This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.
Note to Readers: Who hasn't received one—or 100—of those "Nigerian" letters offering you, in florid prose, millions of potential dollars and with nary a catch in sight? But who knew that the highest officials in Washington have been receiving them as well—and from our war zones rather than Africa.
We investigated each of the letters that follow and now believe that Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was never trapped in a Kabul airport bathroom, that "Iraqi parliamentarian" Sami Malouf does not exist, and that the letter writer who calls herself Serena Massoud could not be the lost granddaughter of the Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud whom al-Qaeda operatives assassinated two days before the 9/11 attacks. Curiously enough, however, all the Washington or Pentagon scandals the letter writers mention involving lost, squandered, or stolen money turn out to be perfectly real. In fact, they represent one of the true scams of our time.
Below, then, are three of the letters we have chosen as representative from the enormous archive that ScamiLeaks will soon release to the world. We have touched none of them, not even to correct various obvious grammatical errors and misspellings. We have only added a small number of links not in the originals, so that readers can explore the corruption scandals the letter writers refer to. We do not know whether any of the Washington officials addressed responded to these letters or were taken in by them (as they evidently were by scam after scam in our war zones these last ten years).
Whatever you make of the three letters below, consider them collectively a little parable about the fallout from our now decade-old set of wars in the Greater Middle East.
To My Closest of Friends President and Professor Barack Obama,
I send this missive to you with deepest urgency. My embarrassment at importuning you in any way in your busy life is beyond expression. Please excuse my rushedness, but I, your friend and associate, Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, have lost my wallet, passport, and Kabul Bank deposit book in the men's room of Kabul International Airport.
It is to my dismay to discover, in addition, that the $31 billion in small bills I had secured within the sleeves of my chapan, thanks to your most generous heart and the reconstruction abilities of the American contractor, is now gone as well. Without it, I cannot return to the presidential palace.
Please let me ask whether you can at moment soonest respond at this email address and let me know that you are willing to deposit a new $33 billion in the Kabul Bank for me. I will then, of course, provide you with the necessary account numbers and transmission information. (Lest you would think me in any way dishonest, my dear friend, I hasten to point out that Kabul Bank is the shining light of Afghan Banking and the extra $2 billion above and beyond the lost $31 billion, are deeply necessary if I am to present alms on my way from the airport to the Palace.)
As we are the closest of companions, I reassure you immediately and in no uncertain terms that this money of yours, a mere pittance compared to what is surely available to the President of the United States, is Absolutely Safe in the Kabul Bank (whose small troubles will soon be straightened out) and will in no way be lost to you. If you remit the said sum to me with all due speed, I will return it to you with $2 billion in interest within the month. You have my sincerest promise of that.
Act with great haste, my erstwhile companion!
Your Friend and Associate in Need,
Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
Attention: Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Gythner, Washington CD
From: Barrister Hammad al-Saad, First Assistant and Secretary to Parliamentarian Sami Malouf, Baghdad, Iraq
With due respect, Good News!
Thanks to a dead business associate who lacks all heirs, an accountant for my lawerly firm, Al-Azawi & Sons, has discovered an abandoned sum of $6.6 billion (SIX BILLION SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) in US bills in a deserted warehouse on the outskirts of Baghdad owned by said dead associate. They are all shrink-wrapped $100 (ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR) bills with your Benjamin on the front cover. No one has claimed this money.
It has come to our attention that one of your Predecessors also lost $6.6 billion (SIX BILLION SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) in shrink-wrapped $100 (ONE HUNDRD DOLLAR) bills with same Benjamin on cover, which were shipped to my country by C-130 cargo plane in 2003. In the discrepitude of Iraq at that moment, such a misplacement is not strange.
However, your loss of such moneys must weigh deeply on you. We wish to alleviate that weight and return to you the rightful sums. This can happen almost immediately. In order to ship Benjamin to you, we must, of course, avoid Iraqi customs, which is sorrowfully corrupt.
To do this we need a few small fees from you, esteemed Gythner, to grease other palms with friendship and hire such a plane as to return your sums. I, Barrister Hammad Al-Saad, will personally fly this money to you. This is 100% (ONE HUNDRED PERCENT) risk free!
Do not worry. You are in our thoughts momentarily. Please contact us to firm up details and to exchange pleasantries on necessary fees!
Yours Most Fully Sincerely and Honorably,