Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Day of Reckoning for Bremer

The failure of the CPA to provide oversight of reconstruction programs in Iraq under their 2003-2004 watch has once again boiled to the surface of national media attention. Case in point: this story from today's Washington Post.

Allegedly, goes the article, some American civilians and service members directed Iraqi reconstruction funds toward an American businessman in exchange for $3,200 watches, swanky cars, and top-of-the-line laptops.
"'This indictment alleges that the defendants flagrantly enriched themselves at the expense of the Iraqi people -- the very people they were there to help,' said Paul J. McNulty, U.S. deputy attorney general."
If you're finding it easy to get mad at these particular crooks, don't spend all your ire in one place. You'll need plenty of it to cover all the instances of corruption and unadulterated incompetence in Iraq that took place under CPA rule. Brace yourselves, this isn't pretty:

Exhibit A: SIGIR Quarterly Report, January 2005, details the massive scope of money mismanagement by CPA.

Exhibit B: The Special Inspector General of Iraq Reconstruction himself gives testimony before the House Committee of Government Oversight & Reform. He says that:
"The CPA’s internal controls for approximately $8.8 billion in DFI funds disbursed to Iraqi ministries through the national budget process failed to provide sufficient accountability for the use of those funds. As noted in the report, the CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial, and contractual controls to ensure DFI funds were used in a transparent manner."
Exhibit C: Former CPA director Bremer, before the same committee this past Tuesday, offered this explanation for the unaccounted $12 billion:
"The [SIGIR] report implies that we should have gone much further, seeking to impose modern financial control systems on the disbursement of these Iraqi funds by Iraqi ministries themselves--and this in less than a year, on a failed state in the middle of a war. I know of no one who spent meaningful time in Baghdad working with the Iraqi ministries who thought this was possible under the conditions we faced."
Bremer goes on to say that US and IMF pre-war planners felt that Iraqi ministries were the proper channels for distribution of the Development Fund for Iraq money, despite the ministries' notorious reputations for corruption. Bremer curtails his mea culpa for CPA's fund-dispersment related shortcomings with his statements that planning that denied the reality of the situation in Iraq is what really brought about the squandering of these funds.
But then there is the ugly suspicion that tracking the money was of dubious importance to Bremer and the CPA. It was, after all, Iraqi money generated from oil revenues and therefore did not consist of American taxpayer dollars. This Washington Post summary of Bremer's testimony has the details.

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