Between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, earmarked for Iraq reconstruction, reportedly turned up in a bunker in Lebanon, along with $200 million in Iraqi gold.
“Bricks” of cash in Baghdad
Stuart Bowen, a special inspector general appointed by President Bush to keep track of waste and corruption in Iraq, reported that he has been unable to persuade anybody in either the U.S. or Iraqi governments to check it out. The U.S. embassy in Beirut denied him permission to go to Lebanon to look for himself.
The stacks of money are part of $12 billion to $14 billion in shrink-wrapped “bricks” of currency, provided by the Federal Reserve Bank. The money was flown to Iraq on wooden pallets, to be handed out as needed. An additional $5 billion was sent via electronic transfer.
Bowen said most of the money was probably spent for legitimate purposes, but $6.6 billion is unaccounted for. This is a staggering amount.
Notice the $2 billion margin for error in the estimate of what was sent. That, too, is a staggering amount.
Why the lack of interest in what become of the money?
One possible explanation is that the U.S. government and the Iraqi government have a very good idea of who got the money, and don’t want it made known to the public.
Another is that they don’t know, and don’t want the public to be reminded that they don’t know.
Billions set aside for post-Saddam Iraq turned up in Lebanese bunker by Rory Carroll for The Guardian.
$1.6 billion in Iraqi cash seized in Lebanon by Ahmed Hussein for Iraqi News. A good article with an inaccurate headline. The money was never seized and nobody knows whether it is still there.
Special Report: The Pentagon’s doctored ledgers conceal epic waste by Scot J. Paltrow for Reuters. The bigger picture is that it’s simpler for the Defense Department to order new stuff than keep track of what they’ve got. Hat tip for this link to Peter Van Buren. He also had a post on the Lebanon bunker, but for some reason I can’t link to the post. I’ll add the link when and if I can.
“The biggest theft of funds in national history”