Show Us the Money

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My son, who served in Iraq for a year… found it unbelievable that the army has been paying $200 a truckload for sand, in the desert, which they had to use to fill the sandbags with.

caller Claudia from Thompson, CT

Most of the public discussion about the fiscal management of the Iraq war has focussed on Halliburton, and a steady stream of whistle-blowers fresh from Iraq has provided adequate fuel for an ever-simmering fire. But the constant focus on Halliburton and a handful of other contractors has distracted us from larger questions of overall policy and priorities. Like: how much money has been spent in Iraq? And where? And on what? And whose money are we talking about, anyway?

If the general public doesn’t seem to be asking these questions with a unified voice, several governmental and international agencies have been poking around for themselves. There have been a number of audits recently, and they’ve been truly damning. They tell a collective story of colossal fiscal irresponsibility, gross negligence, and, throughout, a stunning lack of oversight or controls. And these weren’t penned by radical anti-war groups. The Pentagon commissioned one itself. The GAO another. A consortium made up of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development a third. Others were written by Congressionally constituted inspection teams.

Our hope is to learn about actual policy, and crucial shifts in that policy, by looking at where the money — both U.S. funds and Iraqi oil revenue — is actually being spent. Still, more than six audits later, the questions are rising faster than the answers. A billion here, a billion there: pretty soon you’re missing real money.

Ed Harriman

Author of “Where has all the money gone?” in the London Review of Books

[On the phone from London]

From David’s pre-interview notes

Harriman is an American reporter and television documentary producer who has lived in London for a while now. He went to Iraq to work on a film following the U.S. invasion, and had hoped to make another, but decided it had become too dangerous. So he did the next best thing: he read every official audit looking into the ways that U.S. and Iraqi funds have been spent as part of the “rebuilding” of Iraq. It’s a pile that reached from the floor to the top of his desk — imagine ten phone books stacked upon one another — and he figures he’s the only person in the world to have read all of them.

Pratap Chatterjee

Managing Editor of CorpWatch

Author of Iraq, Inc.

[In a Berkeley, CA studio]

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