It's going to be a little hard to justify. Payments of cash to Iraq totaling $12 billion, the bulk of which -- $8.8 billion -- is unaccounted for. In one case, bills were wrapped in plastic, put on pallets and shipped to Iraq.
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.
ABC News quotes Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT); "They were handing out tons of cash from the back of pick up trucks."
In his defense, former US viceroy L. Paul Bremer told the committee, "We're talking about Iraqi money, not American money." Here's the thing, though -- it doesn't make any difference and, in the long run, it is american money.
Depending on who you ask, Bush's new budget asks for as much as $716.5 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. If billions were wasted in early payouts, wouldn't we be making up for that loss now?
After all, the stuff that needed rebuilding still needs rebuilding. If we weren't paying for it before, we are now. Part of the problem, as pretty much everyone knows, is that the people in charge of rebuilding Iraq were chosen for ideological purity and had no freakin' idea what the hell they were doing. Of course, Bremer denies this:
Bremer called such claims "nonsense", asserting, "I want to dispel one of the more pernicious myths, that the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] was dominated by young, inexperienced ideologues," although he did acknowledge that he had very little control over who was sent to work under the CPA, reporting that most of the jobs were filled within the Pentagon.
Bremer's statement is contrary to fact.
Washington Post, Sept. '06:
To pass muster with [Pentagon official Jim] O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.
O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.
Here's a question that's both interesting and fun; what the hell does Roe v. Wade have to do with rebuilding Iraq? When it came to rebuilding, according to WaPo, "...many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States."
Well, not so much a nation that looked like the US as a nation that looked like a right wing fantasy version of the US. That's why experience wasn't as important as ideology -- they didn't want Iraq going all liberal on them.
Of course, in the process, they handed out money like promotional coupons for Double Whoppers. No doubt there was a certain amount of free market moonyism going on there. Hand out money to pretty much anyone and the genius of the free market would see that it got where it belonged and the entrepreneurial spirit would take off. Not surprisingly, Iraq didn't become a randian utopia.
Since there was no accounting for the handouts, there's no way to know where the money went. It seems extremely unlikely that some of it didn't wind in the hands of militias. In that case, it's being returned to us in the form of bullets fired at troops.
Still, some are trying to spin Waxman's investigation as a partisan attack on Bush. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) said it was "self-righteous, arrogant, Monday-morning Bush bashing," as if he'd be absolutely fine with this colossal mismanagement had the president been a democrat. Others were more realistic.
"Conservative Republicans should feel no obligation to defend waste just because it happened in Iraq," said Rep. John Duncan, (R-TN).
Duncan has it right. It may not have been our money to begin with, but it's our money that's replacing it. It's good to know that there's still the occasional republican who doesn't think conservatism means throwing money down every corrupt rathole you come across.