"Billions of dollars of their money disappeared….I'm saying what difference does it make?"


So saith David Oliver, the former Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority director of management and budget to the BBC last year; this week a House Committee on Government Reform hearing tried to grill both Oliver and his boss L. Paul Bremer III to clear that picture up just a little bit. Daniel Schulman at Mother Jones has more; the upshot is, the U.S. has no idea what happened to $8.8 billion "doled out by the CPA to Iraq's fledgling government ministries between October 2003 and June 2004." And it's very probable that Oliver's cynicism–what difference does it make?–is precisely correct.

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  1. Well…if it was used to fund and arm the insurgency…that would be one different that would matter.

  2. Fred Smith has a point; It is possible that at least some of that money eneded up in the wrong hands and went to pay for roadside bomb materials.

    It’s funny how “conservatives” are so fond of lambasting the corruption and inefficiency inherent in domestic government hand-outs, but tend to be so forgiving and “looking the other way-ish” when it involves dubious pipe dreams of overseas nation building.

    Maybe some of our contractors over in Iraq are more like Nigerians than we would like to believe.

  3. Obviously we should look into fraud, corruption, and incompetence, but we should also appreciate that it is unrealistic to expect perfect accounting in a chaotic mess like post-invasion Iraq.

    I think Bush is dumb asa post, but when some blogger, in an ignorant attempt at sacrasm, make a joke about how Bush sent tons of cash into a war zone I just had to roll my eyes. What the !@#$ were we supposed to use to pay Iraqis, American Express? When every institution of public order has fallen apart and some necessities are only available on the black market, people want the security of cold hard cash in their hands, not promisory notes.

    The Black Market thrives in EVERY warzone and waste due to corruption is an unavoidable part of the “friction” of war.

    Bush and Co. should be held to account for all of the MANY avoidable mistakes they made and for any corruption linked to political influence, like handing out sweetheart no-bid contracts to Haliburton, but it is unrealistic to blame them for the unavoidable kinds of corruption and waste that is always present in warzones.

    Frankly, if he had been smarter he would have gone in with even MORE cash and used it to dole out favors like the Godfather. Instead we fired hundreds of thousands of people who needed to feed their families and turned to those who were willing to pay them …. to kill american soldiers.

  4. I’ve got a few hundred million of it right here. I didn’t think anyone would miss it.

  5. well actually what would have been smarter would have been to mark each bill with a permanent red strip.. and declare that such marked Iraq currency bills are only recognixed as currency within the borders of Iraq.. only Banks controlled by the coalition government would be authorized to exchange unmarked bills for the marked ones.. this would have prevented the money from leaving the country and forced its use for the domestic economy…and put some damper on its use by insurgents…. thus accomplishing what it was meant for..

  6. Shades of Pompey, isn’t it?

  7. I can pretty much hold any opinion from “Monday morning quarterbacking” to “Paul Bremer should rot in prison.” The really sad thing is that $8.8 billion is chickenfeed in the realm of government spending.

  8. An exasperated Burton shot back: “You ought to be a politician!”

    Screw BookTv. You can only get entertainment like this on the original C-SPAN.

  9. Good idea in some ways, Fred Smith, but it was probably expected that a lot of development cash would be have to be paid to parties outside Iraq — paying truckers hauling in supplies from Jordan, for instance.

    And “occupation currency” like that would probably rapidly inflate relative to the black markets dealing in “real” US dollars and other, more versatile currencies.

    And using or possessing “occupation currency” might well mark one for death in the eyes of the insurgents.

  10. It’s funny how “conservatives” are so fond of lambasting the corruption and inefficiency inherent in domestic government hand-outs, but tend to be so forgiving and “looking the other way-ish” when it involves dubious pipe dreams of overseas nation building.

    I’ve been saying that ever since “Democratic Domino Theory” first came out.

  11. Ever since this story about the “wasted” $9Billion came to light I’ve been waiting for someone (in the mainstream media) to point out that the whole $2Trillion spent on Iraq has been a waste.

  12. I’m a big fan of Congress pointing in 535 OTHER directions on this issue.

  13. Out of a $2 trillion outlay, what’s 0.45% for baksheesh?

    I don’t approve of any skimming of funds, but in a culture like that, given that much money, such thievery is inevitable as flies on shit. But enough about Washington, D.C. I’m sure that Baghdad’s pols have similar predilections.


  14. It’s like nobody saw the power/money nexus coming!

  15. So saith … last year;

    Somebody’s tense.

    what difference does it make?

    It doesn’t make any difference because Muslims got your money: what isn’t pissed away on medieval bullshit will be funnelled to terrorists.

  16. First, just because it is not accounted for doesn’t mean it was stolen. A lot of money was spent properly, there was tremendous pressure on the CPA to do something, but without the proper accounting. Here is the problem. You can spend a lot of money quickly and not account for a lot of it, or can impose strict accounting methods and account for every penny but not spend the money very quickly because so process to spend it and account for it is so involved. What you can’t have is spending it quickly and have complete accountability. The same thing happened with Katrina. How billions there were not accounted for? Of course everyone screamed that something had to be done immediately there to. But of course hard choices are not something we do well anymore.

  17. I think I read (or was it a movie) an account of how bullets were issued to British soldiers during a war against the Zulu nation. Each soldier signed for and was issued a couple of cartridges. The soldier ran off, shot them at the enemy, and returned to “sign out” a couple more rounds. Not very effective but I guess it was meant to keep the books straight.

    I can almost see the British government condemning the soldier who was in charge of keeping track of the ammo when it was found that the bullets ended up being issued willy nilly.

  18. This ties in with what I’ve been reading about Paul Bremer being a believer in completely free markets. The Pentagon/State Department gave him free rein to implement his ideals. Any ideal can be harmful if taken to utopian extremes, even free market economics.

    This might explain why he was so blaise about massive army demobilization and de-baathification – these guys were all public employees, and as far as Bremer was concerned there were way too many of those anyway. Massive unemployment was a small price to pay for eventual prosperity.

    Rather than try to rebuild the government agencies which had previously run Iraq, Bremer’s CPA though it more ideologically sound to bring in multinational companies bought to reconstruct the country (and bribes and kickbacks helped with that decision too). Unfortunately those companies, as well as many of the Iraqis they worked with, proved hugely corrupt and inefficient.

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