International Herald Tribune | Feb 7, 2007
A House committee report has questioned whether some of the billions of dollars in cash shipped to Iraq after the American invasion — mostly in huge, shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills — might have ended up with the insurgent groups now battling American troops.
The report was made public Tuesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing when Democrats sharply questioned the former American civilian administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, about lax management of the nearly $12 billion in cash shipped to Iraq between May 2003 and June 2004.
Bremer defended his performance as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, noting that the United States had to bring tons of dollars into Iraq because the country had no functioning banking system.
“We had to pay Iraqis in cash,” Bremer said of the money, most of which came from Iraqi oil sales. “Delay would have been demoralizing and unfair to millions of Iraqi families.”
Government auditors have repeatedly criticized the American and Iraqi governments for failing to monitor the money once it reached Iraq.
Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California and the committee’s new chairman, acknowledged that he had no evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups had received any of the cash. But he suggested that it was possible, given how much money was rushed into the country.
“We have no way of knowing if the cash that was shipped into the Green Zone ended up in enemy hands,” he said. “We owe it to the American people to do everything we can to find out where the $12 billion went.”
The committee calculated that the $12 billion in cash, most of it in the stacks of $100 bills, weighed 363 tons and had to been flown in on wooden pallets aboard giant C-130 military cargo planes. “Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?” Waxman said. “That’s exactly what our government did.”