After former CPA head Paul Bremer got grilled by Henry Waxman yesterday, the press has rediscovered the story of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money that went missing during the heady days after the fall of Baghdad. In particular, it’s glommed onto the nifty fact that the U.S. government shipped 363 tons of Benjamins (and maybe some Ulysseses, too) to Iraq—much of which was spread around like play money. In his defense, Bremer explained, “We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people.” Apparently democracy is a lot easier to export than standard accounting practices.
The revealing tale of the cash airlift isn’t new, however—we wrote about it in September 2005. It’s good to see it being picked up again, though. And it gives me an excuse to post this great photo of CPA officials giddily posing with $2 million in cash, which was given to the security contractor Custer Battles, which was accused ofdefrauding the government.
Update: Post amended in light of Custer Battles’ fraud conviction being overturned later today.