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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your Tax Dollars at Work

US officials in Iraq pose with shipment of cashThere are some out there who would be surprised to learn that the government of Iraq is corrupt as all hell and that the Bush administration -- especially the State Department and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- have been trying to cover up that fact. To those people, I say, "Congratulations on waking from your coma!" I would've sent a card earlier, but I just found you guys were sick.

It was over a year ago that I posted that we'd been sending money into Iraq -- $12 billion in cash -- with absolutely no idea where it went. "In one case, bills were wrapped in plastic, put on pallets and shipped to Iraq," I wrote. In that case, the cash was a cargo shipment that could be measured by its tonnage -- 363 tons, to be exact.

The story came from Reuters, in February of 2007:

The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

Of course, Waxman's question is more rhetorical than anything; there are few in this administration who are "in their right mind." Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash to be distributed anywhere? And, more than a year later, not only don't we have anything to show for our largesse, but we don't even know where it all went.

And, it's clear that the Bush administration isn't all that interested in finding out. In a letter [PDF] to Condoleezza Rice in September 2007, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman wrote, "...Committee staff were informed yesterday that State Department officials with direct knowledge of corruption within the Maliki government would not be allow to provide the Committee with 'assessments which judge or characterize the quality of Iraqi governance or the ability/determination of the Iraqi government to deal with corruption' unless the Committee agreed to treat this information as classified and withhold it from the public."

In other words, State admits that the Iraqi government is corrupt, but argues that the specifics (i.e., exactly how corrupt and who exactly has their hand in your pocket) is a state secret. At a Committee hearing on the subject, Waxman said, "We even asked one of the people at the State Department whether he agreed with the statement by Secretary Rice when she praised Prime Minister Maliki for his efforts to stop corruption. She even praised it. And we asked this fellow from the State Department, 'Do you agree with that?' And he said, 'I’m not allowed to discuss that in an open forum.'"

The official couldn't discuss Maliki and crime at all. Let me repeat that, so the ridiculousness of it sinks in -- a State Department official was censored from agreeing with Rice about the leader of the Iraqi government, because it's some big secret. Condi, apparently, has trouble keeping her big yap shut and has blabbed about a state secret. The big secret being that Nuri al-Maliki is a big Boy Scout.

Yeah, that seems plausible...

At least, seems plausible if that coma resulted in lingering brain damage (sorry about that guys, I'll send flowers). To anyone else it seems like just one more "Do you really expect anyone to believe that?" moment. They're so common with this White House.

Someone didn't get the memo. At a hearing yesterday, Arthur Brennan, the former director of the Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT) in Iraq, told the Committee that his office's work "was ignored and demeaned by the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the government of Iraq." If you need an explanation of why this happened, consider the name of his department -- accountability and transparency are the enemies of the hopelessly corrupt and the current administrations of both nations fit that description.

Agence France-Presse sums up Brennan's testimony this way:

He accused the State Department of failing in its mission to thwart widespread corruption in Iraq, and said its policies had instead allowed corruption to fester.

"The actual policies and performance of the State Department in Iraq were not what they are represented to be," he said, his voice shaking with emotion.

"The Department of State has negligently, recklessly and sometimes intentionally misled the US Congress, the American people and the people of Iraq."

"In a sense, the Department of State has contributed to the killing and maiming of US soldiers, the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians; the bolstering of illegal militias, insurgents and Al-Qaeda."

"Billions of US and Iraqi dollars have been lost, stolen and wasted, it is likely that some of that money is financing outlaws and insurgents such as the Medhi Army."

"There was no immediate response to the allegations from the State Department," AFP tells us. Of course there isn't. This story has been barely covered by the press. Last night I bookmarked the Google news page for the issue, so I could check this morning for updates -- today there are a whopping twelve entries. Most of those are likely reprints from wire services. State's dodging a bullet here, if they release a response, the whole story gets repeated once again. Like a good 90% of this administration's problems, if the administration ignores it, the press will make sure it goes away. Corruption, incompetence, and contempt for Americans by the Bush administration is old news.

No, the big news is that Hillary Clinton's going to win W. Virginia. Why this is news is beyond me. She'll probably get twelve delegates out of it, which means that she only needs about nine or ten wins like this to beat Obama. Unfortunately, there are only five other races in the primary. At this point, there's no reason why the Democratic primary should be pushing other news to page four.

But, there ya go. The Bush administration "has contributed to the killing and maiming of US soldiers, the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians; the bolstering of illegal militias, insurgents and Al-Qaeda," which means that all the headlines tomorrow will be "Hillary Wins Beauty Contest!"

If you're one of those people who were in a coma, you're really not all that far behind the rest of us, information-wise. The media's been in a coma, too.


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