The little scandal that couldn't

Lately with all the people dying and the whole region falling apart and everything, it's been easy to forget that Iraq is also home to the biggest financial scandal in American history. But, despite ongoing efforts to make people care, the fact that Mr. President Man is being outfitted for Warren G. Harding's old suit doesn't raise a lot of hackles.

It's even less likely to do so with the release of the latest report by the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, who just barely escaped having his job eliminated by the White House. (Maybe they can still saddle him with a government snitch.) Mr. President Man wants some more money, even though Henry Waxman and no one else would like to know where the last $300 billion we gave him went; the new audit reports genteely that "U.S. officials spent another $36.4 million for weapons such as armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment that can't be accounted for". This is a nice way of saying that they can't find them, just as "DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million in other potentially unjustified costs" is a polite way of saying they tried to steal it.

Curiously, though 27 new criminal probes have been opened in the last 3 months (bringing the total number of Iraq financial mismanagement cases referred for prosecution to 78), Bowen, perhaps fearing for his job, claims that "fraud has not been a significant component of the U.S. experience in Iraq". I guess that's true, unless you consider getting hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and then farming the work out to subcontractors who don't actually do it to be fraud. Some people are really hung up on definitions like that.

"Overall," the AP report says, "the largest single expense was security. The total was spent in the following way: 34 percent for security and justice. 23 percent to try* to generate and distribute electricity. Still, the report noted, output in the last quarter averaged below pre-war levels. 12 percent for water. 12 percent for economic and societal development. 9 percent for oil and gas. 4 percent for transportation and communications. 4 percent for health care." So, essentially, they're spending nearly 3 times as much on "security and justice" (that is, soldiers, cops and jails) than they are on "economic and societal development" (that is, things that might alleviate the need to spend so much on soldiers, cops and jails).

*: Gotta love that "try". If we just have faith, try hard, and give Mr. President Man's new plan time to work, maybe -- just maybe -- we can the the electrical supply working at an equal level to what it was when the country was led by a dictator who had plunged them into two losing wars and a decade of sanctions.

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