Two days ago, The Los Angeles Times reported on $6.6 billion in cash that allegedly went missing during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Conditions on the ground were allegedly chaotic, making safeguarding and properly allocating the money difficult. In a startling development, officials find themselves admitting that they are unable to track where the billions have gone. According to the Times:
Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.
This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.
The Times goes on to report that federal auditors are suggesting that some, if not all, of the money may have been stolen. Iraq is charging that the U.S. should be held responsible and has even mentioned going to court, if needed, to recoup the large sum. The Times continues:
Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."...
Interestingly, in a follow-up interview with FOX News, Bowen denied concluding definitively in his discussion with the L.A. Times that the monies were stolen:
"What we concluded in our previous audits is that it's been virtually impossible to account for what happened to that money," Bowen told Fox News in a telephone interview Monday, adding that criminal cases have led to the convictions of people who have stolen money from a special fund set up by the U.N. Security Council.
But Bowen said he did not mean to imply anything more when he answered a Los Angeles Times reporter's question about whether it would be serious if billions of dollars was stolen from the Development Fund for Iraq.
While Bowen contends that the billions may have been improperly used or stolen, the government does not have enough information to make a final conclusion on the matter. Importantly, Bowen also pointed out that the $6.6 billion did not come from American taxpayers. Instead, it came from Iraqi oil and gas exports, frozen Iraqi assets and from the Saddam Hussein-era oil-for-food program.
Needless to say, tracking these funds has so far proven fruitless. The loss -- or misplacement -- of billions of dollars certainly raises questions regarding how efficient the government is at tracking large sums of money. Only time will tell how this matter is settled between the Iraqi and U.S. governments. CNN has more: