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$9 billion missing
September 27, 2007 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Billions over Baghdad. "Between April 2003 and June 2004, $12 billion in U.S. currency—much of it belonging to the Iraqi people—was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad, where it was dispensed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Some of the cash went to pay for projects and keep ministries afloat, but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed. Following a trail that leads from a safe in one of Saddam's palaces to a house near San Diego, to a P.O. box in the Bahamas, the authors discover just how little anyone cared about how the money was handled."
posted by homunculus (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The amazing thing about this is it wasn't $12 billion in computer credits routing between banks - but $12 billion in $1, $5, and $10 bills airlifted in. Everyone knows cash leads to fraud - cash intensive businesses like the vending machine industry have traditionally had mob connections and what waiter actually reports tips to the IRS. My guess is this cash wasn't even on the ground before fraud was being committed - there is no way to trace cash and the temptations are too great. It's fascinating, but yet another example of the total incompetence of the CPA.
posted by stbalbach at 3:24 PM on September 27, 2007


This basically the background for Spook Country
posted by public at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2007


freedom is priceless
posted by matteo at 3:32 PM on September 27, 2007


Lovely.
posted by blacklite at 3:38 PM on September 27, 2007


In that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 I remember seeing the corporate bigwigs talking about how war in Iraq was full of potential opportunity for business. They seethed greed.

Billions of dollars being scammed is disgusting and no surprise.

Talk about billions, how about a trillion to Blackwater since 2004, presumably out of US taxpayers' pockets. That's an outrageous scam.
posted by nickyskye at 3:46 PM on September 27, 2007


"...Some of the cash went to pay for projects and keep ministries afloat, but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for--"

ROTFLMAO!!!

They say a fool and his money are soon parted.

Guess who 'they' were talking about.

If you live in the US and you pay taxes, they were talking about you. (and me too, I know)
posted by ZachsMind at 3:47 PM on September 27, 2007


"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."- 1 Timothy 6:10, KJV

I guess GWB actually did read that silly book after all. Here I thought he was just using religion to steal from people.

Come on Rainmaker. We'll buy your Snake Oil. Just make it rain for us.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2007


well this should come off the top of next years war funding imo, if they can't keep track of it they shouldn't handle it.
posted by edgeways at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2007


And don't you think that if more than the smallest percentage of the 'lost' money had ended up in the hands of "America's Enemies", it would've become a much bigger issue for The Establishment and its Press? Obviously, 90+% of that money went right where SOMEBODY in the Administration wanted it to.
posted by wendell at 4:00 PM on September 27, 2007


During a party over the weekend, I got into a conversation with a Marine who had just returned from Baghdad a few months ago. His MOS was in flight logistics, and he said that the moment he knew his patriotism had a price was when he had the "privilege" of supervising the unloading of 42 pallets of $100's from a cargo plane that had landed in his base, and all he could do was imagine what would happen if one of those Herc's just "happened" to get lost in a dust storm.

He also told us stories about how mercenary Russian pilots would just fly into the base unannounced, basically using their lack of fuel as their landing authorization.

"{foo airbase} we are landing."
"{Russian airplane} you don't have authorization to land."
"{foo airbase}, sorry, my English is not precise. We are informing you that we are landing. we have no fuel. In five minutes, we will be on ground, with your permission or not. We think it would be easier for everyone if we land on your runway instead of your ammo dump, yes?"

and they'd basically roll up, ask for fuel and the Marines would say no, and the Russians would say that they can pay in cash. And the Marines would be all, "umm, we need to find someone to get you a receipt." and it would be one big bureaucratic afternoon to ensure that paperwork was properly filed for this pit stop. but the 42 pallets of Benjamins? that went to a bunch of guys with sunglasses and earpieces who signed for nothing.
posted by bl1nk at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2007 [10 favorites]


but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing,

I say it's incredible any of it made it. $12 billion in small bills, sounds like a heist or a ransom demand. Of course, since our country is run by criminals, it only makes sense. Of course, if the dollar keeps tanking it will only be worth about $6B, so I hope they at least had the forethought to buy gold or Euros or South American real estate.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:02 PM on September 27, 2007


at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for

Did you check your other pants? Or under the cushions on the couch?

$12 billion in small bills, sounds like a heist or a ransom demand

It must've taken forever to make sure they weren't sequential.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:05 PM on September 27, 2007


Yeah, I’ve been following this, thought about posting it. Ya beat me to it Hom.
Funny, Warren Harding had to leave town over a scandal like this. Outrage here? Nada. I very much believe in walking what you talk, but hell, I can’t think of the first way to get any justice on this.
Sure doesn’t look like the opposition party gives a crap, or maybe they got a cut.
I wonder if, as a taxpayer, I can bring a lawsuit, or can bring a class action lawsuit (IANAL). Maybe refuse to pay taxes until this is investigated and there’s some prosecution (at teh very least for gross incompetance) - or rather, pay taxes into an escrow account rather than to the fed. On a large enough scale it might work. Of course, they might just seize the money and then what? Doesn’t look like you can find a straight federal judge with every bit of the NSA’s surveillance equipment.
But I mean $9 BILLION dollars just vanishes into a hole and no one kicks?
On the other hand I was naive enough to think you couldn’t just lie about WMDs and sending young men to their deaths without someone getting pissed off.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've got $6 billion of it, which I'm currently funneling to the Sandinistas.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


You know, I hate to end up summarizing the American experience with a paraphrased quote from a movie adapted from a Jim Thompson novel (much as I love him), but frankly, it is what it is:

"You're either stealing a little or you're stealing a lot."


Jesus fuck.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:15 PM on September 27, 2007


The Great Iraq Swindle: In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi reports on how President George W. Bush-appointed contractors in Iraq are exploiting American tax dollars. Here, Taibbi narrates a video exploring the grim details of the situation even further.
posted by homunculus at 4:16 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Check to see who buys this. hmmm, where else ya gonna get that kinda dough...
posted by nax at 4:24 PM on September 27, 2007


how about a trillion to Blackwater since 2004

By comparison Microsoft had $51 billion in revenues in 2007.

Blackwater is a private company so we don't know many details but it was founded by 2 guys. Lets assume they own 25% each, the rest by investors, a typical scenario.

Lets assume the founders have pocketed 5% of revenue (2.5% ea) - salary, bonuses, dividends, etc.. a conservative estimate.

That means each founder has earned about $25 billion over the past 3 years. By comparison Bill Gates is worth $50 billion. So keeping the 5% figure the Blackwater guys will be richer than Gates in a couple years, and if they pocket 10% they are already the richest people in the world. Of course, they would never make this publically known, and I doubt they would ever become a public company, but the amount of money going to a few individuals is staggering.

Cofer Black, the company's current vice chairman, was the Bush administration's top counter terrorism official when 9/11 occurred. Two-thirds of Blackwater contracts are no-bid contracts.
posted by stbalbach at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2007 [7 favorites]


According to that article, Blackwater has been paid a little over $900M by State and DoD.

Since 2004, State has paid Blackwater $833,673,316, compared with Defense Department contracts of $101,219,261.

I'm not a fan of privatizing the military, but the figure of a trillion upthread is inflated 1000x. Cofer Black is nowhere near the richest guy in the world.
posted by edverb at 4:45 PM on September 27, 2007


About the trillion, was quoting the Digg topic title. "Blackwater Has Made Almost $1 Trillion in Iraq Since 2004". I quoted somebody as math challenged as I am. :) It should have read a billion, not trillion. Somebody at Digg will need to amend that.
posted by nickyskye at 5:01 PM on September 27, 2007


The current Administration is all about taking your money and giving it to a handful of the President's and Vice-President's friends.

It's piracy, really.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:25 PM on September 27, 2007


Ed Harriman wrote about this in the LRB in 2005. Be sure to read the linked reader's letter in response to see how this behaviour has a long history.
posted by Abiezer at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2007


Put yourself in your perceived enemy's shoes just a second: If you wanted to cripple the United States of America, would you attack their military, against which you can't afford to compete, or would you attack their economy, from which any country could afford to steal? The violence in the Persian Gulf is a red herring.

Nobody does nuthin' unless they're gettin' somethin' out of it. War on terror. War on drugs. War on purple clarinet walnut hangers. It's all about people with eight or nine figure wallets going for ten. Here you and I sit and we barely pay our bills each month. It breaks the heart.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:36 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


This just goes to show that the first casualty of war is loot.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 PM on September 27, 2007


What with the no-bid contracts going to friends of the administration, would someone explain to me how this isn't profiteering?

I say we put everyone we find guilty of this into prison, and seize their assets for the purposes of repaying the nation. Hell, we do this now with suspected drug dealers, and these guys are far worse criminals in terms of the damage they have dealt to our nation.
posted by quin at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


President Bush likes to compares himself to Harry S. Truman, who documented waste and fraud during World War II and headed a Senate committee that "saved American taxpayers $15 billion (in 1940s dollars)" and uncovered faulty military equipment, so I'm sure President Bush will get to the bottom of this, pronto!
posted by kirkaracha at 6:02 PM on September 27, 2007


This is a real coincidence: I recieved an email this week from a reputable lawyer in Nigeria, who has access to a large cache of money, a percentage of which he is willing to share with me - if I help him transfer it.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:05 PM on September 27, 2007


As long as it was serving freedom instead of being wasted for something insane like that godammed socialized health care, is all I'm saying.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:34 PM on September 27, 2007


I prefer to believe the entire $12 billion was stacked on one pallet and - honest to goodness - just fell out of the back of a cargo jet by accident. No-one noticed until the plane had landed several hours later, and by then it was too late to go back and look for it. And now a former peasant farmer and his family have emigrated to the U.S. and live in the Hamptons.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2007


Two-thirds of Blackwater contracts are no-bid contracts.

I've asked about this before in the context of Haliburton, but what is the legality of this?
posted by dreamsign at 7:13 PM on September 27, 2007


This pisses me off to an indescribable degree.

That means each founder has earned about $25 billion over the past 3 years. By comparison Bill Gates is worth $50 billion.

And Bill Gates had to outsmart IBM, build a company from nothing, build an industry from less, compete against Apple, Oracle, and just about everybody else, and it still took him 30 years. $9 billion just disappeared and the government laughs. Oh well!

I want someone one the internet to start building a full dossier on every single member of the Bush clan under 40 yrs old - where they work, who they socialize with, the connections they make, photos, video, the works. I don't want to deal with these subhumans again in 20 years.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:16 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Goddamit, I KNEW I should have signed up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on September 27, 2007


bl1nk--I hear you. I got together last winter with a couple of guys that I went to grade school with. One of them is a lawyer with some very specific technical expertise. He was in Baghdad for about 7 months right after the capital fell. He related the same type of story. C130s landing in the middle of the night, filled with cash, hurriedly unloading bundles into small Iraqi box trucks. He said "you know, you could lose a lot of sleep if you really thought about that $125 million that you put in that truck...that our contacts would really distribute that money for our projects...or if they were going to take half of it and stash it..."
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:19 PM on September 27, 2007


Put yourself in your perceived enemy's shoes just a second: If you wanted to cripple the United States of America, would you attack their military, against which you can't afford to compete, or would you attack their economy...

Lessee... I think I'd attack an iconic bit of infrastructure, causing them to attach someone else, landing them in a quagmire that depletes their military and fractures their economy.

Of course this is dead easy to figure out if one's country has, itself, made the same sort of mistake.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:43 PM on September 27, 2007


I prefer to believe the entire $12 billion was stacked on one pallet and - honest to goodness - just fell out of the back of a cargo jet by accident.

Apparently, $1Mil. fits in a Halliburton* Case and weighs about 20 lbs. $12 Billion would weigh 120 Tons. The takeoff weight of a C-141 is 161 Tons.

* wtf srsly?
posted by odinsdream at 8:56 PM on September 27, 2007


Corrected Link
posted by odinsdream at 8:59 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Mrs Russell, Clooney and company, Hollywood called asking whether you would be interested in making a sequel to Three Kings"
posted by kandinski at 9:08 PM on September 27, 2007


Why do you think the Li'l Orphan Annie character was named Daddy Warbucks?
posted by spock at 9:18 PM on September 27, 2007


Sure doesn’t look like the opposition party gives a crap, or maybe they got a cut.

Hello, America? Yes, this is Burma calling. We understand you have some spare democracy you don't use anymore. Could you send to us here in Rangoon post-haste?"

". . ."

"No, no pipeline. We got one of those, it's not helping so much."

". . ."

"Yeah, we called France too. Only got more oil guys on the line."

". . ."

"Other than that? Oh, you know, some tired, some poor, a few huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That sort of thing."

". . ."

"Okay, some other time then. We understand you got your hands full with that Iranian guy."
posted by gompa at 10:11 PM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Um. Blackwater never got a trillion dollars. Blackwater got a *billion* dollars (actually something like $900 million). That's a huge amount of money for criminals to steal from the government, but it's 1/1000 part of a trillion dollars.

The whole war has yet to cost a trillion dollars.

Not that I don't think all the executives of Blackwater shouldn't be in jail...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:00 PM on September 27, 2007


The scamming by the US government is sickening.

Bush caught lying outright re September 11th.
posted by nickyskye at 11:02 PM on September 27, 2007


oops, sorry... saw the error, skimmed for a correction, and missed it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:06 PM on September 27, 2007


From the article: Those were the days when American officials worried that the gravest threat facing Iraq might be low-grade civilian unrest in Baghdad. They didn't have a clue as to the power of the insurgency that was to come.

Jesus Christ, these American officials were (are) stupid.
posted by moonbiter at 12:02 AM on September 28, 2007


Here's a question for amateur (or professional) legal types: if it is true that the CPA was not a government agency, and that "no formal document … plainly establishes the C.P.A. or provides for its formation," then do any of its orders -- including the "get out of jail free" CPA Order 17 (106 kiB .pdf) that is relevant to current Blackwater-related weapons activity -- have any legal basis whatsoever? Or are we just talking "he who has the most guns makes the laws" here?
posted by moonbiter at 12:42 AM on September 28, 2007


Or are we just talking "he who has the most guns makes the laws" here?
For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:32 AM on September 28, 2007


They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.

posted by EarBucket at 4:23 AM on September 28, 2007


I saw an interview with the guy responsible for dumping the oil embargo money (as cash) into Iraq (a war zone) just before the hand over. His attitude could be summarised as - we took the money to Iraq. It's Iraqis' money, we have therefore fulfilled our responsibility.
posted by asok at 4:32 AM on September 28, 2007


Saddam Wanted Out, Bush Lied About It
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on September 29, 2007






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