Sunday, 26 February 2012
Plundering the Past: Scholarly Treasures
Sinan Antoon writes (February 22nd): One in six Iraqis live in poverty. This is in a nation with the second highest oil reserves in the world and a budget surplus of more than fifty billion US dollars in 2011. According to Transparency International, Iraq has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Some of the wealth stays inside the country and is spread among the beneficiaries and clients of the new political elite. Much of it, however, is transferred outside and translated into real estate or other assets, or is often hard to trace. Not a year has passed without plunder in Iraq.
The villains are not only or always Iraqis and the stolen money is not US taxpayer money. At least eighteen billion US dollars from Iraq’s frozen assets in the United States and from the surplus of the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food Program was sent from the Federal Reserve Currency Repository in New Jersey to Iraq right after the war. It was slated for the so-called Iraq Development Fund (IDF) during L. Paul Bremer’s reign. All of that is now missing and there is not a single piece of paper to account for it or explain its whereabouts. Aside from the monstrous US embassy in Baghdad, the Iraq Reconstruction has nothing to show.
The executive summary of the Congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan stated in its August 2011 report that “at least 31 US billion dollars, and possibly as much as 60 US billion dollars, have been lost to contract waste and fraud” in both countries.