What\'s missing in Iraq?

I found this story via Bureaucrash:

One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq’s defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country’s army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq’s Finance Minister, told The Independent.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

The carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support, Iraqi officials say, making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000- strong army from Iraq, as Washington says it wishes to do.

Most of the money was supposedly spent buying arms from Poland and Pakistan. The contracts were peculiar in four ways. According to Mr Allawi, they were awarded without bidding, and were signed with a Baghdad-based company, and not directly with the foreign supplier. The money was paid up front, and, surprisingly for Iraq, it was paid at great speed out of the ministry’s account with the Central Bank. Military equipment purchased in Poland included 28-year-old Soviet-made helicopters. The manufacturers said they should have been scrapped after 25 years of service. Armoured cars purchased by Iraq turned out to be so poorly made that even a bullet from an elderly AK-47 machine-gun could penetrate their armour. A shipment of the latest MP5 American machine-guns, at a cost of $3,500 (£1,900) each, consisted in reality of Egyptian copies worth only $200 a gun. Other armoured cars leaked so much oil that they had to be abandoned. A deal was struck to buy 7.62mm machine-gun bullets for 16 cents each, although they should have cost between 4 and 6 cents.

I wonder if this is actually true. The story was first published by a british newspaper - the independent. Given that I'm not familiar with the newpaper, and that the british press occasionally has a tendency to make stuff up or exaggerate just a little when they don't have anything better to do, I' not entirely sure if this story is real or not. However, it looks pretty real. Which brings me to my next question, this seems like a pretty major story, if it is real, how come I haven't heard or seen anything about it on new outlets in the U.S.? I think it would be naive to say that if CNN doesn't cover it it must not be happening, but on the other hand could a story that big have really fallen through the cracks?

I seem to recall quite a bit of fuss being made of the billion that Saddam made off with. Surely if there were merit to a story in which 1 billion dollars (or more) disappeared from under the noses of U.S. and Iraqi officials... surely we would have heard something by now, the story is over 3 weeks old... Actually according to the article its more like 8 months old but you get the idea.

Here's more from Bellaciao.org:

Given that building up an Iraqi army to replace American and British troops is a priority for Washington and London, the failure to notice that so much money was being siphoned off at the very least argues a high degree of negligence on the part of US officials and officers in Baghdad.

The report of the Board of Supreme Audit on the defence ministry contracts was presented to the office of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister, in May. But the extent of the losses has become apparent only gradually. The sum missing was first reported as $300m and then $500m, but in fact it is at least twice as large. "If you compare the amount that was allegedly stolen of about $1bn compared with the budget of the ministry of defence, it is nearly 100 per cent of the ministry’s [procurement] budget that has gone Awol," said Mr Allawi.

The money missing from all ministries under the interim Iraqi government appointed by the US in June 2004 may turn out to be close to $2bn. Of a military procurement budget of $1.3bn, some $200m may have been spent on usable equipment, though this is a charitable view, say officials. As a result the Iraqi army has had to rely on cast-offs from the US military, and even these have been slow in coming.

Mr Allawi says a further $500m to $600m has allegedly disappeared from the electricity, transport, interior and other ministries. This helps to explain why the supply of electricity in Baghdad has been so poor since the fall of Saddam Hussein 29 months ago despite claims by the US and subsequent Iraqi governments that they are doing everything to improve power generation.

This story seems to be all over anti-war sites, and foreign press outlets, which makes me wonder if this is just another case of Americans being the last to know thanks to our oh-so-impartial news media, or is this really just a big hoax thats been repeated by all the people that want it to be true? The bad thing is I probably won't know the answer till I see it on cnn, or read it in usatoday. :behead:

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In other news, Halliburton,

In other news, Halliburton, aka Brown & Root, have been awarded $1 billion in no-bod contracts to rebuild new orleans.

"this story is all over

"this story is all over foreign press outlets...is this just a case of Americans being the last to know...or is this really just a big hoax...repeated by all the people that want it to be true?....I probably won't know...till I see it on CNN or read it in USAToday."

1. Patrick Cockburn of The Independent is a very well-respected reporter, as is the paper. Just as the US has both the NYTimes & the Nat'l Enquirer, so we Brits have both the tabloids (The Sun, The Mirror) & 'respectable' papers.

2. So we foreigners don't know hoaxes when we see them? Our press is dubious, but US outlets are not?

Use Google News. I used

Use Google News. I used Google News and found this:

Presenter: Former Commander, Multi-National Transition Command Iraq and NATO Training Mission Iraq, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, USA Wednesday, October 5, 2005 1:33 p.m. EDT

"Helped them develop a detainee facility. Helped them develop a much more legalistic approach to that, if you will, and so again, there is great sensitivity. By the way, both of the ministers with whom we dealt on a regular basis -- the minister of Interior, who by the way is a Shi'a Arab, in the Ministry of Defense, who is a Sunni Arab -- they were very sensitive to that. They were very sensitive to the issue and the need for integrity. That was particularly important in the Ministry Defense where, as you know, there was some corruption problems certainly not to the tune of a billion dollars as reported, but some subset of that, that was used to buy stuff. That was Iraqi money, by the way, not MNSTC-I or coalition money, and that was not that transparent or clear to us. And we were not the advisors at that time so."

Link

Sudha First of all I didn't

Sudha

First of all I didn't mean "hoax" so much as potentially inaccurate. As for the independent, it might be the best most reliable news source on the planet for all I know and that was my point - I don't know. Given that it has a kind of vague name (the independent) for all I know it could be something somebody cooked up two months ago and started printing or it could be a long standing well established news source. Once again I don't have much way of knowing how respectable it is just by visiting the site, since I'm not familiar with the paper, but I'll take your word for it.

As for CNN and USAToday they print stuff thats somewhat bogus all the time, not "hoaxes" mind you so much as stories cooked up out of thin air and statistically insignificant data. The point is I know how to spot bogus-ness in news outlets I'm familiar with. I can't do much with a paper I know nothing about from a country that is known to print exaggerated stories. As I've heard most of Britain's papers are tabloid-esque even the respectable ones on account of y'all not exactly having a free press. What I've heard (and seen) is even legitimate papers badly exaggerating events, especially when they are stories that involve the U.S. in some manner. We also have some equivalent papers that do the same thing (the new york times has been known to stretch the truth from time to time), and America has a long history of publishing magnates that effectively created wars for the sake of selling papers.

To speak to your second point. Yes I'm sure "you foreigners" can spot hoaxes, but there are plenty of sites that will parade any story that puts the bush administration and/or Iraq in a negative light around regardless of whether it is factual, and won't bother to apologize afterwards if it does turn out to be bogus.

To Constant - The U.S. military denying the magnitude of the loss of money and being fuzzy on whose money it was to begin with lends support to the likelihood of the event in my mind.

Probably more background on

Probably more background on this story than you want to know at the 20 September posting at Belmont Club.