Saturday, August 26, 2006

Iraq: No Dinar Left Behind

I reminded the advisers that the president had just signed the $18.6 billion supplemental budget for Iraqi reconstruction. And that we had to move fast if these projects were to have a useful impact in the short time left.
"All right," I said in closing, "remember, we don't want to leave these ministries orphans. Make sure your Iraqi counterparts can continue to function once we're withdrawn." I added that I intended to establish several Iraqi institutions to fight corruption, the bane of many developing countries and something that had flourished under Saddam.

So brags Paul Bremer on pages 231 and 232 of his laughable My Year In Iraq. Bremer, for those late to the party, floundered for years in the State Department before becoming Bully Boy's It Boy in Iraq after Jay Garner foolishly thought democracy was planned for Iraq and demonstrated the he (Gardiner) intended to support its development. Bremer captures the difference between the two best in his book when he notes that, hearing that Garner was going "to appoint an Iraqi government by May 15 [2003], I almost drove off the George Washington Parkway." Oh how different things might have turned out if it hadn't have only been an "almost."

Instead, Bremer went to Iraq and everyone suffered. Other than the Bremer walls in the Green Zone (and now in Ramadi), there's not much that his name can be stamped on. Or not much that the press want to stamp it on. Which is why the New York Times runs an Associated Press story on A5 this morning entitled "Ex-Officer Admits Role In Iraq Deals."

Summary: Lt. Col. Bruce D. Hopfengardner has accepted a plea agreement wherein he admits to guilt in "conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire firaud." He was "a special adviser to the American-led occupation forces, recommending funds for projects in Iraq." In his agreement he admits to "conspiring with Philip H. Bloom, an American citizen with businesses in Romania; Robert J. Stein Jr., a former Defense Department contract offical; and others to create a corrupt bidding process that included the theft of $2 million in reconstruction money." If there's time to be spent behind bars -- which there should be -- the AP doesn't mention it. They also skirt the issue of when this now admitted conspiring took place. Rather shocking since not only is who-what-when a journalistic mantra, a criminal case also has to establish when the crime took place. It was while Bremer was "leading" -- while he was "leading" in such a manner that the Bully Boy would award him (December 2004) the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Bremer was in charge of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004.)

The conspiring, the graft, the criminal activity? All going on under Bremer's watch. From Harper's "Green Zone" -- and remember Hopfengardner has just admitted to conspiring with [Bob] Stein and [Phil] Bloom:

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2006. From emails between Robert J. Stein, Philip Bloom, and Army Reserve officers implicated as co-conspirators in an indictment against Stein, an employee of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Stein was responsible for $82 million in CPA reconstruction funds. In February he pleaded guilty to five felony counts, admitting he stole more than $2 million and funneled $9 million in contracts to Bloom. Originally from Harper's Magazine, June 2006.

From: Bob
To: Phil
FYI, [redacted] and I got the contract through for ground prep at the police academy. I will give you 200K sometime tomorrow afternoon.
I love to give you money!
From: Bob

To: Phil
I was talking to [redacted] about your next set of projects. He is ready to award everything to you but asked me if there was any way we could use a name other than your company’s? He wants to make sure it doesn’t look like all the work is going to you. If you can, put your bid on new letterhead. I can award it tomorrow. Sorry to be so businesslike. I would love to slow down just for a few days and relax but I need to take care of all this stuff.
From: Phil

To: Bob
I will do that. Since we are paid in cash it doesn’t really matter tax-wise . . . See you tomorrow.

Bob Stein would "see" Phil Bloom but somehow Bremer, the one in charge of it all, never "saw" any of this going on during his watch?

Probably helps when you're a pompous blowhard who speaks of adults and cabinets in the patronizing terms like "orphans" (see book excert at the top of the entry). What is it, did Bremer see himself as the Wet Nurse of Iraq? Childless Condi speaks of 'birthing' democracy and she's just aping the men around her who all seem to suffer from a serious case of womb envy.

We've got at least two more entries this morning. The next one focuses on a Times story proper (one written by the paper). (But note, the paper's own coverage of this story was no better in July.)

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