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Tag Archive: Government Waste

Investigating What Went Wrong in Iraq (and Congress’ Blissful Indifference)

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Some $9 billion managed by the Coalition Provisional Authority and intended for the rebuilding of Iraq has gone missing, journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele report in Vanity Fair, and the U.S. government doesn't seem particularly interested in finding out where it went. Barlett and Steele describe the Wild Wild Middle East atmosphere, in which two guys with no experience can get millions from the C.P.A. to protect civilian flights in and out of Iraq, and Bahamanian P.O. Boxes are the business addresses of choice for those supposedly keeping the books. Perhaps the most disturbing bit among many was just how out of touch Congress was on the doings in Baghdad during the C.P.A.'s tenure starting in 2003:

Over the next year, a compliant Congress gave $1.6 billion to Bremer to administer the C.P.A. This was over and above the $12 billion in cash that the C.P.A. had been given to disburse from Iraqi oil revenues and unfrozen Iraqi funds. Few in Congress actually had any idea about the true nature of the C.P.A. as an institution. Lawmakers had never discussed the establishment of the C.P.A., much less authorized it—odd, given that the agency would be receiving taxpayer dollars. Confused members of Congress believed that the C.P.A. was a U.S. government agency, which it was not, or that at the very least it had been authorized by the United Nations, which it had not. One congressional funding measure makes reference to the C.P.A. as "an entity of the United States Government"—highly inaccurate. The same congressional measure states that the C.P.A. was "established pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions"—just as inaccurate. The bizarre truth, as a U.S. District Court judge would point out in an opinion, is that "no formal document … plainly establishes the C.P.A. or provides for its formation."
"Confused members of Congress" seems like both a phrase that should be far more common in news coverage, and an inappropriately charitable description. In any case, it's an incredible story from two of the best investigative reporters in the business -- well worth reading (and don't miss the Q&A

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