Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I love to give you money (as long as you're in Iraq)
It's clear that Iraq has become a huge federal money pit. Now we're finding out that it was also a cash machine for corrupt American (and Iraqi) opportunists.

Exhibit A: Robert J. Stein -- Coalition contracting officer and former felon (bank fraud) who has pleaded guilty to stealing upwards of $2 million in funds that were supposed to go toward rebuilding war-torn Iraq. The conduit for the theft was another corrupt businessman, Phillip Bloom, who was awarded nearly $9 million in Iraq contracts via Mr. Stein in $500,000 increments (the amount Stein could dole out without getting authorization). Five Army Reserve officers are also implicated in the scam, and Bloom has yet to stand trial.

...Back to the money pit: if ... sorry, when... the president gets his new round of Iraq cash from his pliant friends on the Hill, the war in Iraq will have cost about half a trillion dollars, far more than the $100 to $200 billion Larry Lindsay was fired in 2003 for suggesting as an estimate of the total cost. Remember when Paul Wolfowitz testified before Congress that Iraq could finance its own reconstruction via its oil? And this almost seems quaint, now:

New York Times, February 28, 2003 -- In a contentious exchange over the costs of war with Iraq, the Pentagon's second-ranking official today disparaged a top Army general's assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq. House Democrats then accused the Pentagon official, Paul D. Wolfowitz, of concealing internal administration estimates on the cost of fighting and rebuilding the country.

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

"We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. "Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion." Mr. Wolfowitz's refusal to be pinned down on the costs of war and peace in Iraq infuriated some committee Democrats, who noted that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the budget director, had briefed President Bush on just such estimates on Tuesday.

"I think you're deliberately keeping us in the dark," said Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia. "We're not so na�ve as to think that you don't know more than you're revealing." Representative Darlene Hooley, an Oregon Democrat, also voiced exasperation with Mr. Wolfowitz: "I think you can do better than that."

Mr. Wolfowitz, with Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller, at his side, tried to mollify the Democratic lawmakers, promising to fill them in eventually on the administration's internal cost estimates. "There will be an appropriate moment," he said, when the Pentagon would provide Congress with cost ranges. "We're not in a position to do that right now."
So between the really bad (or misleading) cost estimates, the continual drain on our economy at a time when the Congress is cutting $40 billion in student loans, Medicare, nursing homes for Medicaid recipients and money to help force deadbeat parents to pay their child support. (So compassionate, these conservatives).

All of which should cause any thinking American to ask: why is your government taking money away from poor Americans, old people and students, while literally throwing three times as much away on crooks in Iraq? Interesting priorities, Mr. President.

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posted by JReid @ 9:36 PM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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