Sunday, June 22, 2008

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 1)

First part of a BBC Panorama investigative report called Daylight Robbery — What Happened to the $23 Billion? in which reporter Jane Corbin investigates the whistleblower cases which threaten to reveal the secrets of billions of dollars worth of waste and corruption during the past five years in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Kurdistan.

To give just one example, in the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, the company which Dick Cheney was CEO of before he became vice-president. Usually, only Halliburton got to bid — and won. The objecting official was subsequently demoted, despite years of service.

When the US and its allies went to war they gave corporate America contracts for caterers, security guards, translators, interrogators etc., not to mention the supposed rebuilding of Iraq. It’s now been revealed that five years later there is $23 billion either stolen, missing or not properly accounted for. But because of gagging orders on the whistleblowers the American public is not being told the truth.

According to one report, 363 tons of crisp, newly minted $100 bills — $12 billion in cold cash — were airlifted to Baghdad in the days immediately after the May 2003 invasion. The video footage surfaced on television as Paul Bremer, the American pro-consol in charge of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, testified before Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. If Waxman thought Bremer could account for all that boodle, he was destined for disappointment. Frank Willis, described as senior official of the Coalition Provisional Authority, acknowledged that “Iraq was awash in cash.” An attorney for a group called Iraq Whistleblowers claims, “The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption.”

Now as the alleged corruption involved in these contracts comes to the surface, Jane Corbin speaks to those involved and asks, what happened to the missing $23 billion. It makes for some fairly alarming viewing. As Waxman has said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it’s egregious.”