Three days ago, I called the State Department with a question: what is the Bush administration doing to help Radhi al-Radhi? The answer appears to be this: nothing.
I was referring to the former Iraqi judge who until recently was head of the Commission on Public Integrity, the independent government agency tasked with investigating corruption within the Iraqi government. As I’ve previously reported, earlier this month Radhi was forced out of his job by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, while Radhi and several of his investigators were attending a training session in Washington sponsored by the U.S. government. A draft of a secret U.S. embassy report–which was first revealed in this column–depicts Radhi as a diligent and serious (though hobbled) pursuer of the rampant corruption infesting the Maliki government. (You can read the full draft report–which concludes that corruption is the “norm” throughout most Iraqi ministries–here.)
Radhi was apparently tossed out of his job because he pushed too hard on corruption within the Maliki administration. He was replaced with a Maliki ally who last month was arrested on corruption charges. Moreover, the Iraqi government cut off Radhi’s funding while he was in the United States–except for a small pension of several hundred dollars a month. (As a former government official who held a minister’s rank, Radhi says he is due ten times as much in retirement pay.) Given that Radhi has accused past and present government officials of corruption and has recently said that the Maliki administration is so rotten it ought to be abolished, it would be unwise for him to return to Iraq, where his family remains. “I consider him Iraq’s version of Eliot Ness,” says Chris King, an American who was a senior adviser to Radhi in Iraq. “Time and time again, he put himself and his family at risk to prosecute corruption and promote the rule of law in a nonsectarian, non-ethnic, non-tribal and nonpolitical manner.”
Now Radhi has essentially been stranded in the United States. Last week, the 62-year-old former jurist, who was imprisoned and tortured during Saddam Hussein’s regime, had to leave the Alexandria, Virginia, hotel where he was staying because he could not pay the bill.
Up until Maliki and his allies removed Radhi, State Department advisers were working with Radhi and his anticorruption commission. It was the U.S. government that brought him and his investigators to Washington for training sessions conducted by the Justice Department and the Defense Department. But now the State Department, according to Radhi associates and U.S. government officials, is not aiding the former judge. “No U.S. government agency has provided him any help to date,” says a Radhi associate. On Monday morning, I asked Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokesperson, if this is true. She promised a quick answer. No reply came quickly. When I called again, she told me she had to check with Bureau of Near East Affairs and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. On Wednesday afternoon, Thompson called with an official response: