Thursday, February 08, 2007

The President Went To War

And all I got was this crummy wad of bank notes. If you have followed the news about the mysterious billions that vanished in Iraq, mysterious billions paid by the U.S. taxpayers, you may have heard about this:

AN AUDIT of US reconstruction spending in Iraq has uncovered spectacular misuse of tens of millions of dollars in cash, including bundles of money stashed in filing cabinets, a US soldier who gambled away thousands and stacks of newly minted notes distributed without receipts.

The audit, released yesterday by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, describes a country in the months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein awash with dollars, and a Wild West atmosphere where even multimillion-dollar contracts were paid for in cash.

The findings come after a report last year by the inspector general which stated that nearly $9 billion (£5 billion) of Iraq's oil revenue disbursed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq until mid-2004, cannot be accounted for.

The huge sums in cash were paid out with little or no supervision, and often without any paperwork, yesterday's audit found. The report found problems with nearly 2,000 contracts worth $88.1 million.

And you may have heard about this:

As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) gears up for the second day of his House Hearings on Waste, Fraud and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars, the focus will shift to North Carolina-based Blackwater International.

The secretive security firm made headlines in Iraq when, in March 2004, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and gruesomely killed. Six more were killed in April 2005 when their Mi-8 helicopter was shot down.

Blackwater's ill-fated presence in Iraq has been especially curious because, for many of their missions, no one could find the U.S. contract that actually authorized them to working there.

Until now. Yesterday, the Army finally disclosed who had sub-contracted Blackwater's operations -- and it's none other than our good friends Halliburton (via AP):

After numerous denials, the Pentagon has confirmed that a North Carolina company provided armed security guards in Iraq under a subcontract that was buried so deeply the government could not find it.

The secretary of the Army on Tuesday wrote two Democratic lawmakers that the Blackwater USA contract was part of a huge military support operation by run by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton before he became vice president.

Several times last year, Pentagon officials told inquiring lawmakers they could find no evidence of the Blackwater contract. Blackwater, of Moyock, North Carolina, did not respond to several requests for comment.

As the AP notes, the Halliburton/Blackwater episode not only exposes the (intentionally?) impenetrable maze of military contracting; it was also likely against the law:

And you surely must have read this:

Henry Waxman, the veteran Representative who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is following the money trail of $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills from the U.S. treasury that Bush's cronies shipped to the "Green Zone" in Baghdad between May 2003 and June 2004. The 363 tons of cash was stacked on wooden pallets, loaded onto C-130 transport planes, and shipped into the middle of a war zone.
The former viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, testified yesterday that he turned over the cash to the Iraqi "Finance Ministry," but he admitted that he had disbanded the top tier of the bureaucracy, and there were an indeterminate number of "ghost employees" that received American tax dollars with no oversight of accounting.

It is more interesting to argue whether Nancy Pelosi should have a bigger airplane, though.