I’ve often noted the futility of such gift-giving. Attempts to win hearts and minds do not address the Islamic underpinnings of the hatred and contempt so many Muslims feel for America; a free laptop isn’t going to change that. “U.S. Gift for Iraqis Offers a Primer on Corruption,” by Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times, September 25 (thanks to Bill):
BAGHDAD — 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. […]
But the American military commander in southern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, was clearly furious. Even if the culprits are not exactly known, the victims are: Iraqi children and American taxpayers. He issued a rare and stinging public rebuke of a government that the United States hopes to treat as an equal, strategic partner — flawed, perhaps, but getting better.
In a statement, he demanded an investigation into the actions of “a senior Umm Qasr official,” who, even now, has not been identified.
The disclosure embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who, in the middle of a protracted political fight to win a second term, could hardly have welcomed the headlines.
“They are stealing the computers of students,” the newspaper Al Nasiriya declared, voicing a populist outrage at Iraq’s government that is becoming fairly common….