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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

While Republicans are styling themselves as the responsible guardians of the purse, where is their outrage over this?
Posted by Jill | 5:29 AM
They blanch at spending money to reconstruct the American economy, but when our government and its cronies were stuffing their pockets with taxpayer cash and telling us that it was for the reconstruction of Iraq, I didn't hear any Republicans squawking:
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.

"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

In one case, auditors working for SIGIR discovered that $57.8m was sent in "pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills" to the US comptroller for south-central Iraq, Robert J Stein Jr, who had himself photographed standing with the mound of money. He is among the few US officials who were in Iraq to be convicted of fraud and money-laundering.

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. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad's infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.

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.

American federal investigators are now starting an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programme to rebuild Iraq, according to The New York Times, which cites interviews with senior government officials and court documents. Court records reveal that, in January, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B Bell, now retired from the US Army, but who was previously responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Two federal officials are cited by the paper as saying that investigators are also looking at the activities of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald W Hirtle of the US Air Force, who was senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004.

As I write this, I'm watching Section 60, an HBO documentary about the part of Arlington National Cemetery where soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. I look at these families -- these mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, husbands, sisters; the children who will probably not be able to remember the parent who is gone once they too are grown. I'm listening to them talk about their children who only wanted to be soldiers, their children asking if the dead goldfish is now with Daddy, the wives wishing they could talk to their husbands just one more time. I look at these people who are guilty of nothing other than their belief in this country and their belief that their government is the caretaker of the symbols like the flag that they hold so dear. The Bush Administration took the trust of these people and took a giant, eight-year-long dump all over it because Dick Cheney is a ghoul who feeds on human souls and George W. Bush has father issues, and there are people in this country for whom a war based on nothing but lies meant an excuse to stuff their pockets.

The Bush Administration is gone now, but its toxic legacy lives on. And it will live on forever in the lives of these families shattered by a corrupt government that betrayed everything these people hold dear. It remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration can, or even wants to, extricate itself from George W. Bush's military adventures. But for these Americans buried in Section 60, their blood is on the previous Administration's hands. And while Congressional Republicans are as willing and eager to allow the nation to spiral down into economic ruin because they think it will help them regain power, somehow I don't think we're going to hear any outrage from them over the opportunism of American officials who paid their respect to the dead by stealing money meant for the reconstruction for which these Americans died.

CNN's Rick Sanchez points this out to a Republican fembot:

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Blogger Jennifer said...
I am forever amazed at the lack of outrage from Americans about this. Is it because they don't know or don't care?

Your last two paragraphs brought me to tears.