Shortly after we invaded Iraq things began turning up missing.
You could focus on the $12 Billion in cash that vanished. Or you could point out the hundreds of thousands of weapons that have gone missing.
However, the biggest thing that has gone missing in Iraq was something that was never there in the first place.
American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.
The numbers have gone up fast. Just 5 months ago the estimate was "only" $13 Billion. But now the real numbers are coming to light.
"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.
Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad's infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.
American federal investigators are now starting an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programme to rebuild Iraq, according to The New York Times, which cites interviews with senior government officials and court documents. Court records reveal that, in January, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B Bell, now retired from the US Army, but who was previously responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Two federal officials are cited by the paper as saying that investigators are also looking at the activities of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald W Hirtle of the US Air Force, who was senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004.
If that isn't outrageous enough, there is also a very sinister side to this grand theft, free-for-all.
In the expanded inquiry by federal agencies, the evidence of a small-time US businessman called Dale C Stoffel who was murdered after leaving the US base at Taiji north of Baghdad in 2004 is being re-examined. Before he was killed, Mr Stoffel, an arms dealer and contractor, was granted limited immunity from prosecution after he had provided information that a network of bribery – linking companies and US officials awarding contracts – existed within the US-run Green Zone in Baghdad. He said bribes of tens of thousands of dollars were regularly delivered in pizza boxes sent to US contracting officers.
Absolutely nothing about Iraq would surprise me anymore. The fact that fraud and theft was endemic in American contractors in Iraq, and not just incompetence, seems almost logical at this point. If they committed murder to cover up their theft is merely the next logical step.
[Update: To put that in perspective, remember when Hillarycare was too expensive for America? It's cost was $110 Billion to insure all Americans. But then that didn't reflect America's values, I guess.]
[Update: Roddy McCorly helped point me towards this link]
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity — to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.