According to an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme, as much as $23 billion (£12 billion) of US taxpayer’s money has gone missing. The money has been lost, stolen or simply just not accounted for by as many as 70 private US companies.
The BBC reports that the US Justice Department has imposed official gagging orders on court cases against some of the top US companies and that these gagging orders are unlikely to be lifted whilst George W Bush remains as President.
The report quotes US Democrat Henry Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as saying:
“The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious. “It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”
The Panorama report, Daylight Robbery, details “allegations of mismanagement, fraud and waste; tales of contractors chosen for their US government connections without a competitive bidding process; contractors inflating their costs and double counting to increase their profits and billions supposed to be used to rebuild the Iraqi military allegedly ending up in the pockets of some Iraqi government officials.
Even the contract to oversee the expenditure went to a company with no relevant qualification in accounting.
“They are the quintessential war profiteers,” said a witness to one of the most notorious companies involved. “They made money out of chaos.”
The total cost of the Iraqi War to the USA so far is estimated to be over $500 billion (£250 billion). According to a US Congressional Budget Office report published in October 2007, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion dollars by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because the combat is being financed with borrowed money. The CBO estimated that of the $2.4 trillion long-term price tag for the war, about $1.9 trillion of that would be spent on Iraq.
In comparison, the UK has invested around £5 billion ($10 billion) but this was sourced from an existing UK Government fund known as the “Special Reserve”.
To put this scale of expenditure in perspective, in 2005 the leaders of the G8 countries (the US, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia) made now largely forgotten and broken pledges to donate a comparatively modest £25 billion ($50 billion) towards the elimination of poverty in the world’s poorest and most indebted countries…