WASHINGTON — Not long after American forces defeated the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in 2003, caravans of trucks began to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on a regular basis, unloading an unusual cargo — pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills. The cash, withdrawn from Iraqi government accounts held in the United States, was loaded onto Air Force C-17 transport planes bound for Baghdad, where the Bush administration hoped it would provide a quick financial infusion for Iraq’s new government and the country’s battered economy.
Over the next year and a half, $12 billion to $14 billion was sent to Iraq in the airlift, and an additional $5 billion was sent by electronic transfer. Exactly what happened to that money after it arrived in Baghdad became one of the many unanswered questions from the chaotic days of the American occupation, when billions were flowing into the country from the United States and corruption was rampant.
Finding the answer became first the job and then the obsession of Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a friend from Texas of President George W. Bush who in 2004 was appointed to serve as a special inspector general to investigate corruption and waste in Iraq. Before his office was finally shut down last year, Mr. Bowen believed he might have succeeded — but only partly — in that mission.
Much of the money was probably used by the Iraqi government in some way, he concluded. But for years Mr. Bowen could not account for billions more until his investigators finally had a breakthrough, discovering that $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion had been stolen and moved to a bunker in rural Lebanon for safe keeping. “I don’t know how the money got to Lebanon,” Mr. Bowen said. “If I knew that, we would have made more progress on the case.”
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Tracking Down The Iraqi Cash
The single stupidest action of the Bush Administration was carrying out this staggeringly-stupid idea. Stuart Bowen is to be deeply-and-endlessly thanked for all his hard work here (but, of course, no one in government will ever do so):