BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Where's the Money, Lebowski?! Part 3

Daily Brandoland readers!

I know: Blogger has been acting up lately.

My brother Ryan tore through the html stuff, so...hopefully...Brandoland is loading properly. If it isn't, shoot me a mesage and I'll beg him for more help.

On that front, yesterday's post ("Where's the Money, Lebowski?") was a wash.

I'm re-posting for that very reason.

Maybe I'm being obsessive about the "fables of Iraqi reconstruction," but I swear to God, the amount of fraud that's taking place in Iraq is a huge story.

"IT IS."

Thank you, Lord.

But first, an exceptional thought from Josh Marshall:
Pictures in themselves don't mean much.

There are pictures of the president with people he knew far less well than Jack Abramoff, people he really never knew at all. But when those pictures of Abramoff and the president slip into public view, the lie will simply become unsustainable.

They know that.

And that's why the White House is turning the city upside down doing everything in its power to insure they never see the light of day.
Also, a phenomenal piece on "cash & carry" politics from the WaPo:

K Street's New Ways Spawn More Pork

When we were kids, our teachers led us to believe that "laws, policies and programs" were borne from "ideas or public needs" that were then advanced through a legislative process by our elected representatives.

Not anymore:
The link between special interests and members of Congress has grown so tight that nearly a dozen House and Senate members who control federal spending have retained lobbying veterans to raise campaign funds for them, and those lobbyists have secured lucrative favors in spending bills.

These relationships have coincided with the rapid growth in the volume of home-state pork-barrel projects, commonly called earmarks, that have swelled appropriations bills in recent years, according to congressional experts and watchdog groups.
Now...

Back to yesterday's post.

Audit Describes Misuse of Funds in Iraq Projects

New fables of the Iraqi reconstruction...tied to some old ones:
A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004.

*

Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker.
I used to keep $ in my record sleeves.

Blues Brothers. Pyromania. Permanent Waves.

Totally crazy.
One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed.
That's such an old contracting trick.
More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office.

The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.

Some of those cases are expected to intersect with the investigations of four Americans who have been arrested on bribery, theft, weapons and conspiracy charges for what federal prosecutors say was a scheme to steer reconstruction projects to an American contractor working out of the southern city of Hilla, which served as a kind of provincial capital for a vast swath of Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Big thanks to the NY Times for NOT inlcuding the name of that American contractor.

Would that have killed you guys?
But much of the material in the latest audit is new, and the portrait it paints of abandoned rebuilding projects, nonexistent paperwork and cash routinely taken from the main vault in Hilla without even a log to keep track of the transactions is likely to raise major new questions about how the provisional authority did its business and accounted for huge expenditures of Iraqi and American money.
Uh, this story doesn't raise "major new questions."

Some of us have been asking "questions" for the past few years.

"Where's the money, Lebowski?!"

Let's set the Brandoland time machine to "June 23, 2005" for this old post on how the CPA "did its business" and "accounted for expenditures" in the months leading up to the first "transfer of power."

Key excerpts from that blog:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States handed out nearly $20 billion of Iraq's funds, with a rush to spend billions in the final days before transferring power to the Iraqis nearly a year ago, a report said on Tuesday.

A report by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, said in the week before the hand-over on June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ordered the urgent delivery of more than $4 billion in Iraqi funds from the U.S. Federal Reserve in New York.

One single shipment amounted to $2.4 billion -- the largest movement of cash in the bank's history, said Waxman.
Hello, McFly?
CASH was loaded onto giant pallets for shipment by plane to Iraq, AND PAID OUT TO CONTRACTORS WHO CARRIED IT AWAY IN DUFFEL BAGS.

An audit by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said U.S. auditors could not account for nearly $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds and the United States had not provided adequate controls for this money.
Are you with me on this?!

$8.8 billion dollars...gone.

This is why some of us "DEMOTARDS" believe that the "war" was just a front for one of the biggest heists in the history of the world.

"Conspiracy theory!"

Bite me.

Please read that old post for more fables of the reconstruction.

Like this one:
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. officials in postwar Iraq paid a contractor by stuffing $2 MILLION worth of crisp bills into his gunnysack and routinely made cash payments around Baghdad from a PICK-UP TRUCK, a former official with the U.S. occupation government says.

Because the country lacked a functioning banking system, contractors and Iraqi ministry officials were paid with bills taken from a basement vault in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that served as headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority, former CPA official Frank Willis said.

Officials from the CPA, which ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, would count the money when it left the vault, but nobody kept track of the cash after that, Willis said.
Which brings us back to the first article.

Some people are beginning to talk.
"What's sad about it is that, considering the destruction in the country, with looting and so on, we needed every dollar for reconstruction," said Wayne White, a former State Department official whose responsibilities included Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and who is now at the Middle East Institute, a research organization.

Instead, Mr. White said, large amounts of that money may have been wasted or stolen, with strong indications that the chaos in Hilla might have been repeated at other provisional authority outposts.

Others had a similar reaction. "It does not surprise me at all," said a Defense Department official who worked in Hilla and other parts of the country, who spoke anonymously because he said he feared retribution from the Bush administration. He predicted that similar problems would turn up in the major southern city of Basra and elsewhere in the dangerous desert wasteland of Anbar province.

"It's a disaster," the official said of problems with contracting in Anbar.
"He's...one of our officials?"

"I...I..."

"Find him."

"Yes, sir."
The money, most from Iraqi oil proceeds and cash seized from Saddam Hussein's government--
And some from the Federal Reserve --
...also easily found its way out of the compound and the country.

In one case, an American soldier assigned as an assistant to the Iraqi Olympic boxing team was given huge amounts of cash for a trip to the Philippines, where the soldier gambled away somewhere between $20,000 and $60,000 of the money.

Exactly how much has not been determined, the report says, because no one kept track of how much money he received in the first place.
Can we assume that some foxy ladies ended up with some of that cash?
Sometimes the consequences of such loose controls were deadly. A contract for $662,800 in civil, electrical, and mechanical work to rehabilitate the Hilla General Hospital was paid in full by an American official in June 2004 even though the work was not finished, the report says. But instead of replacing a central elevator bank, as called for in the scope of work, the contractor tinkered with an unsuccessful rehabilitation.

The report continues, narrating the observation of the inspector general's agents who visited the hospital on Sept. 18, 2004: "The hospital administrator immediately escorted us to the site of the elevators. The administrator said that just a couple days prior to our arrival the elevator crashed and killed three people."
Man.

"Reconstruction: A Good Gig If You Can Get It!"

This is the perfect time to re-read Naomi Klein's Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia.

Connect the dots, people: Yesterday's news is more important than ever.

More later...

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