(A guest post in honor and support of BradBlog from American journalist Chris Floyd, columnist for The Moscow Times and perpetrator of the blog "Empire Burlesque".)
Between October 2003 and July 2004, almost $9 billion went missing from the accounts of the Iraqi "interim government." Despite investigations by Congress, the Pentagon, the General Accountability Office, the International Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, no one knows exactly where the money went.
But from the evidence gathered by the official bodies named above, it's evident that part of the money went to faction leaders in the U.S.-backed interim government: money they used to enrich themselves, pay off cronies, bribe American officials --- and fund the deadly sectarian militias that are even now threatening to drive the country into civil war. It's equally evident that some of the money went straight into the coffers of Bush-favored American contractors and to fund innumerable off-the-books military and intelligence operations.
It's also likely that at least some of this vast tub of illicit swag made its way into the back-alleys of Bush's re-election campaign, funding various political "black ops" on the home front: bankrolling the "independent" attack dogs that battened on John Kerry, funding the multitudinous voting scams run by Bush operatives, and providing a general slush fund to draw upon as needed.
This kind of money laundering is standard practice in American politics, of course, and Republicans in particular are past masters of this dark art. I have some small personal experience with such operations. In 1992, I was a founding member of a start-up company trying to put together educational software for the then-emerging market. (In this case, multi-media critical editions of Shakespeare plays.) Looking for money to stay afloat while the programmers hammered out what was then a unique cross-platform system, we met with a series of venture capitalists --- a most enlightening experience for anyone interested in how the world really works, and what really matters to those who run the world.
In one meeting, one go-getting VC (clad in a fine gray suit, not black pajamas) waxed lyrical about his many contacts and connections in the national power structure --- controlled then, as now, by the Bush clan. Of particular interest was one tidbit he tossed out --- more as an aside, a simple fact, nothing special. He told how he'd been involved with a Republican operation to funnel secret money to the Bush campaign through various fronts in Luxembourg. As I recall, some of it was foreign money, some of it was American cash being laundered to skirt legal restrictions on campaign financing. Millions were pouring in through this secret conduit, he said --- then moved on to other matters he found more interesting than this common, run-of-the-mill practice.
Our system is run by Big Money for Big Money --- in order to make more money. That's it. That's all of it. That's the reality behind the fierce sideshows of "culture war" and ideological combat that consume so much of our attention. Now, it's true that these latter concerns are important, because the repression they can spawn has a very real impact on the lives of millions of people. And it's also true that we may be reaching a point in America where the manipulators of these sideshows --- the Big Money elite, epitomized by the Bush clan --- could lose control of their creations, with extremely dire consequences.
But despite all its ideological/religious trappings --- its evangelical foot soldiers, its neo-con outriders, etc. --- what ultimately drives the Bush Regime, and its war machine, is the lust for unlimited swag. The sack of Iraq has been the greatest act of looting and rapine in history, in terms of the sheer scale of the money involved. The $9 billion that went walking in those crucial months before the election is just a drop in the surging flood of blood money pouring out of Iraq into the pockets of the Bush gang and its allies and acolytes.
An excellent overview of the klepto-plutocracy's operation in Iraq can be found in the current edition of the London Review of Books. In Where Has All The Money Gone? Ed Harriman commits the increasingly rare act of journalism - actually examining the reports of the auditors and talking to actual people involved on the ground in Iraq. It's highly detailed, dispassionate but devastating in the cold, hard truth it lays out. You need to read all of it, but here are a few choice excerpts (plucked randomly, not sequentially):
Read it and weep - but know that it's just the tip of the iceberg, and that the same system of klepto-plutocracy is also operating in the Homeland, albeit in a slightly less naked fashion.