2012-02-14 / Opinion

An open checkbook for Iraq?

OTHER VOICES

There may be no better example of why the United States is in such trouble financially as the release of two audits of the U.S. Department of Defense’s reconstruction projects in Iraq.

The audits found that the Department of Defense could not account for two-thirds of the $3 billion the Iraqi government provided to pay for the U. S.- funded projects.

Part of the problem, auditors say, is that the criteria for reporting expenditures include only projects valued at $250,000 or more. Any expenditure under $250,000 goes unreported.

To be fair, the main problem is missing records from a period when Iraq’s government was undergoing a transition.

The Coalition Provisional Authority ran the country for 14 months, from 2003 to 2004; the Department of Defense could locate only four reports for the period of July 2004 through December 2007. There should have been 42 monthly reports during that time.

Still, losing track of $2 billion is more than troubling. Even if there is “ sufficient evidence” that the required monthly reports were sent to the government in Iraq, as the audit states, the inability to locate copies of those reports does not speak well of the accounting department.

The response by Peter Bodde, assistant chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, is maddening: while incomplete, “it does capture the vast majority of reconstruction projects and there is no other alternative that captures more.”

Fine. The best they can do is to keep track of one- third of the money spent.

And yet the United States remains committed to spending tax dollars overseas on projects that are necessary because of the wars we wage. We spend billions in dollars and who knows how many lives (since “collateral deaths” are not counted) to take out a government, then billions more to rebuild, without ever really keeping track of the expense.

The United States would do well to listen to Ron Paul on this point. How can we expect stability at home when we insinuate ourselves into other nations’ business, killing civilians in the process, taking lucrative contracts to rebuild, and then lose track of where the money went? And we don’t think that will make those countries suspicious or hostile toward us?

It is true that we need to maintain a foreign presence and, in the words of an unnamed “high-ranking Chinese official,” “ let America not decline too quickly;” but the current approach to foreign policy will bankrupt us.

— The Citizen of Laconia (N.H.)

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