363 Tons (of Dollars) And What Do you Get? Tales from the Provisional Authority

Among the many examples of gross ineptitude about the Iraq war, this one has a special place in the Hall of Shame.

363 tons of cash were shipped to Iraq on giant wooden pallets before the "hand over" of the government--that's about 4 billion bucks for those of you who don't usually weigh your hundred dollar bills. This news was first revealed in the summer of 2005, but more details were provided yesterday in oversight hearings chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, who asked, "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?"

L. Paul Bremer, the guy who was the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority back when the Bush Administration thought the Mission Was Accomplished, told the committee that the Iraqi finance minister asked for the cash.

Almost nine billion of that money was never accounted for. Hey, they were in the middle of a war, and there was no banking system, he said.

"I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently," Bremer said.

Ya think?

The timing of this vivid war story is especially bad, coming as it does on the heels of the President's just submitted budget for 2008. Of course, most of us find our eyes glazing over at the mere mention of a federal budget (which, of course, the White House is counting on). But let's make it real. Start with this simple question:

Who do you think is going to be asked to pay for Bush's Iraq war?

If you guessed grannies, kids and the working poor, you've obviously been paying attention these last six years. You see, finally, the President is asking Americans to share the sacrifice for his war. Not all Americans, mind you--just the needy ones.

To cover the costs of the war machine, and, of course, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, the President suggests cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, for starters. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont breaks it down. (So did Diane Feinstein and others, by the way). Here's just a sample from Sanders:

Eliminating the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which is a vital nutrition program primarily for low-income seniors but also serving mothers, infants and children across the country.

A $379 million cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps senior citizens and low income families pay for home heating.

A $100 million cut for Head Start, at a time when only about one-half of the children eligible for this program actually participate due to a lack of funding.

A complete elimination of the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program even though each and every year more people are diagnosed with TBI than those who suffer from breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, Spinal Cord Injury and Multiple Sclerosis combined.

A $310 million cut in the National Institutes of Health.

A $172 million cut in elderly housing and a $115 million cut in housing for persons with disabilities.


Fortunately, with a Democratic majority, much of this is DOA. Even Republicans who won't debate the war will debate the kinds of domestic cuts that lose them elections.

Speaking of things that are DOA, how about that Joe Lieberman terror tax? Just when I thought he couldn't get more annoying, he proved he can piss off both Republicans and Democrats at exactly the same time by proposing that Americans support the Bush war with a "war on terrorism tax." Doesn't he know that to Republicans, every tax increase is like terrorism?

I can't write about war and numbers without noting the most important numbers of all: 3103 troops killed, more than 22, 800 wounded, and who knows exactly how many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians?

Some costs cannot be recouped.