L. Paul Bremer, head of the old Coalition Provisional Authority and Viceroy of Iraq immediately after Gen Jay Garner was fired for criticizing the Bush Administration’s total lack of after-invasion planning, appeared before Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week to explain what happened to some missing money. $$$12BIL$$$ worth, to be exact. In cash. Bundles and bundles of it in $100 bills at $400K/bundle. Stacked on pallets. So many pallets they had to be shipped to Iraq on giant C-130 cargo planes.
One $500 million outlay was explained away with a one-word record entry — “security” — in the provisional authority’s books. Ten disbursements ranging from $120 million to $900 million have no documentation at all, as if they were petty cash.
So where did it all go?
It was all, he said, very confusing.
[Bremer] said that given the chaos he found after arriving in Iraq in May 2003, “I think we made great progress under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.”
The cash was dispersed off the back of pickup trucks in duffle bags, apparently to anyone who wandered by at the right time. Why cash?
“We had to pay Iraqis in cash,” Mr. Bremer said of the money, most of which came from Iraqi oil sales. “Delay would have been demoralizing and unfair to millions of Iraqi families.”
Two things struck me about this hearing. First, there seems to have been an attitude on the part of Bremer and his team that losing $$$12BIL$$$ was, well, kind of trivial, you know? No big deal. The second came from Bremer himself. When asked why he would do such a thing, he replied that he understood his role in Iraq to have only one purpose. “My job was to kickstart the Iraqi economy.”
That’s funny. Most of us thought his job was to govern the country in the name of the United States and try to bring some order into the chaos that followed the invasion. The president said he was there to guide the Iraqis as they tried to form a democratic govt. I guess we were both wrong. He was there to “kickstart the economy” by giving money away. So he did. End of story.
L.Paul, a neocon ideologue to the roots of his dentures, saw money as the solution to all problems, so what the hell? There was always more where the first batch came from (the UN, an institution neocons don’t think much of anyway). Why should he care? Every vocal intonation, every facial expression as he was questioned said as plainly as if they could talk that a) he didn’t, and b) he didn’t see why anybody else should, either. He was combative, arrogant, at times barely civil. Beneath his actual words, the subtext was “Who do you people think you are? You have no right to question me.”
Committee Pubs, good little puppets that they are, rushed to defend him, although that usually required them to make fools of themselves. Billionaire Darrell Issa from California, for example, tried to explain to the Committee that while $$$12BIL$$$ sounded like a lot, it really wasn’t.
Fine, Darrell. If it’s “nothing”, I’m sure you won’t mind having L. Paul send a C-130 to my house loaded with $100 bills on pallets to kickstart my economy. I’ll even pretend to be Persian if that makes him feel better. And I won’t be greedy – one pallet will be enough.
Tom Davis, from Virginia, called the attempt to find out what happened “self-righteous finger-wagging”, thus proving to all and sundry that Republicans consider themselves above explanations, the law, ethics and especially morality – all that shit is for suckers. You know, like us.
What emerged most clearly from this hearing was confirmation of what many of us said at the time: the atmosphere in post-invasion Iraq among the Bushies, most of whom were ex-campus ideologues in their early 20’s with no experience and even less knowledge of Iraq or much of anything else outside their semi-weekly self- indoctrination sessions, was defined by a free-form, feeding-at-the-public-trough-while-nobody’s-looking, accountable-less Big Money give-away mentality. No wonder Halliburton was emboldened to steal $$millions$$ for construction it never completed, meals it never delivered, and services it never provided. Money was flowing like beer at a frat party. All they had to do was hold out their buckets and in it poured. Nobody was going to ask them later how much they took or how much of what they took wound up in their fridge at home.
Now that’s what I call a “free market”.
(to be cont’d)