Morning Report 1/27/06
Study Reveals Lack of Funds

All-purpose headline a perfect fit for mostly ignored U.S. slush-fund scandal in Iraq. (This subhead also works, but it's too long.)

Harkavy

Bundles of cash sent to Iraq were thrown around like "footballs" under Jerry Bremer's reign

The road to peace in the Middle East runs through Jerusalem, not Baghdad, as Marine General Tony Zinni and numerous other non-neocon experts have long contended.

So it's quite possibly good news in the long run, no matter what Israel says or what the headline writers at the Times (U.K.) pen — "Islamic Bombers Triumph at Ballot" — that Hamas dominated the Palestinian elections and now will have to be dealt with by Israel in political negotiations, in addition to the usual lobbing of grenades and mortar shells by both sides. In turn, Hamas will now have to deal with Israel across a table, instead of just sending suicide bombers into Tel Aviv.

The fact is that both Hamas and Israel were founded by bomb-throwing terrorists. Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, remember, was a terrorist back in the day. And long before Jack Abramoff bilked Indians out of their casino money and sent it to Israel to finance a sniper school, American Jews smuggled dynamite and weapons to Israel to help terrorists blow up Brits and Arabs, as Leonard Slater's loving 1970 portrayal The Pledge noted. (Check out "Pipeline to Palestine," my 1997 story in Denver's Westword.)

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The dicey problem of what to do about Jerusalem — at least that's now going to be on the agenda. But what about Baghdad? Well, that road is paved with gold — missing gold.

A major report on the Bush regime's oil-for-slush scandal has been released by independent-minded Bush regime appointee Stuart Bowen, and it has garnered relatively little attention.

Oh, the overseas press is interested in Bowen's explosive latest installment. Tim Reid, the Times (U.K.) Washington correspondent, wrote January 26, under the headline "How US Lost Billions in Wild West Gamble to Rebuild Iraq":

    An audit of US reconstruction spending in Iraq has uncovered spectacular misuse of tens of millions of dollars in cash, including bundles of money stashed in filing cabinets, a US soldier who gambled away thousands and stacks of newly minted notes distributed without receipts.

    The audit, released yesterday by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, describes a country in the months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein awash with dollars, and a Wild West atmosphere where even multimillion-dollar contracts were paid for in cash.

    The findings come after a report last year by the inspector general which stated that nearly $9 billion (£5 billion) of Iraq’s oil revenue disbursed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq until mid-2004, cannot be accounted for.

Yes, under the unwatchful eye of preposterous pasha Jerry Bremer, who's traveling around the U.S. at this very minute in a publicity tour promoting his book My Year in Iraq — which makes no mention at all of this chicanery.

Knight Ridder reporter Andrew Maykuth did a nice job summing up Bremer's appearance earlier this week at the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia, site of an earlier revisionist history lesson by former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim.

Maykuth covered the bases in his piece, noting:

    A growing number of voices are calling Bremer's memoir into question. He is facing more difficult questions on the talk-show circuit from critics who say his recollections of events in Iraq do not correspond with statements he made at the time.

    Much of the controversy surrounds Bremer's contention that he had lobbied for an increase in troop levels in Iraq to counter the deteriorating security situation. This seemed to place Bremer in opposition to the Bush administration. Now Bremer is spending much time qualifying his criticisms and making sure his loyalty is unquestioned.

You can't believe anything Bremer says. Beyond that, the guy had blinders on while he was ruling Iraq. To illustrate that, Maykuth didn't just cover Bremer's Philly speech but also provided admirable perspective:

    The publication of the book has provided an opportunity for Bremer's critics to come forward, renewing debates about his decisions to decommission Iraq's military and to exclude former officials from Saddam Hussein's government from the occupation forces, depriving Iraq of many of its experienced officials. Bremer said he stood by those decisions.

    Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University who wrote a book called Squandered Victory about his time as a coalition adviser, said in a telephone interview Monday that Bremer "doesn't recognize that the biggest mistake was to have an occupation in the first place. … "

    "If you wanted to stabilize Iraq," Diamond said, "putting an American brand on the thing pretty much guaranteed there was going to be a violent resistance. But he fails to reflect on the grand mistake."

Not all the U.S. press is ignoring the oil-for-slush scandal that happened on Bremer's watch. The Miami Herald, also a Knight Ridder paper, editorializes this morning:

    So far, at least four Americans have been arrested in a related investigation involving Iraq reconstruction projects in Hillah, and more arrests are expected. What's needed, however, is better oversight and accounting by a Congress that has been loath to look into irregularities in Iraq, whether it involves policy or the inexcusable mishandling of public funds.

More on Bremer and this scandal later. In the meantime, don't bother with his book. Read Bowen's latest reports, especially this one.


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