$6.6 Bil in Cash Was Lost or Stolen by Bush Officials, Contractors or Their Counterparts in Iraq

Part of the haul
Part of the haul
There has been a development in the most under-reported incident of the post-invasion phase in Iraq. To wit: In 2003 and 2004 the Bush administration appropriated $12 billion in cash from the Federal Reserve, shrink-wrapped it into bricks — 363 tons of $100-dollar bills — loaded it into C-130 Hercules transport planes and flew it into the Iraqi hot zone, where most of it disappeared.

This was easily the most money ever air-lifted into a war zone. It may also prove to be the most lucrative heist of all time. Investigators say a little over half of it — $6.6 billion — is missing.

That’s right — $6.6 billion in taxpayer dollars funds seized by the UN from Iraqi oil revenues was either lost or stolen:

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.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. 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.”

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington’s relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

It’s fair to say that Congress, which has already shelled out $61 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for similar reconstruction and development projects in Iraq, is none too thrilled either.

“Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can’t account for, and can’t seem to find,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who presided over hearings on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq six years ago when he headed the House Government Reform Committee.

Theft of such a staggering sum might seem unlikely, but U.S. officials aren’t ruling it out. Some U.S. contractors were accused of siphoning off tens of millions in kickbacks and graft during the post-invasion period, especially in its chaotic early days. But Iraqi officials were viewed as prime offenders.

So here we are again. It is unclear whether the money vanished due to malfeasance or incompetence — the dual hallmarks of the Bush administration. As Rep. Waxman asked in 2007: “Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?”

UPDATE: In related news, the Iraqi government has asked Reaganaut GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher to leave the country after he offended them yesterday by demanding that they repay the United States for the costs of Bush’s bogus invasion and occupation of their country.


  • matt carmody
    June 13, 2011 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    I guarantee that Paul Bremer enriched himself and I’m sure when Bernie Kerik made his little visit to Baghdad he left with a few bricks for himself and Mr. 9/11 as their cut for the part they played in facilitating the crimes committed against America that day, the first one being to allow the crime scene to become completely contaminated. The entire crime scene was dismantled and sold to foreign governments so the evidence would be impossible to be retrieved and catalogued.

  • Masi
    June 13, 2011 - 8:46 am | Permalink

    SO, the American taxpayer is KNOWINGLY ripped off again and almost NO ONE IN WASHINGTON COULD GIVE A $H!T.

  • Alan8
    June 13, 2011 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    And all of you support the corruption by voting for the two corporate-funded parties.

    The Green Party doesn’t accept corporate money, and represents CITIZENS’ interests. Your Green vote sends a message to the corporate parties that we’re fed up with the corruption, and if it continues, they’ll lose even more votes in the future.


  • Russ
    June 15, 2011 - 1:25 pm | Permalink


    The cash, which belonged to Iraq, was intended to pay for reconstruction.

    The money came from a special fund set up by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with Iraq’s own money, which was previously withheld from the country under harsh economic sanctions imposed against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

    • June 16, 2011 - 5:34 am | Permalink

      It’s interesting that they’re saying now that it was Iraq’s money, but I’ve been following this story closely since 2007 and I’d never heard that excuse until a few days ago. If I had to guess where the $12 billion really came from, I’d say Bush probably borrowed it from the Chinese.

      Our government has frequently transferred funds to other governments during crises, but it is usually done treasury to treasury, or in situations like the Iraqi invasion, from our treasury to the treasury of a government close to the country in chaos, which in this case might have been Kuwait or Turkey.

      The stupidest way to do it would be to shrink-wrap 363 tons of benjamins and fly them 6,900 miles across the Atlantic and most of Europe into the battlefields of Iraq. As Waxman said, who in their right mind would do this?

      But whether the money belonged to the American taxpayers, the Iraqi good guys or the Chinese is irrelevant now. This is at least $6.6 billion that was either lost or stolen because of George Bush/Republican malfeasance, incompetence or both.

  • Russ
    June 16, 2011 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    Now, and as far back as July 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10774002

    • June 16, 2011 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’m not buying it. There was no Iraqi govt at the time, just the Bushite provisional govt under Paul Bremer, which was essentially cadres of twenty-somethings with no experience whose fathers were big GOP donors who went there to cash in.

      If the money really had belonged to the good Iraqis, our govt would have waited until the Iraqis stood up a govt of their own and transferred the money legitimately.

  • Russ
    June 16, 2011 - 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I really have nothing better to do today…

    Why precisely do you believe British news agencies are providing contrary information to your claim that American tax money was diverted to Iraq and subsequently blackwater, haliburton, a Marine who had a gambling problem et al? The BBC is beholden to GWB why?

    Would you feel better if G-Dub handed the money directly to Cheney? Or would you still insist taxpayers were bilked despite it being clearly stated as Iraqi embargoed funds as early as 2006 – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article720217.ece

    I’m not arguing the Bush admin was incompetent. Most of this looks like a typical gov’t greed and corruption, as well as military SNAFU, let’s not muck it up with partisan adjectives.

    Don’t get me wrong (as you have in the past), I’m sure taxpayers were swindled when it came to Iraq. However, in this particular case, they weren’t. So quit misrepresenting the facts as they have been laid out.

    Dodging the issue of due diligence, fact checking, and fair representation by diverting to a different argument, sounds rather … eh, you know how low you’re stooping.

    • June 16, 2011 - 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Russ – You’re right. I missed the fact that the government had stashed billions from Iraqi oil revenue seized by the UN in the Federal Reserve in New York, as was reported in the London Times article you found from January 2006.

      I assumed money stored in the Federal Reserve had to be derived from and property of American taxpayers. I was wrong.

      Good catch.

  • Russ
    June 17, 2011 - 2:05 am | Permalink

    I just realized your quote was cited with the inline link.. in the original article from the LA Times they mention twice the funds came from sanctions and embargoes against Hussein as well as all three links I provided.

    Why do you make it sound as if this information was buried in the 2006 article?

    You may have followed this story since 2007, however, “closely” would not be an accurate description.

    June 18, 2011 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so Bush, Cheney, and company lied us into two wars and 6.6 billion dollars dissapeard. Big deal. At least they weren’t liberals!! (Sarcasm)

  • Tom Y
    June 20, 2011 - 10:21 am | Permalink

    Follow-up stories are now reporting that the figure is closer to $18.7 billion.

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