22 June 2008

Panorama: Daylight Robbery - What Happened to the $23 Billion? (video)

I am sitting here watching a Panorama Special on the BBC called ‘Daylight Robbery - What Happened to the $23 Billion?’ in which reporter Jane Corbin investigates the whistleblower cases which threaten to reveal the secrets of billions of dollars worth of waste and corruption during the past five years in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Kurdistan. To give just one example - in the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won. The objecting official was subsequently demoted, despite years of service.

When the US and its allies went to war they gave corporate America contracts for caterers, security guards, translators, interrogators etc, not to mention the supposed rebuilding of Iraq. It has now been revealed that 5 years later there is $23 BILLION either stolen, missing or not properly accounted for! But because of gagging orders on the whistleblowers the American public is not being told the truth.

According to one report, 363 tons of crisp, new $100 bills — $12 billion in cold cash — were airlifted to Baghdad in the days immediately after the May 2003 invasion. The video footage surfaced on TV as Paul Bremer, the guy who ran Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, testified before Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. If Waxman thought Bremer could account for all that boodle, he was destined for disappointment. Frank Willis, described as senior official of the Coalition Provisional Authority, acknowledged that “Iraq was awash in cash.” An attorney for a group called Iraq Whistleblowers claims, “The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption.”

Now as the alleged corruption involved in these contracts comes to the surface, Jane Corbin speaks to those involved and asks, what happened to the missing $23 billion. It makes shocking viewing! The scale of fraud and corruption by some of America’s biggest corporations is appalling and so many people had their snouts in the trough and the amounts involved are mind boggling.

Henry Waxman has said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

“It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.” Now i’m not naive, I know war profiteering has always gone on - and always will, but this time the scale is so huge and the fraud and corruption seems to have been endemic and it would appear that as long as G.W. and his cohorts are in power there is very little liklihood of any proper investigation or justice occurring. And frankly makes a mockery of the American democratic justice system. All this makes me so angry as I have always admired America, have crossed it twice ‘from sea to shining sea’ so seen a lot of it and love its people. So to see their President and his corporate cronies take them for mugs is so depressing - and I say that with no political ax to grind, only as an interested observer.

And all this doesn’t even begin to address what the poor Iraqi people have had to endure, as a lot of the money that has been siphoned off should have gone to help rebuild their infrastructure and frankly hasn’t.

You should be able to see the whole program here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ (at least for the next 4 days)

The BBC’s Webpage about the programme is here: BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions
Whats a Billion?

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of it’s releases.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.

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