What’s A Billion Here Or A Billion There Between Friends?

Max Fisher at The Atlantic rounds this up. Fisher:

The Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, according to an internal audit. The lost $8.7 billion, handled by the U.S. Department of Defense between 2004 and 2007 for reconstruction work, was raised from Iraqi oil revenues by that country’s government. Of that amount, the military has no records at all for $2.6 billion in funds. Here’s what obilservers have to say about the misplaced money.

Liz Sly at LA Times:

Though there is no apparent evidence of fraud, the improper accounting practices add to the pattern of mismanagement, reckless spending and, in some instances, corruption uncovered by the agency since 2004, when it was created to oversee the total of $53 billion in U.S. taxpayer money appropriated by Congress for the reconstruction effort.

“The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss,” notes the audit report, a copy of which was obtained Monday by the Los Angeles Times.

Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, who heads the agency, said repeated investigations have shown that “weak oversight is directly correlated to increased numbers of cases of theft and abuse.”

In this instance, the audit focused on Iraqi revenue earmarked for reconstruction under a 2004 arrangement granting the Defense Department access to Iraq’s oil proceeds at a time when the country did not have a fully functioning government and was unable to undertake urgently needed projects. The revenue was deposited in a special account in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq.

The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government’s inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars’ worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country’s reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures.

Zaid Jilani at Think Progress:

SIGIR also notes that the “U.S. military continues to hold at least $34.3 million of the fund, even though it was required to return it to the Iraqi government in December 2007.” The “Department of Defense comptroller promised to report back to the inspector general’s office by November on progress made.”

Atrios:

Not especially shocked that no one has any idea what we did with all the money, but it does remind me of that multi-year period where it seemed that we invaded Iraq in order to free Iraqi schoolchildren from the tyranny of peeling paint.

Juan Cole:

The reason is that in the chaotic days after the fall of the Baath government and the collapse of the old economy, Paul Bremer & Co. attempted to jump-start the Iraq market economy by giving out large sums in brown paper bags with no questions asked. They did not understand that the Iraqi market had been killed by decades of government control and that no magic hand any longer existed, so they might as well have taken that money and buried it in the ground. (Actually some of it probably was buried, in back yards in Fairfax County, Va.)

The real problem, though, is not petty larceny but that no one can account for our whole country being gone in the aftermath of the 2003 illegal war– with a cancellation by John Roberts of our Bill of Rights, $2 trillion missing from the treasury for the wars and their related costs (at least), torture still permitted overseas, arbitrary no-fly punishments meted out to peaceful protesters, the entire Republican Party kidnapped and stealthily replaced with glaze-eyed Manchurian cultists, and habeas corpus permanently embezzled and bamboozled out of existence.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was wrong when he declared in 1840 that ‘property is theft.’

But I can offer a more solid and more consistently true aphorism: “War is theft.”

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