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Health Care & Environment
11.22 Hinkley Point C subsidy has dealt consumers 'a bad hand', say MPs [even ignoring the possibly huge costs of nuclear calamities in the future...]
11.22 Renewables will drive 'steep decline' in wholesale electricity price in Australia – report [with a steep decline in air pollution too!]
11.21 World’s Cheapest Solar Power in Mexico a Coal-Killer [Trump's obsession to help the coal industry and power plants is obviously stupid in many ways]
11.20 Keystone XL pipeline decision: what's at stake and what comes next? [the public's water is at risk]
11.19 'My eyes are burning': Delhi holds half marathon despite pollution warning [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
News Media Matters
11.22 RIP net neutrality: FCC chair releases plan to deregulate ISPs [like the end of The Fairness Doctrine for the news media under Reagan, we expect content and practices to tilt further to favor monoplies and 'conservatives']
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.20 Monaco builds into the Med to house new throng of super-rich [Can we ever have laws to fully prosecute $Billionaire tax dodgers if the courts and government are bribed? If not, can we have a civilized anarchy instead?]
International & Futurism
11.22 Vladimir Putin briefs Donald Trump on plan to end Syrian civil war [in the forthcoming agreement, we predict that all of the oil and gas profits (from pipeline decisions, etc.) will go to the oligarchs du jour, with only nice words for the people of the region who have suffered so much...]
11.20 Zimbabwe is not the banana republic of western fancy. After Mugabe, it can thrive [let's all pretend like he really did resign...] [when it's safe, create and grow a government sovereign wealth fund with national mineral wealth mining profits—like Norway did—to facilitate becoming a stronger society, improve public services and build a world-class economy]
The Case of the Missing $21 Billion
Who's Following the Iraq Money?
...more than $9 billion that has gone missing without a trace in Iraq--as well as $12 billion in cash that the Pentagon flew into Iraq straight from Federal Reserve vaults via military transportsDuring the days of the Nixon Watergate scandal investigation, reporter Bob Woodword was famously advised by his mysterious source, Deep Throat, to "follow the money" as a way of cracking the story.
Well, there is a lot of money to follow in the current scandal that can be best described as the Bush/Cheney administration, and so far, nobody's doing it.
My bet for the place that needs the most following is the more than $9 billion that has gone missing without a trace in Iraq--as well as $12 billion in cash that the Pentagon flew into Iraq straight from Federal Reserve vaults via military transports, and for which there has been little or no accounting.
When the Coalition Provisional Authority was terminated in late 2004, with corruption still rampant and growing, Congress redefined Bowen's position as Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Bowen, went to work. He uncovered some corruption in a report in early 2006 that sounded scathing enough. Bowen found cases of double billing by contractors, of payments for work that was never done, and other scandals. But he never came up with more than $1 billion or so worth of problems--a small fraction of the total amount of money that was vanishing.
Now we know why so little was done.
It turns out that Bowen was never really looking very hard.
One of the laws the president chose to ignore with a 'signing statement' was the one establishing the inspector general post for Iraq, saying that the new inspector general would have no authority to investigate any contracts or corruption issues involving the Pentagon.When the Boston Globe, this past April, broke the story that President Bush has been quietly setting aside over 750 acts passed by Congress, claiming he has the authority as "unitary executive" and as commander in chief to ignore such laws, it turned out that one of the laws the president chose to ignore was the one establishing the inspector general post for Iraq. What the president did was write a so-called signing statement on the side (unpublicized of course--though it was quietly posted on the White House website), saying that the new inspector general would have no authority to investigate any contracts or corruption issues involving the Pentagon.
As the signing statement puts it:
Title III of the Act creates an Inspector General (IG) of the CPA. Title III shall be construed in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authorities to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The CPA IG shall refrain from initiating, carrying out, or completing an audit or investigation, or from issuing a subpoena, which requires access to sensitive operation plans, intelligence matters, counterintelligence matters, ongoing criminal investigations by other administrative units of the Department of Defense related to national security, or other matters the disclosure of which would constitute a serious threat to national security.Well, since most of the missing money has been going to or through the military in Iraq, and since the president can define just about anything having to do with Iraq as "national security," that pretty much meant nothing of consequence would be discovered by the inspector general in Iraq.
Bowen simply never mentioned to anyone that he was not doing the job that Congress had intended.You might think that the inspector general himself would have complained about such a restriction on his authority to do the job that Congress had intended, but this is a man who has a long history of working as a loyal manservant to the president. Bowen was a deputy general counsel for Governor Bush (meaning he was an assistant to the ever solicitous solicitor Alberto Gonzales). He did yeoman service to Bush as a member of the team that handled the famous vote count atrocity in Florida in the November 2000 election, making sure every vote wasn't counted, and then worked under Gonzales again in the White House during Bush's first term, before returning briefly to private practice.
Bowen simply never mentioned to anyone that, courtesy of an unconstitutional order from the president, he was not doing the job that Congress had intended.
...when the inspector general of the Pentagon was asked why the Pentagon had no audit team in Iraq to look for fraud he cleverly replied that such a team was "not needed" because Congress had set up the special inspector general unit (Bowen) to do that.The deception was far-reaching. When Thomas Gimble, the acting inspector general of the Pentagon, was asked in 2005 during a congressional hearing by Christopher Shays (R-CT), chair of the House government reform subcommittee, why the Pentagon had no audit team in Iraq to look for fraud, the facile Gimble replied that such a team was "not needed" because Congress had set up the special inspector general unit to do that. He conveniently didn't mention that the president had barred the special inspector general from investigating Pentagon scandals.
This would all be pretty funny except for two things.
First of all, Americans and Iraqis are dying in droves because of the chaos that the U.S. invasion and occupation have created in Iraq--a problem that that $9 billion in missing Congressionally allocated funds, and the bales of US dollars, were supposed to have solved.
Second, and I admit this is pretty speculative on my part, money being like water, it tends to flow to the lowest level, which, from a moral and ethical standpoint, would be the Bush/Cheney administration and the Republican Party machine that put them, and the do-nothing Congress that covers up for them, into office.
My guess is that a fair piece of those many billions of dollars is sloshing around back in the U.S. paying for things like Republican Party electoral dirty tricks, vote theft, bribing of Democratic members of Congress, and god knows what else.
If this seems far-fetched to anyone, remember that this administration has included a number of people who were linked to the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, when the creative--and criminal--idea was conceived of secretly selling Pentagon stocks of shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, and using the proceeds to secretly fund the U.S.-trained and organized Contra fighters who were fighting to topple the Sandinista government in Nicaragua (Congress had inconveniently banned any U.S. aid to the Contras).
It seems to me inconceivable that this corrupt and obsessively power-mad administration would have passed up an opportunity to get its hands on some of the easy money flowing into Iraq over the course of the last three years.
Given all this, it seems almost unfathomable that Democratic Party leaders would be insisting that there would be no impeachment hearings in Congress if Democrats were to succeed in winning back Congress this November.Given all this, it seems almost unfathomable that Democratic Party leaders would be insisting, as have Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, that there would be no impeachment hearings in Congress if Democrats were to succeed in winning back Congress this November.
What better way to follow that money than an old-fashioned impeachment hearing into why the president unconstitutionally subverted the intent of Congress in establishing an office of special inspector general for corruption in Iraq?
Republished in the Chronicle with permission of the author.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled This Can't be Happening! is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's new book is The Case for Impeachment, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
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This story was published on June 8, 2006.