The Looting of Iraq

Today's Guardian (London) has one of the most damning pieces you'll read about the wholesale looting of billions of dollars in Iraq by U.S. occupation authorities and corporate contractors -- the story almost completely ignored by the U.S. media which tells so much about the Bush administration's M.O. and motives in Iraq.

What's so uniquely outrageous about this story is how Bush, in a particular fit of arrogance, insisted that Iraq "reconstruction" be paid for by Iraqis themselves -- a move which added insult to the injury of war, and was remarkable for being completely unlike the Marshall Plan (which it was constantly compared to), which was paid for by the U.S. government.

So not only were Iraqis forced to clean out their pockets to pay for what the U.S. destroyed -- on top of that, well over $8 billion sorely needed for schools, health care and other services was then quickly looted by U.S. officials and corporations, who proceded to get filthy rich while Iraqis suffered. And that doesn't count the billions more burned away by profit-hungry security contractors.

It's one of the most galling stories in the annals of U.S. foreign policy. The whole piece is worth reading, here's just a teaser:

The CPA maintained one fund of nearly $600m cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces. The US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.

The "financial irregularities" described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated. Truckloads of dollars were handed out for which neither they nor the recipients felt they had to be accountable.

The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8bn that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it has gone. A further $3.4bn appropriated by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance "security".