Monday, February 02, 2009


the kleptocracy and missing "reconstruction funds."

“Kleptocracy.” A new word? It means a rule of thieves. It means that during the Iraq war, a gang of thieves was running the show. We lost billions and billions of dollars in “reconstruction funds” that were, basically, stolen.

I believe these funds were stolen the way torture became an established interrogation technique—a word from on high, a wink, and it was done. And I think the word and wink came from the same people in both cases. Hey, you supported us getting into office, here’s a little present...
Iraq Auditor Warns of Waste, Fraud In Afghanistan

By Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 2, 2009; A06

After five years of investigations and 250,000 pages of audits, Stuart W. Bowen Jr. wishes he could say that the $50 billion cost of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq was money accounted for and well spent.

"But that's just not happened," Bowen said.

Instead, the largest single-country relief and reconstruction project in U.S. history -- most of it done by private U.S. contractors -- was full of wasted funds, fraud and a lack of accountability under what Bowen, the congressionally mandated special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, calls an "ad hoc-racy" of lax or nonexistent government planning and supervision.

And despite the Iraq experience, he said, the United States is making many of the same mistakes again in Afghanistan, where U.S. reconstruction expenditures stand at more than $30 billion and counting.
Bowen's office, known as SIGIR, is releasing a book today that recounts the Iraq experience and suggests how to avoid future mistakes. "Hard Lessons" is being published as the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting holds its first public hearing. ...

"Hard Lessons," a draft of which was leaked to the news media in December, concludes that the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq was a failure, largely because there was no overall strategy behind it. Goals shifted from "liberation" and an early military exit to massive, ill-conceived and expensive building projects under the Coalition Provisional Authority of 2003 and 2004. Many of those projects -- over budget, poorly executed or, often, barely begun -- were abandoned as security worsened.

In a preface to the 456-page book, Bowen writes that he knew the reconstruction was in trouble when he first visited Iraq in January 2004 and saw duffel bags full of cash being carried out of the Republican Palace, which housed the U.S. occupation government.

Security was a constant problem, not only for military and civilian officials serving in Iraq but also for SIGIR. Auditor Paul Converse was killed in March during a rocket attack in Baghdad, following a year in which five other SIGIR employees were wounded.

The book recounts, in colorful detail based on SIGIR interviews with nearly all the principals, the deep divisions during the same period between the Pentagon, under Donald H. Rumsfeld; the State Department under Colin L. Powell; and the White House office of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage recounts an argument between Rumsfeld and Rice in the fall of 2003 during which each said the other was in charge of supervising the Coalition Provisional Authority.
In one previously publicized case recounted in "Hard Lessons," Bowen's auditors discovered a cash disbursement of $57.8 million by the CPA to the U.S. comptroller for south-central Iraq. "Pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills" were removed from the CPA vault in Baghdad and driven to the regional office in two unarmored SUVs. There, the local acting comptroller, Robert J. Stein Jr., who later was convicted for money laundering and fraud, had himself photographed with mountains of cash.

Overall, SIGIR and other law enforcement agencies have obtained 35 convictions, including two major bribery schemes involving $14 million solicited by U.S. military officers who ran Kuwait-based units contracting for the billions of dollars in supplies sent to Iraq.
When he took the job five years ago, Bowen said, "I didn't know that we didn't have a system to protect our interests abroad in post-conflict or contingency operations. . . . It would have been a much funner job to issue 250 reports on how well our rebuilding program went . . . and that the money was well accounted for and that we're leaving Iraq a peaceful and democratic place and nonviolent country."

Given that $4 billion in appropriated U.S. reconstruction funds remain unspent in Iraq, Bowen's work is not likely to end anytime soon.

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