Bremer's financial advisor: "What Difference Does it Make?"
How else, indeed, are we supposed to take the latest story from The Guardian about the missing $12 billion in vanished, unaccounted-for cash sent to Iraq?
We already know many of the spectacularly incompetent details, which the article lays out in brief form. For those who aren't already aware, a little background is in order:
In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.
Skipping ahead a bit:
"They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division's vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75m in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds."
The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500m in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'."
The memorandum concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste ... thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving pay cheques from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."
Thankfully for us, Henry Waxman's oversight committee is kicking ass and taking names, as we saw yesterday.
Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"
Good question, Mr. Waxman. Who in their right mind, indeed?
Apparently, one retired Admiral David Oliver, who in 2004 became Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for EADS North America, which describes itself as "the U.S. holding company for the North American activities of EADS, the world's second largest aerospace and defense company, and the largest in Europe."
Mr. Oliver who, according to his own resume was the "Director of Management and Budget for the Coalition Forces" says that where the money went just isn't important:
Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct. The memorandum quotes an interview with the BBC World Service. Asked what had happened to the $8.8bn he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."
Did you hear that, everyone? $12 billion dollars in cash JUST ISN'T THAT IMPORTANT. I know, I'm incredulous, too. So was the reporter this guy talked to:
Q: "But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace."
Oliver: "Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I'm saying what difference does it make?"
Because of course, Iraqi money--like Iraqi blood--is expendable. It doesn't really matter where it goes, or how much is lost. What matters is simply that it gets distributed, preferably in large unclotted gobs, all across the Iraqi countryside. The more the merrier to grease the wheels of industry and war. And heck, it's not really our money, so who cares, right?
But there's a bigger lesson in all this as well. This is Republican trickle-down, laissez-faire economics in its rawest and most unadulterated form.
Here's how it works:
1) Take money from the people;
2) Distribute it in large sums without accountability to those with wealth and power;
3) Assume that it will trickle back down to the people in the form of jobs.
You cannot claim a greed or profiteering motive for this kind of attitude in this situation. It is, after all, Iraqi money being distributed to Iraqis. Not a cent of this money, so far as we know, made its way back into the hands of Bremer, Oliver, or the American military defense establishment.
No, its strict adherence to an ideology of selfishness, greed and ignorance that even a five-year-old would eschew. A small child would know that you can't just give big gobs of cash to rich people and expect that the "free market" of good and services will just take care of everything.
It's easy to call it greed when it's the application of that ideology under Reagan and Bush in America. But it's another thing entirely to do so when no American receives a dime of the money in question. When you find the same ideology of evil corruption being intentionally instituted with all the insouciance of a Marie Antoinette, but there's no quid for that quo, you kind of have to look beyond sheer greed and corruption.
At that point, you really have to look at intellectual and moral failings so grandiose that they walk a fine line between sheer stupidity and blatant sociopathy. What else can you say to people whose twin ideas for "winning" a "war" that's not really a war at all, are
1) kill enough iraqis that the killing stops; and
2) Slosh around a bunch of cash to random powerful officials.
It's absolutely insane. My only question is, how did such a bunch of rabidly insane, stupid sociopathic assholes every get in power in the first place?
Or is that also one of those unimportant questions that doesn't make a difference?