor funding militias that kill American troops, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice affirmed Thursday, as she was grilled by Democrats on a House panel.

The rebuttals came in response to charges made during a hearing of the House of Representative's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that looked into corruption in the Iraqi government.

Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) specifically wanted to know if any of the $450 billion spent on Iraq has helped to fund corruption and if that corruption has funneled that money into the hands of the enemy.

Waxman also showed a translated April memo from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office stating that a corruption probe of him or his administration could not commence without his permission.

"Is the Maliki government too corrupt to succeed?" said Waxman. "This week, President Bush asked the American people to spend another $46 billion in Iraq. The president also is continuing to ask our bravest Americans to risk their lives there."

While funding for militias comes from various sources, Rice said U.S. money allocated for rebuilding Iraq "is not for the Iraqi government" but for funding American troops, the U.S. embassy and various State Department programs.

"There is a very bad corruption problem in Iraq with the ministries, the government and officials," Rice told the committee. "Our job has to be to help Iraq address that corruption."

Further, Rice said it would not be "acceptable policy" for Maliki to immunize himself from a corruption investigation.

Other Democrats on the committee criticized Rice during her three-hour testimony regarding problems with the security contractor Blackwater, the costly embassy and financial matters.

However, some House Republicans expressed the view that the criticism was just another means for Democrats to undermine the war effort.

"Now that the surge is working, they need to find another target," said Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.). "This country (the United States) has been around for 200 years and we still have corruption."

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said it was "destructive" to call Rice before the committee to name people allegedly involved in corrupt practices.

"They want to say that because Iraq is corrupt we need to withdraw," Shays said.

"Before that, they said we're not winning so we need to withdraw. ... We are constantly lecturing Iraq about how they need to get their act together and we can't come to an agreement on Iraq - except for the bipartisan agreement to go in. Yet we lecture Maliki on not getting his act together," Shays added.

Rice stressed that most corruption investigations were unearthed by the State Department. Further, she said, Iraqis want an end to corruption in their own country.

"If you think you read a lot about Iraqi corruption in our newspapers, you should see how much it's reported on in the free Iraqi press, which Iraq never would have had without the liberation from Saddam Hussein," Rice said.

"It's a young government with a dictatorial past. It has no interest in seeing dollars go to militias that kill our soldiers because those militias kill their soldiers too," she added.

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