Easter Lemming Liberal News

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Daily Kos: 363 tons of cash

Congress finally starts asking about the missing truckloads of cash sent to Iraq. This was loaded up on cargo planes and pallets of the stuff were just wheeled around Iraq and handed out. The CPA firm that was supposed to keep track of where it was all going was run out of a home in San Diego before going under with missing records.

Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets.
The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.

Some of the corruption grew out of the misguided neoconservative agenda for Iraq, which meant that a serious reconstruction effort came second to doling out the spoils to the war’s most fervent supporters. The CPA brought in scores of bright, young true believers who were nearly universally unqualified. Many were recruited through the Heritage Foundation website, where they had posted their résumés. They were paid six-figure salaries out of Iraqi funds, and most served in 90-day rotations before returning home with their war stories. One such volunteer was Simone Ledeen, daughter of leading neoconservative Michael Ledeen. Unable to communicate in Arabic and with no relevant experience or appropriate educational training, she nevertheless became a senior advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad. Another was former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s older brother Michael who, though utterly unqualified, was named director of private-sector development for all of Iraq.

The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.
This has been updated here. Over a billion dollars was reportedly loaded on a helicopter and never arrived at the bank it was going to. Contractors started playing football with $100,000 blocks of money.



Comments:
Without diminishing the possibility of loss of money, my guess is that these accusations are politically motivated. When I was a peace corps volunteer in Albania, Peace corps had to disburse aid and paychecks using cash. It was risky, and probably didn't have the same paper trail. But Peace Corps had already developed procedures for that, and so did DOD (I'm guessing). There's a difference between money being "stolen" and money not being accounted for. As Bremer explained on TV last night, aid needed to be disbursed quickly at certain times.

Still the sheer magnitude of the numbers is worrisome. I also worry a lot about the billions allegedly taken away by Saddam's henchman before the Americans came. What are they spending that money on?
 
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