Friday, May 23, 2008

Coalition of the Willing to Be Paid

If we're failing to win hearts and minds, it's not because we're cheapskates.

Recently, the US Army paid 1,000 Iraqis $320,800 each for "Services Other Than Personal” based on one signature and no further explanation. Such largesse is cited in a new audit of $8.2 billion that finds, according to the New York Times, "almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received."

In addition, the audit showed "a sometimes stunning lack of accountability in the way the United States military spent some $1.8 billion in seized or frozen Iraqi assets...often doled out in stacks or pallets of cash."

“It sounds like the coalition of the willing is the coalition of the willing to be paid,” said Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who yesterday introduced a “clean contracting” amendment to a defense authorization bill being debated by the House. Accepted by voice vote, it institutes reforms that include whistleblower protections and strict requirements on competitive bidding.

But such measures will come too late to stop a $5.6 million Treasury check written to pay a Baghdad trading company for items that the voucher doesn't detail or $6.2 million to another contractor with even less explanation or a scrawl on another piece of paper for $8 million, described only as “Funds for the Benefit of the Iraqi People.”

At this rate, we shouldn't have had to fight to liberate Iraq. We could have just bought it, lock, stock and oil barrel.

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