Monday, March 20, 2006

Comment is free: Iraq's missing billions

ow did the American led interim government spend over $20bn, yet leave Iraqis with less electricity, less clean water and even worse hospitals than under Saddam?
Maggie O'Kane

March 20, 2006 10:00 AM

In a courtroom in Virginia a trial passed almost unnoticed last week that can help us understand why the occupation of Iraq has gone so disastrously wrong. The greed, incompetence and ill preparedness of the occupiers was spelt out in excruciating detail in the case against Custer Battles - two war profiteers who arrived broke and on the make in Baghdad during the early days of the occupation.

Their case helps to explain how the American led interim government managed to spend its way through over $20 billion of reconstruction money yet leave Iraqis with less electricity, less clean water and with hospitals in an even worse condition than during the worst of the days of crippling sanctions against Saddam. They were sanctions that claimed 250,000 lives over 10 years.

Details are now emerging of how other US companies massively overcharged for their work and failed to deliver on what they promised, and how contracts worth millions were subcontracted down to locals who were paid a fraction of what the big US companies were paid for the work.

Hospitals were left with sewage floating in the kitchens and operating theatres, without the most basic life saving equipment despite contracts worth millions being handed out to US companies by Paul Bremer's interim government. Now Bremer's successor Dan Speckhard has said in response to this that it is: "water under the bridge"

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