Waxman Hits 'Waste, Abuse' of Iraq Funds; Bremer Denies Terrorists Got Cash
Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Rep. Henry A. Waxman yesterday excoriated the Bush administration for not tracking $12 billion of Iraq reconstruction funds, beginning the first of what he promised would be two years of hearings into "fraud, waste and abuse in federal spending."
"My concern is that without strong [accounting] standards, we have no way of knowing whether the cash shipped into the Green Zone ended up in enemy hands," said Mr. Waxman, California Democrat and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
L. Paul Bremer III, former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq immediately after the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein, testified that there was no evidence the money went to insurgents or al Qaeda in Iraq.
After the hearing, Mr. Bremer said opponents of the administration's Iraq policy always have been long on criticism and short on new ideas.
"Nobody today and nobody in the past three years [has] come up with an alternative," he told The Washington Times. "Nobody has ever said we could have [funded the Iraqis] on an air-tight accounting system. .. We came in the middle of a war in a devastated economy."
Still, Mr. Bremer said the hearing helped clear up misinformation about the money. The money was Iraqi oil money, not taxpayer dollars, Mr. Bremer told lawmakers, and the funds were used to run the Iraqi government, not to build infrastructure.
During the hearing, Mr. Waxman recounted how from May 2003 to June 2004 the Federal Reserve Bank in New York sent nearly $12 billion in cash aboard C-130 cargo planes to Baghdad.
The currency - 281 million individual bills weighing a total of 363 tons - came from Iraq oil proceeds and was sent to finance nation-building by the CPA.
"The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true," Mr. Waxman said. "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that is exactly what our government did."
Mr. Bremer defended the cash payouts, saying Iraq lacked phone service, electricity and banks after the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003.
"We had to find a way to get the Iraqi people money quickly so they could start rebuilding their country," Mr. Bremer said. "It was not a perfect solution, Mr. Chairman, but there are no perfect solutions in Iraq."
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, the committee's ranking Republican, faulted the chairman for describing the accounting failures as waste or fraud.
"The majority continues to equate a lack of exquisite accounting in Iraq with massive waste," he said. …