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Was "General Madoff" in charge of Iraqi reconstruction?

The UK Independent (originally in the Times, but the products of Fleet Street are so much more tangy):

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.

Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown.

Pretty obvious discrepancy. No wonder they didn't want any reporters outside the Green Zone.

Iraqi leaders are convinced that the theft or waste of huge sums of US and Iraqi government money could have happened only if senior US officials were themselves involved in the corruption. In 2004-05, the entire Iraq military procurement budget of $1.3bn was siphoned off from the Iraqi Defence Ministry in return for 28-year-old Soviet helicopters too obsolete to fly and armoured cars easily penetrated by rifle bullets. Iraqi officials were blamed for the theft, but US military officials were largely in control of the Defence Ministry at the time and must have been either highly negligent or participants in the fraud. ...

In the expanded inquiry by federal agencies, the evidence of a small-time US businessman called Dale C Stoffel who was murdered after leaving the US base at Taiji north of Baghdad in 2004 is being re-examined. Before he was killed, Mr Stoffel, an arms dealer and contractor, was granted limited immunity from prosecution after he had provided information that a network of bribery – linking companies and US officials awarding contracts – existed within the US-run Green Zone in Baghdad. He said bribes of tens of thousands of dollars were regularly delivered in pizza boxes sent to US contracting officers.

So far, US officers who have been successfully prosecuted or unmasked have mostly been involved in small-scale corruption.

Bad apples!

Often sums paid out in cash were never recorded. In one case, an American soldier put in charge of reviving Iraqi boxing gambled away all the money but he could not be prosecuted because, although the money was certainly gone, nobody had recorded if it was $20,000 or $60,000.

Iraqi ministers admit the wholesale corruption of their government. Ali Allawi, the former finance minister, said Iraq was "becoming like Nigeria in the past when all the oil revenues were stolen". But there has also been a strong suspicion among senior Iraqis that US officials must have been complicit or using Iraqi appointees as front-men in corrupt deals. Several Iraqi officials given important jobs at the urging of the US administration in Baghdad were inexperienced. For instance, the arms procurement chief at the centre of the Defence Ministry scandal, was a Polish-Iraqi, 27 years out of Iraq, who had run a pizza restaurant on the outskirts of Bonn in the 1990s.

In many cases, contractors never started or finished facilities they were supposedly building. As security deteriorated in Iraq from the summer of 2003 it was difficult to check if a contract had been completed. But the failure to provide electricity, water and sewage disposal during the US occupation was crucial in alienating Iraqis from the post-Saddam regime.

Rot everywhere. And for this, so many dead?

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Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

There are several remarkable aspects to Bush Administration crimes. First, the audacity is stunning. Tens of billions at a time were simply "missing" and no one cared, and certainly no one had to face hard questions. Golf outings and blow jobs to mid-level Interior officials were worth billions, it seems, and no one was prosecuted. Second, the discussion of these crimes was successfully turned to "criminalizing policy differences." One looks in vain for mainstream discussions of murder, rape, theft, and systematic corruption, and even the crime the Bushies want to talk about, torture, has clearly been committed even though the word itself must remain unspoken. Third, and most ominously, the Obama Administration appears to be institutionalizing some of the worst Bush patterns. The state secrets position our DOJ took recently is chilling. The fact that Bush era burrowers are able to censor communications to the President regarding Bush's criminal acts, ostensibly to protect Obama should the case get before a jury, suggests frightening continuity.

Much is made of Bush incompetence, yet they committed the largest theft in history and got away cleanly so far. They cared about keeping power, and they did so competently. They cared about money and crushing labor, and the results speak for themselves. Examples of incompetence all show attention to broader purposes. Bush is so confident that he didn't bother to cover up and pardon those involved. We have had a revolution, we have been robbed blind, most of us have no idea how, and we hardly noticed.