Rep. grills ex-US leader in Iraq: Where did 363 tons of cash go?
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), spearheading a Congressional review of possible U.S. waste and fraud in Iraq, sought answers from former Iraq Provisional Authority leader L. Paul Bremer today.
"House Democrats, taking charge of investigations now that they control Congress, grilled the former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday about the way he doled out billions of Iraqi dollars without accounting for the money," the Associated Press reports.
Over $4 billion in cash, which came from Iraqi oil exports and other sources, was sent by the Federal Reserve to Baghdad on pallets aboard U.S. military planes just before government control was given back to the Iraqis, Reuters says. The bills reportedly weighed hundreds of tons.
"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," Waxman said, according to Reuters.
The AP says Bremer countered, "I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kickstart the economy.
"Millions of Iraqi families depended on civil service salaries and pensions," Bremer continued, according to the AP. "It was clear we had to get this Iraqi money in the hands of people immediately."
Bremer acknowledged that mistakes were made. But in regard to charges of oversight failures possibly allowing insurgents to get their hands on Iraqi money disbursed by the CPA, Bremer responded per Reuters, "I have no knowledge of monies being diverted. I would certainly be concerned if I thought they were."
A Republican on the committe, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), defended Bremer and said that Waxman "was rushing to 'old judgments' in a hearing that was 'old news,'" reports the AP.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) added, per Reuters, "We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive."
The full Associated Press article is available at this link, while the full Reuters report is available at this link.