JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - This week, we were treated to the spectacle of the former U.S. civilian overlord of Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, squirming in the hot seat as he attempted with little success to explain what he did with 363 tons of newly printed, shrink-wrapped $100 bills he had flown to Baghdad. That's $12 billion in cold, hard American cash, and no one, especially Bremer, seems to know where it went.. . . Bremer, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in totally screwing up the first two years of the Iraq Occupation, said that a lot of the cash was delivered to ministries of the Iraqi government to meet payrolls that were patently fraudulent. The Department of Defense's special inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, said that a 2005 audit he conducted found that in some ministries the payroll was padded with up to 90% "ghost employees" --- people who didn't really work there or perhaps didn't really exist.
Bremer said that he decided to provide the money to meet those payrolls, even though he knew they were bogus, for fear of starting riots and demonstrations among the Iraqis, real and imagined. After all, the former czar told the representatives, it wasn't really our money anyway. It was Iraqi money -- oil earnings and bank accounts seized from Saddam Hussein's government -- that we were holding in trust.
I can think of no period in American history when we sat idly by while $12 billion just disappeared, poof, without a paper trail; without heads rolling; without someone going to prison. And all this was happening at a time in the war when American soldiers and Marines were going without properly armored vehicles, without lifesaving body armor and even without some of the weapons they needed. . .
During the dark days of World War II, Congress established a Committee on War Profiteering and put a little-known senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman, in charge. Truman, a veteran of combat service in World War I, was a bulldog. His committee went after not only those who stole money but also those who provided shoddy or worthless equipment and supplies for our troops. He had the power to shut down an offending company or contractor, and he used it.
Where's our Truman Committee today? Where are the righteous representatives of the people charged with standing guard over our troops and our money?