What BBC’s popular political TV magazine Panorama yesterday night called the greatest heist in history or Daylight Robbery seems now to be going into another round of new discoveries.
In the more than one hour long broadcast Panorama’s Jane Corbin tells us some of the stories of those who became rich from the war and those who stood up against the crimes and “got burned”.
Now more than 70 whistleblower cases threaten to reveal the scandals behind billions of dollars worth of waste, theft and corruption during the Iraq war.
… A total of $23bn (£11.75bn) is under scrutiny…The US justice department has imposed gagging orders which prevent the real scale of the problem emerging…
If you believe that such corruption happens by pushing around brown envelopes with money under the table, sorry, but that might just be a very small part of it. We have compiled a short list of the most common activities identified within Iraq below. Some of them have also been mentioned in the report of Panorama yesterday night.
- Double counting and creating costs on paper by shell or front companies (offshore, within “befriended” countries or countries with no legal prosecution agreements)
- Bribing or threatening of officials reviewing or approving contracts
- Charging for goods and services never delivered
- Charging for goods and services of unacceptable or cheaper quality and overcharging (10 times the market price or more) for goods and services
- Rouging and defrauding the procurement processes – excluding bidders, declaring unfit bidders acceptable, overruling conflicts of interests (please note the continuous issues raised by GAO and others with the procurement processes of many government agencies in general / detail)
- Allowing the contractors to set their own price by cost plus profit contracts vs. contracts with agreed price / costs that went through a competitive bidding process
- Gagging whistleblowers or staff with inside knowledge including demoting them, taking them off the job or even threatening / attacking them up to destroying them professionally, physically and psychologically
- Stealing of goods and reselling them again through contracts
- Stealing of (physical) money delivered to pay for goods or services or Iraqis
- Use of unqualified staff happy to comply and paying them way over normal salaries
- Discrediting, destroying or even killing insiders that would be willing to talk with knowledge that could threaten
- Use of Internationally coordinated non-profit organizations as front for “money channeling” operations
- Use of “creative accounting” to invent costs and services never occurred / delivered
At the same time many administration officials are kept complacent by installing huge groups of staff that don’t do much other then creating massive piles of paper and blunder to cover up these activities. Other approaches and rewards include promoting these rogue government staffers (someone has to manage these groups) and by replacing managers and staff who try to do their jobs with some that will be complacent with the approaches taken by this administration(s).
And this for sure can in no way just been called “waste and mismanagement“. Sometimes when looking at the details of these “operations” you see that the staff put on the tasks – while not having the capabilities / skills to do the actual tasks, they seem to have been trained in sabotaging efforts of others to do their job properly and in many cases have acted orchestrated and coordinated to pursue these unethical activities.
Downplaying this as “waste and mismanagement” then becomes a general protection mechanism to shield off against prosecution and should be followed up as such. Just look into details how the sleaze is happening, which government counterparts must have been involved in the processes and how opponents have or continued to be witch-hunted. Nobody with a basic common sense and some knowledge of how government contracts are awarded / managed will actually believe a single word that this could happen by just a few individuals involved.
Most likely any prosecutor that has investigated organized crime like the Italian Mafia or similar organizations in other countries will be able to provide additional and more elaborate schemes how these groups siphon money out of the tax payers pockets and from others. These state attorneys will most likely also be telling you that it is the “wall of silence” that you first have to break through before one can be successful in prosecuting these criminals.
The laws and approaches to protect whistleblowers and witnesses from further criminal acts by the profiteers trying to cover up are in place, but the organizations within our societies that have been put in charge to protect us from such crimes were seemingly the first that have been overtaken and undermined by the power networks behind these scams. These organizations now instead of doing their job are hunting the citizens who speak up against those injustices and crimes.
We suggest that the best strategy to conquer this sleaze, corruption and other criminal activities might be – like with other organized crime – to follow the money. But then who will do this as long as the top profiteers and government members are not been investigated and prosecuted for these undeniable war crimes.
And a “finding fee” e.g. a percentage of the money returned to the taxpayers could also proof useful in many cases, plus – not to be overlooked – that the laws created in recent years to fight terrorism could be applied on these criminals without the “bending” seen in many cases when used to act against minor offenders or “normal” citizens.
While the US Congress has undertaking various investigations and hearings not much tangible or concrete results have come from this. So far, according to the report by Panorama, no major US contractor has been taken to court – only 5 individuals have been put into prison and just 50 more investigations are currently ongoing regarding this outrageous embezzlement and fraud cases.
Let us also not forget the thousands of Americans and servicemen from other countries that went to war, died or have been mutilated and are injured for the rest of their life. They since had to find out that they had not only been lied to in the first place about the cause, but that their sacrifices were merely to secure the profits and protection for the crimes of the war profiteers.
It’s going to be our children, their children and grandchildren that will pay for the bills run up by these crimes. This could of course been called a new form of slavery but still – even while some say that its already too late – there are ways to get some of these monies back. It will require the public will and this will must be strongly articulated by a broad spectrum of our societies.
But history unfortunately tells us a different story and if you take one of the most recent examples of massive scam and sleaze within government operations – the reunification of Germany since 1989 – where after investigations by hundreds of state attorneys and a few minor results (plus some death / kind of suicides of officials) – yes, you might already seen it coming – not much else has happened. All the bigger cases remained unresolved or have not even been touched and the thieves went off without ever been charged. This might also be the understanding of the culprits in Iraq that seemingly don’t even see a reason anymore to cover up much of their traces.
And it is not like no one could find these criminals – like with the example of the German reunification – if you go above a certain level in government, most of the senior officials do know what actually happened and where the money went. But out of pure self interest none of them will talk if not forced to do so. And this is what has to happen in a first step.
There a dozens or more posts and articles on this topic available on the Internet. Below some links directly related to the latest reporting:
Panorama on the Daylight Robbery edition
Earlier (2003) investigations
BBC’s yesterday editorial
Readers Digest on Government Is Wasting Your Tax Dollars
Cost of War Counter
Two books on the topic worth reading:
Rajiv Chandrasekaran book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone
Nobel Laureat Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes’ book The Trillion dollar war
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