Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Missing Iraqi Billions

As Republicans respond to their over-zealous pork barrel spending by seeking to cut spending on social programs that impact the least fortunate of us, one question remains missing from the radar screen; how many billions are being wasted in the war effort and what ever happened to the billions appropriated for Iraqi reconstruction?

This is not a new question. In a column published on AlterNet in the Summer of 2004,Pratap Chatterjee wrote:

"A team of auditors was dispatched to Iraq in late January this year after a string of internal reports showed that the military was wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money. They have issued eleven reports since June 25, almost all of which have pointed to the misuse of the money allocated for reconstruction, be it Iraqi or Congress-appropriated funds.

"According to two of these reports issued in late July by Stuart Bowen, the auditor-inspector general of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), not only have a full one-third of the items purchased by the Pentagon gone MIA (including the pricey generator), but a whopping. $1.9 billion or more of Iraqi oil revenue has also mysteriously disappeared.

"Embarrassed military authorities did eventually track down the missing generator and much of the money, both of which seemed to have ended up with none other than Halliburton. As it turns out they weren't missing after all; it's just that Dick Cheney's former employer had misplaced or conveniently forgotten to turn in the receipts to the correct people."

Sadly, this is one story that never seems to get into the news, or gets addressed by the talking spinners, when the budget gets discussed.

The problem is ongoing today, only with a bigger piece of change now unaccounted for.

As was recently written by Joel E. Bousely, in the American Chronicle, much of the abuse has to do with a deliberate lack of oversight from the GOP-led Congress:

"Under the leadership of the current incarnation of Republicans, corporations and defense contractors, like Halliburton, have been granted unbridled privilege. Some 8.8 billion dollars of tax-payer money has gone missing in Iraq. The defense contracting company Halliburton was one of the main benefactors of this money having received an estimated one billion dollars. Rather than taking up this issue, Republicans in Congress have largely ignored it over the protests of three key Democratic senators – Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Tom Harkin of Iowa. The military-industrial complex clearly has far too much influence in politics in Washington."

Hmmm....maybe the Democrats should hold a press conference and ask why there is non-existent oversight on some of these companies that received no-bid contracts? And why companies such as Halliburton, have not been held accountable for the billions that have been appropriated?

While the MSM generally keeps mum on Halliburton, they are all too happy to let the world know that Halliburton catered this year's Thanksgiving feast in Iraq. Factoid-driven tabloids were only too happy to report that the troops feasted on:

"* 300,000 pounds of turkey

"* 150,000 pounds of boneless ham

"* 50,000 pounds of stuffing

"* 10,000 pounds of mashed potatoes

"* 15,000 pounds of cranberry sauce

"* 10,000 gallons of eggnog

"* 30,000 pies

"Other menu items will vary from site to site and may include a medley of fresh fruits, salads, vegetable dishes and homemade baked goods."

I guess if we decide to investigate how much Halliburton budgeted for this feast, we might uncover 1 billion dollars right there alone.

I can see it now, Halliburton's spokesperson explaining how the company first had to create their own poultry farm to alleviate the logistics of bringing the turkeys into Iraq.

Is anyone ever going to cry fowl?

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