The Green Zone


In the months following the fall of Saddam, the U.S. government launched the largest airlift of cash in its history, flooding Iraq with $12 billion — 281 million bills weighing 363 tons — to pay off American contractors and jump-start Iraqi ministries. But as detailed in a recent report by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the Coalition Provisional Authority acted like a kid burning through Monopoly money, handing out billions without bothering to keep track of where they went. Iraqi Airways, which had been grounded for a year, got money to pay 2,400 nonexistent “ghost employees.” Custer Battles, an American security firm since indicted for defrauding the government, received a duffel filled with $2 million. As one former CPA official told Waxman’s committee, contractors who wanted to get their portion of the cash were told to “bring a big bag.”

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