Excusing Paul Bremer
Reported by Janie - February 7, 2007 -
Brit Hume spent a very brief portion of last night's (2/6) "Special Report" on Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) Iraq oversight hearings, specifically the testimony of the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), L. Paul Bremer.
Bremer testified before the Oversight Panel yesterday, but rather than reporting what Bremer said, and what problems had arisen in Iraq, Hume framed the segment around Waxman and his "grilling" of Bremer, while ignoring a rather disturbing story.
The entire coverage of the hearing consisted of:
"Meanwhile, at the start of what House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman, Henry Waxman, promises will be 2 years of investigations, Democrats grilled former Iraq Occupation chief, Paul Bremer, about the way he handed out billions of dollars in Iraqi oil money, in the form of US cash.
Waxman criticized Bremer for poor accounting that failed to keep track of $12 billion, 363 tons of cash that was shipped to Iraq on pallets, and disbursed.
Bremer said Iraq was in ruins, and his job was to get the money into the hands of the Iraqis to kick start the economy."
This segment showed, once again, that Hume is nothing more than an apologist for the Administration. The story, which is an entirely vital one to both Democrats and Republicans has gotten little, if any, play on "Special Report."
In 2003, just after the invasion of Iraq, the United States was charged with Iraqi money that came from oil sales, frozen bank accounts and seized assets.
"At the start of the Iraq war, around $23bn-worth of Iraqi money was placed in the trusteeship of the US-led coalition by the UN. The money, known as the Development Fund for Iraq and consisting of the proceeds of oil sales, frozen Iraqi bank accounts and seized Iraqi assets, was to be used in a "transparent manner", specified the UN, for 'purposes benefiting the people of Iraq'".
The money was originally held in the Federal Reserve, but as Hume did mentioned, was later flown to Iraq in pallets.
"Because the Iraqi banking system was in tatters, the funds were placed in an account with the Federal Reserve in New York. From there, most of the money was flown in cash to Baghdad. Over the first 14 months of the occupation, 363 tonnes of new $100 bills were shipped in - $12bn, in cash."
Frank Willis, a former CPA Transportation Ministry official, explained how the money was handled initially.
"'Iraq was awash in cash - in dollar bills. Piles and piles of money,' says Frank Willis, a former senior official with the governing Coalition Provisional Authority. 'We played football with some of the bricks of $100 bills before delivery. It was a wild-west crazy atmosphere, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced.'"
Corruption could be found everywhere, and the money was not properly used according to Alan Grayson, an attorney for Iraq whistleblowers (including Frank Willis, in a case against the now defunct Custer Battles).
"The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption. 'American law was suspended, Iraqi law was suspended, and Iraq basically became a free fraud zone,' says Alan Grayson, a Florida-based attorney who represents whistleblowers now trying to expose the corruption. 'In a free fire zone you can shoot at anybody you want. In a free fraud zone you can steal anything you like. And that was what they did.'"
This wasn't a short-term situation either.
"Perhaps most puzzling of all is what happened as the day approached for the handover of power (and the remaining funds) to the incoming Iraqi interim government. Instead of carefully conserving the Iraqi money for the new government, the Coalition Provisional Authority went on an extraordinary spending spree. Some $5bn was committed or spent in the last month alone, very little of it adequately accounted for."
There were hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of fraud, mismanagement of the money, and outright theft. Bremer promised to improve the situation by hiring an accounting firm - which is what much of yesterday's testimony covered.
Unfortunately, the accounting firm hired by Bremer was one called NorthStar Consultants. NorthStar received a contract worth $1.4 million but "were not certified public accountants and did not perform a review of internal controls as required by the contract. Consequently, internal controls over DFI (Development Fund for Iraq) disbursements to and from Iraqi ministries were not evaluated."
The meat of yesterday's hearings, and the events leading up to the hearings, were not mentioned once during last night's "Special Report", and a topic that is incredibly important to the American people was glossed over and virtually ignored so Hume could spin the story to benefit the Administration by issuing what amounts to nothing more than propaganda.
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